Civil Society’s Campaign for Effective Development: the Istanbul Principles

How has civil society adjusted to the shift in global dialogue from aid to development effectiveness? Civil society has been at the forefront of campaigning for effective development, while still recognising that aid has the potential to help eliminate the root causes, as well as the symptoms of poverty, inequality and marginalisation.

Under the banner of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), civil society has committed to the three-year programme “Civil Society Continuing Campaign for Effective Development.”

The programme, announced at the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s High-Level Meeting in Mexico in April 2014, aims to make several concrete contributions to global development. At the end of the three years, CSOs in at least 50 countries should be able to claim their rights in multi-stakeholder development effectiveness policy arenas, as well as working on their own effectiveness. By then, CSO advocacy positions should also be clearly influencing global development and development co-operation policies. Finally, multi-stakeholder initiatives should be advancing an enabling environment for CSOs at relevant national, sub-regional, regional and global policy arenas.

Looking at our own effectiveness

In the two years since Busan, CSOs around the world have been actively promoting the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness and the International Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness. Hundreds of CSOs at the country level have developed initiatives to assess and improve their practice to make sure development has more positive effects on the lives of poor and marginalised people.

CPDEquoteDespite strong evidence of shrinking spaces for CSOs as independent development actors, stories of good development practices attest to the commitment of CSOs to work in ways that are consistent with the principles of development effectiveness.

For example, a “Training of Trainers” workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa involved 45 trainers from around the world to develop regional plans and advance development effectiveness in their region. Codes of conduct, workshops and learning tools have been adapted to country contexts to increase awareness of the Principles and their practical implications. This work includes promotion of the Principles with official aid provider agencies and partner country governments; workshops to strengthen Human Rights-Based Approaches to development co-operation; promoting gender equality as an essential condition for CSO development effectiveness; and developing tools and workshops to strengthen understanding of development relationships that reflect equitable partnerships. Finally, CSO are working to be more transparent and fully accountable for their development efforts.

Reflecting on emerging results

These efforts are starting to show results. For instance, the Istanbul Principles helped grassroots communities in Cameroon to participate in local development plans. They also helped establish five citizens’ councils across the country to give the people a voice in local governance.

In Georgia last year, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between local CSOs and the Parliament, officially endorsing the Istanbul Principles. The MOU institutionalised policy dialogue based on mutual respect, trust and fair co-operation between legislative bodies and CSOs —reflecting the beginnings of equitable partnerships and solidarity.

In Asia, CSOs in Cambodia developed their own Code of Ethical Principles and Minimum Standards for NGOs to support their work on their own organisational practices. Cambodian CSOs also played a pivotal role in developing their own self-regulation system to practice transparency and accountability.

CSOs’ commitment to maximising their development impact is starting to bear fruit, as shown by some of the many examples of CSOs working on their own effectiveness and accountability as independent development actors.

Continuing the Campaign

The fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Busan in 2011 was a breakthrough in its acknowledgement of the link between effective CSO work and the conditions that enable them to maximise their contributions to development. The policies and practices of governments, donors and the private sector all affect and shape CSOs’ capacity to engage in development practices. Progress in realising effective development, therefore, depends not only on CSO initiatives but also equality among all stakeholders involved in shaping the global development architecture.

Despite strong evidence of shrinking spaces for CSOs as independent development actors, stories of good development practices attest to the commitment of CSOs to work in ways that are consistent with the principles of development effectiveness. Clearly, challenges remain and more progress is needed, which is why the CSO Partnership is more committed than ever to continue its campaign for effective development.

AkakpoBioPatricia Blankson Akakpo is one of the CPDE Co-Chairs and Senior Programme Officer/Head of Secretariat for the Network for Women’s Rights in Ghana (NETRIGHT). She has a Master’s degree in development studies from The Hague, Netherlands, and more than fifteen years of experience in the field of gender and development, human resource management, labour relations and programme management.

Moving forward for Egypt’s development

In less than three years Egypt has witnessed two revolutions. Masses took to the streets in January 2011 and again on 30 June, 2013, demanding a better, more democratic future. Our transitional period has not been easy, but we continue to take steady steps towards democracy. The amended Constitution was approved earlier this year, President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi was recently sworn in as the new Egyptian President, and soon Egyptians will visit the ballot box once again to elect their new parliament. Yet, despite the positive developments witnessed after the January Revolution, it is no secret that the political instability delivered a strong blow to the economy and the development process.

Economic development in the past decades has led to Egypt’s graduation to the status of a middle-income country. Yet, like other countries that fall in the lower bracket of this middle-income group, we continue to suffer high levels of poverty, unemployment, among many other development challenges. Despite the relatively high growth rates witnessed in Egypt in the years preceding the 2011 revolution – reaching a high of 7% and an average of 5.6% from 2007 to 2010 – social indicators were steadily worsening. Unfortunately, the high levels of economic growth have not been equitable. There were and still are great disparities among the Egyptian population. The economic downturn following the 2011 revolution further complicated the economic reality and, sadly, the most vulnerable segments of society were hit the hardest.

