Whither next for Development Effectiveness?

“We are using politically correct language … to evade addressing the real issues why progress on core commitments has been so weak since [the] Paris Declaration nine years ago”, remarked a delegate from a small African island nation at a workshop preceding the First High-Level Meeting on Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, which was held in Mexico City on 15-16 April, 2014. These remarks received thunderous applause from delegates.

Jointly sponsored by UNDP and OECD, the High-Level Meeting intended to demonstrate progress towards truly global partnerships between governments, business and civil society in making development co-operation more effective and sustainable. However, opening remarks by leaders of the two sponsoring agencies and the plenary panel discussion seemed largely focused on ‘aid effectiveness’. Concepts of risk management, improving public finance management and procurement systems of recipient countries, predictability of aid flows and monitoring results to report to donor countries’ parliaments were the main discussion points. Progress, or otherwise, on these aspects seemed to be the dominant concern of sponsors and panelists.

In the subsequent breakout groups, conversations on ownership, transparency and inclusive partnerships once again seemed to veer to management of Official Development Assistance (ODA) from donors to recipients. This seemed to indicate that aid continued to be the focus around which issues of ownership, transparency and partnerships were being constructed and realised.

As a delegate from India, now a large middle-income country (MIC) with high levels of poverty despite its rapid economic growth during the past decade, these conversations seemed to me somewhat irrelevant and dated. Rather, critical issues of malnutrition, violence against women, social inclusion and sustainable livelihoods are those that need to be tackled in India through improved democratic governance, transparency and accountability. Domestic resources are adequate for addressing these issues in my country, but they are not deployed in an efficient and productive manner.

This significant gathering in Mexico of over 1,500 delegates from around the world raised important questions for the future of development co-operation. Is a new global partnership being constructed around the old issues of ODA? Are lingering concerns of aid effectiveness from Paris and Accra still unresolved 30 months after Busan? Will a new age of development co-operation be able to break free from previous ODA frameworks? Will new actors in the development arena – large emerging economies such as the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and other MICs – find resonance of their principles and aspirations in future debates? How will local level ground-up partnerships define contextually appropriate development effectiveness, without reference to global actors?

Adult Education Programmes in IndiaBeyond demanding transparency and accountability around the aid that their own countries still receive, we’ve found that civil society organisations from MICs can add significant value to other countries’ development co-operation.

Various focus sessions and plenary presentations during the two-day conference demonstrated several shifting trends. First, emphasis on effective development co-operation was reiterated as an important shift away from Busan. However, it was not clear how the effective co-operation framework and indicators would differ from the old ‘aid effectiveness’ paradigm in practice. Second, inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships involving governments, civil society, business and think tanks were agreed to be crucial to achieveing effective development co-operation. What remains ambiguous is how unequal power relations between stakeholders can be handled for meaningful co-operation. Third, the distinctive and unique nature of South-South co-operation was acknowledged, while also aspiring for triangular North-South-South co-operation approaches. However, absence of official delegations from China and India, somewhat undermined the support from such champions of South-South co-operation. Finally, attention to development challenges faced by MICs was very welcome. As the president of Mexico put so eloquently, countries like Mexico are both recipients and providers of development assistance, and hence able to better empathise with other developing countries.

In this context, non-state actors become relevant in promoting development effectiveness. Civil society organisations from many larger MICs have long worked in solidarity with their counterparts in other developing countries. Now, businesses and think tanks are also becoming important non-state actors in promoting South-South development co-operation.

The Rising Powers in International Development Programme, hosted by the UK Institute of Development Studies (IDS), is working to build an evidence base around the role of rising powers – including the BRICS and other key countries such as Mexico, Turkey and Indonesia in international development, producing new thinking and practical guidance on engagement and mutual learning.

The global delegation of this programme attended the Mexico meeting to share our lessons and emerging evidence of contributions of non-state actors in the emerging Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. We have agreed to continue a voluntary initiative from this conference that will further strengthen the contributions of civil society organisations and other non-state actors to development co-operation under a South-South Co-operation framework from MICs called the “Future International Co-operation Policy Network”.

