Key Definitions

These are definitions of terms commonly found within the international development community:

Aid[1]The term “aid” is often used synonymously with “Official Development Assistance” (ODA).  ODA is made up of concessional resource transfers for development and humanitarian assistance between a donor and a partner in a developing country.  The donors, meeting in the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), have established the specific criteria for determining whether a particular resource transfer can be considered ODA.  While CSOs can receive ODA, ODA does not include direct resource transfers by civil society organizations or other non-state actors.  Similarly, developing country donors, who are not members of the DAC, also provide development assistance, most of which currently is not reported to the DAC, and is not included in ODA.

 Aid Effectiveness[2]Aid effectiveness relates to measures that improve the quality of the aid relationship, primarily focusing on the terms and conditions of the resource transfer itself.  The Paris Declaration defined five principles that should guide official donors and developing country governments to improve the effectiveness of this resource transfer.

 The Accra Agenda for Action or AAA[3]The AAA is the policy outcome document of the third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-3) mid-point review of the Paris Declaration (see below) of March 2005. The AAA was endorsed in Accra, Ghana, in September 2008 by ministers of developing and donor countries responsible for promoting development and heads of multilateral and bilateral development institutions. More than 80 CSOs were full participants in HLF-3, but are not signatories to the AAA.

Civil society organization or CSO[4] – CSOs can be defined to include all non-market and non-state organizations outside of the family in which people organize themselves to pursue shared interests in the public domain. They cover a wider range of organizations that include membership –based CSOs, cause-based CSOs, and service-oriented CSOs. Examples include community-based organizations and village associations, environmental groups, women’s rights groups, farmers’ associations, faith-based organizations, labour unions, cooperatives, professional associations, chambers of commerce, independent research institutes, and the not-for-profit media. CSOs often operate on the basis of shared values, beliefs, and objectives with the people they serve or represent.

 Democratic ownership[5]Country ownership (as described in the “Paris Declaration”, see below) of development programs should be understood not simply as government ownership, but as democratic ownership. Democratic ownership means that individual and collective voices (women and men) and their concerns must be central to national development plans and processes (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, Sector Wide Approaches, etc.). All individuals living in a country, and particularly people living in poverty and those who are vulnerable or marginalized, must have access to resources, meaningful and timely information, and to institutions where they can express their views. They must have the space, capacity and control to be active in implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development initiatives affecting their lives. It also means working with legitimate governance mechanisms for decision-making and accountability that include parliaments, elected representatives, national women’s machineries and organizations, trade unions and social partners, CSO representatives and local communities.

 Development actors in our own right – In the Accra Agenda for Action, para 20, signatories pledged to “deepen our engagement with CSOS as independent development actors in their own right and (ensure)…that CSO contributions to development reach their full potential”. This was a significant achievement, since it went beyond simply recognizing CSOs as agents to implement aid programs, and instead acknowledges the range of roles that CSOs play in development as citizens’ organizations. The ability of CSOs to realize their role as development actors is still prescribed by their own national “enabling environment”.

Development Cooperation Architecture[6]Development cooperation architecture refers to the established systems and institutions of global governance for development cooperation.  Among these current structures are the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the informal Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF) (facilitated by the Secretariat at the DAC), and the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (UN DCF), which is a biennial multi stakeholder Forum within the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) aiming at providing an inclusive platform for dialogue on aid effectiveness and international development issues.  But other multilateral bodies also play important roles in development cooperation architecture, such as the World Bank and regional development banks, other UN bodies, the G20, the IMF and the European Union, or should play more important roles, such as the UN Human Rights Council.

Development Effectiveness[7] Development effectiveness promotes sustainable change, within a democratic framework, that addresses the causes as well as the symptoms of poverty, inequality and marginalization, through the diversity and complementarity of instruments, policies and actors.  Development effectiveness in relation to aid is understood as policies and practices by development actors that deepen the impact of aid and development cooperation on the capacities of poor and marginalized people to realize their rights and achieve the Internationally Agreed Development Goals (IADGs).  Conditions for realizing development effectiveness goals must include measureable commitments to improve the effectiveness of aid.

