Development cooperation in 2013: A year in review

A look back at some of 2013's headline-grabbing development events and news makers. Photo by: Michael Chia/Devex, CSIS, Jane Garvan/DFID, Jonathan Kalan/Devex, Defenseimagery

For the international development community, 2013 was a year to restructure, diversify funding streams, “go local.” Everyone seemed to pursue local solutions, strengthen country systems and improve governance.

There was promising news on a variety of global health indicators — on malaria-related deaths among children or the availability of antiretrovirals. But maternal health gains remain slow, polio is making a resurgence and the nexus of animal and human health remains underfunded, despite a few promising pilot projects.

The global response to climate change has been a mixed bag: A high-level panel appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended inclusive, sustainable development goals to succeed the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals, which expire in two years. The U.N. Environmental Program is consolidating power, but the outcome is uncertain. Climate negotiations fizzled.

The aid community is rushing to engage the private sector now — a trend that would have seemed unthinkable ten, perhaps even five years ago. The U.S. Agency for International Development — which survived bruising budget battles and a government shutdown largely unscathed — led the way, and Administrator Rajiv Shah is getting ready to enshrine the agency’s renewed spirit in a merged “institute” for science, technology and innovation.

Initiatives like Power Africa and last year’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition have made friends of many strange bedfellows, although skeptics remain. The same is true with Somalia and Myanmar, which bagged billions in foreign aid pledges this year despite human rights abuses and a laundry list of other concerns.

Other aid darlings like Liberia and Malawi, led by Africa’s first two female heads of state, continued to attract the goodwill of international donors.

Humanitarian crises in Syria and the Philippines dominated the headlines while Egypt and the Central African Republic slid into chaos.

The aid industry is in transition, and change takes many forms. With Canada and Australia, two more bilateral donors are merging their development, diplomacy and trade arms. The World Bank, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria are streamlining operations and retooling procurement in an effort to boost value-for-money. Save the Children subsumed Merlin, and Oxfam is shedding staff in the name of a reinvention.

As the World Bank pushes ahead with reforms, the shakeup of senior management continues. After the departure of two veteran executives, Caroline Anstey and Pamela Cox, World Bank President Jim Kim appointed two vice presidents, Keith Hansen and Nena Stoiljkovic, both for the newly conceived global practices division. The bank is also creating 18 new senior positions to replace 45 sector directors who currently oversee its technical staff.

New development ministers were appointed across Europe: In Finland, Pekka Haavisto succeeded Heidi Hautala; in Sweden, Hillevi Engström replaced Gunilla Carlsson; and in Germany, Dirk Niebel relinquished his post to Gerd Müller. David Miliband, the former U.K. foreign secretary, now serves as president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee.

Roberto Carvalho de Azevêdo succeeded Pascal Lamy as director-general of the World Trade Organization; Susan Desmond-Hellmann took the helm at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from Jeff Raikes; and Darren Walker is now the president of the Ford Foundation.

Throughout the year, Devex has covered these developments and many others — from marbled board rooms to dusty African villages. We’ve reported from Tacloban, in the Philippine province of Leyte, where relief efforts continue after typhoon Haiyan. We chatted with movers and shakers at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York and the European Development Days in Brussels, where Devex served as the official media partner. We traveled to Panama City for the annual meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank, and convened our own first-ever Devex International Development Partnerships Forum & Career Fair in Nairobi, Kenya.

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About the author

  • Rolf Rosenkranz

    Rolf Rosenkranz oversees a talented team of in-house journalists, correspondents and guest contributors located around the globe. Since joining Devex in early 2008, Rolf has been instrumental in growing its fledgling news operation into the leading online source for global development news and analysis. Previously, Rolf was managing editor at Inside Health Policy, a subscription-based news service in Washington. He has reported from Africa for the Johannesburg-based Star and its publisher, Independent News & Media, as well as the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, a German daily.