More than 3,000 delegates from countries around the world and international organizations took part in the three-day Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in the South Korean port city of Busan to seek better ways to spend hundreds of billions of dollars in annual development aid.
The Busan conference, set to end later Thursday, also brought together President Lee Myung-bak, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and was the largest follow-up since the event was launched in Paris in 2005 to gauge political commitments by both donors and recipients to improve the quality of aid.
"We will establish a new, inclusive and representative Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation to support and ensure accountability for the implementation of commitments at the political level," the 12-page document said.
The new aid partnership "will offer an open platform that embraces diversity, providing a forum for the exchange of knowledge and the regular review of progress," it said.
However, the document fell short of providing details of the new partnership, such as when and how it will establish the new aid monitoring mechanism.
"The principles, commitments and actions agreed to in the outcome document in Busan shall be the reference for South-South partners on a voluntary basis," it said, referring to an aid partnership between emerging nations such as China and Brazil and developing countries.
How to bring China, an increasingly powerful player in global development aid, into the club of major donors was one of the key issues at the Busan conference. Major donors have urged China to make its foreign assistance more transparent, but Beijing is apparently reluctant to do so.
Civic aid groups expressed regret that the deal for a new partnership is not a binding commitment.
BetterAid, a coalition of more than 1,000 aid groups, said, "The deal struck at the world's biggest-ever development cooperation meeting will only live up to its historic potential if nations follow through on their promises."
In a statement, BetterAid expressed "regret that the agreement apparently does not including binding commitments or specific actions."
On Wednesday, Clinton told developing nations that they need to be wary of some donor nations which may be more interested in extracting resources than fostering development.
"Emerging countries need to be smart, sharp, because donor countries can be interested more in extracting your resources than building your capacity," Clinton told the aid forum.
"Quick fixes will not produce sustainable growth," Clinton said, urging recipient nations to be "smart shoppers."
Clinton did not mention China by name, but the remarks were apparently aimed at Beijing, which has stepped up aid efforts around the world, particularly in Africa.
In a speech, the U.N. chief said governments must not let the global economic crisis keep them from supporting those most in need.
"Do not let this economic crisis, do not let short-term austerity deflect you from your long-term commitment to the world's poorest people," Ban said. "Cutting aid will not balance your budgets. But it will hurt the poor, the most vulnerable of the human family."
Hosting the Busan conference is a symbolic occasion for South Korea, which achieved what is considered an economic miracle, rising from the rubble of the 1950-53 Korean War to become a vibrant democracy within the ranks of the OECD.
South Korea plans to nearly triple its official development aid (ODA) to about US$3 billion by 2015. The ODA is designed to help Asian, African and Latin American countries establish economic and industrial infrastructure.
The sharp increase in international development aid is part of South Korea's efforts to give back after receiving help from the international community to rebuild its economy following the Korean War, Seoul officials said.