In his 2011 report to the G20 on financing international development for the 21st century, Bill Gates laid out a vision of innovative partnerships built across multiple public and private actors with different competencies applying their unique assets to the shared challenge of improving human lives and livelihoods in the developing world. It is exciting to see this vision built in to both the structure and the agenda for this First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation held this April 15-16 in Mexico City. The opportunity now is to make it a reality in the way we all work together.
At the heart of this vision must be the domestic resources and leadership of developing countries themselves as the largest and ultimately most sustainable source of finance for key public functions, including provision of basic services and infrastructure. When countries optimise the value of precious natural resources and build more efficient tax systems, and then invest their revenues in human development through the right policies, they are able to accelerate quickly down the path to better health and prosperity and to sustain momentum.
As one of the “new faces” of development finance, the Gates Foundation is also acutely conscious of the continued critical importance of Official Development Assistance (ODA). Donor aid helps fill funding gaps to meet the needs of the poorest, like basic education and health care. It can also help spark new markets for their needs: an area where the private sector does not naturally go. And it fuels R&D that leads to innovations – like vaccines, newer seed varieties and improved sanitation – that are crucial to countries lifting themselves out of poverty.
As a “new face” of development finance, the Gates Foundation is acutely conscious of the continued critical importance of aid. This helps fill funding gaps to meet the needs of the poorest, like basic education and health care.
In this area of global public goods that matter for all the world’s citizens, there is a major role for properly focused traditional aid. This is why the mere volume of aid means little without equal attention to how aid is given and to whom. It is especially troubling if too little aid flows to countries most in need. While we celebrate the fact that ODA increased in 2013 it is concerning, for example, that a smaller share is in fact going to the Least Developed Countries.
Engaging the private sector – especially around concrete initiatives such as GAVI and The Global Fund – has proven highly effective to leverage their understanding of markets to bring new products at an affordable price to those who would otherwise be left out of the innovation chain: mobile savings, new seeds and lower-cost drugs. The private sector’s relentless focus on outcomes and results can also provide a useful discipline to the development sector.
And philanthropic organisations like the foundation – though limited in resources compared to governments and business – have the flexibility to experiment since they do not have to be cautious with public revenue or restrained by market constraints. They can invest in new ways that catalyse the engagement of other funders.
Middle income countries like China, Brazil, India, South Africa and Mexico now have a crucial and unique role to play in development: they can draw on their own recent experience of tackling poverty and can also tap into a large talent pool of well-educated scientists and engineers who are able to innovate in relevant ways.
This unique combination did not exist in the previously binary landscape of donor and recipient. The popularity of “triangular partnerships” among these rapidly growing countries, traditional donors, and poorer countries may be a sign of what’s to come, as countries work together to exploit their comparative advantages to their mutual benefit. The Gates Foundation is proud to be working with all of these countries in areas ranging from vaccine development and financing to agricultural research, to help bring these lessons to poorer nations following them on the path to greater prosperity.
The Global Partnership is a unique opportunity to draw on the strengths of this diverse and dynamic universe of partners and show what inclusive, multi-stakeholder partnerships can accomplish. Fostering a flexible and modern problem-solving approach will be particularly important to map out how the post-2015 development agenda will be financed and implemented.
The foundation believes that finishing the job on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) should remain a core part of the post-2015 framework, and that both ODA and countries’ own domestic resources will be a key source of finance for critical human needs. But the wider ambitions of fostering a socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable development path will only be achieved with and through the engagement of the private sector, government, and especially citizens themselves. This meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is a key step to help us get there.
Mark Suzman is the Gates Foundation’s President of Global Policy, Advocacy, and Country Programs, leading a team that helps build strategic relationships with governments, NGOs and other key partners to increase awareness, action, and resources devoted to global development and health priorities. He also oversees the foundation’s regional offices and strategic presence in Europe, Africa, China, and India.