Busan conference: will he walk out?

Monday, November 28, 2011 • Martin Rosenkilde Petersen

Busan is the first time that civil society is represented at the decision making table in all of the 4 aid effectiveness conferences held. This is positive in itself – but also means that civil society is now taking on responsibility for the final Busan Outcome text. Antonio Tujan from the Phillippines is the Civil society representative at the negotiation table. He bears the civil society’s expectations on his shoulders to satisfy the many demands brought forward by the world’s civil society organisations.

In the Busan process, ACT Alliance is advocating for upholding democratic ownership as a pillar of effective aid. And civil society’s room for manoeuvre must be not only protected but also expanded. Internationally, this requires a huge effort to ensure that people’s civil and political rights are respected and that cherished freedoms – of speech, association and assembly – are monitored. In aid effectiveness terms this is labelled: “protecting the enabling environment of civil society”.

The enabling environment of civil society is one of the remaining areas where Antonio Tujan is still seeking to improve the Busan outcome text. As the draft outcome text stands now, there are beautiful words stating that there must be a focus on an enabling environment that maximises the contribution of CSOs to development.

However, beautiful words are not enough. It is clear that the last Accra aid effectiveness conferences language on enabling environment - the Accra Agenda for Action - has been too vague and not helped to reverse the trend of shrinking space for civil society globally.

One of the demands for outcome text improvements is to have a specific mention of an enabling environment for civil society “based on the fundamental civic and political rights, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech”.

As Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association, has stated on the first day of the Busan Civil Society Forum: “People will never stop looking for freedom”.

Antonio Tujan has threatened to walk out of the final negotiations if civil society key demands are not met. It is an open question if this is a good strategy. Will he walk out?

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Martin Pedersen and Veronica Olazabal will be blogging on a daily basis from the Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness from 29 November to 1 December. Martin and Veronica represent the ACT Alliance Busan Media Team – both are actively engaged in the ACT Alliance Working Group on Development Effectiveness.

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