Triangular Co-operation: a view from Germany


By Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Silberhorn, German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development

Germany is often regarded as a so-called “traditional donor country”. The word “traditional” may sound a little antiquated at first. But I believe that Germany has shown that its policy is anything but old-fashioned. Germany is ready to embark on new avenues and forge new partnerships.

One of the new avenues on which we want to embark is to expand the instrument of triangular cooperation. Germany has been supporting this form of cooperation for a long time, since the mid-1980s in fact. Since then, geopolitical changes and the growing importance of emerging countries have led to the appearance of new actors and donors in the global development landscape. To increase the involvement of these new rising powers, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) strives to further exploit the potential of triangular cooperation. We emphasised this intention in the Busan Outcome Document. To us, triangular cooperation arrangements act as an important link between South-South and North-South cooperation.

Together with Japan and Spain, Germany is one of the most active, sought-after and biggest supporters of triangular cooperation. At present, the BMZ and its implementing agencies are carrying out more than 20 triangular cooperation projects in partnership with various emerging countries. The majority of projects are in Latin America and the Carribean, with major partners such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile or Peru. Another major partner for triangular cooperation projects is South Africa, which cooperates with Germany and a number of African partner countries. Most of the projects are financed through our joint triangular cooperation funds in Latin America and South Africa. While the majority of triangular cooperation projects are with Latin American countries, Germany also wants to increase the use of this instrument in Asia and Africa as a whole. Some projects in Asia already show great promise.

Equal Work


A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.

For Germany, triangular cooperation is an additional innovative instrument of cooperation with emerging economies, with a particular focus on our partner countries Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa. These countries are hereinafter referred to as Germany’s “global development partners”. Besides mobilising transfers together with our emerging country partner – from whom we expect a significant contribution – Germany wants to share knowledge, help develop the institutional architecture of development agencies in emerging countries and foster joint dialogue on values, modes of cooperation and interests. Triangular cooperation can have a particularly significant impact when all three partners succeed in jointly addressing sensitive topics, such as the protection of global public goods, that none of them could have tackled alone. Topics should always be selected according to the interests and needs of the beneficiary country. We believe it is essential that the beneficiary country takes the lead and steers the entire process. This, however, is not an easy task. We see ourselves neither as pure donors nor as pure intermediaries; rather, we see ourselves as an equal partner in a joint project. Contributions at the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico made clear that development agencies in many emerging economies are already in the process of forming adequate structures, developing mechanisms and mobilising resources to fully unfold their potential. Triangular cooperation arrangements are a means of supporting this process further, since they combine political and technical dimensions of cooperation with our “global development partners”.

In the last few decades, the international community has gained considerable experience with triangular cooperation. This is definitely true of Germany. In many cases, however, exchanges of experience are limited to certain groups or topics. One way to further improve mutual learning and collaboration would be the creation of a global group on South South and Triangular Cooperation. The key issues to be taken into account by this group should include the following questions: How can we further reduce transaction costs and maximise ownership on the part of the beneficiary country? What are appropriate, well-matched instruments for monitoring and evaluating triangular cooperation projects? What are suitable formats for reporting, or communication and cooperation structures? We need to integrate experiences and lessons learnt on South-South cooperation, as well as the findings of think tanks already working to better understand various approaches and impacts. Germany therefore also supports the independent work of think tanks from the South and the North in this effort. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) and the UN Development Cooperation Forum (UN DCF) have a very important role to play in this regard. Germany would like to encourage all actors to share their experiences. A global group for joint learning and collaboration on triangular cooperation is what we should be striving to cement.

PStS Thomas Silberhorn (BMZ) 2014Thomas Silberhorn is Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. He was previously Deputy Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Parliament (Bundestag). He is also Germany’s Governor at the African Development Bank and is responsible for bilateral development cooperation with the continent of Africa. Another regional focus is on Near and Middle East countries.

Science and technology at the heart of agricultural development

Timor-Leste Farmer Carries Away Crops Destroyed by Heavy Rains

By Dr Dyno (J.D.H.) Keatinge, AIRCA Chair and Director General of AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, and Dr Trevor Nicholls, AIRCA Steering Committee Member and CEO of CABI

Science may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of development but it often forms the foundation of solutions to tackle some of the world’s most critical issues, like ensuring people can grow enough food to eat. Today is World Science Day for Peace and Development, an opportunity to show the important contribution that science, knowledge-sharing and technology make to global development, especially to food and nutrition security.

Access to science-based information can make the difference between harvests that flourish or fail. While much agricultural information is readily accessible to farmers in the developed world, it remains out of reach for many others. Knowledge sharing and knowledge transfer are the keys to building the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers – people who grow food to eat or to sell on a small scale. Surprisingly, mobile technology is fast becoming one of the best ways to reach farmers with this information.

