A ‘step change’ for development cooperation in Laos?

The Patuxai or the Gate of Triumph in Vientiane, Laos. The government and around 30-40 partner countries will sign the Vientiane Declaration on Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation on Nov. 27, during the country’s main national development forum. Photo by: Stefan Fussan / CC BY-SA

By Kaarina Immonen, U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP representative in Laos

We may well be about to see a far more inclusive way of working together for development in Laos.

After six months of consultations with donors, civil society organizations and businesses, the government has finalized a declaration that will guide development cooperation in the country until 2025.

The government and around 30-40 partner countries will sign the Vientiane Declaration on Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation on Nov. 27, during the country’s main national development forum.

Laos has racked up some commendable successes: gross domestic product has grown by an average of 7 percent year-on-year over the past decade; poverty was halved by 2015 — in line with the Millennium Development Goals; and hunger is down and people are living longer, healthier lives.

Yet the country faces serious challenges: An estimated 44 percent of children under 5 are stunted, and 27 percent are severely underweight. Despite a significant reduction, the number of maternal deaths remains high. Inequality is on the rise, and there are significant challenges surrounding environmental sustainability and ridding the country of unexploded ordnance that still kills, maims and presents an impediment to development.

Assistance from all sources — and in all forms — remains vital for Laos to tackle these challenges, and to meet its main aim of graduating from least developed country status by 2020.

In this context the Vientiane partnership declaration is a crucial tool to ensure all assistance is coordinated, in line with national development plans, and deployed in the smartest possible way for the maximum possible impact.

In line with global principles of effective development cooperation, the declaration highlights that official development assistance, or traditional aid, must be used wisely to accelerate broader, systemic change. This means that all development cooperation should be nationally owned and aligned with country’s development priorities in ways that link economic, human and environmental benefits simultaneously.

Efforts to achieve this could include more support to decision makers in key ministries on management and leadership. It could also include more regular policy dialogue to share ideas on what works best, as well as further engagement with local communities to help them raise questions about the services they need.

The declaration also places a strong emphasis on boosting domestic revenues, increasing cooperation with other developing countries and regional partners, upping knowledge and technology transfer, and closer work with business and civil society.

It includes clear, concrete commitments to boost local development planning, fight corruption, build an inclusive financial sector and build on knowledge sharing networks, which could include a mechanism to bring about the development, transfer and dissemination of clean and environmentally sound technologies.

Around 30 to 40 OECD member countries and developing countries are set to sign up, alongside a range of international organizations. Signatories should work together on a fully resourced implementation plan by September 2016.

The partnership declaration is a solid, effective framework to bring about the maximum impact from all development support in Laos for the next 10 years. If inclusive partnerships are built and kept for the long term, it could just mark a “step change” in development cooperation for the country.

Cross-posted with Devex

AuthorAbout the Author

Kaarina Immonen is the U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP representative in Laos. She began her career in the United Nations in 1990. Her most recent appointment before her arrival to Laos was as deputy special representative of the secretary-general for the U.N. Integrated Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic, a post she held from December 2012 to early 2014. She also served as U.N. resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator during her time in the Central African Republic. She has also worked in Moldova, Russian Federation, Georgia, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Development effectiveness: what lessons can we learn from programming EU aid?


By Alisa Herrero, Policy Officer at the European Centre for Development Policy Management

If you are interested in development cooperation and development effectiveness, then you will surely want to know about how the EU has programmed €15 billion in 74 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Programming the European Development Fund (EDF) is a major political, policy and bureaucratic challenge, and a critical test on EU’s capacity to deliver on its “high-impact aid agenda”. A myriad of actors are involved in the process: 28 EU countries, the European External Action Service, the European Commission, the European Parliament and 74 governments from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states.

EU aid is highly concentrated

The EU has effectively implemented two of its key commitments for high impact aid. More funds (nearly 81%) are directed to least developed countries and low-income countries, and EU aid now concentrates on a limited number of sectors per country. The 11th EDF has a strong focus on sustainable agriculture and energy, which together account for 40% of funds. The “governance sector” receives around one third of the funds with particular attention to public financial management issues – although this also includes general budget support financing. The transport sector has fallen out of grace, with only 10% of funds allocated to it (compared to 25% under the 10th EDF). At the aggregate level the 11th EDF meets the political target of spending at least 20% in social sectors, yet only half of ACP countries include one social sector within their 3 priority choices.

In practice, country ownership is difficult to honor

We found that EDF programming is largely aligned to countries national development plans. However, we also gathered strong evidence that programming followed a very top-down approach. Sector choices were largely made at Headquarter level, even if this meant overruling country priorities and the recommendations of EU Delegations. Although civil society organisations were consulted in the programming processes, the outcomes of such consultations rarely guided sector choices. As a result, development effectiveness principles were eroded.