Beyond demanding transparency and accountability around the aid that their own countries still receive, we’ve found that civil society organisations from MICs can add significant value to other countries’ development co-operation. From the four case studies we presented at the High-Level Meeting, we derived four important lessons for taking forward principles and mechanisms of civil society-led South South Development Co-operation (SSDC).

Firstly, solidarity and trust between co-operation partners can lead to more focused civil society-led SSDC to mobilise broader coalitions for common causes.

Secondly, civil society-led SSDC aspires to be more flexible and adaptable than traditional North-South donor modalities, avoiding intrusive conditions and creating space for innovation.

Thirdly, a multi-stakeholder approach is essential to ensure sustainability.

Finally, new methods of measuring SSDC need to be explored to capture the complex effects of civil society-led transnational initiatives.

Alongside governments and businesses, CSOs have been developing innovative practices to contribute to the global struggle against poverty. They have considerable experience and great potential of sharing these practices internationally as well as at home, and their important contributions should not get lost in the state-to-state negotiations that can often become the focus of global initiatives such as the Global Partnership.


Rajesh%20TandonRajesh Tandon is the Founder and President of Indian civil society organisation Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) and a member of the Future International Cooperation Policy Network.

The Lithuanian approach to effective knowledge sharing

Knowledge and expertise sharing is key for the effectiveness of development co-operation.

Today’s development challenges require smart, innovative and creative solutions for successful mobilisation and sustainable use of all resources: public and private, domestic and international. We believe this can be achieved through efficient knowledge and expertise sharing.

Lithuania, like many other European Union Member states, has undergone an impressive period of institutional, economic and social reforms during the last two decades. This transitional period is a great source of ideas, knowledge and methodology. We are ready to share this with any state or society in transition.

Moreover, Lithuanian experts have been actively involved in sharing technical assistance. To give a few examples: up to now, Lithuanian experts have participated in 40 European Union-funded projects in European Union pre-accession and neighboring countries. Lithuanian expertise is provided in the sectors of agriculture, finance, social protection, customs and many others. Within the framework of bilateral projects we are sharing our experience of transition with the governmental institutions of our partner countries. For instance, since 2006, Lithuanian experts have trained over 400 customs officers in Ukraine and Moldova. Our experts also actively assist Georgian municipalities in strategic planning at municipality level, involvement of local communities in decision-making. These are just a few examples where we used our transitional experience. Today we see the potential to expand the geographical scope for our knowledge and expertise sharing.

Lithuaniaquote

Lithuania’s transitional period is a great source of ideas, knowledge and methodology. And we are ready to share it with any state or society in transition.

We know what worked for us. First of all, we had to assure timely transition to democracy and market economy. Lithuania also faced the necessity of establishing a civil service that corresponds with democratic society standards. Moreover, reforms were related to macro-economic stabilisation, trade and foreign exchange, as well as setting legal and institutional frameworks to develop an appropriate level of public services.

Nevertheless, the model of the reforms of one country is not something that can be applied directly to another state. However, the spectrum of transitional experience is wide – transformations took place in every sector, be it public, private or nongovernmental. Therefore, one has the possibility to choose between different best practices for effective development. Analysis and assessment of partner countries’ local needs should provide the basis for proper selection of required expertise and further action. We consider the focus on ownership a very important element as transitional processes should be driven by partner countries themselves.

Finally, peaceful coexistence between countries and societies, democratic political systems with well-functioning and accountable public institutions, the rule of law, an independent judiciary system, a safe environment for investment, and proper trade conditions are all essential preconditions for the further achievement of development goals. This is why we see that sharing of knowledge and transitional experience should be properly elaborated upon in future discussions on the Global Partnership and the Post-2015 development agenda.


LT MinisterLinas Linkevičius is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.

The New Deal for Fragile States is more necessary than ever

The tragic series of events that have struck South Sudan and the Central African Republic in recent months are of deep concern to us all. But for the g7+ – the group of post-conflict states that I serve as General Secretary – we have felt these countries’ pain particularly keenly. All g7+ members have recent experience of the kind of instability and bloodshed now rocking South Sudan and CAR. We know first-hand how conflict is ‘development in reverse’, and that a return to conflict can set progress back by decades.