Around 40% of people in the developing world now actively subscribe to mobile services, with 130 million new subscribers every year and mobile 2G coverage available for around 95% of users. This makes delivery of information by mobile phone one of the most effective ways to reach smallholder farmers; a phenomenon that governments and organisations will want to embrace.

Mobile delivery of agro-advisory services, through voice messages for example, can help overcome no or low literacy, as well as language barriers. Innovative provision of these services helps to address the fact that there there are too few trained people who can bring agricultural knowledge directly to the world’s farmers.



Science-based knowledge delivered by phone can address the full range of information needed to help people to feed themselves, all the way from field to fork.

For example, information on integrated soil health management can help smallholder farmers to increase their crop yields by as much as two- or threefold. Likewise, information about crop and plant health can help farmers reduce substantial losses to plant pests and diseases, as well as help them better handle, store and transport produce. This is important as up to 40% of the world’s food is lost in post-harvest production. The knowledge shared must be geared towards helping farmers grow more and lose less.

Sharing of science-based nutritional information is also essential. Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to child mortality worldwide and a hugely important issue that needs tackling urgently. Helping people achieve a well-balanced diet will help address the problem of ‘hidden hunger’ due to malnutrition. A diet with sufficient consumption of fruit, legumes, vegetables, and other crops is the obvious key to alleviating this serious health problem.

Mobile services can combine agricultural and nutritional information, helping farmers understand not only what to grow but also how to prepare and cook new produce and get the most out of it nutritionally by combining it with complementary foods. Iron bioavailability, for example, can be at least doubled for teenage girls in south Asia who consume mungbean (a kind of legume) dhal daily if some tomato and a little oil is added in the cooking process. Mobile services can share information about neglected and underutilised crops that, due to their resilience, are able to produce sustainable yields and good nutritional value. They can deliver the right information to the people who need it most, often teenage girls and mothers.

Supporting women is central to supporting food and nutritional security. Again, knowledge-sharing and science can help dramatically. In many parts of the world, growing food for the family, often in small kitchen gardens, is the responsibility of female members of the household. Helping women understand the nutritional value of growing a range of fruit and vegetables can make a big difference to the health of whole families. The challenge is finding the means to get the right information to women, as in some cultures they are not always as easy to reach as men.

Aside from mobile services, face-to-face training schools, where girls and women can receive an education in agricultural skills, are helping to make a difference. Educating girls and young women about agriculture and helping them build careers in farming is important. While young people may believe there is no future in farming, quite the opposite is true. By 2050, global food demand is predicted to grow by 60% from 2005 levels. As such, effective, efficient and sustainable food production is becoming more important than ever before, and nurturing young women’s careers in agriculture will be a vital part of addressing this.

Partnership-focused, science-based programmes, like Plantwise, can also help make a significant difference. Plantwise brings together over 168 partners to support countries in opening plant clinics fielded by plant doctors, who help farmers to diagnose and solve plant health problems, and thereby grow more and lose less of what they produce. With an eye on the role of gender in advisory services, the programme has encouraged more than a 25% uptake by women plant doctors, who, in turn, are reaching greater numbers of women farmers with knowledge to manage pests.

Knowledge sharing – especially the sharing of important scientific knowledge and modern technologies – lies at the heart of successful development. Today is an important day to think about the ways in which we can share knowledge to empower future generations to answer some of the world’s most important questions, like how we grow enough food to feed and nourish a fast growing global population.

DSC_0829Dr Dyno Keatinge is Director General of AVRDC, the World Vegetable Center, based in Taiwan. He is Chair of the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA), Chair of the Global Horticulture Initiative and is on the Advisory Committee to the USAID Innovation Lab for Horticulture.

Trevor_0924Dr Trevor Nicholls is the Chief Executive Officer of CABI, a not-for-profit scientific research, publishing and international development organisation. He is a Steering Committee Member of AIRCA, a nine-member alliance focused on increasing global food security by supporting smallholder agriculture within healthy, sustainable and climate-smart landscapes.

Trapped in the Middle? Why middle income countries need our continuous attention


by Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre

Middle-income countries (MICs) have taken centre-stage in the global development arena in their dichotomous role as both providers and recipients of development assistance. From Brazil to Bhutan, they encompass a diverse set of countries that have managed impressive economic growth in the past decades and collectively contributed to the phenomenon that the OECD Development Centre has termed “Shifting Wealth“. Since 2010, MICs hold a larger share of global GDP than the OECD countries.