Knowledge was not a major driver in programming choices

A top-down approach to programming also meant that in-depth knowledge of country contexts and sector specificities was not always a key driver in decision-making. We are not saying that EU’s sector choices are not relevant in terms of addressing country development needs—they are—but this does not necessarily mean that they are the best choices in terms of delivering results, where a more informed political economy analysis may well have helped decision making.

Sector concentration may not be the best strategy for high impact aid

Focusing on a limited number of sectors, in theory, allows for a more strategic use of resources. Yet this assumption does not always materialise in practice. The quality and results delivered by an intervention don’t only depend on the financial volume but rather on the particularities of the sector and country context. Also, sector choices are still largely dependent on donor priorities rather than on a holistic division of labour that meets country needs. As a result, sector concentration can lead to many perverse effects (e.g. sector saturation, aid inefficiency and opportunity costs). A few donors are already exploring alternative programming approaches (e.g. results-oriented, thematic or multi-sectoral). The EU could engage in an evidence-based debate on whether the current sector programming approach still fits in with the results-based agenda.

Towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

There may be a need to revise the EU’s differentiation and aid allocation criteria to take into account the geography of global poverty and incorporate more nuanced indicators that take into account sub-national differences, such as inequalities. Moreover, future EU aid programming processes may need to place even further emphasis on analysing the added value of EU aid in different contexts and how aid fits in with partner country strategies for transition towards sustainable development, and mobilising the funding that is needed. Ensuring that EU aid (including that from Member States) contributes to supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals at the country level may require an integrated approach to programming that supports the three pillars of sustainable development—the economy, the ecology and equity—more consistently and holistically.

Still missing: a more realistic, political and visionary agenda to deliver global public goods

The issue of “doing more with less” needs to be looked at beyond just reducing costs, at a more strategic level. First, because success in delivering high-quality and high-impact aid will depend on whether the EU is equipped to deliver on its ambitions. But ambitions may need to be revised by looking carefully at how the EU’s international cooperation fits within the EU’s broader (and more political and interest-driven) external action agenda in partner countries. Adopting a more politically-informed approach will need the presence of multiple stakeholders in Europe and developing countries to robustly hold it to account. This is a precondition to ensure that a more realistic yet politically visionary agenda for sustainable development is pursued, but not one that is driven by the short-term political, economic and security self-interests of the EU.

ECDPM-Alisa-Herrero-Cangas-e1386943240215About the Author

Alisa Herrero is the lead author and coordinator of the study ‘Implementing the Agenda for Change: An independent analysis of the 11th EDF programming’. She works as a Policy Officer for ECDPM’s “Strengthening European External Action” programme. ECDPM’s main goal is to link policy and practice in European development and international cooperation and to act as an independent broker between Europe, Africa and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States.

Why mutual learning is essential for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals: the case of Gender Responsive Budgeting


By Jeroen Verheul, Special Envoy to the Co-chair, Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Netherlands

Now that the world has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which serve as a global ‘to-do-list’ for people, planet and prosperity, there is an enormous task ahead of us to realize this ambition. As one of the leaders of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), the Netherlands sees a pivotal role for the Partnership in fostering effective delivery of results, and being a driver of behavioral change related to the how of achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The GPEDC wants to further develop its role as a knowledge hub that brings together relevant stakeholders, stimulating mutual learning and promoting effective implementation of the SDG agenda. The GPEDC provides an open platform for discussions on experiences at the country level and motivates a range of partners to move towards more effective action for genuine, inclusive development. One example was an event organized by the GPEDC and UNWomen—held on the sidelines of the recent UN General Assembly meetings—titled Using Inclusive Partnerships to Deliver on the SDGs: The Role of Gender-Responsive Budgeting.

This event focused on the rising issue of how to effectively incorporate gender-responsive budgeting into national policies, thus tackling issues related to persistent gender-inequality. A diverse range of stakeholders attended the event, including actors from the private sector, UN-institutions, and government representatives. There were three important takeaways directly deriving from the dynamic discussion among the participants. First of all, it is important to note that gender-responsive budgeting be fully integrated and operationalized within national policies. Thus, as the process of Financing for Development uncovered, there still exists a misunderstanding about the concept and implementation of gender-responsive budgeting among responsible government bodies (most notably Ministries of Finance). Shared understanding and acknowledgement of certain thresholds is needed to create effective cooperation and ultimately synergy between all involved.

Secondly, a firm political commitment is needed to effectively implement policies on gender-responsive budgeting. National governments play a critical role in setting up and facilitating this process. However, all stakeholders, including women themselves, need to be involved in creating the structural foundation for commitments. New partnerships need to be established: between traditional and new donors, and between donors and non-state actors including the private sector, civil society, philanthropy, and others. If we want to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth, we need to combine public and private flows, as well as public and private thinking power and implementation capacity. The GPEDC promotes such new partnerships and it is our ambition to be a leading knowledge hub for exchanging ideas and policies to strengthen the quality of development cooperation and partnerships in support of achieving the SDGs.

