What future for the Global Aid for Trade Initiative? Towards a fairer assessment of its achievements and limitations
The global Aid for Trade/AfT Initiative was inspired by the Doha Round of WTO negotiations. It involved specific aid commitments as well as a broad agreement on categories of AfT, and principles of delivery (outlined by a WTO Task Force in 2006). The WTO and the OECD were tasked with monitoring this form of aid and supporting the various donors and partners. As with any international development initiative, the limitations to the AfT Initiative are clear. Overall funding remains modest, the categories are very broad and the statistics are often queried. Yet recent efforts to dismiss the Initiative as a failure are overstated. The monitoring system was based on best-practice techniques of governance in a diverse non-hierarchical institutional environment, such as the international development community. This form of cooperation cannot be expected to overcome global political and economic asymmetries, but it can be effective in several respects. Starting from this realistic perspective, one notes several achievements. In particular, the Initiative has led to increased funding for AfT and kick-started a range of initiatives and technical advances. Also the monitoring process evolved and expanded to include, and give voice to, a range of new actors from the global community. Alternative proposals for operationalizing AfT, such as creating a multilateral fund, are not to be dismissed but it is incumbent on the proposers to outline this plan in more detail. While the future of the AfT initiative, in its current form, is uncertain, its achievements merit careful consideration.
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