This shift of the centre of gravity of the world economy has been accompanied by a large reduction of poverty. According to the World Bank, the amount of people living on less than USD 1.25 per day decreased from 52% in 1981 to 21% in 2010 over the last decades. However, most of this overall poverty reduction is due to progress in China and poverty in its manifold forms prevails in many MICs. The concentration on universal goals, in this way, obscures the important differentiation across and within countries. Roughly three quarters of the world’s poor and vulnerable people are reported to live in MICs at present. The many remaining poor in MICs suggests that the income-based definition of poverty should be broadened to include those that fall below a defined income threshold of 1,25 USD. It needs to be complemented by looking at non-income poverty, including dimensions such as people’s ‘’well-being’’ which adds dimensions such as jobs, housing, health, education, civic engagement and governance or personal security. It does not only better reflect their state of living but it is also better placed to identify if people are at risk falling back into poverty, for instance when they do not have health insurance and have to pay for unexpected hospital bills.

Although the “Shifting Wealth” is continuing, many middle-income countries are not on track to convergence. Hence, impressive GDP growth rates tend to conceal the many challenges these countries face including structural challenges such as economic, social, environmental and institutional bottlenecks that prevent the transition to a higher income level and to better and more equally distributed living standards. While China, Kazakhstan and Panama are estimated to reach OECD levels of average income by 2050, a number of middle-income countries – including Colombia, Hungary, Mexico and South Africa – will take much longer at current growth rates to converge. Estimates show that for Thailand it would take about 20 years and for countries like Indonesia or the Philippines some more 30-40 years to reach high-income status.

Middle-income countries thus appear to be very heterogeneous. The most effective combination of policies to reach the target of inclusive and sustainable growth will depend on countries’ specific needs as well as on the capability of their governments not only to develop but also to implement these strategies. But how can we support MICs in finding this effective policy mix- and encourage them to share the lessons from this endeavour as well? And what are the implications when it comes to financing for development in MICs and how effective development should be thought about?

Inclusive partnership initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation can provide platforms to discuss these challenges with a variety of stakeholders, from governments (North and South) to the private sector, civil society and foundations. This was reflected in discussions held at Ministerial level last April in Mexico, where the Development Centre played an active role and supported the work of the partnership on challenges and prospects for ‘’Development Co-operation with Middle Income Countries’’. This dialogue has been ongoing within the Global Partnership and beyond, with the OECD Development Centre’s Economic Outlook for Southeast Asia, China and India 2014: Beyond the Middle-Income Trap, which has allowed dialogue amongst countries in the region on how to overcome the middle income trap while suggesting that sustaining the economic progress of Emerging Asia will be a challenge and requires a new approach to development.

Therefore, the high number of poor living in middle-income countries and the lack of convergence with higher income countries points out that middle-income countries need our continued attention. The view that MICs “need” less support than low-income countries is widespread – and yet it is erroneous. If we truly want to tackle poverty in all its dimensions, then we need to continue to support MICs to make sure their growth translates into income and well-being. To this end, Policy Dialogues through platforms such as the Global Partnership or the newly created Policy Dialogue networks of the OECD Development Centre allow for an equal footing exchange of peers have enabled us to recognise that there is no single trajectory towards a prosperous and inclusive society. These dialogues also lead us to reconsider that we just cannot afford to look the other way when three quarters of the world’s poor live in MICs.

Portrait Mario PezziniMr. Mario Pezzini is Director of the OECD Development Centre. The Centre is an institution where governments, enterprises and civil society organisations informally discuss questions of common interest. Its Governing Board includes most of the OECD countries but also developing and emerging economies as full members. It helps policy makers in OECD and partner countries find innovative solutions to the global challenges of development.

From development information to a data revolution

The International Year of Forests (2011) Forest Heroes Awards Winners.

By Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary General and CEO of CIVICUS.

True development geeks will know that today is World Development Information Day. Since 1972 the United Nations has been urging us all to raise awareness of development challenges. Four decades on, with a call for a ‘data revolution’ in development by the High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda and the creation of an Independent Expert Advisory Group (IEAG) on this revolution, the issue of development information is squarely back on the agenda.

But over these years a very important transformation has taken place. In 1972, the UN General Assembly felt that “improving the dissemination of information and the mobilisation of public opinion, particularly among young people, would lead to greater awareness of the problems of development.” Today, after dramatic developments in information and communications technologies, talking of one-way ‘dissemination’ seems antiquated, if not a little patronising. Instead, we have unprecedented opportunities for people to engage in two-way or indeed many-to-many conversations, and for data and information itself to be a transformative part of the development process.

The clearest demonstration of this transformative potential lies in the ability of ordinary citizens to collect, curate and use data to hold power-holders to account. There a plenty of examples of innovation on this front.