The Global Partnership, with its open and inclusive character, is well positioned to discuss ‘sticky issues’, such as the implementation of policies on gender responsive budgeting, as well as issues of fragility, middle income countries, youth (such as unemployment), trade and tax. The number of low-income countries is falling, but the level of inequality within many countries is rising. New donors, both countries and non-state actors, have entered the scene. Although aid remains essential for the poorest countries, the 2030 agenda needs new approaches to achieve its targets.

It is in this spirit that the GPEDC organized this side-event on gender responsive budgeting: to facilitate discussion and enable all parties to share lessons learned in a multi-stakeholder setting to improve results. We are eager to continue our endeavor in promoting effective and inclusive development through cross-sector dialogue.

JeroenAbout the Author
Mr. Jeroen Verheul is Special Envoy to the Co-chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation for the Netherlands.


Want more information about aid from China? Just ask


By Hannah Wanjie Ryder, Head of Policy and Partnership for UNDP China

Today, virtually every online shopping store or app in China – whether it’s Amazon or ASOS or the very popular TAOBAO – offers the option of making a ‘wish list’. It’s an incredibly helpful way to give some helpful hints to friends and family for occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries. That said, there is always a bit of me that feels a bit awkward to share these lists. I often feel that I’m imposing my own preferences on everyone else and limiting their creativity. On the other hand, I realize that I have a higher probability of valuing the present if I just ask directly for what I want. And the reality is that it’s beneficial for the rest of my family and friends as their search time for the right present is drastically reduced.  It is a better outcome for all of us if I just ask directly.

New Report that UNDP China issued earlier this year in June said that just asking directly is also the best strategy for countries wanting to get better data and information about aid from China.

In the academic community, there is a lot of discussion and conjecture about China’s foreign aid. The most authoritative report about China’s aid is from the government. Its 2014 White Paper put the scale of China’s aid at $14.4bn over 3 years. That paper also said that 51% of this is allocated to African countries, but it did not break down the data any further than that. So it is currently very difficult – if not impossible – to really understand accurately which specific countries China prioritizes in terms of giving foreign aid.

At UNDP China, our assessment is that this lack of data is not because such information is secret or sensitive, but because it is simply very difficult to collect.  Like getting the right present, the search time is simply too long and complex.

But, as our new study reveals, there is another way of collecting the data. And it involves African and other country governments just being proactive and asking directly for the data.  Over the past few years, 11 different governments – from Congo to Cambodia – have already done so. Officials have literally just asked the Economic Counsellor in their country to help them include Chinese data in their aid data records (which are often known as AIMS in the development world). In some cases, the government officials also asked UNDP country offices to help make these connections to Chinese counterparts in the country and help actively with the data—kind of like using amazon as the platform to compile the birthday list. But the basic point is the same: they just asked.

The great news is that in our 11 cases, the Economic Counsellor, when asked, said, “Yes we can”. In some cases, gathering the data into the records has taken several iterations, and in others the data requires even more work to ensure accuracy (it is often smaller than media reports, for example). But the fact that the “just asking” strategy has worked for these 11 countries is significant. More countries could follow suit, which would help them better plan for their budgeting priorities in particular because they fully understand the flows from China and many other countries.

Indeed, there is potential for the Chinese government itself to use this “just ask” strategy to, in time, build a complete picture of its foreign aid, from the bottom up, in country, where there is the best information about what is really happening.  This could be a better outcome for the countries receiving China’s foreign aid, and also a better outcome for China. Government officials in Beijing could compile this sort of information into a more comprehensive report on China’s foreign aid – perhaps a white paper or a regular annual report.  Of course, UNDP China would always be ready to help the government do so.

In addition, for countries that are interested in engaging China as a provider could use the 2nd monitoring round of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) as an opportunity to request for more data on their development co-operation efforts. The monitoring guide detailing mode of participation, indicator methodology, and data collection and reporting will be made available in the 3rd week of October on its on-line community space. The data collection period at the country level is from October 2015 to March 2016. The results of the survey will feed into a meeting of the GPEDC in Kenya in November 2016.

Now is the time for countries to work with the Chinese government on this important issue.

Hannah RyderAbout the Author
Hannah Wanjie Ryder is the Head of Policy and Partnership  for UNDP China. You can reach her own blog by clicking here.



The content of this blog does not reflect the official opinion of UNDP. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in the blog lies entirely with the author(s).

The promise and pitfalls of partnerships in tackling extreme poverty around the world


By Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative, Brookings Institution

Erik Solheim, chairman of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, summarized the moral case for international development cooperation by paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s remark that “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” Solheim, in a modernized version, challenged the audience to ask “If the presence of extreme poverty in the world today is not wrong, then what is?” This provided the backdrop to a discussion of how to implement the sustainable development goals and, in particular, the first goal on ending extreme poverty.

