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Perspectives on Partnership

Working papers

Written by Simon Maxwell

Despite the potential benefits of globalization and technological change, world poverty has increased and growth prospects have dimmed for developing countries during the 1980s and 90s. The Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF) was launched by the World Bank in January 1999 in response to these difficult circumstances. It has evoked considerable interest throughout the development community as an approach that can address the increasingly intertwined challenges faced by development practitioners. Its basic elements are not new. What is new is their joint articulation as a framework to guide development assistance. The first point is that development constraints are structural and social, and cannot be overcome through economic stabilization and policy adjustment alone—they require a long-term and holistic vision of needs and solutions. Second, policy reform and institutional development cannot be imported or imposed; without domestic ownership, reforms and investments are not sustainable. Third, successful development requires partnership among government, local communities, the private sector, civil society, and development agencies. And fourth, development activities must be guided and judged by results.

In this context, the 1999 Annual Review of Development Effectiveness (ARDE), authored by Nagy Hanna under the guidance of Robert Picciotto, set out to examine development experience through the lens of CDF principles. A number of papers were commissioned to support the ARDE by providing in-depth review of evaluation and research findings that assess the relevance of the CDF principles and constraints as well as promising approaches to their implementation.

This document examines the idea of ‘partnership’, one of the four pillars of the Comprehensive Development Framework (CDF). This is a long-standing and much-debated theme. Many donors already have substantial experience with development partnerships, and there are other models of partnership from other fields, such as business and law, and in the literature on participation.

Partnership is far from straightforward, requiring clarification of the terms on which it is undertaken, its scope, and the mechanisms that underpin it. At one extreme, partnership can look very much like conditionality, with power held by the donor, the agenda set by the donor, and accountability running from the recipient to the donor but not the other way. At the other extreme, there can be genuine dialogue and decisionmaking, based on trust, covering a wide agenda, and backed by reciprocal accountability, often based on a form of contract.

Simon Maxwell and Tim Conway