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Will the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation Deliver?

by Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy and Shannon Kindornay

At the 2011 Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF4) held in Busan, South Korea, participants agreed to establish a Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. The Global Partnership replaces the OECD-DAC-hosted Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF) launched in 2003 with a more inclusive multi-stakeholder governance structure that is “global-light and country-heavy.” The WP-EFF had historically overseen efforts to improve aid effectiveness and organized four HLFs on aid effectiveness (in Rome, Paris, Accra and Busan) between 2003 and 2011 in order to establish norms and evidence-based frameworks to improve the quality of aid.

Although the WP-EFF comprised many different stakeholders by 2011, including donors, recipients of aid, South-South Cooperation providers and civil society actors, its early beginnings in the OECD as a donor-dominated forum undermined the WP-EFF’s legitimacy as a mechanism to govern international development cooperation efforts. This issue is also largely why the UN Economic and Social Council’s Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) was created in 2007.

Nevertheless, HLF4 set the goal of establishing a legitimate and inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership that would better reflect the changing nature of international development and the increasing roles of actors such as the private sector and South-South Cooperation providers in this context. Following HLF4, the Global Partnership was finalized in June 2012, including a two-tier governance structure for its operations. There will be no more high level fora.

Instead, first, high-level meetings (HLMs) will be held every 18-24 months (the first of which is scheduled for the second half of 2013) and participants will engage in political dialogue and work towards the shared principles and commitments outlined in the outcome document from Busan. These shared principles include ownership of development priorities by developing countries, a focus on results, inclusive development partnerships, and transparency and accountability to each other. The meeting will also likely review other commitments made in Busan, namely: reviewing plans to untie aid; implementation of a common standard for publishing information electronically; implementation of Accra commitments on predictability; and establishing agreement on principles and guidelines to reduce the proliferation of multilateral institutions and improve aid allocation between developing countries.

Second, a Steering Committee will meet every 6-12 months, or more frequently if necessary, to ensure the smooth running of the ministerial meetings and follow up on their decisions. The Steering Committee is composed of three co-chairs – United Kingdom, Nigeria and Indonesia – representing a donor country, a recipient country, and a donor/recipient country. Fifteen other members representing various constituencies are included, namely: recipient countries (5), including one from the G7+ group of fragile states; donor/recipient countries (1); donor countries (1); the private sector (1); parliamentarians (1); civil society (1); multilateral development banks (1); UNDP/UNDG (1); and OECD-DAC (1). It is expected that this membership will rotate every two years so that more actors have a chance to participate.

Third, the Global Partnership secretariat – or support team as it is being referred to – combines resources from the OECD and the UN to support the effective functioning of the partnership. Busan commitments will be monitored through 10 global targets or indicators, with 2010 as the baseline year for most of them, and these will be complemented by qualitative approaches as well as country-level monitoring efforts to provide a broad assessment of progress. Some of these targets are the same as those in the Paris Declaration monitoring framework, while others pertain to an enabling environment for civil society, private sector engagement, transparency, and gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The Steering Committee is meeting for the first time this week (December 5-6) to begin planning for the first ministerial level meeting. It will address outstanding issues for the Global Partnership including the establishment of key substantive priorities, and progress on establishing the global monitoring and evaluation framework for HLF4 commitments (agenda here). The partnership has truly begun to take form, begging the question, is it set for success?

As we have argued elsewhere, success in establishing a Global Partnership will depend on the extent to which stakeholders see the governing mechanism as legitimate in terms of its inclusivity and representativeness (input legitimacy), quality of decision-making processes (throughput legitimacy) and effectiveness in achieving outcomes (output legitimacy).

Consider first input and throughput legitimacy. The composition of the Steering Committee, which is a constituency-based model, indicates that input legitimacy will likely be a challenge. In fact, the issue of Steering Committee representation (and requests for representation by different constituencies) will be discussed at the first meeting. CSOs have voiced their concerns that they are not one of the co-chairs and have been allocated only one seat on the Steering Committee to represent the various views of its members. Developing countries are also far from being a homogeneous group and face different problems, even when considered as regional groupings. It will thus be difficult to ensure that the views of constituents, through the five seats for recipient countries, are collected and properly represented, although the establishment of regional developing country organizations engaging on this agenda, such as the Africa Platform for Development Effectiveness, and the use of online consultative forums may help.

In the case of South-South cooperation providers, that is, donor/recipient countries, this challenge is exacerbated. Indonesia is a co-chair while the donor/recipient seat is currently held by Peru – not an important player – largely because of reluctance on the part of the influential emerging donors such as China and Brazil to engage. Furthermore, as pointed out by Homi Kharas, Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution, the private sector and donor/recipient countries do not have a clear constituency to get feedback from and represent on the Steering Committee. Unlike traditional donors and developing countries, which have the OECD-DAC and regional platforms that look at issues relating to effective development cooperation respectively, the private sector and emerging economies do not have similar coordination mechanisms. Funding and burden sharing is obviously important here but it is also unclear what kind of support will exist to ensure that recipient countries have ownership over the global agenda and capacity to engage in its governing structures to ensure input and throughput legitimacy. Thus, the current structure, whether one agrees with it or not, has yet to meet the challenge of establishing an inclusive partnership, as one might envision under the UN.

As far as achieving outcomes (output legitimacy), it is unclear how this will unfold since the monitoring framework itself is not yet complete. Challenges still remain to its finalization, namely establishing viable indicators to measure the new targets established in Busan. Some of the commitments from Busan, such as addressing the proliferation of multilateral institutions, do not have indicators in the monitoring framework. The choice of 2010 as the base year for the global targets takes into consideration what has happened since Paris. However, it also hides the lack of progress since the Paris Declaration; it is worth remembering that the 2011 Survey on Monitoring the Paris Declaration showed that only one (coordinating technical assistance) of the 13 targets had been met, partly because timelines were too short and there was a lack of political will on the part of donors. Furthermore, given a target date of 2015 – to coincide with discussions about the future of the MDGs – some of the new targets may be too ambitious. Now, if the view is that these targets will simply feed into a larger process of policy dialogue and assessment of progress, as opposed to ranking countries on performance, fixating on them may not be too important. However, the exact role of these targets, how they feed into the country-level accountability processes, and how they are complemented by qualitative approaches are all unclear thus far.

Finally, how the Global Partnership will engage in other international processes such as the creation of the post-2015 framework and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains unclear, though commentators suggest that linking up the Global Partnership, post-2015 and SDG agendas will be important for ensuring coherency across international development cooperation efforts and avoiding duplication. Despite commitments to engage with the DCF in the Busan outcome document, the exact nature of the relationship between these fora is uncertain.

It is far from clear that the Global Partnership will deliver on the commitments made at Busan. The development of the partnership is underway, but it still remains a work-in-progress. It will be interesting to see how it shapes up in the coming months, in order to satisfy the demands of its different members, engage with and remain relevant to a range of global policy processes in the lead up to 2015 and ultimately, how it contributes to the goal of effective development cooperation.

Yiagadeesen (Teddy) Samy is an Associate Professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, and a Research Associate with the North-South Institute.

Shannon Kindornay is a Researcher with the Governance for Equitable Growth team at the North-South Institute.

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