The venue was Brookings, where I was moderating a discussion and Solheim was launching the OECD’s 2015 Development Cooperation Report. In discussing the report’s findings, Solheim highlighted the significant potential for partnerships as coalitions for action. He underlined the progress that partnerships have already made, citing 7 million lives saved as a result of just one vaccination and immunization partnership.

Partnerships are an intriguing new tool for driving progress in the developing world. They are a hybrid between unilateralism and multilateralism. In today’s world, no actor, even one as large and powerful as the United States, can be successful if acting on its own. If nothing else, local ownership—by governments, business, and civil society organizations—is now generally recognized as key to any development progress, so unilateralism cannot work. But multilateralism, too, has its drawbacks. It can take a long time to achieve consensus when many different parties have a voice—witness the Doha Development Round of trade talks or the negotiations over climate change. Partnerships can provide space for action while such discussions are taking place and even change the facts on the ground to make reaching consensus easier. Solheim used the example of the U.N.’s REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) program to create new facts on the ground that will make it far easier to agree on net carbon emission targets at this year’s climate change negotiations. Following Solheim’s presentation, we had a highly engaging panel discussion with Elizabeth Cousens, deputy CEO of the U.N. Foundation and former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council and Alex Thier, assistant to the administrator for Policy, Planning, and Learning at USAID. Cousens saw partnerships as “very possibly” a game-changer for international development. She pointed to numerous elements of the Sustainable Development Goals framework that wouldn’t be possible without the experiences of building new partnerships, and commended multilateral organizations like the U.N. and the World Bank for their leadership in many of these efforts. She also highlighted the different nature of partnerships at local and global levels and emphasized that partnerships need to invest in core foundations—trust, monitoring systems, transparent and honest learning—before they can be successful.

Thier saw partnerships as the natural bridge between official development projects and sustainable, locally owned projects. United States’ oft-cited HIV program and others are all intended to gradually be owned by their local beneficiaries, Thier said, and partnerships help this process along by bringing civil society and others into the conversation early and driving the very politics needed to make these programs self-sustaining at a local level.

I asked Solheim if successful partnerships were always based on a group of actors pooling their financial resources to achieve scale economies, like the Advanced Market Commitment of the vaccine alliance. If that was the case, then partnerships today could face difficulty as official development assistance is very difficult to mobilize.  Solheim disagreed that money was the key driver of success. He pointed toward Indonesia’s efforts to reduce deforestation. Indonesia was eligible to draw resources from the U.N.-REDD program, but chose not to do so because much of what it accomplished did not cost money—it was achieved by the political leadership shown by then President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who rallied his government ministers, businesses, and civil society groups around a fundamental shift in norms and behavior that dramatically reduced forest clearing for plantation activities.

Each of the panelists warned that partnerships are not a panacea and there have been many failures when success factors (the DCR 2015 report identifies 10) are not present. For example, partnerships need good metrics of outcomes, outputs, and inputs to identify if change is happening fast enough, and, if not, what needs to be done to accelerate progress. Data on many development issues has been poor, but powerful new tools and technology are now available: satellites can measure changes in tree cover down to a single tree; governments can compare illness statistics after a vaccination program. Of course in other areas (for instance, education), outcomes, like learning, are still difficult to effectively measure and the “production function” (how do we get improvements in learning) can vary in different contexts.

Each of the panelists referred to the learning and innovation potential of successful partnerships. In too many areas of development, there is still a lot to learn about the most effective interventions. Moving from anecdotes to a systematic learning culture is not easy.

But the real obstacle to successful partnerships, the panel agreed, is risk-averse political leadership. It’s no surprise that using tax dollars to eradicate poverty in far-off places can be a risky endeavor, especially when one considers that attention must now focus on the most challenging and conflict-prone areas of the world if we are to leave no one behind. So bold bets on development are needed, but most politicians prefer not to rock the boat. Their careers can be ended when programs go awry, and they rarely get praise when programs are successful (indeed, they may have long since moved on if results only show up in the long term). But without political support and strong leadership, partnerships cannot be successful. Generating greater tolerance for risk and learning more from failure may be hardest problem in implementing the new Sustainable Development Goals.

Cross-posted from Future Development

About the Author
Homi Kharas Senior Fellow and Deputy Director, Global Economy and Development, Development Assistance and Governance Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Business has an essential role to play in the post-2015 agenda

flickr / World Bank

By Mr. Thomas de Man, Chair of the BIAC Development Committee

Every day, businesses around the world help to deliver sustainable development. Through companies’ trade and investment, job creation, and innovation, societies benefit from stronger economic growth and higher living standards. There is enormous potential to facilitate and scale-up this positive impact in the post-2015 development agenda.

