Is the effectiveness agenda still on track?

GPEDC • 15 October 2020
Photo by Matt Duncan on Unsplash

The 2030 Agenda provides a frame and a visionary roadmap for all countries to align and consolidate their efforts for sustainable development. The transformational change required calls for a whole-of-society approach and its effective follow-up and review through peer learning is a critical component to reaffirm commitments and actions in achieving the ambitious SDGs. The Global Partnership’s new 2020-2022 Work Programme particularly accentuates effectiveness and effective development partnerships, underpinned by the effectiveness principles, to drive more sustainable development outcomes, deliver the 2030 Agenda and ensure that no one is left behind.

At this year’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the global efforts to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic heavily influenced the focus and format of the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). As socio-economic effects of COVID-19 impeded on the implementation of 2030 Agenda for 47 reporting countries, they called for more collective actions, strengthened international development cooperation and mobilization of multi-stakeholder and inclusive partnerships to ensure recovery from the pandemic, build back better and achieve the SDGs.

“I call upon the global community to deliver on the commitments made and become more proactive on shared responsibilities. I believe the framework of SDGs itself, built on inclusiveness, solidarity and partnership, will help us to rebuild our world to the desired level,” said Sheikh Hasina, the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. [1]

The Global Partnership and the VNRs

Experiences, shared knowledge and lessons learned from the VNRs, and specifically an overview of the SDG 17, is of particular interest to the Global Partnership. As the reported information from countries is compiled, it sheds light on challenges and opportunities in regards to country policies and systems, institutional arrangements, accountability and coordination mechanisms, as well as multi-stakeholder partnerships and international cooperation that is built upon principles and values at the global, national and local levels [2]. By analyzing countries’ results and achievements, the Global Partnership is also able to track progress of countries in implementing SDG 17 targets and explore how to bring value-added efforts in making development co-operation more effective at the country level by conveying key development players into strategic dialogues, thus improving the quality of effective development co-operation to implement the SDGs during the COVID-19 response.

Building on past years’ efforts of nationalizing the Agenda 2030, many countries reported their progress between 2016 and 2020 on:

i) successful alignment of national strategies and plans with the goals and their adaptation to the national context (41 countries)

ii) strengthened national results/monitoring frameworks and statistical systems including review of monitoring indicators (39 countries)

iii) established and/or strengthened existing SDG coordination mechanisms and key institutional entities that oversee the SDG coordination (21 countries)

iv) articulated and strengthened multi-stakeholder dialogues for the promotion and review of intersectoral, multi-stakeholder and multi-level collaboration initiatives, to advance the SDG implementation (9 countries).

Progress on the Effectiveness Principles

Looking at the effectiveness principles more specifically, countries such as Argentina, Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, Democratic Republic of Congo, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Morocco, North Macedonia, Papua New Guinea, Uganda outlined their specific efforts with regard to strengthening international development co-operation and ODA relationship including effective and quality partnerships with foreign countries and governments. These efforts in many cases were underpinned by the establishment of international development co-operation strategies and relevant policies as well as carried out within the co-operation and technical assistance frameworks.

Progress was also reported around strengthened transparency and accountability measures placed by the government via Public Finance Management Systems (PFMs). Based on these efforts, India, Liberia, Malawi and Solomon Islands indicated improved accountability and responsiveness as well as reinforced effectiveness in fiscal management and oversight, financial controls and revenue mobilization including improved transparency in procurement and public expenditure. In a particular instance, Samoa referenced the GPEDC 2018 monitoring round’s assessment of Samoa’s PFM systems as strong with significant progress in budgeting, procurement, auditing and financial reporting since the previous monitoring round.

Recognizing the significant role of the private sector in financing for the SDGs, 39 governments stressed on the importance of incentivizing private investment through public-private dialogue and partnerships (PPP). Taking into consideration specific local challenges and diverse development landscapes, creating enabling conditions for PPP dialogue and programmes would provide opportunities for the private sector to participate in the implementation of sustainable development parameters at the country level.

