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Round-up of this week’s Nairobi summit on development cooperation


Written by Romilly Greenhill

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Five years ago, governments, civil society, the private sector and donors got engaged in Busan, where they committed to a new Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC). Yesterday was the wedding day – the closing of the second High Level Meeting of the partnership.

Taking place in Nairobi, the Kenyan government footed much of the bill for the event, indicating just how important it is to them. Both governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) from developing countries were here in force.

But the bilateral donors jilted them at the altar: the UK, Finland, Austria and Canada didn’t even send ministers, while China and India barely sent anyone.

Donors may have chosen to stay away because the central message of the GPEDC – that countries should lead their own development, with donors in a supporting role – is now at odds with their own political realities.

Providing aid in the national interest, and accounting for every dollar of development aid, are simply not compatible with the realities of country ownership, especially in riskier contexts.

But the marriage shouldn’t be called off just yet – here are four reasons to stay committed to the GPEDC:

1. For the sake of monitoring

The GPEDC is the only place where its members can be held accountable for their commitments to improve the effectiveness of their spending. This monitoring framework should continue, though it’s in need of an update to reflect shifts in the development finance landscape, new goals, delivery models and evidence.

The GPEDC has already committed to reflecting the new ‘leave no one behind’ principle in its monitoring framework, but could do more. A specific indicator on speeding up aid, as recommended by ODI, could be an important addition to the new framework.

2. It’s truly inclusive

Unlike the UN-led Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) process, the GPEDC is genuinely multi-stakeholder. Yesterday I heard Somali and Swedish government ministers, an advisor in Myanmar, and a Syrian NGO worker discuss the challenges of effective development cooperation in fragile states.

Nowhere else can such a range of stakeholders come together, at such scale, to agree how best to work together to improve development effectiveness.

3. To learn about evidence from around the world

Over the past few days, I’ve heard donors, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation and UNICEF, explain how they’ve collected real-time results from citizens and improved their transparency.

I’ve learned about how donors are working effectively with the government in Somalia to spend aid more effectively – even though the country is one of the most fragile in the world. I listened as an Irish minister shared Ireland’s experiences in tackling conflict and how this helps them support fragile states.

I’ve heard that transparency has been one of the fastest areas of progress in development effectiveness, supported by the active and vocal International Aid Transparency Initiative. I witnessed Mexico taking the summit’s focus on inclusive partnerships to heart and pledging to be more open and participatory in their South-South cooperation.

Where else can we come together to learn so many lessons from each other on how to improve the effectiveness of development finance?

4. To decide how to work together to achieve the SDGs

Finally and most importantly, the GPEDC is the only place where we can discuss how we will work together to implement the SDGs. Yesterday, the GPEDC got off to a good start through its integration of ‘leave no one behind’, one of the central principles of the SDGs.

The principle is listed as ‘our greatest challenge’ and is evident in commitments found throughout the summit’s outcome document.

Pledges range from ensuring that marginalised communities are involved in national development strategies, to disaggregating the results of development strategies by gender and ethnicity, to making information more accessible to citizens. There is also recognition of the importance of state-building in fragile and conflict-affected states, where most of those left behind will be living by 2030.

Many of these commitments were ODI recommendations, so it is heartening to see them reflected in the final text. As well as these formal commitments, the political impetus behind this agenda has been apparent in numerous official and unofficial discussions over the past few days.

In today’s climate, the GPEDC can only hope to prove its worth – and get the attention of political leaders in donor countries – by demonstrating its relevance to the SDGs. Today’s commitments to leave no one behind, through effective development cooperation, represents significant progress towards the marriage of equals that the GPEDC really needs to be.