However, the challenge facing many developing markets is that the risks facing businesses often outweigh the expected returns.

For instance, while the increased demand generated by growing markets provides many opportunities for businesses, the sheer rapidity of developing countries’ population growth calls for creating tens of millions of jobs every year. Consider for example that Nigeria is expected to become the world’s third most populous country by 2050, overtaking the United States. If jobs cannot be created quickly enough, countries run the risk of chronic youth unemployment and informality.

Other challenges facing businesses include political instability, policy uncertainty, corruption, and burdensome regulation, among others. Some companies can navigate these risks, but many – especially small private enterprises – cannot.

Making progress on all of these fronts will be essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and will require significant policy reform to improve the business climate and support investor confidence. In doing so, the international development community should ensure that developing countries can make use of international instruments, tools, and good practices, when implementing macroeconomic and structural policies for growth and development. The Policy Framework for Investment (PFI) is a case-and-point of an instrument that should be promoted internationally. Platforms such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) should strengthen focus on sharing knowledge and building public-private dialogue to improve the enabling environment at the country level for businesses to invest and support growth.

In summary, business has an essential role to play in the post-2015 agenda, but political leadership is central to shaping the environment in which businesses can operate. Cooperation between different actors and at all levels – national, regional and global – is therefore needed to mitigate risks and unleash the full business potential in developing markets.

About the Author
Thomas de Man is Chair of the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC)

How to engage the private sector in development

Office workers at a meeting in Ghana. How can public-private dialogue encourage businesses to help tackle global development challenges? Photo by: Arne Hoel / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

Office workers at a meeting in Ghana. How can public-private dialogue encourage businesses to help tackle global development challenges? Photo by: Arne Hoel / World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

By Kim Bettcher, Center for International Private Enterprise

As the development agenda turns toward inclusive growth, participatory decision-making and innovative partnerships, the demand has grown for private sector participation in the discovery of viable solutions. One powerful tool for propelling this participation is public-private dialogue, a structured approach to inclusive policymaking. Public-private dialogue facilitates agreement on many vital goals, among them improving the business climate, raising competitiveness and sustaining growth.

Take Kenya, for example. Betty Maina, former CEO of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers, declares that “for more than 10 years, dialogue with government and all stakeholders has remained the pillar of our gains on behalf of our members.” Not only did public-private dialogue encourage a positive business environment in Kenya and regional integration, it also supported peace efforts following the disputed outcome of elections in 2007 and the ensuing violence. “Business was also instrumental in drafting and passage of the new constitution, which we gave ourselves in 2010 and continues to play a critical role in its implementation.”

Or consider the Ethiopian Public Private Consultative Forum, winner of the 2015 PPD Howard Award for long-standing achievement presented by the PPD Community of Practice. This consultative forum has advanced dialogue at federal and state levels on issues such as customs procedures, trade logistics, company registration and property rights protection. Tangible outcomes from this dialogue include a special credit window for small and medium enterprises and title deeds for more than 55,000 irregular and unprotected land holdings. Furthermore, the enthusiasm for dialogue in Ethiopia has done much to build trust between the public and private sector.

Public-private dialogue has proven to be a highly versatile tool for tackling development challenges. In fragile states, dialogue can revive private sector development and sustain policy reforms. Thus, the Nepal Business Forum played a role in building trust and prioritizing reforms in post-conflict Nepal. In a democratic transition, as occurring in Tunisia since 2011, dialogue can build consensus around how to manage the transition process. The National Dialogue in Tunisia produced a road map for social stability, which established the conditions for structural economic reforms.

At a sector level, dialogue can address issues of industry competitiveness and natural resource management. The Jordan Valley Water Forum coordinated responses by authorities and farmers to the water crisis in the region. Public-private dialogue can even be tailored to advance women’s economic empowerment, as shown by the winning entry from Bangladesh in the Global Partnership’s multistakeholder case study contest. The Bangladesh Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry promoted a Women’s National Business Agenda, which convinced the Central Bank to provide $93 million in loans to women-owned businesses.

So what exactly happens in the course of a dialogue process?

First, dialogue elevates policy priorities for creating a conducive investment climate and expanding markets. In Kenya, for instance, dialogue between business and government established collective leadership on economic liberalization, export promotion, regional integration and peace building. Second, dialogue gathers input from a wide range of interests. In doing so, it builds a constituency for reform among the business community. In Bangladesh, the Women’s National Business Agenda was the first advocacy campaign of its kind to give voice to the needs of women-owned businesses, and it connected with more than 180 organizations from all six geographic divisions of the country. Finally, structured dialogue improves the quality of legislation through analysis of evidence and incorporation of feedback into implementation of regulations. The Ethiopian consultative forum has done this through extensive investments in research and analysis, workshops to validate issues with the private sector, and technical committees to support the implementation of recommendations.