In India, is crowdsourcing citizens’ reports of being asked for a bribe via free phone calls, mobile apps and the Internet. This has created new data to show policymakers about the prevalence of bribery in India and also a new map of citizen-reported data on corruption. Shack/Slum Dwellers International, a network of community-based organisations representing the urban poor in 33 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America, works with whole communities to count households, map settlements, and survey at the household level to develop a detailed socio-economic profile of the settlement, thereby making these marginalised groups become active partners in their own development. The Participate ‘knowledge from the margins’ initiative and the Initiative for Equality’s field hearings are two primary examples in which samples of the poorest and most marginalised sectors of society – likely to be missed by traditional indicators – have been directly asked about their needs and priorities.

Approaches of this kind could serve as an important model for scaled-up methods used to acquire qualitative data on development – not just for the sake of collecting data but also for empowering people in the process.


This World Development Information Day, please bear in mind what we need to do to realise the true emancipatory potential of information and data in the development process. Let’s make this data revolution truly revolutionary.

While greater and more accurate information is course welcome, the data revolution risks being a missed opportunity if it fails to directly engage and empower people. What we should focus on, therefore, is improving the quality and accessibility of data most relevant to people’s lives, and equipping them with the information to hold decision makers to account.

This is why we at CIVICUS launched the Big Development DataShift as a voluntary initiative at the Mexico City High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation. Our aim is simple: build the capacity and confidence of citizens and civil society to generate and use data to monitor development progress. At the moment the vast majority of civil society organisations do not use the tools and techniques required to tap into the potential of the data revolution. Building this capacity will require a heavy lift but it is essential, not just to create the demand for the vast amounts of data being opened up but also to encourage them to become more active players in generating data.

Development contexts are complex, but a bottom-up approach puts citizens at the centre of sustainable development. The needs, interests and experiences of individuals and communities will reveal the most telling insights about development progress or lack thereof.

So, today, as you celebrate World Development Information Day, please bear in mind what more we need to do to realise the true emancipatory potential of information and data in the development process. Let’s make this data revolution truly revolutionary.

Danny%20smallDr. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah is Secretary General and CEO of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance with members in more than 140 countries. His previous roles have included Director of the Royal Commonwealth Society, Interim Director of the Commonwealth Foundation, and Deputy Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research. He can be found @civicussg on Twitter and Facebook.

Challenges and opportunities of development aid actors


By Fred Twesiime, Economist, Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development

The number and diversity of actors in development co-operation has dramatically increased. To give one example, only one or two donors assisted Mozambique and Zambia in 1964, but this increased to almost every one of the 37 donors in the OECD database by 1999.

Having more donors creates new opportunities for broader partnerships among different development actors. At the same time, it poses challenges for countries receiving aid and other types of assistance. It increases fragmentation, transaction costs and makes management of aid all the more challenging.

How can a country make best use of multiple aid sources while avoiding the negative effects of uncoordinated aid? How can we significantly reduce transaction costs and other negative effects of fragmentation?

The Busan 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011 agreed political intentions and concrete, time-bound obligations to address such challenges. This year, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation endorsed the Building Block on Managing Diversity and Reducing Fragmentation, designed to find innovative strategies to embrace the benefits of broader partnerships while reducing fragmentation and proliferation.

This initiative, of which I am co-chair, aims to make development co-operation more complementary and coherent at all levels. A recent report has examined how aid from different sources can best be managed at country level. Looking at countries working on these issues, we found that partner countries’ ownership plays a crucial role for managing aid diversity.



We must embrace the benefits of broader partnerships while reducing aid fragmentation and proliferation.

For example, the Bangladeshi Government has paid special attention to managing aid diversity since 2006. This is a particularly thorny issue for Bangladesh, a low-income country that receives the bulk of its aid as highly fragmented project support. The government has developed a comprehensive structure for dialogue with donors, and worked intensively to harmonise implementation among donors. The country now aims to rationalise its aid by sector, based on donor mapping, comparative advantage assessment and agreements on division of labor.

Rwanda, often considered a forerunner on aid effectiveness, also has a relatively long history of managing its aid diversity. The Rwandan government mapped its donors in 2008 to discover that certain sectors were being over-provided for while others were under-aided. In 2010, the country started an extensive division of labor process based on the EU Code of Conduct on Complementarity and the Division of Labor, including donor performance assessments and joint programming.

Rwanda’s efforts are showing first effects. Aid management is smoother. In 2012, the fragmentation ratio dropped for the first time, down to 31% from around 40% in previous years. Rwanda has taken a strong lead in donor co-ordination, with its clear national aid policy and other strategies demonstrating the capacity to coordinate efforts. Donors’ positive response to the government’s quest for budget support rendered aid management less demanding than in the case of Bangladesh.

