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Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation: Will this weekend’s Senior Level Meeting turn the tide on effective development?

In this blog, Eurodad offers its take on the upcoming senior level meeting (SLM) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), a multi-stakeholder platform established to make sure all development actors deliver on their commitments to ensure development cooperation is really eradicating poverty and bringing about sustainable development. In light of donors’ stalled progress to deliver on key development effectiveness principles, the SLM is an opportunity to crank up the political momentum needed to deliver the development effectiveness agenda and the SDGs. This would require donors to change track and put developing countries in the driving seat of development cooperation. 

This weekend - 13-14 July - the UN Headquarters in New York will host the first Senior Level Meeting (SLM) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The partnership was launched as a multi-stakeholder platform in late 2011 at the Busan High Level Forum to replace the aid effectiveness process and shift the political agenda towards the broader concept of development effectiveness. 

The timing of the meeting is no coincidence. By organising the SLM back-to-back with the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, the GPEDC will piggyback on the sense of urgency around the implementation of the sustainable development goals. Furthermore, the GPEDC has been struggling with its political relevance for quite some time now. Compared to the OECD, which lay at the core of the aid effectiveness agenda, it is indisputably a more inclusive space that includes donors, partner countries, CSOs, trade unions and the private sector. 

Yet, it has not managed to meaningfully engage key players, such as China, India and Brazil, in today’s development cooperation landscape and many non-OECD countries would prefer discussions on development cooperation to take place entirely within the UN. Eurodad, which has been engaging with the GPEDC since its conception, has adopted a critical approach

The GPEDC has not been able to find political momentum to make sure its accountability role actually challenges its constituents to meet the targets they have set for themselves. The SLM this weekend is unlikely to turn the tide, as the official agenda is mainly focused on tracking progress, discussing best practices and informing the development of the next work programme. 

Stalled progress 

It is clear from the results of the GPEDCs latest progress report that there is indeed an urgent need to challenge the GPEDC’s ‘partners’ on their commitments. Every two years, the GPEDC – supported by the OECD and UNDP – conducts a monitoring exercise that tracks progress on the four key development effectiveness principles: country ownership, focus on results, the inclusiveness of partnerships and transparency and accountability. Donor countries are not only reducing the amount of official development assistance (ODA) raised to support development, moreover they are also failing to make substantive progress on their commitments to make that support more effective. Zooming in specifically on country ownership, a key prerequisite to preserving the catalytic role of international public finance, the report finds: 

  • The alignment of donors’ development strategies and projects with partner country priorities is declining. 
  • While the annual predictability of ODA has only marginally increased since 2011, forward visibility (the extent to which donors offer transparency regarding available resources to a developing country up to 3 years ahead) is decreasing. This lack of transparency is detrimental for developing countries to plan effectively and achieve results. 
  • While there has been marginal progress in the use of ‘country public financial management systems,’ nearly half of all donors still do not use them in their aid to the public sector. The report also finds that this limited use is largely a result of donor predilections, as no correlation is established between the quality of such systems and the frequency of their use by donors. Interestingly, as loans are mainly administered through country systems as opposed to grants, the use of such systems largely appears to be conditioned by the aid modality used. As loans as a component of ODA have risen since 2007, the marginal progress we are seeing is more likely a side-effect of a shift in aid modalities than a concerted effort to further development effectiveness. 
  • Aid tying - the practice of spending aid through companies in their own countries - is declining, but progress has been very uneven across donors and partner countries, untied aid has even declined in a number of Least Developed Countries. Interestingly, following Eurodad’s recommendations to the GPEDC, the progress report mentions concerns that, in spite of progress on formal untying of aid, ODA-contracts are still largely awarded to suppliers based in donor countries. The report concludes that donors need to revisit procurement practices to make sure progress in formal untying translates into the strengthening of local markets and industries in developing countries. The monitoring exercise could, however, have taken one step forward by including a specific indicator on systematic reporting of the values of contracts awarded to companies in different countries, in addition to data on formal tying.
Aid and the private sector 

Despite seeing progress in the quality of partner countries’ development strategies, planning and budgeting practices and public financial management systems, donor countries are clearly failing to deliver on their commitments to realise the full potential of development cooperation, for example through strengthening country ownership. An increasingly downward trend is likely in the foreseeable future as a consequence of donors focussing aid on private sector actors, which have had limited coherence with the development effectiveness principles. The progress report clearly suggests that unless a strong regulatory framework is put in place to align private sector efforts with development effectiveness criteria, we will be seeing a further decline in meeting these commitments in the next monitoring round. 

In this regard, the recent adoption of the Kampala Principles for private sector engagement by the Global Partnership may prove to be a valuable attempt to extend the reach of development effectiveness principles to the private sector in development cooperation. They are, however, clearly no substitute for regulatory frameworks and a more binding set of safeguards to ensure business contributes to development when operating in partner countries through development cooperation. 

As donors are increasingly looking to the private sector, not only to deliver goods and services but also to provide the necessary financing to reach the SDGs, discussions on the terms and conditions of these initiatives should not be limited to donor-only spaces such as the OECD. The Kampala Principles have the benefit of at least being developed in a more inclusive setting and having internationally agreed development effectiveness commitments at their core. Integrating these criteria into the current monitoring framework would shed light on how donors undertake private sector engagement in their development efforts. 

Political realities 

Eurodad will attend the SLM this weekend as part of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness delegation, which has developed a number of key demands. In terms of outcomes, it will be interesting to see whether the GPEDC will succeed in generating momentum building on the SDG agenda to push development partners to develop a living agenda to renew unfulfilled commitments. That would be a surprise outcome, as it seems donors are turning away from the GPEDC, as the latter’s central message – that countries should lead their own development and donors should play a supporting role – is at odds with their own political realities. Rather, development cooperation, in many donor countries, runs the risk of both being increasingly instrumentalised for their own national interests and of not serving as a development flow in its own right, but instead to ‘leverage’ other private flows into developing countries.