Making coalitions for agricultural development work

The sheer scale and urgency of our world’s food security mega-challenges require action from many partners.

Further, reliable food systems, including value chains, markets, infrastructure and consumption, are critical for human health, nutrition, wellbeing and equity. Producing sufficient and quality food for 9 billion people by 2050 is in itself a daunting challenge for agricultural research for development. We need access, stability and safety in food systems to achieve food security and nutrition for all.

Despite significant progress in addressing the needs of the world’s poorest in the first part of the 21st century, 800 million people still don’t have enough to eat, and 1.2 billion live in extreme poverty. Additionally, climate change, cumulative environmental stress, conflict, dietary-induced obesity, zoonotic diseases and other stressors have slowed or reversed advances in both developed and developing countries. At the same time lack of investment, incentive structures, market failures and consumption patterns result in 40% of food being lost or wasted – an enormous misuse of our limited resources pointing to undervaluation of food and subsequent under-investments in food systems.

The number of groups involved in agricultural research for development has increased and diversified dramatically amid these new contexts and challenges. These groups now include national research systems in some larger developing countries, universities and research institutions in both the developing and developed world, regional and local NGOs, and the private sector. We need strategic partnerships between all these actors in order to tackle these mega-challenges mentioned above.

So how do we make these AR4D leadership coalitions work in an ethical and inclusive way? How can we ensure that actors stay focused on their common objectives? After all, we all share the goals of reducing poverty, improving food and nutrition security and health, as well as improving natural resources management and ecosystem services.

The Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) launched during the UN Climate Summit in New York last September is a good model as it brings together governments, major NGOs, research institutions and private companies. In this regard, it is similar to the multi-stakeholder model promoted by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation that came out of Busan. It also presents common challenges. Let us look at some of them.

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The sheer scale and urgency of our world’s food security mega-challenges require action from many partners.

First, because of the diversity of GACSA partners and how they are represented, the forum runs the risk of replicating a UN model, particularly when dealing with contentious issues. Discussions under this model lean towards a consensus body, where all actors must agree on all action taken, which often stymies progress. For GACSA in particular, the types of issues that could tempt the coalition into behaving like a consensus body could be the development of strict criteria and certification modalities to define what counts as “climate-smart agriculture”. Although we should not overlook consensus-building, I believe it is wiser to ensure that coalitions stick to operating a “leadership model” instead, which happily, GACSA wishes to do. This model seeks to promote direct action on the ground by sharing inspiring examples from those on the ground, knowledge on practices and approaches, and individual commitments from members.

The second obstacle I see is criticism voiced by a large group of civil society organisations who fear that GACSA would actually promote “corporate-smart greenwash” including the promotion of Genetically Modified Organisms, and not care for the poor and vulnerable.

These fears are to a large extent unfounded, since the major, publicly funded international founders of GACSA, such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and CGIAR are quite careful about potential ‘hijacking’ of such initiatives, and each have a mandate to serve the best interests of the world’s poorest people. This opinion is not shared by all. Some civil society organisations have actually joined GACSA.

As researchers, we should be “listening to those doubting, because there is nothing to hide” as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition David Nabarro stated in The Hague. But this may not suffice to get all on board.

Therefore we should be ready to handle “nonbelievers” who want to stay “on the outside” and perhaps even value their role, as it guarantees the ethical and inclusive nature of the coalitions we engage in. One way of doing so could be to create a dedicated, independent advisory committee or panel that includes, or at least carefully listens to, these “nonbelievers”.

I believe these are two key ingredients to making agricultural development coalitions for development work and two major factors to be considered by other development fora like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. We need dynamic interaction between members, and active engagement with critics. We all want a sustainable future for our food system and I believe these steps can take us there.


VidalAlain Vidal is a Senior Advisor on Capacity Development and Partnerships for the CGIAR Consortium. He is seconded to the CGIAR Consortium by the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agribusiness and Forestry.

Progressing Aid Effectiveness in the WASH sector

As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaches, the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector continues to face serious challenges that are hampering progress. Although the world has met the MDG target for drinking water, 748 million people still lack access to an improved drinking water source, and 2.5 billion people cannot access a basic toilet. Sanitation is among the most off-track of all the MDGs, with the percentage of people with access to improved sanitation barely increasing since the MDGs were agreed 15 years ago.

