Catalysts of change in the Public Service


By Max Everest-Phillips, Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence

As we embrace the new year, Singapore has much to celebrate. In 2015, the city-state will mark its 50th year of independence – a milestone that merits deeper reflection on Singapore’s remarkable transformation from new nation with few industries, no agriculture and a small port to an economic powerhouse. Any conversation about Singapore would remain incomplete without acknowledging one of the key contributors to the country’s success: the Singapore Public Service.

What are the policy decisions that helped Singapore build effective public service institutions? How has Singapore developed and strengthened public service capacity to deliver and cope with changing times? What are the incentives that drive public officials to deliver results? What are the enablers of public service excellence in Singapore? Three key strands weave through the country’s public service tapestry: first, strong intrinsic motivation of public officials; second, strategic foresight and the capacity for long-term planning; and third, the effective alignment of political and administrative leadership.

Against this backdrop, it is only fitting that the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) is located in Singapore. Set up in December 2012, the UNDP GCPSE is a collaborative effort between the Singapore Government and UNDP. Our role is to help UNDP and stakeholders in the development world to understand the nexus between governance and growth. This relationship is a defining signpost in Singapore’s journey since its independence. Therefore, the Centre has set out to learn from Singapore’s experience, identify factors that drive public service excellence and build knowledge that could be adapted to different country contexts.

The Centre has two objectives. First, it aims to promote evidence by gathering and building knowledge on what works. Second, to act as a convening hub to bring together thought leaders, thinker-practitioners, government officials, policy makers and development stakeholders to exchange ideas and nurture new thinking on ways to improve public service. We identified four catalysts of change in the public service and this forms the roadmap for the Centre’s work:


Public service ethos and the intrinsic motivation of public officials play a significant role in the quality of public service outputs. It is critical to explore how emotions, attitudes and ambitions intersect to influence performance of public officials. When public officials are highly motivated and nurture a sense of empathy with the beneficiaries they serve, their approaches are more innovative, inclusive and sustainable.


Co-operation between political and administrative leadership is a prerequisite for the fulfilment of sustainable development goals. Singapore’s example points to a smooth alignment between the political and administrative spheres of management; this, however, is not the case for many developing countries. Poor co-ordination, conflicting interests and a worrying trust deficit often lead to disastrous consequences; inevitably leading to inefficient provision of services and failed partnerships.


Responding to the complex and increasingly changing nature of today’s development landscape requires strategic foresight and long term-planning. Singapore’s economic growth and social progress stand as a testament to strengths and benefits of foresight. The ability to identify and analyse challenges and opportunities that lie ahead is of paramount importance for public service resilience in developing countries and its ability to be responsive and adaptive to change.


Public officials need to be empowered to think and act differently; by looking at complexity theory, design thinking and social innovation, public officials will stand to benefit from a new culture and mindset that celebrates experimentation, creativity and collaboration. Flexibility and the willingness to think out of the box are becoming progressively crucial for the new generation of public service.

PublicServiceIn our quest to understand successes and failures of public service reforms, we must remember that change and progress in development can only be sustained with ownership and participation at all levels.

The Centre seeks to challenge existing thinking in these areas and highlight the importance of placing public service at the heart of the post-2015 development agenda. The Singapore story shows us that an effective public service is the bedrock for achieving sustainable development goals. This brings us to the question: How do we create effective public service institutions?

There are no easy answers. The Centre is contributing to this dialogue as it takes on the role of co-Secretariat with the OECD of the Effective Institutions Platform (EIP), a partnership which emerged from the Busan High Level Ministerial and which is contributing to the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation’s High-Level Meeting through voluntary initiatives such as the learning alliances on public sector reform.  Through this partnership, we hope to create a space for EIP members and the Centre’s stakeholders to share knowledge, evidence and foster mutual learning around public service reforms. The establishment of Learning Alliances will help strengthen peer learning on topics agreed at the ‘Public Service Excellence & the post-2015 Development Agenda’ workshop in November 2014. EIP Learning Alliances are designed as collaborative multi-stakeholder groupings of institutions and organisations that share knowledge on public sector reform. Learning Alliances enable mutual learning in safe spaces and experimentation with problem-driven approaches to public sector reform.

