From illegitimacy to responsibility

ICV at Eurodad annual meeting
Photo © V. Krebs
Photo © V. Krebs
Irene Amodei, Sarah Webborn, versión española: Tahona Santana Naranjo
29 November 2006

"Everyone with Eurodad has been very helpful and friendly. The only thing we have encountered is not having interpreting equipment!  So it's been fun to work around it and make things work. The rest of the interpreters are great girls.  We've spent a lot of time together outside the work we've done since we got here and meeting people like them makes me want to keep doing work like this."  Lorenia de la Vega, ICVolunteers interpreter

Lorena de la Vega, ICVolunteers interpreter

The European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad) is a network of 48 development non-governmental organizations from 15 European countries working on issues related to debt, development finance and poverty reduction.

Its annual meeting, held in Berlin from 29 to 31 October, focused on the issue of responsible funding of Southern countries' development, which is under active debate. Briefly, what makes previous and future financing legitimate and sustainable?

ICVolunteers participated in the event; supporting the organizers with an interpreting team of six people.

"I really enjoyed my experience at the Eurodad annual conference!" was Pamela Valdes' comment, after her experience in Berlin. "Even though all we had by way of equipment was a microphone (which was a bit of a challenge), the fantastic team of dynamic interpreters made it all work out just fine. I also felt constantly supported by the conference organizers: they took good care of us at all times. It was nice to hear a 'We thank the interpreters for their great job' at the end of the event. I felt that all the hours of hard work were really appreciated. I'd be happy to work with them again next year."

This impression was confirmed by Gail Hurley, from Eurodad, and by participants too: "Language and vocabulary challenges were managed very well. Interpreters did an excellent job."

This task gave the ICVolunteer team an excellent opportunity to follow discussions between researchers and activists on current and essential issues like public accountability and transparency policies; anti-corruption strategies; good governance; budget-tracking and illegitimate debts; as well as the recent unilateral cancellation of a number of outstanding debts by the Norwegian Government.

As recognized by the Coordinator of Eurodad Alex Wilks, civil society groups have long campaigned for a fairer system of development finance. Campaigns for more aid, more debt cancellation and the emergence of new lenders at the international level mean that responsible financing has risen up the political agenda. Discussion arising from the plenary sessions expressed a general concern about the sustainability of new funds continuing to flow. Organizers pointed out that the scaling-up of aid (with more of it being channeled through government budgets) and the delivery of debt cancellation to some countries have also increased demands for greater accountability for the good use of funds. These demands emanate from both donors and taxpayers in the North and from many civil society activists.

Eurodad members and Southern partners shared experiences and strategies which they have used to hold their governments and donors to account for the design and delivery of policies which impact on poor communities.

The meeting also tackled the issue of the emergence of new lenders. Countries like China, India, Brazil, Thailand and Venezuela have come forward with their financial offers, ensuring fewer conditions and rapid disbursement. Are these lenders contributing to the accumulation of odious debt or do they represent healthy competition in the global aid "marketplace"?

Many differences of opinion on illegitimate debt and responsible finance come down to differences about sovereignty. Governments should have sovereignty over their own national policies, but the Eurodad argued strongly that they necessarily compromise it when taking out international loans: in other words, there is no place for conditions on loans and grants.

The challenges and debates outlined during the annual meeting confirm the need of civil society organizations to continue to mobilize around illegitimate debt and to put fair and transparent debt resolution procedure back on the table.

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