Global Policy Forum

Give Civil Societies Aid Watchdog Role


By Rebecca Torr

Gulf Daily News
May 25, 2008

Arab civil societies were yesterday urged to pressure their governments into giving them a watchdog role to oversee the receiving and distribution of aid.

This is because aid efforts in the Arab world had fallen prey to corruption and needed to be monitored by independent bodies, according to Arab Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Network for Development Bahrain representative Abdulnabi Al Ekry. Quoting chairman and director-general of the Arab Monetary Fund, Dr Jassem Al Mannai, he pointed out that surplus oil revenues in the GCC were being used for luxury real-estate projects instead of sustainable and comprehensive development.

Another example was an announcement by the US defence department audit, which said almost all of the $8bn (BD3.024) paid to US and Iraqi contractors between 2001 and 2006 to aid development projects had not complied with US laws preventing fraud. "Part of any aid should go directly to civil societies, but many countries are not observing this," Mr Al Ekry told the GDN. "In the world we have supreme councils which are responsible for planning and development and civil society representatives should be in these councils."

Mr Al Ekry said while Bahrain did not receive aid, contributions were given to the Finance Ministry and there was no council to oversee how the aid was used. He said the Social Development Ministry had a development fund that received donations from the government and the private sector, but civil societies were not on the board to decide how the funds were used. "Civil societies should be on these boards as watchdogs and they can lobby for their participation in monitoring how these funds are used and the Financial Audit Bureau can interact with them," he said.

Mr Al Ekry was speaking on the sidelines of the Regional Preparatory Meeting for High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, which opened at the Ramee International Hotel, Juffair, yesterday. Fifty civil societies, academics and experts and 15 governmental representatives from Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, Kuwait, Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen are attending the four-day event. The meeting, held under the patronage of Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro, also involves think tanks and UN agencies.

Also speaking on the sidelines of the meeting was Arab NGO Network for Development executive director Ziad Abdel Samad, who echoed Mr Al Ekry's sentiments. "Aid effectiveness needs a real involvement," he said. "The role of civil societies should be to put the strategies for the most adequate use of aid." Mr Abdel Samad said civil societies played an important role in making sure the implementation of aid was fulfilling the needs of the nation and that the process was transparent.

He called for civil societies to be informed of aid distribution and for governments to be accountable to them. "Donors also need to follow a more flexible process," he said. "There needs to be more transparency and accountability and less conditionalities. "Aid should respond to the local needs and the country itself is more aware of its needs and challenges than the donor country."

The regional meeting is organised by the Arab NGO Network for Development in Partnership with the Civil Society Council-League of Arab States. It is held in cooperation with Bahrain Human Rights Society, Canadian International Development Agency and the Reality of Aid Network under the patronage of the Commerce and Industry Ministry. Civil societies will meet again today and will be joined by governmental representatives, as well as donors and UN agencies, tomorrow and Tuesday.

The outcomes of the regional workshop are expected to feed into the preparations of the Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness for moving the agenda forward on civil society and aid effectiveness. The developed recommendations will contribute to the AG's outcome of providing good practice case material, which will be presented to the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana, from September 2 to 4. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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