Making coalitions for agricultural development work

The sheer scale and urgency of our world’s food security mega-challenges require action from many partners.

Further, reliable food systems, including value chains, markets, infrastructure and consumption, are critical for human health, nutrition, wellbeing and equity. Producing sufficient and quality food for 9 billion people by 2050 is in itself a daunting challenge for agricultural research for development. We need access, stability and safety in food systems to achieve food security and nutrition for all.

Despite significant progress in addressing the needs of the world’s poorest in the first part of the 21st century, 800 million people still don’t have enough to eat, and 1.2 billion live in extreme poverty. Additionally, climate change, cumulative environmental stress, conflict, dietary-induced obesity, zoonotic diseases and other stressors have slowed or reversed advances in both developed and developing countries. At the same time lack of investment, incentive structures, market failures and consumption patterns result in 40% of food being lost or wasted – an enormous misuse of our limited resources pointing to undervaluation of food and subsequent under-investments in food systems.

The number of groups involved in agricultural research for development has increased and diversified dramatically amid these new contexts and challenges. These groups now include national research systems in some larger developing countries, universities and research institutions in both the developing and developed world, regional and local NGOs, and the private sector. We need strategic partnerships between all these actors in order to tackle these mega-challenges mentioned above.

So how do we make these AR4D leadership coalitions work in an ethical and inclusive way? How can we ensure that actors stay focused on their common objectives? After all, we all share the goals of reducing poverty, improving food and nutrition security and health, as well as improving natural resources management and ecosystem services.

The Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) launched during the UN Climate Summit in New York last September is a good model as it brings together governments, major NGOs, research institutions and private companies. In this regard, it is similar to the multi-stakeholder model promoted by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation that came out of Busan. It also presents common challenges. Let us look at some of them.

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The sheer scale and urgency of our world’s food security mega-challenges require action from many partners.

First, because of the diversity of GACSA partners and how they are represented, the forum runs the risk of replicating a UN model, particularly when dealing with contentious issues. Discussions under this model lean towards a consensus body, where all actors must agree on all action taken, which often stymies progress. For GACSA in particular, the types of issues that could tempt the coalition into behaving like a consensus body could be the development of strict criteria and certification modalities to define what counts as “climate-smart agriculture”. Although we should not overlook consensus-building, I believe it is wiser to ensure that coalitions stick to operating a “leadership model” instead, which happily, GACSA wishes to do. This model seeks to promote direct action on the ground by sharing inspiring examples from those on the ground, knowledge on practices and approaches, and individual commitments from members.

The second obstacle I see is criticism voiced by a large group of civil society organisations who fear that GACSA would actually promote “corporate-smart greenwash” including the promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms, and not care for the poor and vulnerable.

These fears are to a large extent unfounded, since the major, publicly funded international founders of GACSA, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and CGIAR are quite careful about potential ‘hijacking’ of such initiatives, and each have a mandate to serve the best interests of the world’s poorest people. This opinion is not shared by all. Some civil society organisations have actually joined GACSA.

As researchers, we should be “listening to those doubting, because there is nothing to hide” as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition David Nabarro stated in The Hague. But this may not suffice to get all on board.

Therefore we should be ready to handle “nonbelievers” who want to stay “on the outside” and perhaps even value their role, as it guarantees the ethical and inclusive nature of the coalitions we engage in. One way of doing so could be to create a dedicated, independent advisory committee or panel that includes, or at least carefully listens to, these “nonbelievers”.

I believe these are two key ingredients to making agricultural development coalitions for development work and two major factors to be considered by other development fora like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. We need dynamic interaction between members, and active engagement with critics. We all want a sustainable future for our food system and I believe these steps can take us there.


VidalAlain Vidal is a Senior Advisor on Capacity Development and Partnerships for the CGIAR Consortium. He is seconded to the CGIAR Consortium by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agribusiness and Forestry.

We are on the ball: how to achieve the new global development goals

We are approaching a critical year. In 2015 the international community is expected to reach agreement on a set of new goals for international development, as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. The new goals will address sustainability in the broadest sense and we will need to implement them as effectively as possible. And this is where I believe that the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation – which I co-chair – can make a big contribution.

Recent developments…

The Global Partnership aims to go beyond the traditional means and methods of development aid. Acting alone, states can no longer respond effectively to today’s development challenges, as these are becoming increasingly transnational and complex. States must not only cooperate more to tackle them; they must also work together with key partners from civil society, the private sector, local governments, regional organisations, trade unions, international and national development banks, and so on. These actors have indispensable knowledge and expertise that can make all the difference.

These new trends can also be seen in the way international development is funded. Development aid from governments still plays a key role, but it has to be complemented by alternative sources of finance. More and more, developing nations are working together. Or we cooperate with one developing country to support a third country in what we call triangular cooperation. And in recent years the private sector has also become a significant player in this area. Such investments make an important contribution to developing economies.

… have prompted a novel response …

The Global Partnership is a useful framework that functions as an umbrella for these and other developments. By acting like a broker and bringing together the various actors, both old and new, it identifies windows of opportunity for new partnerships. By sharing practical details on what works and what doesn’t, actors have access to a continuously evolving pool of best practices. And through international forums, we draw attention to the added value brought by these multi-stakeholder partnerships.

We work on the principle that stakeholders in developing countries take the lead in achieving development, while development partners provide the support. By opening its membership to all stakeholders involved, the Global Partnership is uniquely inclusive. This principle is reflected in our Steering Committee, which includes representatives of recipients, providers and recipient-providers of development assistance, as well as representatives of the private sector, parliaments, local governments, civil society, foundations, development banks, the UNDP and OECD. Best practice sharing and mutual learning between such a diversity of actors is essential in order to provide the most effective policy solutions to development challenges.

