Aid in a changing world

The eradication of poverty and new sustainable development goals post-2015 will be agreed at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, American President Barack Obama and the rest of the world leaders at the UN in New York next year. The implementation of the goals will be at the national level. States will set their own priorities and lead the efforts in collaboration with developing partners.

Eradicating global extreme poverty by 2030 will require political will, the right policies and mobilisation of the required resources. Political will brought people out of poverty in Singapore, China and Brazil and continues to do so in Ethiopia and Ghana. Good policies are the most important thing. The only difference between a South Korea with $548 billion of exports and a North Korea with $3 billion is good and bad policies, not people, culture, religion geography or natural resources. Development assistance is important, but most of the resources required for sustainable development will come from other sources.

Leadership will be important on the global and national level, but technical details and funding frameworks must be worked out prior to the handshakes and signing ceremonies. This is where the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) plays an important role. It has core competences on a range of issues relevant for poverty reduction. OECD work on policy areas such as development co-operation, tax, financing, investment, statistics, environment, and education are extremely relevant and directly linked to future poverty reduction policies. OECD countries also contribute the vast majority of development assistance in the world and the majority of foreign direct investments originate in OECD member countries.

The world is changing, and it is changing fast. The times when global affairs could be determined by the US, Europe and a handful of OECD countries is long gone and will never come back. The rise of the South is defining all of our global challenges such as poverty reduction and climate change. Countries like China, Mexico and Turkey are important providers as well as recipients of aid, and South-South co-operation is growing. The private sector also plays an increasingly important role in development. Private foundations contribute to global public goods, businesses invest and create jobs while private citizens send remittances worth more than official development assistance. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is a response to this changing world. Established at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea, it represents a prime example of the kind of new partnerships that we need in today’s world, where the OECD works jointly with the UN to support developing countries, providers, civil society, and other key development players to implement better policies and improve resources for development.

erikquoteThe purpose of the Global Partnership is to identify policies and funding mechanisms for development problems. This can only be done in a partnership between development assistance recipients, traditional donors, new providers, private sector and civil society.

The Global Partnership provides a venue for discussion on policies for development and resource mobilisation. We know a lot about the policies required to end poverty and the details are outlined in the OECD Development Co-operation Report 2013. Public provisions of basic health and education, cash transfer programs, agricultural reform and microcredit schemes have worked before and will work again. In Busan, providers and recipient countries also agreed to the New Deal principles for engagement with fragile states and states in war and conflict. Developing countries must set their own priorities and providers must align behind the government and support with development assistance. Under the New Deal for Somalia, providers contributed one billion dollars to improve security, justice and government services under the leadership of the new government. Discussions can produce very real results.

Improving the effectiveness of development finance to end poverty and spur sustainable development is a priority of the Global Partnership’s work. Eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities while protecting the climate and our environment will require billions of dollars. Development assistance from OECD countries will not be enough, but it can be an important catalyst. Better coordination with China, Arab states and other new providers can increase development co-operation. There is no reason why Chinese infrastructure investments in Africa should not be complementary to OECD contributions. Furthermore, development assistance can better leverage private funds. Loans, guarantees and export credit can generate much larger flows of private investments. Taxes are important for development, and smart aid can help unlock these domestic sources of development finance. A Tax for Development project in Kenya has returned more than 1000% more than it costs while a new mining code in Guinea is set to bring in 1 billion dollars annually. The Development Co-operation Report 2014 will provide much more detail about the role of the OECD in development finance.

The purpose of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is to identify policies and funding mechanisms for development problems. This can only be done in a partnership between development assistance recipients, traditional donors, new providers, private sector and civil society.

EriksSolheimsmlErik Solheim is the Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). He is also serving as the United Nations Environment Programme’s special envoy for environment, conflict and disaster. Solheim previously served as Norwegian Minister for the environment and International Development.

Advancing women’s rights in a changing landscape for development co-operation

Development actors worldwide accept that advancing women’s rights and gender equality is not only a desirable goal, but a cornerstone of any successful sustainable development framework. Women and girls are in the public eye and recognised as key agents in development as never before.

“Investing in women and girls” is increasingly heralded as a keystone strategy for women’s economic empowerment, and indeed, for broader development and economic growth. Variations on this discourse are coming from as diverse actors as the World Bank, Newsweek, and Walmart. Funding agencies and international NGOs have increasingly adopted the language of “investing in women” via new policies and programmes. Corporations are emphasising women as a key constituency of consumers, economic agents and small-scale entrepreneurs. Mass media feature stories on the power of women in addressing social and economic problems, and cover key challenges/issues faced by women and girls around the world. Few would dare deny the importance of women’s empowerment and autonomy in building healthy economies, just societies, and lasting peace.