Although not a panacea, dialogue deserves attention from governments, business, donors and other development actors as a means toward credible and effective development cooperation. The tangible outcomes — in the form of cost savings to business — are real. More importantly, dialogue can kick-start policy reform and develop relationships that strengthen governance and economic performance. Especially in developing countries where institutions are weak and policy information is scarce, a coordinated dialogue opens a path to discovering and sustaining solutions. When done well, the legitimacy that accrues from dialogue is invaluable in preventing reversals of reforms.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation has adopted the quality of public-private dialogue as one of its 10 monitoring indicators, by measuring the engagement and contribution of the private sector to development. While the indicator does not directly measure the business environment or private sector impact, it does capture the degree of private sector participation in policymaking and development partnerships. This indicator builds upon evaluation tools from an international community of practice and a charter of good practice.

Those policymakers and business leaders who now are ready to try dialogue can benefit from the wealth of experience accumulated by their peers around the world. When they reach out to their counterparts on the other side of the table, they are taking a big step toward the discovery of win-win solutions.

KimBAbout the Author
Kim Bettcher leads the Center for International Private Enterprise’s knowledge management initiative, which captures lessons learned in democratic and economic institution-building around the world.
Cross-posted with Devex

What’s next for the GPEDC in the post-2015 world?

World Bank Photo Collection / flickr

World Bank Photo Collection / flickr

By Manju Senapaty, Lead Planning and Policy Specialist for Development Effectiveness and Partnerships, Asian Development Bank

The second high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) will take place in Kenya in 2016. In the run-up to the event, the GPEDC will need to consider some difficult questions on what to focus on for the post-2015 world.

Basically the choice is between being selective and making a big difference, or continuing with an expanded agenda taking in just about every development theme. If it opts for the former, then it will be a matter of identifying where it can really make a difference and strengthen the global partnership for sustainable development?

The GPEDC was launched at the fourth high-level forum on aid effectiveness in Busan in 2011. The aid effectiveness journey through previous high-level forums in Rome (2003), Paris (2005) and Accra (2008) established principles to improve the quality of aid for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These principles were primarily seen as applicable to OECD-DAC providers of official development assistance (ODA) and developing countries. Multilateral development banks have also been closely associated.

The results of implementing these good principles are becoming visible:

  • Countries are increasingly taking a leadership role in determining their priorities, and articulating these effectively to the development providers.
  • Transparency and the accountability for results of development assistance have improved.
  • International institutions like ADB have mainstreamed these principles, and are scaling up efforts to align their strategies and assistance with country policies, priorities, and systems.

In parallel, the global aid architecture has been changing rapidly, and becoming more complex. The share of ODA in total global development assistance has declined. Funding from nontraditional partners, including emerging donors and philanthropic organizations, and non-aid sources—such as remittances and foreign direct investment (FDI)—has increased. In Asia and the Pacific, for example, ODA is estimated at around only .004% of the potential amount of development finance that could come from combining private savings, remittances, and FDI.

ADB Vice-President Wencai Zhang participating in the first GPEDC high-level meeting in Mexico City in 2014.

ADB Vice-President Wencai Zhang participating in the first GPEDC high-level meeting in Mexico City in 2014.

Recognizing changes in the global aid architecture, the GPEDC’s agenda has continued to expand. In its first high-level meeting in Mexico in 2013, the GPEDC brought together key stakeholders to discuss a number of development themes such as importance of domestic resource mobilization, support to and from middle-income countries, south-south cooperation, triangular cooperation and knowledge sharing, the private sector as a partner in development, and climate change. The messages on traditional principles of aid effectiveness such as country ownership, focus on results, transparency and accountability were reaffirmed, but a bit subdued.

Moving forward, the GPEDC Steering Committee, at its September 2015 meeting, needs to take a candid view on the comparative value-add of staying with an expanded agenda. Similar issues—like the importance of partnerships for mobilizing knowledge and resources from all sources (both public and private), role of new players and institutions, and addressing climate change issues—are being discussed at major international development fora. The recently concluded #Fin4Dev conference in Addis Ababa has established new commitments on financing for development. By the end of 2015, two other major international agreements are expected to establish post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and a path for future action on climate change.

Proposed SDG 17, seen as a successor to the MDG 8 on global partnerships, is directly linked with the GPEDC’s agenda on global partnerships. It calls for action to “strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.” It focuses on three specific areas—financing for development, technology and trade, and data monitoring and accountability— identified as key enablers for the post-2015 global partnership agenda. If adopted in September 2015, SDG 17 is likely to be central to all other SDGs and applicable to all countries, unlike the MDG 8 on global partnership that targeted only developed countries.

