Partnering to achieve the SDGs: Lessons learned from monitoring civil society’s engagement in development

At the next High-Level Political Forum – the apex of global follow-up and review of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – in July, forty countries are expected to engage in Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) of their own progress at national and sub-national levels. As per the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its guiding principles, follow-up and review should be: voluntary and country-led, taking into account different national realities and capacities; open, inclusive and participatory; and supportive of reporting by all relevant stakeholders.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (the Global Partnership) applies similar principles to its monitoring exercise. The Global Partnership is a unique, multi-stakeholder platform to support the delivery of effective development co-operation for the realisation of development efforts, including the SDGs. Its ten-part monitoring framework tracks progress in the implementation of effective development co-operation commitments. The Global Partnership monitoring process is voluntary and country-led and a number of its indicators require a multi-stakeholder monitoring approach, including Indicator Two, which tracks civil society’s ability to “operate within an environment which maximises its engagement in and contribution to development.”

The Global Partnership conducted its last monitoring round in 2015/16. Meanwhile, the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment (Task Team) conducted a stock-take of the country-level experiences with the multi-stakeholder monitoring approach of Indicator Two. Given the similarity of the guiding principles, lessons learned from the monitoring framework’s Indicator Two could also be informative for SDG follow-up and review, particularly for countries engaging in VNRs in 2017. We’ve selected three main recommendations coming out of the stock-take, which could also be relevant to SDG follow-up and review.

1. Work with focal points and encourage intra-stakeholder group coordination

For the monitoring of Indicator Two – which called for the engagement of national government, civil society organizations (CSOs) and development co-operation providers – the Global Partnership recommended stakeholder groups to each work through a focal point to help coordinate stakeholder participation and inputs to the monitoring. The stock-take confirmed the value of working with focal points for inter and intra-stakeholder group coordination. However, it also found that the value could be further enhanced by broadening engagement across and within various stakeholder groups, including outside of capital cities. Moreover when working with this method, it is crucial that the roles and responsibilities of the focal points be clearly outlined.

2. Make sufficient time and resources available for multi-stakeholder processes

Probably unsurprising is that multi-stakeholder processes are challenging and resource heavy. It is therefore important to initiate the process early and to secure sufficient human and financial resources. Time is needed for sensitization, to get stakeholders on board, and to identify focal points. Meanwhile, effective multi-stakeholder dialogue requires building a common understanding of the subject matter and the objective at hand.

Important to keep in mind is that the ability to conduct more robust multi-stakeholder processes can be limited by capacity constraints such as insufficient financing, shortage of personnel and lack of experience and awareness. In its 2016 Monitoring Report, the Global Partnership compared the countries reporting and receiving external support with those that did not receive external support. It found that amongst countries with no external support, only 59% reported on Indicator Two. This figure increased to 92% for countries that did receive external support. Further, the stock-take found that experience and know-how was an issue for state and non-state actors alike. Consideration should thus be given to country-level capacity development and financing to design and implement effective multi-stakeholder processes for follow-up and review of the SDGs.

3. Organize follow-up to discuss the findings

When it comes to monitoring – whether of the SDGs or the Global Partnership’s development co-operation indicators – the interest and value lies not only in the numbers, but in knowing where the ship is sailing in order to adjust course accordingly. One of the broader aims of the Global Partnership’s monitoring exercise is behaviour change. This does not necessarily come out of the monitoring exercise itself, but rather out of follow-up based on the monitoring results. Participants of the Indicator Two monitoring were interested in follow-up steps, including multi-stakeholder dialogue on the findings. Given that countries are to engage in annual reviews of the SDGs, consideration could be given to convening, institutionalizing and maintaining ongoing multi-stakeholder dialogue on particular SDGs. Similarly, consideration could be given to reflection in single stakeholder groups on country reports, including the implications for their own practices as well as actions needed to make progress.

Overall, the Global Partnership monitoring is relevant for SDG follow-up and review in light of the multi-stakeholder process, but also in terms of its content. The Task Team’s stock-take found, for example, that stakeholders deemed Indicator Two relevant for SDGs 16 and 17 on inclusive societies and accountable institutions, and partnerships for sustainable development respectively. Countries could build on the Global Partnership’s monitoring framework to inform follow-up and review of these two SDGs (as well as others, like SDG 5). This would also be in line with 2030 Agenda’s guiding principle that follow-up and review should build on existing platforms and processes.

To conclude, engaging in and organizing a multi-stakeholder monitoring exercise is anything but easy. However, participants of Indicator Two monitoring found it worthwhile from the perspective of collective interest in making progress. The same can be said for the SDGs. Inclusion – and more specifically the principle of leaving no one behind – is a cornerstone of Agenda 2030. It calls for multi-stakeholder engagement throughout SDG design, implementation and follow-up and review. After all, this is “an Agenda of the people, by the people, and for the people and this, we believe, will ensure its success.”

Interested in more information? You can hear stakeholders speak about their experiences with the multi-stakeholder process of monitoring Indicator Two in the summary video of our side event at the Second High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership in late 2016. You can also read the summary or full report of the Task Team’s Stock-take of Indicator Two monitoring.