The Global Partnership proactively monitors its members’ progress on meeting their development goals. This fosters mutual accountability and learning. Our members hold each other to their commitments on a regular basis. Here too, countries themselves take the lead: monitoring relies on their own data and processes. In order for international development to have a lasting effect, it should be geared towards the local country context.

… that serves to strengthen the new global goals for development

Engaging a wide variety of actors in the spirit of true partnership; collecting best practices; holding each other to account, and in so doing making development co-operation more effective: this is what the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation can bring to the table when it comes to the new global goals for development.


FotoPloumenLilianne Ploumen is Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. She is one of the three Co-chairs of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation along with Minister of Finance, Economic Planning & Development of Malawi, Goodall Edward Gondwe, and Foreign Affairs Secretary of Mexico, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.

Need to Enforce Mutual Accountability for Better Post-2015 Development Co-operation

Accountability is a crosscutting pillar of the post-2015 development agenda. It is crucial to delivering development effectiveness, along with the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their means of implementation.

Albeit among various frameworks and global partnerships for development, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation stands out in terms of devising ways to hold aid partners accountable.

The UN Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) has also been an enduring facilitator in shaping renewed partnerships for development co-operation, collecting vantage points for launching global accountability mechanisms to make sustainable development happen.

The Global Partnership is a multi-stakeholder partnership involving not only governments and international organisations but also non-state actors including CSOs. Even BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – emerging as non-OECD-DAC donors can be integrated into this open partnership. The Global Partnership’s architecture of global accountability not only goes beyond government-centred approaches but is designed as a true multi-stakeholder partnership where actors interact at both the country and international levels. Its vision of global accountability is based on combining existing country-level mechanisms with strong regional and global frameworks. But having more partners in development co-operation requires much clearer accountability to mark different participants’ mandates; otherwise buck-passing will become a problem.

We need to rigorously redefine accountability to prevent its utility from falling into mere political rhetoric without practicality. Such an effort can also make the Global Partnership more accountable and sustainable.

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A new conceptualisation of mutual accountability can be explained by the following three components: responsibility, answerability, and enforceability.

First, responsibility is key to accountability in that those in authority must clearly define their duties and performance standards to enable transparent and objective assessment of their behaviour. Clear identification of who is responsible for what at the start of aid programmes also helps avoid confusion over who holds other partners to account for what throughout aid programmes.

Second, answerability requires public officials and institutions to justify their actions and decisions to those who are affected by them. In development, power relationships between individuals and state institutions, or between aid providers and programme partners are often asymmetrical. Enhancing information sharing transforms these asymmetries by empowering partner countries to better influence the aid-giving countries’ behaviour. Sharing information symmetrically also promotes quality of monitoring and evaluation.

Last but not least, enforceability requires public institutions to monitor public officials and institutions’ compliance with established standards, and to sanction officials who do not comply. They should also take appropriate corrective and remedial action when required. Enforcing accountability is not only about penalties, but also about ensuring that fair and systematic mechanisms assess partner countries’ compliance with agreed responsibilities. In this sense, enforcement mechanisms are the last resort for partner countries to hold each other accountable through inspection or rigorous oversight.

All in all, mutual accountability requires all three elements of responsibility, answerability, and enforceability to be organically connected. Thus, effective accountability requires steady and reliable information and communication between stakeholders as well as the means to impose penalties when required. In principle, any partner who violates standardised principles should be excluded from development partnerships.

However, international aid agencies and traditional donors that meet these three conditions are very rare. Indeed, it is not easy to satisfy them all simultaneously. They can do so by trying to be more open and attentive to serious complaints arising during programme implementation, by adapting to changing needs throughout aid programme cycles, and by complying with sanctions when their performances are properly inspected in accordance with complaints.

Enforceability is the most taxing element, mainly because both donors and recipients are reluctant to adopt mechanisms that may hold back their sovereign decisions. Aid recipients also tend to see all three components as a threat or organised shackles by which traditional donors aim to rule their behaviour. Nevertheless, excluding enforcement will render accountability mechanisms meaningless for holding partners accountable. It is unfortunate that both discussions on the Global Partnership and UN processes for the post-2015 agenda lack genuine consideration of how to enforce mutual accountability.

In a nutshell, the next round of inter-governmental processes for the post-2015 development agenda should include the three following aspects.

First, mutual accountability should operate not only at country-level, but also internationally. Discussion should harness ways to link country accountability processes with global mechanisms. Second, mutual accountability mechanisms must have full participation of networks representing parliaments, civil society organisations, local governments, businesses and even non-OECD-DAC donors such as BRICS countries. Third, enforcement mechanisms should be a prerequisite for mutual accountability at both country and international level.

In so doing, it is worth noting that a centralised enforcement institute, which can impose penalties on the rule impingement beyond state boundaries, would prompt political backlash from newly emerging donors or programme partner countries. It is also important to note that the overemphasis on enforceability could politicise aid effectiveness, while still fully acknowledging that enforcement mechanisms are required at the international level as a key to consolidating accountability. Therefore, more discussion is needed on how to align enforcement mechanisms between aid donors and partner countries for development processes post-2015.

In this regard, the Global Partnership already aims to provide a political space for development discussions on better enforcement mechanisms, on the basis of a multi-stakeholder partnership. The Global Partnership should take a further initiative to carry the resulting enforcement mechanisms to inform upcoming UN dialogues for the post-2015 era.


KimbioTaekyoon Kim is an Associate Professor of International Development at the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), Seoul National University, South Korea. He can be contacted at: oxonian07@snu.ac.kr.