Going Further Together: Why Inclusion is Important for Effective Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives

The concept of multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) is gaining evermore traction in international development cooperation. Aside from the GPEDC itself, MSIs are recognized as an important means of implementation to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2030.

In light of the rising popularity of MSIs, a valid question is ‘what makes MSIs work well and why?’ This question forms the basis for recently completed research, The Comparative Studies of Multi-stakeholder Initiatives. Drawing from 17 MSI cases, each unique in its own way, in four countries (Costa Rica, Indonesia, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan), the study pointed to various principles that seemed to be key to MSI effectiveness. In this blog we share some of the study’s findings in relation to one of these principles, that of inclusion.

Like MSIs, the concept of inclusion too has gained increasing attention. Inclusive partnerships is one of the four core principles of effective development co-operation agreed in Busan in 2011. Pledging to leave no one behind, the 2030 Agenda – with its goal on inclusive societies and call for collaborative partnerships – also has inclusion at its heart.

But what does inclusion mean for MSIs? When is an MSI inclusive? As the study confirmed, inclusion in MSIs can be complicated, but getting it right is a critical factor for MSI effectiveness.

Some of the challenges for inclusiveness in MSIs can be attributed to the increasingly complex aid and development architecture, with greater numbers and diversity of state and non-state actors. The acronym MSI was often used to signify ‘multi-sector,’ as it was to mean ‘multi-stakeholder’. However, this tri-sector approach (government, business and civil society) is simply too broad and no longer suffices. It is now clear that a sector encompasses a multitude of actors and interests, working at different levels of development. Unpacking these sectors or- stakeholder categories can contribute to a better understanding of inclusiveness with respect to a particular MSI and therefore its likely effectiveness.

What is meant by unpacking stakeholder categories? Take for example the sector ‘government’. One of the study’s findings was that the effectiveness of MSIs can be reduced by lack of coordination and coherence between government departments. If one or more government agencies that have power to influence the success of an MSI is not at the table, the initiative may not reach its goals. The same can be said of the heterogeneous civil society sector, where a diversity of views and niche areas are represented. Thus, the study recommended a design that is sensitive to the different interests in a sector and brings together – even from within a sector – the essential actors and various resources (e.g. political, social, etc.) required to get things done.

While the aforementioned example looks at horizontal relationships within a sector such as government or civil society, MSI effectiveness can also be affected by vertical divisions. The GPEDC’s Mexico Communiqué encourages support to local and regional governments to enable them to assume more fully their roles in policy-making, service delivery, enhancing participation, and sub-national accountability. The relevance of this commitment today is supported by the finding of the study that MSIs can be weakened by the absence of the local actors, be they government or other non-state actors, in national deliberations. After all, often there is a ‘local’ aspect to the goals and objectives of most MSIs. The study thus recommended the creation of designated spaces at the table for local development actors that are directly implicated in the implementation of the initiative.

Another approach is to connect multi-level platforms and networks. What this approach could mean in practice, for example, is simultaneous discussion of areas of concern at national and sub-national levels by different stakeholders, who then also associate with each other vertically. This recommendation is drawn from the observations of the Scaling-Up Nutrition Initiative, which was used in the study as a comparative internationally-inspired MSI.

The examples above point to the need to look carefully at stakeholder profiles to determine which stakeholders should be at the table to give an MSI the right mix of interests and skills to increase its chances of success. So which actors should sit around the table to ensure that an MSI is effective? The study concluded that there is unfortunately no template for finding this ‘right’ mix of stakeholders, be it for a domestically-driven or internationally-inspired MSI. A good starting point is to have a number of committed representatives from different stakeholder groups, who share common areas of concern and goals, around the table to initiate a MSI. Power analysis and awareness of various entities within a particular sector – can point the way for stakeholder-expansion over time. For some stakeholders – especially the private sector – motivation to engage might not be immediately apparent. Reflecting on incentives that these stakeholders might be sensitive to can help in the development of appropriate value propositions to incentivize engagement.

The High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda already recognized in 2013 that “bringing to bear the energy and resources of everyone concerned with development – governments at all levels, international organizations, civil society, businesses, foundations, academics and people in all walks of life – is our singular challenge.” Indeed, the ambition of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda add urgency to bringing together the resources and value-added of diverse actors.