The GPEDC can play an important role in supporting the implementation of the SDGs to strengthen global partnerships for sustainable development. GPEDC’s efforts in monitoring the quality of aid and its effectiveness principles are acknowledged in the Addis outcome document. This is an achievement. However, is that enough? In order to add value, the GPEDC needs to be selective, develop its niche in monitoring key aspects of quality of aid, and be a part of a formal post-2015 SDG monitoring mandate. This will also avoid duplication and help keep the transaction costs low for developing countries. The GPEDC’s Advisory Group on monitoring should do a critical review of the existing GPEDC global monitoring framework in light of its agreed priorities and the proposed SDGs, and recommend a relevant post-2015 global monitoring framework, that the GPEDC will focus on.

Kenya will provide an excellent opportunity to facilitate focused discussions and make a big difference. However, this will only happen if a precise set of issues are prioritized in light of the SDGs, based on  the GPEDC’s niche and comparative advantage. Such clarity on the GPEDC agenda is also necessary to energize its stakeholders to participate in a more meaningful way in the future.

ManjuAbout the Author
Ms. Senapaty is ADB’s focal point on aid effectiveness issues, and has also worked in the Southeast Asia Regional Department. Prior to joining ADB, she was an economist with the UK Department for International Development.

Cross-posted from the Asian Development Blog

Can we address imbalances of power in cross-sector partnerships?

By Dr Cheryl Freeman, World Vision Senior Director for Advocacy

What does effective collaboration look like when a nutrition programme for children involves a government health department, a UN agency, and local and international NGOs? Is it even possible for these partners to work together collaboratively and effectively when such different levels of influence exist?

Let’s examine the above scenario, which happened in a rural town in Malawi, where World Vision was working with community volunteers to improve children’s nutrition. Using different approaches, a local NGO, the Ministry of Health, the Red Cross and the World Food Programme (WFP) were also leading a variety of different interventions in this area. Each brought different strengths and abilities to the table.

The NGOs had strong relationships with the local community, WFP had great technical resources, and the government had the ability to make decisions on operations and approaches. Each was doing excellent work, but in parallel rather than together. How would these different assets and approaches, including the power imbalances, play out when everyone involved embarked on a collaborative project?

Before we answer that question, let’s explore the broader issue of who holds power – the ability to influence design, implementation and ongoing decision making of projects and programmes – in development partnerships. World Vision is currently advocating for a post-2015 development agenda that allows for cross-sector partnerships to flourish, and that will ensure these partnerships focus on reaching the most vulnerable children. However, in the discussion on what will replace the Millennium Development Goals, World Vision has observed concern regarding the potential unevenness of influence between partners in cross-sector partnerships (this and other potential issues and solutions are explored in the World Vision report Advancing the Debate).

Imbalances of power exist between organisations in all partnerships and at all levels. Which partner is on the ‘lesser end’ of the imbalance will, of course, vary from one setup to another. It’s important to note that concerns regarding inappropriate influence have been levelled at all sectors, including donor governments over developing countries through to corporations with perceived influence on the development of government policy. When an imbalance exists, it’s often the poor who are disadvantaged.

IMG_3377_0The good news is that unevenness of power can be managed and mitigated, while differences in approaches can be turned into advantages. This begins with strengthening the capacity of organisations from all sectors – business, civil society, UN and governments – so they are ‘fit to partner’.

Being fit to partner requires each organisation to be conscious of their level of influence and particular expertise – and to recognise the value others bring to the table. This is the starting point from which an agreement can be entered into that allows for a more even distribution of influence; and ultimately a partnership that is greater than the sum of its parts. If one group seeks to dominate a particular project or programme, it quickly reverts to a sub-contract like arrangement – and invariably the benefits for all partners are lost.

The opposite is also true. We are seeing progressive and well-intentioned companies working with governments and organisations with strong capacity – including strong contract negotiation capacity – and the ability to make sense of how to leverage business activities for sustainable development returns. In partnerships where all groups are able to bring their best, game changing opportunities are being realised.

Equally important to the success of partnerships is empowering people to hold governments, businesses and aid agencies to account. Accountability is fundamental to mitigating the risks of power imbalances. World Vision, for example, is currently supporting more than 411 programmes in 42 countries to implement the Citizen Voice and Action social accountability approach. This approach encourages discussion and helps to transform the relationship between government and citizens.

So how might this work in practice? Returning to the example in Malawi, the partners adopted a partnership brokering approach. In the negotiations that followed, different levels of influence and expertise were recognised, while workshops were organised to explore the complementary contributions the partners could bring to a joint programme.

In so doing, ‘differences’ became ‘strengths’; reasons to work together. A revised, more effective approach and structure for working collaboratively with care groups has emerged. Ultimately each organisation had to adapt from its business-as-usual approach. Crucial to the negotiations was keeping an eye firmly on the agreed overall objective – improved nutrition for children.

Having recognised and brokered its way through the potentially disabling differences, including power imbalances, this fledgling partnership is now working cost effectively to tackle the crippling consequences of undernutrition – and most importantly, to save the lives of vulnerable children.