Yet despite these considerable challenges, ambition is increasing. As negotiations for a new set of post-2015 global development goals move forward, there is growing expectation that universal access to water and sanitation by 2030 will be a key pillar of a new framework to eradicate extreme poverty. Such international commitment would amount to an historic opportunity.

But the step change needed to meet this goal would not only require significantly more investment; it would also require a different way of doing business.

Governments, donors, the private sector and civil society will all have a vital role to play in ensuring sector resources are put to good use. They must strengthen the country processes needed to deliver permanent WASH services that reach everyone. One particularly important area is the effectiveness of development aid. Many developing countries remain heavily dependent on donor funds to deliver WASH services, and effective aid that enhances recipient country governments’ capacity to extend and sustain WASH services is crucial to achieving permanent universal access.

However, evidence suggests that aid to the WASH sector is not currently as effective as it could be. Fragmentation remains a challenge, and donor commitment to strengthening national institutions and addressing national priorities is sometimes trumped by desire to maximise short-term impact. Statistics show that project type interventions accounted for 88% of water supply and sanitation aid in 2012.

There is therefore an urgent need for the WASH sector to improve its understanding of how aid can optimise progress, and to foster mutual accountability for sector performance. A new report by WaterAid – released last month – is a useful starting point, drawing on previous work both within and beyond the WASH sector. It looks at how the health and education sectors have tackled the challenge of strengthening mutual accountability, with case studies in Ethiopia and Timor Leste providing examples of current practice in the WASH sector.

These studies demonstrate the complexity of development co-operation in the sector. In Ethiopia, the Government has launched its One WASH National Programme (OWNP), with the vision that development partners will align around a unified set of country-owned systems. But despite donors’ broad commitments, there are concerns that headquarter rules and perceptions of risk will limit how far they can align with these policies in practice. In Timor Leste, new Water and Sanitation Information Systems have marked important progress in monitoring WASH sector results, but there are still major technical and political challenges to effectively link monitoring to planning and resource allocation. Both countries also face challenges in increasing transparency and strengthening mutual accountability in the sector.

WaterAid’s report aims to support the sector in addressing such issues. It proposes a series of common practice and performance measures that capture the most important facets of effective WASH aid. It also explores the types of institutional arrangements that could be used to monitor practice. This provides the first step towards a global framework that can introduce greater scrutiny and mutual accountability into development co-operation in the WASH sector.

wateraidquoteWe must ensure that the WASH sector’s work to strengthen mutual accountability is closely linked with global efforts to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation.

Over the coming months WaterAid will work closely with other members of the Sanitation and Water for All partnership (SWA) to increase our understanding of current practice in aid to the WASH sector, and to develop a bold roadmap to make it more effective. But the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation also has an important role to play in ensuring development resources are translated into improvements in sector performance. There is clear evidence that momentum created by global agreements such as the Paris Declaration and Busan Partnership Agreement (and their associated monitoring processes) can drive progress and improve the effectiveness of development co-operation among WASH sector actors. A globally coordinated dialogue that maintains momentum around these principles is therefore invaluable. The WASH sector also has much to learn from initiatives to strengthen country processes in other sectors, such as health and education, as well as much to contribute from its own experiences. The Global Partnership can play a unique role in facilitating such dialogue and exchange by doing more to reach out to sector actors, and using their experience and expertise to strengthen the Partnership’s own work.

We must ensure that the WASH sector’s work to strengthen mutual accountability is closely linked with global efforts to improve the effectiveness of development cooperation. Only then can we successfully catalyse the step-change in performance needed to realise our ambition of sanitation and water for all.


BattleBio

Clare Battle is a Policy Analyst at WaterAid, an international charity that transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH). Her role includes leading WaterAid’s work to improve aid effectiveness and strengthen country processes in the WASH sector.

Why partnering with the private sector is key to inclusive growth

Over the past couple of decades, no one can deny that the Asia and the Pacific region has represented a remarkable success story. Absolute poverty levels have fallen significantly and the region is on course to achieve a number of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But more than 1.6 billion people in the region continue to live on less than USD 2 a day and remain vulnerable to shocks — whether economic or environmental. The region is also confronting widening inequalities and the challenge of enabling a decent quality of life.

