Financing for development and country ownership

A view of the panel at the “Changing the Conversation on Development Finance” event during the World Bank annual spring meetings on April 17, 2015, in Washington, D.C. There is a need for better and smarter quality development finance to achieve post-2015 objectives. Photo by: DFATD | MAECD / CC BY-NC-ND

In July, the international community will come together in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to identify ways to provide the necessary resources to achieve our sustainable development objectives over the coming years. Taking place on the African continent, the third International Conference on Financing for Development will provide an opportunity to ensure that the wide range of development resources available — including aid, partnerships with other actors, and our own domestic resources — can be harnessed effectively by developing countries to support our development priorities.

As co-chair of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, I see a strong need to maintain a focus not only on how many resources we can raise, but to ensure they are employed effectively to support developing countries’ efforts. In January 2015, I co-chaired the seventh meeting of the Global Partnership’s Steering Committee in The Hague, the Netherlands, which confirmed the importance of exploring better ways to use development finance tools, and the critical need for keeping the principles of effective development cooperation — country ownership, focus on results, inclusive partnerships, and transparency and accountability — front and center of this year’s major discussions on financing for development and the post-2015 agenda.

At the 2015 World Bank Spring Meetings, the Global Partnership held a side event  on strengthening development finance, particularly from a partner country perspective. The meeting featured interventions from a range of developing countries, including Rwanda, Tanzania, East Timor, Kenya and South Sudan, the g7+ group of fragile states, as well as views from development partners, including Development Initiatives, the Netherlands, Mexico and the U.N. Development Program. Discussions focused on how the principles of effective development cooperation can contribute to making better use of existing resources for development, as well as leveraging more quality public and private finance to achieve sustainable development for all.

Overall, the event highlighted the importance attached to the development effectiveness agenda — and particularly the centrality of country ownership — for implementing the post-2015 development goals.

This begins with keeping a focus on the commitments that have already been made to improve the effectiveness of official development assistance. The first Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico, in 2002 recognized the need to ensure that aid is delivered to produce maximum development impact at country level, through the harmonization of cooperation providers’ procedures, efforts to untie aid and the use of development frameworks led by developing countries.

Efforts like those of the Global Partnership have helped spur progress in making development cooperation more effective in the past decade. In Malawi, for example, as part of its cloud-based Aid Management Platform, the government is using geospatial interactive maps to better understand development work, in terms of who is doing what and where. These data-driven, online maps correlate development activities by donor, type of work and poverty rates in Malawi’s 28 districts, thus helping ensure aid goes where it is most needed. Further progress is required, however, calling for a collective international will to achieve development commitments.

Undeniably, development partnerships going beyond the traditional donor-recipient relationship will become increasingly important in the coming years. We will need to work with businesses, civil society, foundations, development partner governments from the “global south,” and many more. Such partnerships will provide an immense opportunity to direct more resources to eradicating extreme poverty and promoting sustainable development.

But their diversity also raises new challenges of coordination for developing countries. For us to take full advantage of these partnerships, we need to promote good practices so that these resources are deployed in support of our development priorities.

The surest way to promote country ownership is for us — developing countries — to mobilize our own domestic resources. At the January steering committee meeting of the Global Partnership, members agreed to further explore how development cooperation can be scaled up, deepened and improved to strengthen institutional capacity for domestic revenue mobilization — notably by improving tax transparency and accountability, and tackling tax avoidance and illicit financial flows.

Indeed, at the World Bank Spring Meetings side event, participants focused heavily on domestic resource mobilization, calling for more support from cooperation providers to improve tax and revenue collection systems and capacity. Equally, the private sector needs to be kept in check to ensure that no one gets away with tax evasion and avoidance. There was repeated and clear recognition of the need for better and smarter quality development finance — beyond ODA — to achieve post-2015 objectives.

Country leadership and ownership must be at the forefront of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. The Global Partnership helps translate the principles of effective development cooperation into action on the ground. These principles are applicable to all forms of development cooperation, and the Global Partnership provides an inclusive platform for engaging all development stakeholders as equals.

A strong commitment to progress in these areas should be a priority as we look ahead to the Addis Ababa conference.

This article is shared in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. Read more expert comment at

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About the author

  • Goodall Gondwe

    Goodall Edward Gondwe is Malawi's minister of finance, economic planning and development and has had a long and distinguished career as an economist. Among other positions, he has worked at the Reserve Bank of Malawi, the African Development Bank and served in the International Monetary Fund for 22 years. Since 2002, he has worked in the government of Malawi, and in 2014 was appointed to head the amalgamation of the Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economic Planning and Development.