South Sudan and CAR are both pilot countries for the ‘New Deal for engagement in Fragile States’, the landmark agreement endorsed by 44 countries and international organisations in Busan, Korea in 2011. The New Deal sets out to fundamentally change the way the international community works with countries emerging from or at risk of conflict, recognising that these states have been poorly served by dominant aid approaches designed for non-fragile environments.

Some have argued that, two years after it was signed, the concept of the New Deal is in crisis. Immediately following last week’s first Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation High-Level Meeting in Mexico – a meeting seeking to shape the aid landscape for the coming decades – now is a good time to reflect on where we have travelled since Busan, and how far we still have to go.

The New Deal is more necessary than ever

If recent events in CAR, South Sudan and elsewhere teach us anything, it is that the principals behind the New Deal are not only sound, but more necessary than ever.

The New Deal calls for peacebuilding and statebuilding objectives to be put at the forefront of international efforts in conflict-affected countries. That means helping these countries and their governments to strengthen security and justice systems, supporting inclusive political settlements and ensuring citizens have access to the jobs and basic services to help re-build their trust in the state. It calls on international aid organisations to ensure that everything they do in these environments serves to reinforce peace and statebuilding.

The New Deal also calls for donors – bilateral aid agencies, UN agencies, and International Financial Institutions – to change their modus operandi in a fundamental way. Operating effectively in countries in danger of falling back into conflict demands risk-taking, speedy action, flexibility, persistence, and even creativity.

SPLM Rally Juba 05/07/11

Genuine statebuilding demands great investments of time, resources and political will, along with a willingness to accept the new risks and uncertainties associated with change. With the New Deal, we will get out of it what we put in.

The tragedy is that – as the signing of the New Deal demonstrates – the ‘better angels’ within development agencies know these things. They know what works. But the systems they work within appear stubbornly resistant to change. Of course when dealing with huge bureaucracies, beholden to cautious taxpayers, implementing reform is difficult. But in the case of the New Deal, behaviour change from aid organisations has thus far been a chimera.

We are in a marathon, not a sprint

So what lessons can we draw from all this? First, we must recognise that the re-orientation of international engagement in post-conflict countries is first and foremost a political process, requiring real political commitment on all sides. To achieve change on the ground, the New Deal must change mind-sets and shift priorities at the very highest levels. Yet since Busan, too often it has been seen as a technocratic exercise; something that can be ‘implemented’ by one or two ministries and their local donors. We need to bring the politics back in. This means building momentum and commitment to change at all levels of society, from the grassroots to the President.

Second, we need to practice ‘strategic patience’, and recognise that some parts of the New Deal are going to take time. We are in a marathon, not a sprint. In particular, generating greater country ownership over the development agenda requires the undoing of years of established practice, the un-silencing of national voices, the resumption of real leadership and accountability by our weakened government institutions, which for years have been beholden to multiple external agendas. Country ownership requires new types of dialogue between donors, government actors and civil society, and deep consultation with our citizens on their priorities and aspirations. Fragile state capacity is by definition smaller than that of our donors. We need more time than our development partners.

Third, donors and international organisations need to resist the urge to do the easy things first. A desire to rush ahead with New Deal processes such as Fragility Assessments and Compacts has arguably resulted in a loss of quality. Processes intended to enable consultation among our citizens have instead tended to be driven by international consultants to fit donor schedules. Meanwhile, the things that donors really have within their power to grant – the changes to their aid and operating policies – have been de-prioritised.

The mistake many New Deal enthusiasts made was to think that any of this was going to be easy. Over-hyped expectations combined with an under-estimation of the difficulties involved, has led many of us to rush to demonstrate technical results rather than slowly working towards real change. We need to remember the maxim “more haste, less speed”.

Genuine statebuilding demands great investments of time, resources and political will, along with a willingness to accept the new risks and uncertainties associated with change. With the New Deal, we will get out of it what we put in.

Two years on from the Busan High Level Forum, we should celebrate the fact that we have started this journey together, reflect on how much further we have to travel, and steel ourselves for the long walk ahead.


DacostaDr. Helder da Costa is General Secretary of the g7+ Secretariat, based in Dili, Timor-Leste. Currently he is representing the g7+ on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Guardian’s  Poverty Matters Blog