14 June, 2017

Poverty is not falling quickly enough to end by 2030 – time to make development co-operation more effective

By Michael O'Neill
Assistant Secretary-General & Assistant Administrator, Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy, UNDP

Every year the ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (FfD) Follow-up reviews the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) – a 15-year, intergovernmental deal on financing for development adopted by United Nations Member States in 2015, which aims to help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and end poverty by 2030.

The 2017 report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Financing for Development (IATF) informed this year’s forum, which was held last month in New York. The IATF stressed that, while poverty fell worldwide last year, the international community is not on track to eradicate it by 2030. A cocktail of country-specific and global economic headwinds, natural disasters, climate change-related problems and humanitarian crises slowed efforts. Continued slow growth will mean 6.5% of the world’s population remains in extreme poverty in 2030. The report calls for more money, better spent.

Crucially, the IATF appealed for action to increase long-term and high-quality investment for sustainable development, complemented by measures to address economic vulnerabilities. This requires greater adherence to internationally-agreed principles on development co-operation: country ownership, a focus on results, inclusive partnerships and transparency and mutual accountability. These principles continue to guide the work of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (Global Partnership).

The 2017 FfD Forum’s intergovernmentally agreed Outcome Document welcomed continued efforts to improve the quality, impact and effectiveness of development co-operation across all types of partnerships and took note of the Global Partnership’s Second High-Level Meeting, which took place in Nairobi in late 2016.

But now, it’s time to move from principles and commitments to evidence-based and co-ordinated action, including:

Funding nationally-designated priorities, using countries’ own systems. Because development resources have a greater impact when they respond to specific country needs, within the priorities set by countries themselves, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda underscored that cohesive, nationally-owned development strategies are crucial for achievement of the SDGs. According to the UN Development Co-operation Forum’s National Mutual Accountability survey, 90% of countries now have them in place. However, in countries surveyed by Global Partnership monitoring, while 85% of development partners’ new projects and programmes have objectives aligned to national priorities, only 52% of results are tracked using government’s own sources and systems. On use of national public financial management systems, the same monitoring process tells us that performance is mixed.

Improving public-private dialogue. The AAAA underscores the private sector’s potential role in helping to achieve the 2030 Agenda, and according to Global Partnership monitoring, partnerships for development are becoming more inclusive overall. Public and private officials are increasingly enthusiastic about co-operating, but more can be done to ensure that dialogue is more efficient and organised at the country level. Inclusive dialogue between government, the private sector and civil society can help manage risks and gear investment toward leaving no one behind.

More transparency for stronger accountability. Transparency between partners is essential for fostering strong accountability and is improving globally, with more information on development resources available than ever before. But predictability is important too. The Global Partnership’s 2016 monitoring shows that in surveyed countries, annual predictability of resources has not improved over the past five years, falling short of the Busan commitment. Development partners should make funding increasingly predictable and transparent.

Accelerating learning and adapting our approach. The IATF report indicates that partnerships are going beyond financial contributions and North-South technical assistance. Collaborative learning models to share forward-thinking, adaptable and cost-efficient solutions to address development challenges are founded on the principle of country ownership over the development process. South-South Co-operation and other innovative mechanisms for peer learning should be further leveraged to strengthen the means of implementation for the SDGs.

Consensus is necessary, but so is action. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s diversity and renewed purpose from Nairobi is ready to help improve the quality of development co-operation for achieving the SDGs and ending poverty by 2030.

Michael O’Neill represents UNDP/UNDG on the Global Partnership’s Steering Committee

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DISCLAIMER: This blog is a forum for sharing the diverse views of its varied contributors on important and emerging issues of Effective Development Co-operation. The posts do not necessarily reflect the view of the Global Partnership, its Co-Chairs, Steering Committee members, or of the joint UNDP/OECD support team.