CF 5TAbout the Author
Dr. Cheryl Freeman is Senior Director for Advocacy & Justice for Children at World Vision International. During the post-2015 process, she has been focusing on the role of multi-stakeholder partnerships and is the co-author of three papers on their potential contribution to sustainable development.

Improving Ebola Response through Mobile Data


By Amy Sweeney, Director of Client Business Development, GeoPoll.

The Ebola crisis in West Africa has brought together aid organizations, governments, and private companies from all over the world who are donating resources and expertise to fight the spread of the disease – and although the outbreak is not yet over, progress is being made, with the lowest weekly total of new confirmed cases occurring the week up to April 5th.

But one of the most difficult things for these organizations to access has been data. Access to reliable data is imperative in humanitarian situations – it can track the spread of disease or disaster, helps on-the-ground workers track the awareness and perceptions of their response, and assesses long-term impacts after aid workers have left. However, in disaster situations data is hard to come by; countries most affected by crises often don’t have a robust system of data reporting, and it can be difficult for researchers to access areas due to disease outbreak, damaged infrastructure, or dangerous security situations.

In spite of these challenges, there are several ways technology and data have been brought together to fight the Ebola crisis– some organisations use mapping data to track spread of disease, others let people report Ebola-related issues through mobile phones. At GeoPoll, we have worked with organizations including the World Food Programme and Keystone Accountability to collect data through remote mobile phone surveys that can be used to help target aid distribution and inform on-the-ground workers of citizen perceptions. GeoPoll issues surveys through SMS or voice messages, allowing organisations to quickly gather information nationally or from key areas, which can then be viewed and analyzed in real-time.

WFP_Ebola_Sierra_LeoneWith the World Food Programme, GeoPoll has been conducting monthly surveys on food security in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Food insecurity is one of the biggest secondary risks of Ebola, as the disease has driven food prices up and made areas with high poverty rates even more dependent on outside aid.

Through remote mobile surveys, the World Food Programme was able to get a high-level understanding of the food security situation, finding that, especially in the Ebola epicenters, it was considered “severe” for many. In November 2014 WFP released the first report of data collected using GeoPoll surveys, reporting that the Reduced Coping Strategy Index, a way to measure the severity of the behaviors households engage in when faced with crises, was high in areas hit hardest by Ebola, including Kailahun and Kenema in Sierra Leone. Over 80% of respondents in these areas reported consuming less expensive or preferred foods, and 75% reported needing to reduce the number of meals per day and portion sizes due to a lack of food. The ongoing reports created from remote mobile surveys have been published by the World Food Programme’s mVAM unit, and data is being used to target aid and create awareness around the risks of food insecurity in crisis areas.

GeoPoll has also been working with Keystone Accountability’s Ground Truth Solutions team to survey citizens throughout Sierra Leone on the perceptions of the Ebola response and attitudes towards checkpoints, quarantine, and welcoming Ebola survivors back into communities. This information is crucial for on-the-ground workers, as it gives them a real idea of how citizens view their progress.

We have been collecting data weekly and bi-weekly since December 2014, and the data truly does reflect the situation in Sierra Leone. The week of 3 December, 70.8% of the 350 respondents said they believed the Ebola response was making progress against the spread of the disease. This percentage climbed up steadily as the number of new cases went down, and in the week of February 10th 86.5% believed the response was making progress. However, we saw this number decline to 80.2% in the week of March 10th, and 84.8% the week of March 26th.

Why is this? We found that the perceptions of the progress went down in early March as cases spiked in Freetown, and transport restrictions which had been stopped were reinstated. Other data points show that between 54-60% of respondents say people are worried about harassment at checkpoints, and over 70% report that people are scared to visit health facilities for non-Ebola related illnesses.

The value of this data is huge. One agency has used this data to request additional funding for quarantine supplies, and another has increased their investment in educational programmes surrounding the stigma of Ebola. In addition, it is an excellent example of sharing resources and partnering for more effective development, as both Keystone and GeoPoll have made the data publicly available on our websites so that other organizations can take advantage of the findings.

Data provides increased awareness and knowledge of humanitarian situations, and allows NGOs and governments to act quickly based on accurate, timely information. In keeping with effective development co-operation as defined by the Busan principles, such data helps create transparent and equitable development, as well as ensuring a strong focus on results.

As the Ebola crisis continues, and even after the current outbreak has subsided, data will show the global community long-term effects of the disease, and eventually will inform how governments, organizations and citizens can work together to manages crises better in the future.

amyheadshot2cropAbout the Author
Amy Sweeney is the Director of Client Business Development at GeoPoll, where she collaborates with potential clients and partners such as the World Food Programme, USAID, and implementing partners on incorporating mobile data collection into projects and programs. She previously worked at Chemonics International and spent four years in Central and Southwest Asia, serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan and working in Afghanistan and Turkey.


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