About the Author:

The Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment is a multi-stakeholder body that seeks to advance the role of civil society in development. Its participants come from three stakeholder groups: governments that provide development cooperation, recipient governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) affiliated with the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE). The Task Team leads Global Partnership Initiative 2 (GPI-2).

Linking Development Finance with Results: A View from the Philippines

It is estimated that realizing the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals will cost in the trillions of dollars, requiring significant resources from multiple sources, and then mobilising and channeling these resources in new and efficient ways. Based on these new challenges, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) called for governments to adopt Integrated National Financing Frameworks (INFFs) – long-term, ambitious plans that enable governments to link finance with results. The Development Finance Assessment (DFA), a tool designed to assist governments in creating INFFs, works by establishing a baseline in a country and then recommending prospective reforms. The Philippines’ National Economic and Development Authority conducted a development finance assessment, which served as an input in crafting its Ambisyon Natin 2040 (Our Ambition 2040), the country’s Long Term Vision document. Ambisyon 2040 sets the vision that “by 2040, the Philippines shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor.”

The Philippines, a lower middle-income country, has rapidly expanded its economy. The services sector and industry have been key growth drivers, contributing to an average GDP growth of 6.2 percent during the last six years. Government spending, particularly on infrastructure, has likewise expanded. However, poverty and inequality remain a challenge. In order to address this, the government has tightened the link between planning, programming, budgeting and implementation through results-oriented public sector management reform. The Philippine Government conducted its Development Finance and Aid Assessment (DFAA) in 2014, which feeds into national development planning, strengthening of the fiscal framework and more transparent Public Financial Management (PFM) systems. The DFAA found that tax and non-tax revenues, a major source of development finance, increased substantially from 2000 to 2013. Also, consistent with the experience of other countries, Official Development Assistance (ODA) has gradually declined, relative to other sources. The DFAA report also provides a roadmap for policy reform, in this case recommending more effective domestic resource mobilisation, principally through more effective taxation and expenditure management. Critical findings like these help the government facilitate a more integrated management of multiple components of development finance towards achieving the national priorities set in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), which incorporates the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Philippines is a proactive participant in the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s monitoring rounds, and the country’s results show impressive progress in implementing the effective development co-operation principles. The various country development strategies, partnership strategies and operational business plans with development partners demonstrate alignment of the Philippine Development Plan with the development objectives and priorities. Development projects in the Philippines also reveal strong alignment with country results frameworks, such as the Results Matrices, which embodies an indicator framework for measuring the outcomes outlined in the PDP. The Philippine Government consults with civil society organizations as well as the private sector in the design, implementation and monitoring of development policies, illustrating active regard for inclusive partnerships. Institutions such as the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) enable these multi-stakeholder partnerships, which further enhance the quality and relevance of public-private dialogues around development finance and policy implementation. The recently held Philippine Development Forum (PDF) highlighted the multi-stakeholder participation and engagement by government in addressing development challenges and priorities.

By tracking the development funding’s annual predictability, the Global Partnership’s monitoring framework can help governments and providers engage in forward-looking dialogue. Predictability enables more accurate and comprehensive information, and ensures closer alignment of financing with country-specific targets. According to the results of this indicator, the Philippines’ annual and mid-term predictability are high (98 percent and 76 percent, respectively) with minimal fluctuation compared to 2013 data. Mutual accountability is also critical, and the Philippines creates a space for this through bilateral arrangements such as joint country partnership strategies. The government and development partners meet periodically at the PDF to discuss progress of major commitments, lessons learned and ways forward, while the annual ODA reviews mandated by congress allow transparency on the effective and efficient use of ODA.

By undertaking the DFA’s roadmap toward developing and strengthening the building blocks of its INFF, embracing the co-operation principles of the Global Partnership, and participating in monitoring progress, the Philippines has gained recognition of being a model in the region. Although certain areas need strengthening and capacities have to be further improved, a clear understanding of challenges and weak areas is indicative of a thriving DFA. This, however, is deemed to be a long-term process, beginning with assessment and followed by refinement of objectives. For the Philippines, national priorities going forward are three-fold: continuing to adopt a multi-stakeholder approach in national and regional development, exploring innovative financing (including risk transfer instruments that can build resilience against climate change vulnerabilities) and addressing issues on the use of country systems.

By remaining an engaged member of the Global Partnership, the Philippine Government will be able to keep these priorities at the fore, while helping to enable peers and partners to reach their own national goals. The Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) at the end of last year highlighted for the region the need for coherence between the Global Partnership, the SDGs and the Financing for Development agendas. It served to outline concrete ways in which effective development co-operation principles can enhance countries’ ability to finance their national development plans. HLM2 also highlighted the importance of cross-country exchanges on approaches to leveraging finance for country-level development priorities. There is a need to scale up knowledge sharing on leveraging finance for sustainable development in time to meet our ambitions for 2030. With HLM2 behind us, the new year is an opportunity to assess progress, for the Philippines, the Asia-Pacific region and the world, as we as a community seek to reach national goals through global co-operation.

(Photo credit: NEDA)

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).