Report on the ‘International Development Scrutinising Aid Effectiveness’ International Parliamentary Conference, The Houses of Parliament, London 17-21 November 2008.
Mr. Samuel Gardiner MLA Delegate
Ms. Sheila McClelland Observer
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, United Kingdom Branch, holds two seminars per year, usually at the Houses of Parliament, to which they invite international parliamentarians. The Autumn 2008 conference was entitled ‘International Development Scrutinising Aid Effectiveness’ and was held between 17 and 21 November 2008. The meeting was attended by Mr. Sam Gardiner MLA, representing the CPA Northern Ireland Branch.
Mr. Gardiner agreed to attend to represent the Northern Ireland Assembly, to acquire knowledge on how small nations can positively contribute in the area of International Development.
Ms. McClelland also attended the conference, primarily to establish information and best practice in the conference management field, in the knowledge that the NI Branch intends to host the international conference in autumn 2009.
The conference, in Portcullis House, was attended by 90 Parliamentarians from 41 parliaments and legislatures (not all CPA member parliaments).
The range and cultural diversity of the delegates was noticeable, with very different stakeholder positions being represented throughout the conference.
The conference programme with associated speakers is attached.
The conference aim was: -
To challenge parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth and the world to hold their respective Executors to account for development funds given, received and allocated.
The conferences stated objectives were to:
- Address the requirements for, and scope of, parliamentary scrutiny of development needs and accountability of funds;
- Examine the relationship between Parliaments, major multi-lateral and national donors and NGOs;
- Examine progress towards the Millennium Development Goals;
- Examine the mechanisms for intra-regional scrutiny, eg. African Peer Mechanism Review;
- Address co-ordination, ownership and alignment of development projects;
- Address the role of civil societies in scrutinising parliaments and executives;
- Issue a communiqué and formulate a toolkit.
From the perspective of the Northern Ireland Assembly there were a number of observations to be made: -
- International financial aid to partner countries is generally bound up in bureaucracy and is very hard to evaluate from an effectiveness perspective;
- Financial aid needs to be substantial to be worthwhile in administration commitment – some small nations’ parliamentarians stated that they allocated token amounts in their budget rounds but the administration of the funding was cumbersome;
- The other devolved regions of the UK had identified and established partner countries where they targeted financial and non-financial aid and where the CPA Branch had also focussed their attention.
- Scotland – The Scottish Government and CPA Branch were working with Malawi
- Wales – The CPA Branch were partnering with Lusoto
This arrangement appeared to be successful by creating tangible benefits for the donor country and the recipient partner.
The conference commenced on Monday 17 th November with a reception on Monday evening hosted by the Lords’ Speaker. The four day conference was filled with a wide range of impressive speakers on the subject of aid effectiveness.
The configuration of the conference, with the dinner held on the Wednesday evening, meant that there was limited opportunity for networking and discussion with parliamentary delegates which would have been a very helpful benefit.
A conference / seminar to be organised at the Northern Ireland Assembly would have a different configuration with a combination of presentation time, visits to projects and “down-time”, where delegates could obtain a flavour of Northern Ireland.
The conference was very impressive due to the high calibre of speakers and the wide range of stakeholder interest from the fields of delegates.
There were lessons learnt about an approach to international aid for small regional parliaments and it is proposed that Scottish and Welsh parliamentarians would be invited to Northern Ireland to help inform the Northern Ireland CPA Branch on a strategy for engagement in this area.
It is also proposed that, at an early opportunity, the Northern Ireland Executive are engaged with to establish their strategy on international development and overseas aid.
There were also valuable lessons learnt in conference development from the UK Branch and in following their model it is proposed that an intern is appointed to the Assembly to assist with the conference development.
The standard of the seminar was impressive and parliamentarians should be encouraged to avail of the training opportunity to attend future seminars, especially where there is a direct relevance to their Assembly work – ie. Committee membership.