This 2008 Aid Effectiveness Report has not attempted to develop a single comprehensive theory for improving aid delivery and management. Instead it uses the available evidence – both qualitative and quantitative - to identify the factors that explain the successes and continued challenges that have been recorded in the period since the first CDCF. This Report has been based on the strongly-held view that research and analysis must not be divorced from the policy problems that they are intended to address. The challenge in linking aid effectiveness to development results is therefore based on the need to show evidence that can sustain a consensus on the nature of this linkage and then make it operationally useful by identifying policy-relevant actions that can deliver results. But neither can these actions be applied without taking note of the context, and many of the recommendations included in this Report are therefore necessarily defined at a more general level. The proposed use of a JMI to structure and implement these recommendations is intended to support the identification of concrete actions across all sectors to ensure follow-up that is relevant, meaningful and substantive.
"We need to go faster" adequately summarises the sentiment communicated recently in Accra and, while the precise nature of the challenge may differ across countries, this observation is relevant to Cambodia too, in fact it was also the central theme of the 2007 Aid Effectiveness Report. But if greater effort is demanded, the nature of this effort requires careful reflection if appropriate and effective actions are to be correctly prescribed. Is the requirement simply to work harder and to re-double efforts? This may indicate that there has been no policy learning. Or to adapt the global framework and adopt a 'Paris-plus' scenario that emphasises the Cambodia context and utilises available evidence so that we may do things differently? Finally, we may consider the option of setting entirely new objectives for aid management, to shift to a 'post-Paris' scenario that rejects partnership-based paradigms and the notion of programmatic efficiency.
The evidence and policy recommendations presented in this Report strongly endorse the middle path, and the Rectangular Strategy commits Government to the Accra Agenda for Action, reflecting a continued consensus around the utility of the partnership based approach. Implementation of the commitments that underlie this consensus then requires: a) more focus on leadership; b) a more critical test of the relevance of some aid effectiveness principles; and c) improved integration of aid effectiveness principles into central and line ministry functions. This will mean that dialogue around issues closely related to the aid effectiveness agenda be taken forward in the context to which they are most relevant: i) incentives and capacity become more closely rooted in public administrative reform; ii) planning and recording of aid delivery becomes a more closely integrated part of the Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Economy & Finance budgeting functions; and iii) application of programme-based approaches are considered with increased regard to the sector context and relevance. Most of all, it may require a different conceptual approach that presents aid effectiveness as a cross-cutting reform rather than as a narrow and parochial set of issues. This would, in turn, imply that, as with all reform programmes, the dynamics, complexities, risks and challenges of change are more fully and explicitly considered and understood when identifying necessary actions and targets.
Such an approach may in the future also require a fuller acknowledgement that, while technical solutions may lead us part of the way towards our aid effectiveness targets, they will still leave us short of our ultimate objective of improved development results. As the Independent Review has highlighted, political and leadership factors on both sides of the development partnership are seen as increasingly important contributing factors and this Report's recommendations directed towards improved management of aid relations have therefore attempted to indicate appropriate next steps.
While the agenda continues to be a challenging one, much of the analysis suggests that the environment in Cambodia is well suited to a more comprehensive and accelerated implementation of improved aid management practices. Given the lack of global momentum reported in Accra it becomes increasingly critical, possibly for development partners more than for Government, to demonstrate that commitments can be translated into actions. The concluding comments of the recent Independent Review of the Evaluation of Aid Effectiveness that "Cambodia can build on its achievements and show international leadership in aid reform in several areas. Their performance in this particular country is now also a key global test for development partners" should therefore be used to inspire as well as to compel the implementation of improved practices that will contribute to better development results.