While the rationale for an MSI might be clear, the 17 case studies in the study – and more specifically the findings discussed above – demonstrated that operationalization is not always straightforward. In synthesizing the lessons from these case studies for the GPEDC or the 2030 Agenda, the study offered some key recommendations for designing a MSI: 1) Unpack major stakeholder categories involved in the MSI; 2) Bring together the various resources from within and across sectors required to get things done and reach a sustainable outcome; 3) Create designated spaces at the table for local actors or establish multi-level platforms that are coherently connected; and 4) View the MSI as an iterative way of working, with inclusion as a process of expansion of stakeholders over time.

Want to know more? You can access the Comparative Studies of Multi-stakeholder Initiatives* via the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment website. Stay tuned for further Task Team blogs on this subject.

* The Comparative Studies of Multi-stakeholder Initiatives was commissioned by the Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment and executed by Prof. Alan Fowler and Dr. Kees Biekart of the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

About the Author:

TaskTeam-logo-01The Task Team on CSO Development Effectiveness and Enabling Environment is a multi-stakeholder body that seeks to advance the role of civil society in development. Its participants come from three stakeholder groups: governments that provide development cooperation, recipient governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) affiliated with the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE).

Leaders of Today, Not Tomorrow


By Jack McQuibban, Advocacy & Networks Coordinator, Restless Development

“Young people are the leaders of tomorrow.” How often do you hear that phrase? Here at Restless Development, we hear it constantly, from all angles of society. It’s great that so much attention is currently focused on the importance of investing in our futures. But the thing is, too often young people are overlooked in the creation, implementation and monitoring of exactly those key decisions that will ultimately affect us – because we are seen as the leaders of ‘tomorrow,’ not today. To be honest, it’s a saying we’re getting pretty tired of by now.

In fact, what the evidence is telling us is that young people are already the leaders of today. It’s just that our key role in building truly effective development cooperation is yet to be fully recognised.

Young people have an incredible amount of energy, passion and desire. Harnessed in the right way, we can bring about a new era of successful global development cooperation where citizens and their governments are connected like never before. Young people have the energy, skills and ambition to bring about real change, ensuring positive rhetoric becomes effective action. It’s what we at Restless Development call Youth Power.

This will mean tackling some of the toughest obstacles in our path. One of the biggest challenges young people face today is the lack of employment opportunities available, stifling their potential to lead their communities and societies out of poverty. Restless Development’s vision for ensuring young people have the life skills and opportunities to fulfill their potential, is grounded in evidence. Our ground-breaking youth-led research project in Uganda, ‘Strength, Creativity and Livelihoods of Karimojong Youth,’ demonstrated the power of bringing marginalised young people into the heart of our work, ensuring real and lasting impact which directly benefits those who we serve. The Case for Space initiative’s research, centred around 18 global young researchers, investigated the significant opportunities and challenges that young people face, both in terms of accessing their rights and in building their livelihoods

In 2015, we saw young people leading the way in some of the biggest development and humanitarian challenges the world faced. In Sierra Leone, young people led a community mobilisation model which helped end the Ebola outbreak. Over 350 young volunteers signed up overnight to help lead the fight, with over 2000 volunteering to empower their communities to protect themselves from the virus, helping Sierra Leone reach zero cases of Ebola. We also saw the strength and resilience of young people in Nepal, in the face of two devastating earthquakes, using their networks to lead disaster relief efforts.

Ultimately, it is young people and their networks, at the centre of their communities, who will ensure the successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our Big Idea is at the heart of this, empowering young people with the data, knowledge and skills they need to hold their leaders to account at the local,national and global levels. From Uganda to Malawi and from Nepal to the UK, young people are coming together to form their own networks, designed to monitor successful implementation of the Global Goals. Our Accountability Advocates are the perfect example – 20 young people from seven countries who are driving forward this movement, calling for greater accountability from world leaders.


The GPEDC has a history of involving young people in its processes, which we welcome. But we believe you can do more. Let’s be ambitious. Young people want to show the Global Partnership that there is a powerful new model for youth-led development, which is already producing incredible results on the ground in countries around the world. We believe that the GPEDC, with its global influence and convening power, can become a true champion for the role of young people in implementing and monitoring the Global Goals, thus ensuring that the promises made last September in New York are fulfilled.

