Effective Development Co-operation Monitoring Workshop Summary Now Available

Monitoring effective development co-operation: what have we achieved; how can we do better?, a workshop at the margins of the Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, took stock of progress in implementing the commitments for more effective development co-operation, mapping existing bottlenecks and discussing possible solutions.

Held on 29 November 2016 in Nairobi, Kenya, the workshop also assessed emerging challenges for development effectiveness and reflected on how to update the existing global monitoring framework in the context of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Discussions drew on the findings from the 2016 Global Partnership Progress Report, online consultations, regional consultations and other preparatory events held ahead of HLM2. Its conclusions were reported during HLM2’s first plenary.

The monitoring workshop’s six sessions gave participants the opportunity to engage in critical dialogue around the following topics:

1. Overview of the 2016 monitoring round
2. Increasing the focus on development results
3. Strengthening country ownership
4. Creating inclusive partnerships for development
5. Improving transparency and accountability
6. Updating and refining the Global Partnership’s monitoring framework for the future

Click here to read the summary of the workshop.
Click here to read the workshop’s agenda (French, Spanish).

Analysing Results Frameworks: What is Missing?

The joint OECD-UNDP report, “Making Development Co-operation More Effective: 2016 Progress Report” contains a number of encouraging findings. For example, almost all of the participating countries/territories have documented their national development vision; at the same time, country priorities focus more clearly on human development, such as health and education. The report sends another positive message – on average 85 percent of all development partners currently follow country-defined priorities when designing new interventions – led by UN agencies (96 percent), followed by multilateral development banks (89 percent). Yet the challenge of embedding these country priorities into results-based budgetary monitoring and evaluation systems persists.

Chapter 2 of the report discusses, in-depth, how, and how much, development partners are using these country-led results frameworks to plan and design new interventions. Given the challenge noted above, the chapter ends with three sensible suggestions to help strengthen efforts to improve the effectiveness of international development co-operation through the use of country-led results frameworks. This piece will not discuss these results, but rather will suggest ways in which the analysis around this issue could be strengthened.

After reading the chapter, I was left wondering about at least three issues. First, the chapter continued to reference positive trends. This is encouraging. However, the findings could be strengthened by providing empirical evidence drawing on the results of the first monitoring round. This could help to establish a benchmark, although the two sets of results may not be fully comparable.

Second, the draft chapter may consider reflecting the most recent state of development regarding SDG Indicators. Two SDG indicators are particularly important in this regard – SDG Indicator 17.15.1 on the extent of use of country-owned frameworks by development partners; and SDG Indicator 17.16.1 on the number of countries reporting progress in multi-stakeholder development effectiveness monitoring frameworks. It would be interesting to link the progress report’s results with the efforts to document the state of SDG delivery.

Third, the draft chapter in its conclusion refers to more than 80 SDG targets that focus on outcome change and suggests that these can offer a robust framework for the engaged countries to measure progress towards development (SDG) results. One needs to be mindful in this regard that many of the outcome changes mentioned as SDG targets may actually have very little interface with traditional development cooperation.

I remain confident that the new OECD-UNDP document will generate new impetus in implementing the commitments made under the GPEDC framework by providing more transparency of the concerned processes.

Development effectiveness: what lessons can we learn from programming EU aid?

If you are interested in development cooperation and development effectiveness, then you will surely want to know about how the EU has programmed €15 billion in 74 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Programming the European Development Fund (EDF) is a major political, policy and bureaucratic challenge, and a critical test on EU’s capacity to deliver on its “high-impact aid agenda”. A myriad of actors are involved in the process: 28 EU countries, the European External Action Service, the European Commission, the European Parliament and 74 governments from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.

EU aid is highly concentrated

The EU has effectively implemented two of its key commitments for high impact aid. More funds (nearly 81%) are directed to least developed countries and low-income countries, and EU aid now concentrates on a limited number of sectors per country. The 11th EDF has a strong focus on sustainable agriculture and energy, which together account for 40% of funds. The “governance sector” receives around one third of the funds with particular attention to public financial management issues – although this also includes general budget support financing. The transport sector has fallen out of grace, with only 10% of funds allocated to it (compared to 25% under the 10th EDF). At the aggregate level the 11th EDF meets the political target of spending at least 20% in social sectors, yet only half of ACP countries include one social sector within their 3 priority choices.

In practice, country ownership is difficult to honor

We found that EDF programming is largely aligned to countries national development plans. However, we also gathered strong evidence that programming followed a very top-down approach. Sector choices were largely made at Headquarter level, even if this meant overruling country priorities and the recommendations of EU Delegations. Although civil society organisations were consulted in the programming processes, the outcomes of such consultations rarely guided sector choices. As a result, development effectiveness principles were eroded.

Knowledge was not a major driver in programming choices

A top-down approach to programming also meant that in-depth knowledge of country contexts and sector specificities was not always a key driver in decision-making. We are not saying that EU’s sector choices are not relevant in terms of addressing country development needs—they are—but this does not necessarily mean that they are the best choices in terms of delivering results, where a more informed political economy analysis may well have helped decision making.

Sector concentration may not be the best strategy for high impact aid

Focusing on a limited number of sectors, in theory, allows for a more strategic use of resources. Yet this assumption does not always materialise in practice. The quality and results delivered by an intervention don’t only depend on the financial volume but rather on the particularities of the sector and country context. Also, sector choices are still largely dependent on donor priorities rather than on a holistic division of labour that meets country needs. As a result, sector concentration can lead to many perverse effects (e.g. sector saturation, aid inefficiency and opportunity costs). A few donors are already exploring alternative programming approaches (e.g. results-oriented, thematic or multi-sectoral). The EU could engage in an evidence-based debate on whether the current sector programming approach still fits in with the results-based agenda.

Towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

There may be a need to revise the EU’s differentiation and aid allocation criteria to take into account the geography of global poverty and incorporate more nuanced indicators that take into account sub-national differences, such as inequalities. Moreover, future EU aid programming processes may need to place even further emphasis on analysing the added value of EU aid in different contexts and how aid fits in with partner country strategies for transition towards sustainable development, and mobilising the funding that is needed. Ensuring that EU aid (including that from Member States) contributes to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the country level may require an integrated approach to programming that supports the three pillars of sustainable development—the economy, the ecology and equity—more consistently and holistically.

Still missing: a more realistic, political and visionary agenda to deliver global public goods

The issue of “doing more with less” needs to be looked at beyond just reducing costs, at a more strategic level. First, because success in delivering high-quality and high-impact aid will depend on whether the EU is equipped to deliver on its ambitions. But ambitions may need to be revised by looking carefully at how the EU’s international cooperation fits within the EU’s broader (and more political and interest-driven) external action agenda in partner countries. Adopting a more politically-informed approach will need the presence of multiple stakeholders in Europe and developing countries to robustly hold it to account. This is a precondition to ensure that a more realistic yet politically visionary agenda for sustainable development is pursued, but not one that is driven by the short-term political, economic and security self-interests of the EU.

ECDPM-Alisa-Herrero-Cangas-e1386943240215About the Author

Alisa Herrero is the lead author and coordinator of the study ‘Implementing the Agenda for Change: An independent analysis of the 11th EDF programming’. She works as a Policy Officer for ECDPM’s “Strengthening European External Action” programme. ECDPM’s main goal is to link policy and practice in European development and international cooperation and to act as an independent broker between Europe, Africa and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.