Busan Forum: Aid promises come tumbling down

This blog has been written by Sanda van Damm (Oxfam Novib) and Jennifer Martin (Oxfam Great Britain), campaigners at the Fourth High Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan.

It is early in the morning on 29 November in the seaside city Busan, South Korea, when a large colorful tower of building blocks arises on Busan Exhibition & Convention Cente (BEXCO) square.

The blocks attract the attention of passers-by. It is not only the sizes and bright colours of the different building blocks, but especially the words written on them that makes people stop and stare; 'Citizen Voices', 'Paris Promises', 'Human Rights'.  Why are these significant?

Well, the mystery is quite simple. Busan - normally visited by tourists who come to visit the beach, the aquarium and to enjoy Busan's famous fish cuisine - is today flooded by world leaders and thousands of delegates from all over the world to talk about the effectiveness of aid, just like they did in Paris six years ago.

Rich country donors committed to making their aid work better – by making it more transparent, less fragmented, and more useful for the poor people who need it. Yet six years later it seems that donor governments are backtracking on these promises.  

Knowing this, the colorful tower in the middle of BEXCO square suddenly makes sense. Especially when we witness how donor governments, played by activists, starts removing key building blocks, each one representing a donor promise causing the tower to dramatically topple to the ground.  Is this going to be the future of aid and development?

One billion people around the world are asking donors to listen to what they need. Donor governments must build aid that works for poor people, not block it. The Korean organization, ODA Watch and Oxfam highlighted this today in Busan as delegates watched aid promises come tumbling down.

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Busan Aid Effectiveness Forum 2011

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