We are calling on the Global Partnership to place young people at the heart of your work. With our energy, ideas, passion and desire for change, young people are ready for this role at the centre of the Global Partnership; ready to provide the resources, trainings, networks and more to make this idea a reality. To encapsulate all of this, we believe that the next high-level meeting of the Global Partnership should host a Youth Forum, where vibrant, intelligent youth delegates, who are already leaders in their communities, can tell you exactly why you need young people at the heart of the GPEDC.

Author Jack McQuibban

About the Author

Jack McQuibban, 23, is the Advocacy & Networks Coordinator at Restless Development, the international development agency which places young people at the forefront of change.

The role of effective development cooperation in achieving better results: Japan’s experience

By Hideaki Mizukoshi, Deputy Director-General, International Cooperation Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan

Let me share some of Japan’s experiences in relation to the issue that I have addressed in the Global Partnership Forum in Busan in November last year; the role of effective development cooperation in achieving better results in the post-2015 era.

A Paradigm Shift from ODA to Development Cooperation

First of all, Japan’s policy has recently seen a paradigm shift from ODA to Development Cooperation. Japan’s development cooperation is now based on Development Cooperation Charter, which was approved by the Cabinet in February 2015 after revising its previous version, the ODA Charter. You may see the shift in the change of its title from ODA to Development Cooperation. In this change, “development” is used in a broader sense rather than in the narrow sense, aligning it more with the GPEDC principle of inclusiveness to enhance synergetic effects through strengthened collaboration with other funding and stakeholders.

With this, I would like to touch upon two agenda, namely: ‘quality infrastructure development’ and ‘south-south and triangular cooperation’ to share how we are trying to contribute to our partners in achieving the 2030 agenda.

Quality growth through quality infrastructure

Development of quality, reliable, sustainable and resilient infrastructure is agreed in the SDG 9.1 to support economic development focusing on affordable and equitable access for all. The importance of quality infrastructure was also discussed in the G20, the G7, the APEC, and the ASEAN fora. Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe in May last year announced the “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure” through which Japan and the strengthened Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide approximately USD 110 billion for quality infrastructure investment in Asia over the next five years.

New Bohol Airport Construction and Sustainable Environment Protection Project in the Philippines showcases the three important elements of quality infrastructure development; 1) effective mobilization of financial resources through PPP, 2) ensuring the quality of infrastructure through inclusiveness, and 3) contribution to the local society and economy.

The Philippine Government’s priority PPP project in the Bohol province is financed by Japan’s ODA loan, which operation and maintenance is expected to avail PPP scheme upon inauguration. Under the “Eco-Airport concept,” the airport is constructed with consideration for the environment by the use of Japan’s technologies, such as solar power systems and geo-textile sheets on infiltration ponds for preventing environmental damage by waste water influx from the construction site. Furthermore, a technical cooperation project is implemented in advance to curb the impact on the natural environment around the airport as a result of an increase in the number of tourists by the airport construction.

South-South and triangular cooperation as an effective means

Under SDG 17.9, South-South and triangular cooperation are positioned as a means to enhance international support for implementing effective and targeted capacity-building in developing countries to support national plans to implement all the SDGs. Also, in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA), South-South and triangular cooperation are mentioned as a means of bringing relevant experience and expertise to bear in development cooperation.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), in collaboration with United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and the Brazilian Agency for Cooperation (ABC) jointly organized a training program to enhance management capacity in South-South and triangular cooperation. ABC invited representatives from 40 least developed and middle-income countries to the program that aimed to strengthen their management skills of south-south and triangular cooperation in legal, institutional, project management, and capacity development aspects through knowledge and experience sharing.

The outcome of the trainings was compiled as ‘Case Studies on Management of South-South and Triangular Cooperation’ and made available on UNOSSC’s website. JICA Research Institute also published several research reports on triangular cooperation in cooperation with other organizations including OECD.

While a mountain of development challenges we face, and new and innovative approaches are required to address the development challenges in the post-2015 era, it is positive that various knowledge and experience have been well accumulated by development actors through their activities on the ground. Japan has assumed a steering committee role since last August. We will continue to contribute to the GPEDC through sharing our experiences particularly in support to middle income countries and triangular cooperation.

Hideaki2About the Author

Hideaki Mizukoshi is the Deputy Director-General of the International Cooperation Bureau in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan. Mizukoshi also serves on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

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