A Serious Approach to Development: Toward Success at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea

With little more than a half year left to prepare before a key international conference on aid effectiveness in Busan, Korea, policymakers must consider the answers to two key questions: what could success at this meeting look like? And what can be done in the preparation phase to maximize the chances of success?

The fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness will build on agreements from past years, but this time the discussions are taking place in a markedly different context. In the face of heightened pressures on international aid, the meetings in Busan at the end of the year present an opportunity to finally take development cooperation seriously. The U.S. government in particular could play a critical and catalytic role.

The 2011 High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan is different from the preceding forums in Rome (2003), Paris (2005) and Accra (2008). It must directly contend with a particularly complex mixture of factors. Some are new and some have simply grown too big to ignore, but all are actively mounting pressure on an essential yet weak system of international development support in need of reform:

  • First, budget difficulties in the traditional donor countries that provide major development support likely mark the end of an era of growing official aid budgets. Surveys by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation (OECD/DAC) suggest that aid growth will slow to just two percent a year from 2011 to 2013. Consequently there is a search to leverage aid with other resources and strategies for development. With tighter aid budgets, there is greater attention than ever before on improving the dysfunctional international aid architecture to make it more efficient, effective and accountable.
  • Second, newly prominent actors in development—from official partners like China to international NGOs to private corporations—have become large in financial terms, changing the nature of the aid landscape. While this phenomenon has been unfolding for years, the degree to which it is treated seriously in Busan will determine the relevance of the High Level Forum.