How can development funds be used effectively?

Article as analysis
Having committed to common goals through the 2030 Agenda, the world community met in Nairobi to discuss what form of development cooperation can effectively contribute to attaining the agreed goals.

Already in 1970, industrialized countries declared at the UN that they intended to invest more funds in development cooperation, that is to say 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI). With few exceptions, this has remained a mere promise. Recent years have seen wrangling not just over the amount of funding but also the method of development. Questions have been raised as to how the chosen goals are determined and what kind of development cooperation is truly instrumental in achieving them.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was launched in 2011 in Busan, South Korea. Previously, high-level meetings on the effectiveness of development cooperation were organized by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). However, the GPEDC is a common OECD-DAC/UN platform that also includes other development cooperation players such as development organizations, the private sector or charitable foundations.

In Busan, criticism was levelled specifically at the traditional form of development aid. Under the Principles of Aid Effectiveness approved in Paris in 2005, donor countries and institutions were urged to coordinate more, to align themselves with national development plans or to untie development projects from donor conditions. The focus was therefore on changing to a partnership-based relationship between donors of development funds and recipient countries.

In approving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in autumn 2015, the world community adopted a new system of goals. As a universal framework, that system also concerns national policies in the Global North, which themselves ought to develop toward sustainability. But development cooperation is still an important tool, above all for assisting the poorest countries in realizing their goals. The question of effectiveness therefore remains topical.

At the end of November 2016 (after the editorial deadline) the international community of States met in Nairobi in the GPEDC framework for the Second High-Level Meeting on the Effectiveness of Development Cooperation. The central topic of the deliberations was the kind of development cooperation that can effectively contribute to attaining the goals of the 2030 Agenda. But willingness to participate in the effectiveness debate has waned. In the Global North there is a renewed trend toward using development funds for the pursuit of migration and foreign policy aims. In the Global South, strong and authoritarian regimes are hardly interested in civil society involvement (see Box).

Under the 2030 Agenda, however, it is important for this debate to be revived. The question of coordinating the various players remains as relevant as ever, as does codetermination by local communities in order to avoid paternalism on the part of charitable foundations, the private sector or international NGOs, and to make proper use of the very limited resources. Only the coming years will tell whether the GPEDC as a multi-stakeholder platform can play an important role in this regard.