Experiences from Bangladesh, Rwanda and other countries show that reducing fragmentation and managing aid diversity is everything but easy. It relies on a strong leadership from the recipient countries, and on donors adjusting their aid streams to national strategies and agreed-upon sector rationalisation efforts.

The way forward lies in the development of aid management tools. What ingredients are needed to operate aid management systems well? We need a focus on results from donors and recipients alike. We need transparency and predictability as well as ownership and inclusiveness. These can help countries to better integrate aid in the implementation of their national development strategies and plans. Elements of good aid management such as aid management information systems, sector and donor matrices are also key.

Recipient country governments and donors should work together to create an enabling environment for good aid management. This requires concrete results-based national development plans and sufficient recipient government capacity. Donor alignment is also essential. Partner countries should also maintain consistent national development plans over the medium term, even when national governments change. There should be a clear framework for continuity and consistency in policies.

We must embrace the benefits of broader partnerships while reducing aid fragmentation and proliferation. This way, we can enhance the complementarity of development co-operation at both partner country and international levels.

Partner countries and development partners can learn a lot from each other’s experiences of managing aid diversity, attempts to reduce fragmentation and to rationalise aid. Now, we need discussion on the best way to foster global learning and to collect and communicate experiences on aid diversity management tools and approaches.

TWESIIMEBioFred Twesiime is an Economist at the Ugandan Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. He is also the Co-Chair of the Building Block on Managing Diversity and Reducing Fragmentation.

Transparency at the heart of Africa’s growth and prosperity


By Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank Group

Today, Publish What You Fund is launching their annual Aid Transparency Index (ATI) in Washington, DC. The ATI is currently the only global measure of aid transparency amongst the world’s largest donors. I’m once again pleased to see that the African Development Bank has performed well, ranking eighth out of 68 organisations assessed, and gaining over 10 percentage points from last year.

Transparency is a key priority for us and we have been working hard to ensure that the principles of transparency are embedded in the way we do business.

In 2013, we launched our new disclosure policy, putting greater transparency at the heart of our work. It is based on the principles of good governance; particularly transparency, accountability and the sharing of information on our operations. These principles underlie our ten-year strategy for inclusive economic growth across the continent.

Our decision to publish with the International Aid Transparency Initiative – or IATI – reflects these commitments. The data we publish covers a wide range of information on the Bank’s public and private sector projects. We are proud to say that we were the world’s first multilateral development bank to provide private sector and precise geographical data through IATI.

But why are we investing in transparency? Good economic governance and management are central in the pursuit of growth and prosperity in Africa. Without comprehensive, accessible and timely information on aid, governments cannot take charge of their own development and stakeholders are not empowered with the information they need to follow development spending and drive results. Poor information undermines the ability of countries to integrate aid into planning, budgeting and reporting processes and undermines ownership and domestic accountability.

To unleash Africa’s potential and make sure the benefits of growth accrue to this and future generations, development needs to be managed sustainably.

That is why, in 2011 at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness, we – along with other development partners – agreed to implement IATI. We promised to do this by 2015 and we are making good progress.

One of the keys to IATI’s importance is that the data is in a standard and comparable format. Producing this standardised data is incredibly important. It means that information can be aligned not only with other aid information, but also with data from other economic sectors of activity.

The ability to link different datasets together is crucial if we are really to harness the power of transparency and build a fuller, timelier picture of different resource flows. The UN High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda has called for nothing less than a data revolution. Joining up different datasets and ensuring that they are standardised must be at the core of the data revolution if we are to properly realise the potential of open data.

What we have achieved so far has not been easy.

Our aim is to ensure that transparency is more than a watchword, but that it is truly embedded in the way the Bank does business. We have been working hard to improve the quality of the information we produce and how we present it – not only for our own transparency and accountability purposes, but also so that others can use the information to inform their own work.

For example, at our Annual Meetings this year we launched MapAfrica—A new web-based tool that locates all our projects on a map. It allows everybody to see for themselves where and what we are doing to create economic opportunities for the people of Africa. Just to give you one example out of many, you can find out how we are helping Africa meet its energy needs and where we are building roads.

We are now working to develop a feedback tool which will allow stakeholders to tell us what they think about the work we are doing. This is just one way we are opening up our information to help us become more effective in our activities and learn as we go along.

Last year we launched a new Results Measurement Framework, designed to underpin our 10 year strategy by enabling us to better measure our impact. An each year we publish our results in our Annual Development Effectiveness Review. By bringing together evidence of our strengths and our weaknesses, we learn what is successful and strive for even greater effectiveness.

Greater transparency, however, should not be seen as a silver bullet. It is a means to achieving an end, namely more effective use of public resources and, ultimately, stronger accountability to the people we serve.

