3 things I have learned from working on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation

Canadian Minister for International Development and La Francophonie Christian Paradis meets with the Mozambique delegation during a high-level meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation held April 15-16, 2014, in Mexico City. Photo by: Daniela Castillejos Chévez / DFAT | MAECD / CC BY-NC-ND

When I first started working on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation, or GPEDC, I must admit it felt a bit overwhelming. After all, this was an alliance that aims to make a positive impact on the lives of millions of people — “helping nations, business and organizations work better together to end poverty,” as the tagline says.

It can be easy when faced with lofty goals to feel that way and I still do sometimes but I’ve learned some key lessons through my work on the GPEDC. I know from personal experience just how much collective effort goes into this agenda so I would like to share a few learnings as we embrace this pivotal year for international development.

1. Look deep into what happens at country level.

The GPEDC’s original mandate had the country-level implementation of the Busan commitments at its core. Yet, balancing global and local is quite the challenge. Over the years, I have often seen a missing link between the dynamic conversations held at GPEDC events and the little awareness of the Busan Partnership Agreement in many developing countries. What will it take to fill this gap?

I have become convinced the answer lies in developing countries themselves. I look forward to the day when the steering committee mostly meets in recipient countries and focuses on hearing their perspectives on GPEDC’s work. I would like to know whether it is making an impact on country-level dialogue dynamics, whether the global effective development cooperation agenda resonates with national development strategies, and how GPEDC can help if this is not the case.

In turn, developing countries could offer precious advice on good and not-so-good development cooperation practices that would feed back into the global agenda, providing much-needed evidence for more effective policies. Convening decision-making meetings around regional development effectiveness events would also go a long way in taking the dialogue closer to where the action is, connecting the dots across countries and regions.

2. Apply the Busan principles.

It is often said that the future sustainable development goals are the “what” of post-2015 development, while the GPEDC helps answer “how” we are going to achieve them. GPEDC does so by focusing on improving the quality of development partnerships.

In practice, quality may mean different things to different stakeholders, to the point where it is almost impossible to define. In these cases, I have found it crucial to go back to the founding principles of the GPEDC agreed in Busan and use them as a guide.

These principles — ownership of development priorities by developing countries, focus on results, inclusive development partnerships, and transparency and accountability to each other — are cross-cutting and underpin all forms of effective development cooperation. They have been endorsed by 161 countries and 56 organizations. In my view, they remain our best allies to determine the added value of any GPEDC initiative and substantive work.

Take, for example, development cooperation’s role in domestic resource mobilization, which is one of GPEDC’s thematic priorities. The Busan principles can tell us how a specific development cooperation tool is contributing to better domestic resource mobilization policies in a developing country in terms of:

● Country ownership — Is the government leading this work?

● Focus on results — Are domestic resource mobilization policies making an impact on eradicating poverty and reducing inequality?

● Inclusive development partnerships — Are all development actors engaged in an open dialogue on domestic resource mobilization? Do they trust each other?

● Transparency and mutual accountability — Are stakeholders interacting in a transparent and accountable fashion? If not, what can development cooperation do to push for behavior change?

This simple analysis can help decide how to move forward without replicating existing efforts made through other forums.

3. Broaden accountability.

One of the distinctive traits of the GPEDC is its global monitoring framework. To date, it continues to be a top priority for the partnership, attracting most of the attention from providers and recipients alike — and rightly so. With its 10 indicators, the monitoring framework is a useful tool in assessing the performance of development cooperation actors, both at a global and at a country level, and it has the potential to become even more important in the post-2015 context.

But GPEDC accountability is broader than monitoring. It also encompasses the other commitments made in Busan and Mexico City, including those with an already expired delivery date — for example, agreeing by 2012 on principles to address the issue of aid orphans.

It would be good to have a comprehensive discussion about these pledges soon. In so doing, the GPEDC could set a positive example of an alliance that walks the talk and helps drive post-2015 accountability efforts, particularly around the proposed sustainable development goal 17, which focuses on the means of implementation and the global partnership for sustainable development.

I have also learned you need to be creative if you want to promote stronger accountability. Let’s ask, for instance, the representatives of GPEDC initiatives like those launched at the first high-level meeting to also champion a related Busan or Mexico City commitment and lead by example. This would be a pragmatic way to promote progress by identifying driving forces among GPEDC stakeholders and by ensuring consistency between shared commitments and individual undertakings.

Similarly, providers from the “global south” could tell us what the Busan principles mean to their development cooperation and how they have been turned into action so far. Or, we could start inviting some of these players to identify areas where they feel they have a comparative advantage and concrete examples of successful development cooperation to share — perhaps highlighting their different approaches to partnerships or the speed of their service delivery.

Same goes for business. Supportive executives could be invited to show how they are helping advance both business and development outcomes, including through innovation. They could pave the way to similar exercises engaging the wider business community in consultation with other development actors.

At the end of the day, the most important thing I have learned from working on the GPEDC is to stay focused and be consistent. You can manage an ambitious agenda if the foundations of your work are solid. You can still make that positive impact on the lives of millions of people if you stay true to your principles, mandate and commitments.

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About the author

  • Farida Bena

    Farida Tchaitchian Bena is an aid and development effectiveness expert. She is a former member of the OECD-UNDP joint support team of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and has worked for Oxfam as aid effectiveness policy lead. Farida is also a senior campaigner and a humanitarian, having served in a variety of management and technical roles in about 20 countries in Europe, the U.S., sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.