 Enabling environment[8] – The enabling environment refers to a set of inter-related conditions – such as the regulatory and legislative environment, the openness of government and donors to engaging with CSOs, the transparency and accountability with which information is shared, and the CSO community’s own collective mechanisms for self-monitoring, accountability and collaboration – that impact on the capacity of CSO development actors to engage in development processes in a sustained and effective manner.

 Internationally-Agreed Development Goals[9]The IADGs are a set of specific goals, many with concrete time-bound targets, which form the United Nations Development Agenda.  They summarize the major commitments of the UN global summits held since 1990 on different aspects of global development challenges.  Some of these commitments were combined in the Millennium Declaration adopted by all governments at the Millennium UN Summit in 2000.  The IADGs include the eight specific Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but are a much broader set of objectives.  The IADGs include challenges of economic growth at country level, equitable social progress, decent work, sustainable development, human rights (including women’s rights children’s’ rights, indigenous peoples rights), equitable global economic governance, fair trade, debt cancellation and migration rights.

 Paris Declaration[10] – The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (PD), which was agreed to in March 2005 at the second High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-2), establishes global commitments for more effective, scaled up aid to be met by 2010 by countries with development partners. The PD outlines five principles which should shape aid delivery: ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results and mutual accountability. Signatories include 35 donor countries and agencies, 26 multilateral agencies and 56 countries that receive aid. The PD specifies indicators, timetables and targets for actions by governments and has an evolving agenda for implementation and monitoring of progress.

Rights-based approach – The human rights-based approach argues that aid and development must be consistent with human rights norms, bridging international human rights standards (conventions, declarations, core human rights standards, etc.) with development interventions. In practice, this means that established and accepted human rights standards are the guiding principles behind development policy and practice. A rights-based framework gives particular attention to the following:

  • Exercising due diligence — so that development interventions don’t undermine human rights;
  • Giving priority to the most marginalized — focusing on those living in extreme poverty, women, indigenous peoples and other excluded social groups);
  • Addressing the constraints that people face to claiming their rights — building country systems to better enable governments to identify and consult with vulnerable groups; identifying the social, environmental, and economic challenges and constraints that these groups face in claiming their rights; gearing policies and development projects to filling those gaps; informing rights holders of their rights; strengthening the mechanisms that citizens have for claiming legal protection of those rights as well as national mechanisms for accountability and effective remedies for redress;
  • Ending policies that discriminate against individuals — while all individuals are hold rights, not all individuals can claim these rights because of lack of access to required resources, capacities or legal protection; governments need to put in place policies and practices that allow them to meet their own human rights obligations;
  • Being accountable and participatory — a commitment to respecting rights demands accountability. This necessitates institutional mechanisms that are accessible, transparent and effective, and decision-making structures that allow for the full participation of individuals and groups in making decisions that affect them. Meaningful consultation and participation guarantees people’s rights to access information, to participate in the conduct of public affairs, to freedom of association and expression and to peaceful assembly. It allows citizens to be heard, to express their views, to make decisions, raise issues and becoming ongoing participants in all dimension of development affecting their lives.

[1] Taken from “Annex Two: Definitions” in CSOs on the Road to Busan: Key Messages and Proposals, Better Aid in collaboration with Open Forum on CSO Development Effectiveness, April 2011

[2] Op. Cit. 1.

[3] Taken from An assessment of the Accra Agenda for Action from a civil society perspective, Better Aid, November 2009, p. 5.

[4] Op cit. 3, p. 7.

[5] Ibid

[6] Op. Cit 1

[7] Ibid

[8] Taken from Synthesis of Findings and Recommendations, Advisory Group on Civil Society and Aid Effectiveness, August 2008, p. 3 and A Draft International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, Version 2, November 2010.

[9] Op. cit. 1

[10] Op. cit. 3, p. 3.

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