A strong need remains for both dedicated knowledge support and for financing to address the region’s social and infrastructure gaps, including urgent measures to address climate change.

Over the past few years, policymakers and development finance institutions (DFIs) have increasingly looked to the private sector to help meet these financing needs. In the right investment climate, the private sector can support the inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth that is at the heart of the global development agenda.

A key contribution of the private sector is in promoting economic growth, which it does through investments, knowledge transfer, and enhanced productivity. By creating new markets, fostering competition, and making investments, the private sector helps allocate resources productively and efficiently, improving prospects for economic growth. Economic growth generates resources that can be used for future investment as well as social development.

According to the World Bank, the private sector is the source of nearly 90% of the world’s jobs. So by providing direct employment, as well as finance to the sectors and geographic regions where it is most needed, the private sector promotes not just growth — it promotes inclusive growth.

The private sector also helps to boost living standards. This extends beyond extreme poverty as captured in the MDGs to areas such as the availability and quality of goods and services such as housing, infrastructure, health, and education. In this context, the private sector also plays a critical role in improving service delivery through public-private partnerships. These are particularly relevant in the case of infrastructure, as they allow for risk sharing, and are benefitting from improved institutional capacity and clearer legal and regulatory frameworks.

The private sector can also promote the adoption and/or retrofitting of environment-friendly technologies. This is valuable in the face of climate change, which can adversely impact many critical development goals such as food security, health, and water. The largest mitigation opportunities, especially for energy efficiency, remain in middle income countries.

Lastly, the private sector is a reliable source of revenue for government operations through its contributions to taxes and duties.

Given these advantages, it is not surprising that DFIs have come together relatively quickly to agree on a core set of principles that would guide support for private sector initiatives. These include commercial sustainability, promotion of high standards and additionality – that is, the extent to which a new input or action can add to already existing ones. More importantly, the private sector itself, not least due to the fall-out from the global financial crisis, has begun to reexamine its role in promoting economic growth as well as its responsibility to society. It is therefore increasingly open to engagement on these issues, particularly with DFIs.

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Asia and the Pacific’s financing needs are indeed daunting. We, the multilateral development banks, need to engage the private sector on all fronts to an even greater extent than we currently do, to leverage both finance and knowledge.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has long recognised the private sector as a key driver of change in attaining its three long-term strategic agendas of inclusive growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. In line with our commitment to transparency, ADB publishes the annual Development Effectiveness Review, with 89 performance indicators to assess progress in implementing these priorities. The dedicated 2013 private sector operations Development Effectiveness Report was published on July 25th.

With $1.8 billion approved in 2013, our Private Sector Operations Department provides comprehensive financial assistance including loans, equity investments, guarantees, cofinancing and technical assistance. Our clients are private companies, banks and financial institutions, investment funds and state-owned enterprises. All our private sector interventions are aimed at maximising development impact. In doing so, our aim is to supplement or complement commercial finance, particularly in areas where perceived or persistent market gaps are inhibiting private investments.

What can ADB contribute to effective development co-operation with the private sector? Firstly, we are an Asian institution with a long and stable relationship with developing countries in the region. Based on the foundation of our strong infrastructure and financial sector exposure, we are increasingly entering sectors where we see promising potential for sustainable inclusive business models, such as agribusiness, education and health. Our strength lies in the synergies we derive from our sovereign operations in the core areas of policy and regulatory support.

Our private sector portfolio has more than doubled since 2006, totaling $6,219 million in 2013, comprising 155 accounts and 140 projects in 20 countries. Aligned with ADB’s core specialisations and sector priorities across individual member countries, 96% of the portfolio supports infrastructure, environment, and finance sector development.

Asia and the Pacific’s financing needs are indeed daunting. We, the multilateral development banks, need to engage the private sector on all fronts to an even greater extent than we currently do, to leverage both finance and knowledge.


VenkatachalamBio

Lakshmi Venkatachalam is the Vice-President (Private Sector and Cofinancing Operations) of Asian Development Bank since June 2010, leading ADB’s private sector initiatives and cofinancing activities. Based on the Midterm Review of its Strategy 2020, ADB’s activities in private sector development and private sector operations are targeted to reach 50% of its annual operations by 2020.