In our quest to understand successes and failures of public service reforms, we must remember that change and progress in development can only be sustained with ownership and participation at all levels. As Singapore’s experience teaches us, it is imperative to get right the motivation, leadership, foresight and innovation in the conception, reform and delivery of public services. Once this is achieved, the world we want by 2030 becomes a realistic future.

MaxEverest-PhillipsMax Everest-Phillips has been Director of the UNDP Global Centre for Public Service Excellence (GCPSE) since July 2013. He is an expert in governance, political economy and public administration.

Making coalitions for agricultural development work


By Alain Vidal, Senior Partnerships Advisor, CGIAR Consortium

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are on the ball: how to achieve the new global development goals


By Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands

We are approaching a critical year. In 2015 the international community is expected to reach agreement on a set of new goals for international development, as a follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. The new goals will address sustainability in the broadest sense and we will need to implement them as effectively as possible. And this is where I believe that the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation – which I co-chair – can make a big contribution.

Recent developments…

The Global Partnership aims to go beyond the traditional means and methods of development aid. Acting alone, states can no longer respond effectively to today’s development challenges, as these are becoming increasingly transnational and complex. States must not only cooperate more to tackle them; they must also work together with key partners from civil society, the private sector, local governments, regional organisations, trade unions, international and national development banks, and so on. These actors have indispensable knowledge and expertise that can make all the difference.

These new trends can also be seen in the way international development is funded. Development aid from governments still plays a key role, but it has to be complemented by alternative sources of finance. More and more, developing nations are working together. Or we cooperate with one developing country to support a third country in what we call triangular cooperation. And in recent years the private sector has also become a significant player in this area. Such investments make an important contribution to developing economies.

… have prompted a novel response …

The Global Partnership is a useful framework that functions as an umbrella for these and other developments. By acting like a broker and bringing together the various actors, both old and new, it identifies windows of opportunity for new partnerships. By sharing practical details on what works and what doesn’t, actors have access to a continuously evolving pool of best practices. And through international forums, we draw attention to the added value brought by these multi-stakeholder partnerships.

We work on the principle that stakeholders in developing countries take the lead in achieving development, while development partners provide the support. By opening its membership to all stakeholders involved, the Global Partnership is uniquely inclusive. This principle is reflected in our Steering Committee, which includes representatives of recipients, providers and recipient-providers of development assistance, as well as representatives of the private sector, parliaments, local governments, civil society, foundations, development banks, the UNDP and OECD. Best practice sharing and mutual learning between such a diversity of actors is essential in order to provide the most effective policy solutions to development challenges.

The Global Partnership proactively monitors its members’ progress on meeting their development goals. This fosters mutual accountability and learning. Our members hold each other to their commitments on a regular basis. Here too, countries themselves take the lead: monitoring relies on their own data and processes. In order for international development to have a lasting effect, it should be geared towards the local country context.

… that serves to strengthen the new global goals for development

Engaging a wide variety of actors in the spirit of true partnership; collecting best practices; holding each other to account, and in so doing making development co-operation more effective: this is what the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation can bring to the table when it comes to the new global goals for development.

FotoPloumenLilianne Ploumen is Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands. She is one of the three Co-chairs of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation along with Minister of Finance, Economic Planning & Development of Malawi, Goodall Edward Gondwe, and Foreign Affairs Secretary of Mexico​, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.

New ways of working to reach the unreached children after 2015

Return to Senzani - Saving Infants from the Effects Of AIDS

By Mike Wisheart, World Vision International

In a country with an abundant supply of fresh food, five-year-old Asha is lucky to be alive. A lack of awareness and access to the right nutrition at the right time in rural Tanzania robbed her of her sight, but thankfully not her life.

Despite global progress in the last 15 years, millions of children like Asha still die or suffer life-long effects of poverty and under-nutrition every year. Out of sight, out of reach, out of mind, they are the often-invisible victims of two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)’ failings – aiming to halve extreme poverty has seen a job half done; and measuring success through averages has failed to close the gaps in countries where the most vulnerable children live, and die.

The post-2015 framework must not only build on the MDGs’ success, but go much further to finish the job, ensuring that invisible and unreached children feel the benefits of global development progress.

World Vision believes the next set of goals must aim for zero; zero preventable deaths, zero violence against children, zero under-nutrition. We believe that achieving this is possible, but not by doing more of the same. New and innovative approaches are needed.