This is an area where we have a real opportunity to make tangible progress. IATI truly has the potential to transform the way aid is managed and it is crucial that we continue to work to meet our commitments over the next 15 months and beyond.

We must all invest in this agenda because by investing in better information we are investing in better development.

KaberukaBioDr. Donald Kaberuka is serving his second five-year term as President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB). During his service at the AfDB, he has presided over a major redirection in its strategy for development and poverty reduction in Africa.​​

You can tune in to the launch of the 2014 Aid Transparency Index on Wednesday October 8 at 09:00 EST here

Whose Knowledge? The challenges for North-South development co-operation

Farming for Development: Agriculture in China

By Xiaoyun Li, Chair of the China International Development Research Network

The varying degrees of participation in the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s High-level Forum in Mexico demonstrated how wider stakeholders’ co-operation has ever been. More than 1,500 participants from more than 130 countries with different agendas and expectations took part in the conference in Mexico on 15-16 April, 2014. Northern partners offered their willingness to work with all parties to tackle global challenges under common goals with differentiated responsibilities. However, the legitimacy of the forum has been debated. The decline in the participation of China and India, as well as apparent disagreement from Brazil, despite its attendance, raised questions over how this new partnership can be further developed. It would be very difficult to imagine the future of the partnership without participation of these three countries.

As soon as I arrived in Mexico, I was immediately asked at the hotel reception: “Why didn’t China come? Will China still come?” These questions reminded me of the situation at the Busan Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011. China did take part in that event, but in a relatively lower profile group. It is natural to ask why China, India and others have been reluctant to participate in this ever-open forum. Wouldn’t these countries like to share their responsibilities for international development? With South-South Co-operation given high recognition at the Global Partnership’s High-Level Forum, why were those countries still unhappy? Are they really so difficult to “engage”?

To respond to those questions, one should briefly review how this new partnership was developed, and, importantly, note the huge knowledge gap that existed at that time, affecting real and equal communication.

Development assistance after the Second World War was provided mainly by the United States until the 1960s. The US called for the establishment of the “Development Assistance Group” in 1960 with 11 allies. This was the first expansion of a Western-oriented international development agenda. The group was then further institutionalised into the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) within the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in 1961. This Western-dominated international development agenda continued until the new century, alongside other forms of international aid provided by other players like the former Soviet Union and Arab countries. The Rome from different stakeholders, particularly from recipient countries. From a Chinese perspective, the subsequent formation of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness and The Busan High-Level Forum signalled further expansions of the Western-dominated international development discourse. The West has been using a similar approach through its controlled institutional structure and well-elaborated framework to secure the “buy-in” of others in order to sustain its basic agenda. China and, I believe, others have been very cautious not to be “bought in”.

China and others felt very much in the position of being “engaged” even though the partnership has a well-legitimised governance structure. The question was not so much about the structure, as the approach and framework which are deeply rooted in Western-based knowledge for development. The modern knowledge for development is very much a marriage of neoliberalism and neo-institutionalism. It addresses “conditional change” – that social transformation or poverty reduction must be based on “good governance”. Furthermore, international development co-operation works only upon a good institutional base, therefore, building good institutions should be the major task of such assistance. Alternative development stories – from China for example – provide different perspectives, for instance,firstly to prioritise infrastructure and agriculture even if they do not run entirely against this norm.

In my view, the West has established well-elaborated knowledge production systems via huge tax-payer funding to constantly generate seemingly undeniable theories, creating the field of Development Studies, and producing ‘independent development industries” to justify, modify and sustain this development business. This has at least created deep knowledge and path dependence, even if we ignore the element of self-interest possessed by the development industries. This system intends to continue while China and others might find difficulties in owning this process, or phasing in to share the costs. This knowledge dominance has affected to a certain degree the mutual and equal communications between the North and South. At the same time, in recent years we have witnessed other actors playing an increasingly important role in development co-operation, for example the Arab donors, civil society and philanthropic foundations.

Rather than completely joining the system, China and others insist upon South-South Co-operation by advocating a “non-interference” policy toward partner countries focusing on an “, or not focusing on immediate institutional reform. The South-South Co-operation providers also felt that a knowledge gap existed between Southern and Northern partners. Unlike the mainstreamed development knowledge produced by the West, South-South Co-operation providers have little knowledge on their own development assistance, while large bodies of knowledge are generated by Western research institutions.

It is essential to have a balanced knowledge base for real and meaningful development co-operation between the North and South. This co-operation relies upon an interaction of knowledge, reflecting each side’s comparative advantage.