Yet, when it comes to funding resources for effective advancement of women and girls beyond quick fixes the picture is not so bright.


An Association for Women’s Rights in Development report released late 2013 demonstrates that the spotlight on women and girls seems to have had relatively little impact on improving the quality and reliability of funding for a large majority of women’s organisations around the world. “Watering the leaves, starving the roots: The Status of Financing for Women’s Rights Organizing and Gender Equality”, warns that growing attention for the ‘leaves’ — individual women and girls — comes without support for the ‘roots’ – the sustained, collective action by women’s rights activists and organisations central to advances for women throughout history.

There is also a trend of funders prioritising economic growth, while human rights and wellbeing take a backseat. Quick ‘return on investment’ projects are becoming the norm as opposed to core, multi-year funding for more difficult but transformative work on the roots of injustice and gender inequality. This obscures the fact that advancing human rights and social justice is, and must continue to be, a priority concern and commitment of state actors and of international-level multilateral bodies.

Within the development co-operation landscape, the terrain of financing women’s rights and gender equality advancement is marked by increasingly diverse actors, beyond traditional donor countries and emerging economies. Newer development financing actors – especially the corporate sector – are influencing women’s struggles for rights and justice in important ways that cannot be ignored. This context presents complex challenges and diverse opportunities.

AWID’s “New Actors, New Money, New Conversations” report released in 2014 helps understand how corporate and other actors ‘new’ to supporting women and girls are shaping related funding discourse and practice. The report notes that more public-private partnerships; formal demands for a private sector role in development co-operation; and expansion of corporate social responsibility practices, including diverse ‘social enterprises’, are converging with more visible stories and studies on supporting women and girls.

A related trend is the shift from ‘aid to investment’ – i.e. using business solutions for social and development problems. In addition to direct involvement in development agenda-setting, corporate actors can leverage market power and value chains to create innovative solutions for women and girls.

Women’s rights activists have the right to be concerned about increasing instrumentalisation and corporatisation of development agendas and women’s rights. Corporate efforts cannot replace state obligations to protect and fulfill human rights and to allocate needed resources, including through  mechanisms of effective, transparent international co-operation.

Ahead of the Global Partnership’s First High Level Meeting in Mexico on 15-16 April 2014, development actors should consider this context to better integrate gender equality and women’s rights issues in any effective development co-operation framework. The wealth of experience of women’s rights organising should help to inform and determine the best strategies and initiatives to be supported. To this end, women’s rights and grassroots organisations’ participation at all levels of deliberation and negotiation is essential.

For example, the collective impact of the Dutch MDG3 Fund demonstrates across regions the transformation possible when organisations building women’s collective power for change receive serious resources. These resources must be offered for an extended period of time and give organisations flexibility to refine their strategies to adapt to shifting contexts.

Overall, the MDG3 Fund’s very strategic distribution of resources demonstrates appreciation for what women’s movements have understood for years:


For lasting impact on gender equality and serious advances in women’s rights, we need organisations, movements, and strategies at multiple geopolitical, strategic, and policy levels.

We need alliances and co-ordinated efforts that cut across all traditional divides. It is quite possible that the MDG3 Fund mix achieved far more than if resources had been invested in only one type of organisation, working at just one site or level at which gender inequality and women’s oppression occurs.

Ensuring that all development actors, including the private sector, are held accountable for their programmes’ advancement of the rights of women and girls is similarly important, so that economic growth and profit do not drive development policies and goals.

Securing public funding to ensure universal access to quality education, healthcare, housing, justice, social protection, decent work, environmental stewardship and fulfillment of human rights for all remains crucial in a world where wealth is being increasingly concentrated, and inequalities widening. More than a desirable goal, this is a global social responsibility and an ethical imperative.

Ana Abelenda

AnaAwidAna Abelenda works at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) in the Economic Justice & Financing for Women’s Rights Program. Through sustained advocacy and knowledge building, she has struggled to put women’s rights and gender equality at the centre in the development co-operation and financing for development agendas.

Nigerian Finance Minister: Global Partnership is a powerful tool for the post-2015 development agenda

“The Global Partnership High Level Meeting can provide answers on how developing countries can better use their own resources,” Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said on the sidelines of the recent Global Partnership Steering Committee meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.

Former Managing Director of the World Bank and one of three Ministers leading the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, Okonjo-Iweala laid down some concrete demands for global development leaders who will meet at the High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership on April 15 -16 in Mexico City.