In an effort to counter this deterioration, and in response to the main demand of the Egyptian people, social justice, the government has been actively shifting its policies towards inclusiveness since January 2011. The new Strategic Framework for Economic and Social Development 2012-2022, which guides all our planning efforts, is based on the principle of inclusiveness. The Framework itself was inclusively designed through a series of public and societal dialogues with different stakeholders, with notable participation from the private sector and civil society. It is worth highlighting that the Framework, which was designed by the Ministry of Planning in co-operation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also incorporates the principles of effective development co-operation. It includes clear guidelines to: firstly, set a strong Monitoring and Evaluation scheme in key ministries; secondly, improve domestic accountability; thirdly, support the engagement of the private sector and civil society as partners in development; and fourthly, reinforce Egypt’s South-South co-operation.

We are proud to continue striving to realise our development goals despite the many impediments. The challenges are huge, and the aspirations are even higher, and the Government certainly needs to work in tandem with all its development partners to succeed. We co-ordinate with our national partners from the civil society and private sector. We also work closely with the international community in order to speed up our development process.

The Egyptian Government has been an active player in the aid effectiveness dialogue, participating in Paris, Accra and Busan high-level fora. We supported the Paris Declaration, Accra Agenda, and the Busan Partnership, and we joined the international development community in Mexico in April 2014 to reaffirm our support to the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. We also took part in the Paris monitoring surveys, and more recently the Global Partnership monitoring survey. While there is more work yet to be accomplished, the surveys nevertheless showed progress in adhering to the principles of aid effectiveness. We believe that development co-operation is a two-way street, and we are working hard to improve different areas of aid management.

To consolidate its efforts on this front, the Egyptian Government, in co-operation with its development partners, drafted the Cairo Agenda for Action. The Agenda was drafted after Accra in an effort to translate aid effectiveness principles into policies. The Ministry of International Co-operation is currently pursuing the Agenda and plans to update it in light of recent developments.

For more than 40 years we have worked hand in hand with our partners in the international community to better the livelihoods of Egyptian citizens. In order to move ahead we need not only the serious engagement of all national stakeholders, but also the support of our development partners.

20140415_110302 - Copy (1)Ashraf El-Araby is former Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation. He headed the Egyptian delegation to the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, which took place in Mexico City, Mexico, on 15-16 April, 2014. Dr. El-Araby is currently the Egyptian Minister of Planning, Follow-up, and Administrative Reform.

Why open data matters for sustainable development post-2015

Earlier this month, we launched our new campaign Road to 2015: Open Data for Sustainable Development at the United Nations Headquarters.

As with all the work we do, transparency and accountability are at the heart of this new campaign. They also feature heavily in the principles of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation.

But while we’ve spoken a fair bit about our expectations for the Global Partnership, this was the first campaign we have launched at the UN. We did so because it was there that, earlier this year, a panel of world leaders proposed a highly anticipated framework for stamping out extreme poverty by 2030 – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The recommendations are a dramatic shift from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire at the end of 2015. They call for a ‘data and information revolution’ and put transparency and accountability at the heart of this new framework.

A lot has changed since the MDGs were agreed. We have faced a global financial crisis and increasing political instability. This has made transparency, public accountability and citizen engagement in the post-2015 agenda even more critical. Poor economic growth is a reason to prioritise transparent and accountable financing for sustainable development.

The world of development finance is also changing. Top-down development, with donors telling recipients what to do, is twentieth-century thinking. We are at a critical point in the push for open data.

pwyfquoteOpen data has the power to reduce corruption, improve decision-making and the allocation of resources, empower citizens and support good governance – all prerequisites for encouraging local ownership and responsibility and, ultimately, sustainable development.

Partner countries are better equipped now, more than ever, to take full ownership of their development agenda. They have asked for more information about development co-operation spending so they can better manage their own resources, and ensure the delivery of results.

Our Road to 2015 campaign will ensure that the focus on transparency remains throughout the new agenda-setting process. We believe this process should start with better information about aid for two reasons.

Firstly, the new goals will be global targets. Responsibility for delivery lies with every nation (as well as with the collective global community), not just with governments of developing countries. It is essential that aid providers — both bilateral and multilateral — practice what they preach in terms of good governance, transparency, accountability and citizen participation.

Secondly, there is already a precedent for transparent publication of aid data, in the form of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). This is the only existing system for making current information about aid easily accessible to everyone, in a comparable format that is free to access, use and re-use.

At the Busan High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011 the international development community, including the world’s largest donors, promised to fully implement by December 2015 a common standard for publishing aid information, which includes IATI and OECD-DAC reporting systems. While some are now publishing this data, efforts remain uneven.

IATI is the only standard that satisfies our four pillars of transparent aid, ensuring data is published in a manner that is timely, comprehensive, accessible and comparable. These aspects are all crucial, as only then can donor aid spending be mapped and properly aligned with the partner country’s domestic budget.

Access to information can potentially transform the relationship not only between citizens and governments, but also between donors and recipients. Open data has the power to reduce corruption, improve decision-making and the allocation of resources, empower citizens and support good governance – all prerequisites for encouraging local ownership and responsibility and, ultimately, sustainable development.

Making aid more effective is a crucial part of the UN’s goal to end extreme poverty by 2030, as is good governance and the data and information revolution. As debates on the next set of SDGs and the role of the Global Partnership come to a head, transparency must be an essential part of all goals, giving citizens more information and more say in their own lives.

The Road to 2015 must be paved with open data, not just good intentions.

RankbioRachel Rank is Deputy Director of Publish What You Fund, the Global Campaign for Aid Transparency. Her role includes developing and managing our research and monitoring products, particularly the annual Aid Transparency Index, and establishing partnerships with other organisations focusing on transparency, accountability and access to information.