Like the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, World Vision is committed to identifying practical actions to implement the post-2015 development goals. It is vital that the process gives significant consideration to how the new goals will be achieved, and in particular to engaging businesses as partners.

Creating and strengthening links between groups who may have traditionally been seen as strange bedfellows is one way to achieve this. For example, partnerships between government and business, or other private sector actors and civil society, or between government, private sector and UN agencies, will help maximise development successes.

World Vision is already involved in cross-sector partnerships at various levels. Nearly 2,000 frontline staff are working in a programme to systemically build and strengthen capacity for brokering collaborations. They are full of praise for the approach. “It builds ownership, capacity and contribution of resources,” said one. And another: “The response to our new approach has been overwhelming. When we did our action planning collaboratively, people were saying ‘I can provide this’, ‘I can provide that’. This wasn’t happening before.”

Last year, World Vision and global science company working in nutrition, Royal DSM, began an ambitious partnership to tackle under-nutrition, starting in Tanzania, recognising that children like Asha continue to fall through the gaps. With a focus on fortifying maize flour with essential micronutrients, both organisations are leveraging expertise, resources, and reach.

A recent World Vision study, including over 30 interviewees from government, business, civil society and the UN, explored two questions: (1) how targets for cross-sector partnerships could be captured in the post-2015 framework, and (2) how cross-sector partnerships can help to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children.

We found that the post-2015 framework should include three targets to enable cross-sector partnerships to flourish. We need multi-stakeholder platforms at both the national and global level, and accountability mechanisms covering all cross-sector partnerships.

Our study affirmed the importance of cross-sector partnerships to reach and help the most vulnerable children, but unearthed differing views on whether ‘market-based’ cross-sector partnerships are realistic.


Those who felt this approach was feasible said that it was only viable for those at the very bottom of the pyramid – the most vulnerable children living in fragile contexts – if subsidised, to offset the costs involved.

Those who did not agree were not, in principle, against market-based solutions for development, but said they were only viable to help less vulnerable children at the higher strata of the pyramid.

Reaching the most vulnerable is most challenging in fragile contexts, but business can still make a significant contribution within cross-sector partnerships. One way is by building infrastructure and improving physical access to children living in the most remote or conflict and fragility-affected communities. Another is by strengthening capacity within governments and among those with influence on the broader economic environment.

World Vision believes that companies should take a holistic view of their investments to ensure they maximise the benefits to the world’s most vulnerable people, especially children. This could include focusing any philanthropic spending on reaching the most vulnerable children, especially those living in fragile contexts, and ensuring alignment with national strategies and global coordination mechanisms.

Business can also increase investments in:

  • inclusive, sustainable business models, within market-based, cross-sector partnerships for the upper levels of the base of the pyramid
  • infrastructure projects that benefit the poorest in fragile contexts
  • capacity-building to strengthen civil society, local business and governments in fragile contexts

    Companies can also use their influence to advocate for pro-poor government policies and practices, particularly in fragile contexts, and act as role models in their own behaviour. As leaders across sectors look to a new set of development goals, we need to seize new opportunities and partnerships. Asha’s life was saved because a large NGO partnered with local health workers and government officials, in a programme funded by various international donors, to raise awareness of and access to the right kind of nutrition for children.

    “Every morning I would prepare porridge mixed with sorghum, groundnuts, maize and millet. This was the type of food we were taught to prepare for better health of children,” her adoptive mother said. Our hope is that in 15 years time, cross-sector partnerships will contribute to making better health the norm. For every child.


    Mike Wisheart is World Vision International’s senior advisor for corporate engagement within the Advocacy and Justice for Children team. He previously worked for six years in a faith-based development organisation in Tanzania and prior to that in the private sector in the UK. Mike can be contacted at and on twitter @MikeWisheart.

  • Triangular Co-operation: a view from Germany


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

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

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

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

    Equal Work


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

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

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

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

    Challenges and opportunities of development aid actors


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Farming for Development: Agriculture in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    How we can benefit from better tax administrations

    Peacekeeping - UNMIT

    By Michael Keen, Acting Head of the TADAT secretariat

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

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

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

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

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


    The TADAT Wheel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Local priorities to achieve effective development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Local government development co-operation as effective solution

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

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

    The cost of not working with local governments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Progressing Aid Effectiveness in the WASH sector


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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