Post-2015 era needs smarter, 'streamlined' partnerships

Partnerships need to be smarter if they are to be effective in helping deliver the sustainable development goals. Photo by: Philippe Ramakers

Partnerships need to be smarter if they are to be effective in helping deliver the sustainable development goals. This, at least, is the takeaway from the Development Cooperation Report 2015 that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released yesterday.

According to the report, partnerships should ideally straddle the balance between “sovereignty and subsidiarity, inclusiveness and differentiation, [and] coherence and specialization.”

But while the plethora of partnerships today may point to progress on shining a light on the importance of collaboration in a constantly changing global development landscape, more partnerships don’t necessarily translate to greater or faster progress. In the report, Hildegard Lingnau, senior counselor at the Development Coordination Directorate of the OECD as well as the report’s conceptual and project leader, cited a U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs-commissioned study, which shows that several partnerships “should be streamlined [and build] on already existing and successful mechanisms and processes.”

The challenge of measuring even a single partnership’s immediate impact also renders easy evaluations of such initiatives nearly impossible. Manos Antoninis, acting director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report and a chapter author in the report, highlighted the example of the Global Partnership for Education.

While the establishment of the GPE itself — a partnership that is aligned with the Dakar Framework for Action, which was the result of the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000 — can be seen as a success, “experience shows that it can take considerable time for such efforts to take shape and bear fruit.” Lack of data and the difficulty of attributing results to specific interventions further complicate the task of assessing partnerships.

In light of these problems in gauging whether partnerships are effective, the OECD proposed an approach that is grounded on strong monitoring mechanisms to ensure that “action leads to results.”

“The key to the success of partnerships is leadership,” Erik Solheim, chair of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, told Devex. “Without strong high-level political leadership, it is hard to make substantial gains.”

High-level leadership, however, is just one of the 10 success factors that the OECD outlined in its policy framework for partnerships. The other nine are the following:

● Ensure partnerships are country-led and specific.
● Avoid duplication of effort and fragmentation.
● Make governance inclusive and transparent.
● Apply the right type of partnership model for the challenge.
● Agree on principles, targets, implementation plans and enforcement mechanisms.
● Clarify roles and responsibilities.
● Maintain a clear focus on results.
● Measure and monitor progress toward goals and targets.
● Mobilize the required financial resources and use them effectively.

Global governance, according to Lingnau, has not kept pace with globalization — a fact that is reflected by stubborn imbalances in development cooperation, such as partners’ uneven performance in translating commitments into practice, donors’ insufficient alignment of activities with developing countries’ priorities, and development actors’ varying levels of influence.

China’s establishment of the “very promising” Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is, according to Solheim, an indication of “the inability of others to adapt to the new realities.”

“Many global institutions were formed after [World War II] and reflect global realities at that time. We are living in a very different, but much more varied, democratic, hopeful and diverse world,” Solheim said. “The United Nations, development banks and the OECD — all institutions must continuously reform.”

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About the author

  • Anna Patricia Valerio

    Anna Patricia Valerio is a former Manila-based development analyst who focused on writing innovative, in-the-know content for senior executives in the international development community. Before joining Devex, Patricia wrote and edited business, technology and health stories for BusinessWorld, a Manila-based business newspaper.