September 8, 2008

EU Welcomes Zimbabwe’s Decision to Lift Ban on NGO Humanitarian Aid

Text of report by privately-owned Zimbabwean weekly newspaper The Standard website on 6 September

[Report By Jennifer Dube: "Zim risks missing out on vital aid: EU"]

Accra - While the European Union welcomes the Zimbabwe government's recent decision to lift a ban on humanitarian activities of non-governmental organizations in the country this does not alter the way it has been channelling funds to Harare, EU Director-General Stefano Manservisi said last week.

Speaking during a multilateral conference on aid effectiveness in Ghana, Manservisi said Zimbabwe risked missing out on a rekindled global determination to improve aid delivery.

He said although favouring budgetary support - massive funding amounting to millions of American dollars and coordinated by several donors in direct contact with governments - as the best form of aid, the EU would continue operating through non-government organizations in Zimbabwe.

In a report - Aid Effectiveness: A progress report on Implementing the Paris Declaration - released ahead of the Forum, Uganda and Tanzania are cited along with Ghana as "good examples of good practice" and Manservisi said the EU could afford extending budgetary support particularly to Ghana because of its entrenched democratic system.

"The decision by Zimbabwe to lift the ban, although not applicable to all aid agencies, is very welcome," Manservisi said. "But I am sorry to say that nothing will change as long as no sound democratic reforms are put in place."

On June 4 the government banned local and foreign donors from providing vital food and other relief to poverty-stricken rural families, accusing them of politicizing aid distribution to campaign for the opposition MDC.

The EU was among other groups which repeatedly called for a reversal of the ban which was affecting about 1.5 million aid beneficiaries.

But speaking at the forum, representatives of governments, donor community and civil society said it was imperative for stakeholders to take more tangible steps towards the achievement of a 2005 Paris Declaration on improving aid in all receiving countries.

Putting more emphasis on five principles for effective aid - prioritizing recipient countries' national development strategies and procedures, collective donor projects which are relevant to community needs, managing for results and mutual accountability - the Paris Declaration, received mixed assessments.

While donor and government representatives said significant implementation progress was made over the past three years, civil society representatives dismissed the declaration as a failure and seemed especially irked by an alleged desire by government and donors to sideline them in issues of policy making.

While Ghana was repeatedly cited as a model of a successful implementation of the Paris Declaration, aid experts painted a gloomy picture over Zimbabwe's chances of keeping pace with other countries in implementing the plan.

"Aid has always been political," said Antonio Tujan Jr., Philippines politician and chairman of the Reality of Aid, an independent reviewer of poverty reduction and development assistance. "Dealing with franchise countries like Zimbabwe continues to be a challenge."

He said without responsible governance and ownership, donors would face challenges in engaging in large-scale programmes, including budgetary support, aimed at developing a country as opposed to merely providing humanitarian relief to those most in need.

Overall however, the stakeholders were optimistic the Accra Forum was a major tangible step in the world's aim to achieve a better life for all by 2010. It resulted in a joint document called the Accra Agenda for Action, which spells out steps to improve performance in terms of the Paris Declaration. The forum was attended by more than 2 000 delegates and Zimbabwe was conspicuous by its absence.

Originally published by The Standard website, Harare, in English 6 Sep 08.

(c) 2008 BBC Monitoring Africa. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.