Think tanks from South-South Co-operation provider countries during the Global Partnership’s Mexico High-Level Forum agreed to develop a network focusing on generating its own understanding of its members’ development assistance. This initiative will not only help South-South Co-operation providers to strengthen and improve their development assistance programmes, but also aid mutual communication between North and South in international development. The Global Partnership can serve as nuanced platform for think tanks from the South to share their knowledge with those from the West. Also, the Global Partnership can facilitate exchange among southern partners to strengthen their solidarity. The voice from Southern countries about their own development can be better heard here, as the platform is widely attended.

LiBioXiaoyun Li is Dean of the College of Humanities and Development at China Agricultural University, and Chair of the China International Development Research Network. He is also a member of the Rising Powers in International Development Advisory Council, as well as the Future International Cooperation Policy Network.

How we can benefit from better tax administrations

Peacekeeping - UNMIT

By Michael Keen, Acting Head of the TADAT secretariat

No one likes paying taxes. But everyone benefits when collection of those taxes is efficient and fair. For almost all developing countries, building more effective and trusted tax administrations is critical. This helps finance much needed social spending, infrastructure, and reduce dependence on aid, now subject to its own pressures. It’s also a key pillar in building accountable, effective and respected government institutions.

Achieving this is partly down to good tax design. But it is also largely a matter of building strong tax administrations. This is not easy. A new instrument being developed at the International Monetary Fund with donor support and technical input from a wide range of experts — the Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool (TADAT) — aims to help.

The tool — which is welcomed in the Communiqué of the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation — provides an independent, standardised, evidence-based, quality-assured, all-round assessment of the performance of a tax administration. All of these adjectives are critical, as will become clear. TADAT provides, in effect, a revenue-side analogue to the highly successful Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) framework.

The technical design of TADAT will be completed in the next few months. The tool itself will be posted on the TADAT website for public comment in a few weeks. It has already been piloted in three countries – in Zambia, a low-income economy; high-income Norway; and the emerging economy of South Africa. Countries differ greatly in circumstances, culture and organisational/legal structures, and it is important that the tool be robust enough for use under a wide range of circumstances.

With several more pilots planned, results have been uniformly encouraging so far. All three pilot countries have found the tool extremely helpful. One striking regularity is that administrations often found that they were not performing as impressively in some areas as they had thought — but that they were also not doing as badly in others as they had feared. This is exactly the value of an independent, standardized assessment.


The TADAT Wheel

TADAT works by evaluating a tax administration in each of nine ‘Performance Outcome Areas’ (POAs), shown in the TADAT ‘wheel.’ This starts with taxpayer registration — making sure all are in the tax net who should be, and that records are up to date – and goes all the way to looking at how tax disputes are handled and whether the tax administration is working transparently. A score is given for each area, with 27 ‘indicators’ forming part of 54 detailed ‘dimensions.’

This is all much simpler than it may sound. Take, for instance, POA 5: Payment of Obligations. Clearly any tax administration wants to make sure that taxpayers pay on time and in full – so one of the two indicators here is timeliness of payments. We can assess this by looking at such things as whether VAT payments are made on time, recording an ‘A’ if the proportion is above 90 percent to ‘D’ if it is below 50 percent.

This exercise doesn’t aim to reach some overall score or country ranking. Nor does it come up with immediate recommendations or advice. This is diagnosis, not prescription.

The idea, rather, is to help countries themselves to identify their own tax administrations’ relative strengths and weaknesses, and develop reform strategies accordingly. TADAT’s standardization and rigid insistence on firm evidence for all assessments will make a major contribution to more effective development co-operation, helping donors and other stakeholders identify and agree on the areas where support is most needed, coordinate their efforts and debate the issues in an agreed framework.

And with repeat assessments, TADAT will give a systematic and structured view of progress being made.

Importantly, TADAT is not only for developing countries. Tax administrations in all countries face the same basic challenges, and indeed the years since the 2008 financial crisis have exposed weaknesses in many tax administrations in advanced economies, and lent renewed urgency to fair and effective tax collection in many more. At the same time, many have been asked to do more with fewer resources. For them too, a hard-nosed and independent assessment of their strengths and weaknesses can provide an invaluable perspective in deciding their own priorities for improvement.

Its implementation is being overseen by a Steering Committee of enthusiastic donors – the European Union, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and United Kingdom along with the IMF, World Bank and South African Revenue Service. A technical advisory group provides, well, technical advice. Day-to-day operations are overseen by a small secretariat within, but at arm’s length from, the IMF.

This secretariat will be responsible for developing the tool, and — crucially — for assuring the quality of TADAT assessments.

These assessments will be undertaken by a wide range of organisations: regional development banks, international organisations, consultancy firms and others. A key element of the TADAT philosophy is that assessments should be undertaken only by tax administration experts specifically and extensively trained to do so. Over the next few months, a core goal is to build up a highly professional pool of accredited assessors to undertake the substantial work ahead and ensure that the unique and exciting potential of TADAT is fully realised.

