I've been following the current climate change debate in Copenhagen along with the rest of the world and the thing that keeps worrying me is what exactly will the developing countries do with the billions they want from the developed world and the not so many billions the West is willing to give?  

     Granted I don't know a lot about climate change science or new technologies  but I do know something about corruption, both in the US (we have plenty) and in the developing world (it is, sadly, rampant).  I keep worrying the billions will be shelled out in such a way that they will be squandered to a significant extent by governments who have demonstrated little ability to serve their publics.

 Obviously, much of the current climate situation has been caused by the developed world and it is in everyone's interest and fairness that assistance be delivered.   But I would like to hear less about how much money and more about how the money will be used.   What safe guards will be put in place to ensure its used to benefit those in immediate need?  Help the country develop green technologies?  Raise people from poverty exacerbated by global warming?

  My read of the latest version of the "Danish Text" is that developed countries are trying to structure at least some of the money as loans with strong oversight measures and concrete expected outcomes.  Looks like they are also looking at moving some of the money through established institutions like the World Bank and IMF....important institutions but not without their problems.  Many of the developing countries walked out because some of the provisions in the text funneled money through these institutions instead of channeling money from the UN directly to the governments of developing nations.  I get the argument that structuring aid in the form of loans might not be the best way to get the necessary resources to the countries but bench marks, hard and fast outcomes, and demands for transparency?  Every effort should be made in this area and I don't think the UN is the proper institution to do this.

     My solution?  I'm sure investing in the ability of civil society to hold governments accountable in the developing world isn't on the docket in Denmark...but it should be.  Whatever institution(s) ends up being the vehicle to disburse climate change funds to developing democracies they will only be able to so much...and the funds themselves can make the corruption problem worse.

  Why?  Many countries in the developing world have deeply centralized governments that are not held accountable by  civil society institutions.  Too much aid from abroad  is spent by specific people in power who have economic incentives that may differ or conflict with the intentions of donors. For example, they often reward friends and favored constituencies.  As the aid works its way through various layers of government various corrupt government actors skim off the top and reward their friends and cronies and the impact of the aid money is significantly weakened.   Also, aid given directly to governments  increases the role of government over the private sector, not healthy for economic development depending on how the money is dispersed.  It also strengthens the government hand in contribution to the politicization of  economic life.  

     Aid can also encourage a country to look outward for answers at the expense of doing the hard work of making the internal changes and reforms that are necessary for renewal...a place where civil society institutions can play an important role.  I was part of a round table at the World Bank taking a look at this problem last year and I have to say conversations about the role of civil society in fighting corruption (and impairing the effectiveness of aid) are in their infancy.  If not for civil society in the US there would be no freedom of information act, no open meetings act, no lobby disclosure, and little or no congressional ethics laws....and even with all that and proof if you get caught in the US with 90K in your freezer you go to jail---- corruption continues.

Just as we have to think outside of the box to address the climate challenge issue those in the aid community need to think of new ways in fighting corruption, my suggestion is take a good look at the imperfect civil society route.

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