What is the Future of the ‘Development Effectiveness’ Agenda in Today’s Shaky World?
This week, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation finished a two-day event in Paris to “Reinvigorate Effectiveness for the 2030 Agenda“. After much discussion and deliberation, here are my top four takeaways from the event:
(1) “Stronger together”
The presence of 80+ countries and a diversity of development agencies and constituencies confirms the good health of the Global Partnership. It was also a call to strengthen its role as an open platform that facilitates cross-regional learning and (soft but multi-stakeholder & action-oriented) accountability.
(2) “Ownership, ownership, ownership”
If there was one key message that seemed to transpire from each session, it was the need to bring back to the spotlight the principle of country ownership. In today’s world, with development agencies and partner countries both hard-pressed to show short-term tangible results at home as they deal with instability and external shocks, the ownership principle has somehow weakened. The level of trust needed for effective development and co-operation has become a rare commodity.
Rebuilding trust will require changing practices (even if through trial-and-error) that allow transferring leadership back from development agencies to partner governments, while those governments continue strengthening country institutions and opening them up to the whole of society, including civil society, the private sector, trade unions, and others. The cost of inaction is greater instability.
(3) “Evolving is a need”
As growing instability shakes up economies and political systems around the world, we need to continue reinterpreting and sharpening our tools to monitor effectiveness, which in turn would provide useful evidence to guide our countries’ and organizational strategies and practices.
Paris monitoring (2005) was very focused on a few concrete areas and some still miss it, but it was pretty much centered around efficiency issues affecting donor-government relationships. Busan monitoring (2011) expanded the scope to address in full the issues of politics, inclusive power-sharing and accountability. The Busan monitoring, now firmly anchored in measuring the quality of the means of implementation of the SDGs, needs to continue evolving to be as useful as it can be, for all types of countries, and for all other development partners.
(3) “Show me the results”
2019 is going to be flooded with evidence and results to share throughout the Global Partnership and during the Partnership’s Senior-Level Meeting in July. This will come from a number of ongoing activities, including the results of the 2018 monitoring round, currently testing the health of “effectiveness” on the ground; from the learnings on how to improve effectiveness in fragile and conflict-afflicted contexts and in working with the private sector; and from nine country pilots experimenting ways to implement the effectiveness principles in practice, including one working on South-South co-operation effectiveness. All these learnings and other mapping exercises will be reflected in the Global Partnership’s Compendium of Good Practices and a knowledge-sharing platform, all to be discussed with senior policy-makers in New York in July.
(4) “Not ‘if’ but ‘how’”
On the point of ‘working with the private sector’, the conversation showed that our “development feet” have been inside the water for a while already, but we still need a better compass to swim into the open sea – maybe by listening to all the relevant constituencies that are necessary for good, pro-developmental public-private engagement.
As participants left the French capital, many talked in the corridors about how the passionate discussions brought them hope and a sense of direction. If reinvigorating the effectiveness agenda required this small, collective shake-up of the like-minded, it is pretty much welcomed.