KeenBioMichael Keen is Deputy Director in the Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF, and Acting Head of the TADAT secretariat. For more information on TADAT, see or contact

Local priorities to achieve effective development

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited MDG Project in Mbalmayo.  He was shown a water purification process and visited a radio station

By Célestine Ketcha Epse Courtés, Mayor of Bagangté Municipality, Cameroon

I think that it is crucial to take local priorities as the starting point for development co-operation.

Let me give you a very concrete example of why this is important. As mayor of Bagangté Municipality in Cameroon, I developed a project to provide drinking water to my citizens. With support from the International Association of Francophone Mayors, we built a well and held a large campaign to explain the need for citizens to pay taxes to ensure long-term sustainability of the drinking water system.

This was working well, and access to water was increasing. Then all of a sudden, our central government decided to launch a project in my region to provide free drinking water to citizens. This would cancel out all our efforts! I therefore told the government that we already had a programme to provide my people with water access and that this new project was unnecessary and potentially unsustainable in the long term. I am convinced that charging citizens for a service makes them take better care of the network, and ensures long term sustainability, as maintenance will be easier when people feel that the service belongs to them because they pay for it. I explained that if the central government wanted to invest in my community, their support for access to electricity would be far more useful. This example is a typical one.

Unfortunately, the Ministry refused to change or transform their project to improve the existing network.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited MDG Project in Mbalmayo.  He was shown a water purification process and visited a radio station


In too many countries, local priorities are not taken into account, or not sufficiently known.

As a Champion on Development Co-operation for the global organisation of United Cities and Local Governments, a function shared with eight other mayors from around the world, I aim to increase recognition of local governments’ role in development. I see it as my task to feed lessons from my local reality into international discussions on making development co-operation more effective, coherent and accountable.

Local governments are on the front line of dealing with development challenges, and identifying solutions to them. It is only natural that they take a leading role in the elaboration of development strategies for their areas. A formal consultation mechanism should ensure that these are included in national development strategies. What’s more, local governments and their associations should be supported to have the capacity to engage in this dialogue.

Local government development co-operation as effective solution

Let me get back to my example from Cameroon. Our well project was supported by an association of local governments from abroad, with help from experts from other local governments that knew the kind of services we deliver and how to do this effectively. This helped to make the project a success. This “decentralised development co-operation” had a high degree of ownership and local traction, based on my local government’s priorities.

This kind of co-operation between peers is based on long-term relationships, resulting in trust, transparency and good dialogue between partners. This is very important to achieve sustainability. It can be done in a very cost-effective manner since the co-operation initiatives build on the existing local governments themselves and use existing staff within the municipal organisations. This avoids the need to set up parallel structures that could lack the political leadership of the partner itself.

The cost of not working with local governments

Strengthening local governments is crucial to achieve development goals. A top down approach by central government can result in development policies ill-adapted to local needs and contexts. Development partners such as multilateral organisations, states, and civil society should understand that the cost of not working with local governments may be high, missing local ownership, as seen in the case of the water project in Bagangté.

For a start, their action might not be sustainable when not embedded into a local public policy designed to meet the needs of the citizen. Embedding development priorities in local public policy ensures their continuation and follow up because municipal policy is attached to a concrete workplan with a budget. This bottom up process is very important.

There may also be duplication of work at local and national levels, with a risk of confusion on the mandates of different levels of government. Bypassing local government may also generate distrust among citizens.

I believe that local government development co-operation initiatives can provide national governments with a broad range of experiences to help them respond to issues, challenges or disasters that have effects at the local level. It is crucial that local governments become true partners in national dialogues on development priorities, policies and strategies.

It is also important that reviews of development co-operation commitments such as the Busan commitments give more attention to the role of local governments in national debates on development priorities and implementation. It is good that UCLG is back on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s Steering Committee.

I think UCLG should also explore, within the Global Partnership, how the post-2015 development goals will be implemented. It is in this regard important that more focus is placed on who can help achieve which goals, as opposed to just focusing on what should be achieved.

I hope that together we can ensure that the level of government closest to citizens, becomes more equipped to address the upcoming new set of development goals, which should be in line with our own priorities at the local level.

CourtesBioCélestine Ketcha Epse Courtés is mayor of Bagangté Municipality, Cameroon and Champion on Development Co-operation for the global organisation of United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG). The UCLG Champions are supported by the UCLG Capacity and Institution Building Working Group, which has its secretariat within the International Co-operation Agency of the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG International). For more information contact

Progressing Aid Effectiveness in the WASH sector


By Clare Battle, Policy Analyst, Aid Effectiveness & Sector Strengthening, WaterAid

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.


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.


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