Can a tool to map aid budgets be used to keep tabs on the SDGs?

Mwanasha has a one-to-one consultation with nurse Chipiliro on contraceptives and the best family planning option for her. Costed implementation plans are developed originally as a road map for countries as they budgeted for family planning and reproductive health targets. But they can also be used to keep governments accountable for their development goals. Photo by: U.K. Department for International Development / CC BY-NC-ND 

As aid groups search for ways to keep countries accountable for the ambitious sustainable development goals, some are pointing to existing mechanisms, like cost implementation plans, to guide aid budgets and track country progress.

Costed implementation plans are planning and management tools — including cost estimates for multiyear action plans — for achieving development goals. Developed originally as a road map for countries as they budgeted for family planning and reproductive health targets, aid organizations like FHI 360 and Population Action International have most recently been both helping country governments develop their CIPs and using CIPs to guide their own advocacy strategies.

In the case of FHI 360, which often guides governments in the creation of CIPs, the plans reveal financing gaps in a country’s aid strategy and provide a country-driven mechanism for suggesting improvements, according to Christine Lasway, a senior technical adviser at the U.S.-based nonprofit.

“When the technical reasoning is not sound, and the cost assumptions are too high or too low. I would improve the target setting process which forms the basis for costing,” she told Devex.

As well as being a great tool for translating pledges into line-item investments, CIPs are a way for aid groups to question fundamental pledges and methodology.

“Wrong targets generate wrong assumptions for costing,” Lasway said.

But holding governments accountable for grand commitments after the fact can be tricky. Two perennial questions in the creation of the sustainable development goals have been: “How do we make sure governments, companies and donors keep their word in the shifting landscape of global crises? How do we achieve sustainability?”

By holding country governments to their own CIPs — an outline of priorities country leaders have chosen themselves — advocacy groups can understand where a country stands in a given sector, or even a combination of sectors, as is the case with PAI’s recently released CIP analysis of youth family planning in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and Nigeria.

By using CIPs to assess how far a country has come based on cashed-out commitments, the plans become as much a tool for aid groups as they are for governments.

“If the country has made public commitments to increasing access to adolescent and youth services, but has not committed a budget line to these efforts, advocates should call attention to these gaps, and encourage the government to align their commitments and pressing health needs to their financial plans,” PAI’s analysis report notes.

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While PAI’s analysis targeted a specific, cross-sector issue — youth family planning and reproductive health — Lasway explained CIPs “can be applicable universally across sectors.”

In the context of the SDGs, for example, CIPs could offer another means of holding up a financial slide rule to countries’ shifting priorities, and a way to keep up dialogue on best practices across national or even regional CIPs.

At the same time, she added, CIPs must be used with traditional accountability measures, especially given that not all countries place a high value on their CIPs.

“In some countries, we have seen CIPs staying as documents catching dust on shelves, and we have seen countries that have taken an active approach toward implementing their CIPs — but it requires investment and consistency,” Lasway said.

Still, the senior technical adviser added, CIPs have a role to play as a guide and, when used in conjunction with traditional accountability measures, could add another means of measuring progress as the SDGs move forward.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.