Countries also made emphasis on South-South (SSC) and Triangular Co-operation (TrC) to generate results of social, economic and environmental impact. Some progressive trends in this direction is important to highlight:

  • Argentina has become a relevant actor in the field of TrC under the premise of ‘building from the South’. The country has established the Argentine Fund for South-South and Triangular Co-operation.
  • In Bangladesh, the SSC collaboration is through the South-South Network for Public Service Innovation (SSN4PSI) which allows Bangladesh to forge SSC partnerships between Southern countries.
  • In Comoros, Ecuador, Panama and Moldova the efforts of SSC are strengthened with the countries of the sub-region to encourage sharing of experience and good practices in innovation and sustainable development, technology transfers, mutual support, and good neighborhood initiatives.
  • In Costa Rica, SSC strategies are focused around becoming a dual stakeholder, a recipient and provider of technical co-operation, and access of regional resources through TrC and SSC mechanisms.
  • Government of India’s capacity building efforts, through the Indian Technical & Economic Co-operation (ITEC) programme, reach 160 countries across the developing world, especially the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the Least Developed Countries (LDCs).
  • Kenya has sought to mainstream the use of SSC in the design, formulation and implementation of it regular programmes including increase in allocations to support SSC initiatives.
  • In Morocco the SSC is enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution, as a strategic axis of its foreign policy. Around 20 co-operation agreements were signed with countries of the South, particularly in Africa.

Effective Challenges and Opportunities Remain

While much progress has been reported, COVID-19 is accentuating the need for stepping up all efforts for more effective development co-operation. VNRs bring to light specific challenges related to effective delivery and management of countries’ coordination, monitoring and review mechanisms strongly focusing on overall constraints with statistical and data capacity. Additional efforts are sought in Brunei Darussalam, Costa Rica, DRC, India, Kenya, North Macedonia, Lybia and Papua New Guinea for establishing coherent and inclusive multi-stakeholder mechanisms, that would also project transparency and accountability, including public oversight. In the domain of overall concerns are improvements needed for aid/donor coordination and roadmaps for financing for SDGs.

“It is of outmost importance that from this moment we are projecting ourselves into the future. I have the firm conviction that this first Voluntary National Review Report will speed up the national implementation of SDGs in the DRC, promote good coordination and adopt a multi-stakeholder approach. It will help strengthen monitoring and evaluation and identify areas where decisive actions are necessary,”  said H.E. Elysée Munembwe Tamukumwe, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Planning, Democratic Republic of Congo [3]

It is worth mentioning, that few countries specifically referenced the Global Partnership in their VNRs, signaling relevance of GPEDC’s topics and monitoring results in their own country context.

Bangladesh VNR was reporting overall progress in multi-stakeholder development effectiveness monitoring frameworks from 2018 GPEDC monitoring round. Kenya in its VNR also mentioned that 2018 GPEDC monitoring round indicators were used to report on Goal 17. In case of Liberia, the midterm review of the National Agenda for Transformation (AfT) returned mixed results on GPEDC’s 10 monitoring framework indicators, however, on the extent of use of the AtF results framework, the review confirmed that all partners derive and linked their priorities to those of the AtF. In addition, Moldova provided evidence on partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs) from 2018 GPEDC monitoring data. The GPEDC 2018 monitoring also assesses Samoa’s mutual accountability mechanisms as excellent scoring five out of five for having a comprehensive policy framework for development co-operation. Seychelles and Uganda referenced their participation in the 2018 GPEDC monitoring exercise to assess progress, opportunities and obstacles in aligning their efforts and partnerships with the effectiveness principles.

While such use of the Global Partnership monitoring results by governments and stakeholders spark follow up actions, forward-looking support is needed to spur behavior change by all partners. In 2020-2022, the Global Partnership, through the work of its 10 Action Areas. will explore how current practices of various partners are producing sustainable development results, and within this, how the effectiveness principles are used to improve sustainable impact. Most importantly, in the next two years, a reform of the Global Partnership monitoring exercise will be undertaken to ensure that the monitoring exercise generates robust data and evidence to support accountability for Busan commitments, stimulate dialogue, drive behavior change and build political momentum for more effective development co-operation.