The Legal and Political Foundations for Development Co-operation
What gives donors the political and legal legitimacy to develop aid policies and deliver aid in line with international best practices? How do donors secure this legitimacy and operational authority? The three essential ingredients are: i) an appropriate legal and/or policy basis; ii) political support for translating commitments into action; and iii) public support for development. DAC members establish the legal and political foundations for development co-operation in many ways: through legislation, high-level policy statements and strategies, political champions such as cabinet ministers with responsibilities for development cooperation, active engagement of parliamentarians in development co-operation, and effective communication and education strategies to win public support. Newer donors need to verify that they address these fundamental issues of legitimacy as they shape their approaches to development co-operation.
Policy Coherence for Development
Successful poverty reduction requires mutually supportive policies across a wide range of economic, social, and environmental issues. OECD ministers reaffirmed this in 2008 when they adopted the Declaration on Policy Coherence for Development. In the globalised economy, events in one country may have an impact far beyond its borders, and neglecting the development dimension can, in time, undermine the pursuit of other objectives. Making progress towards sustainable and broad-based development requires that countries better understand and manage the political economy of globalisation. Policy coherence is an important part of this process.
Organisation and Management
DAC member countries face a range of organisational challenges. They ask, for example:
– To what extent should the ministry of foreign affairs be involved in managing aid?
– How do we involve a sufficiently senior and publicly accountable figure at the political level?
– How is the distribution of responsibilities among various institutions best managed?
– How do we manage representation in partner countries and decentralise responsibilities?
Managing Human Resources
Effective development co-operation depends on skilled and experienced personnel. They must have a good understanding of development, especially at field level. Securing and developing well-qualified, highly-motivated local and expatriate staff is essential for any agency to function effectively. Critical issues in managing human resources include: maintaining a critical mass of development co-operation expertise, creating a good working environment, encouraging staff mobility, finding an appropriate skills mix, providing appropriate staff incentives, and addressing the role and status of local staff. The emphasis on aid effectiveness means that there needs to be a better understanding of the personnel and skills needed in the field, and that human resources management needs to be given a higher priority than previously.
The allocation of aid is a constant challenge for aid managers. Managers need to keep a focus on the MDGs, respect strict criteria for allocations to countries and sectors, secure and manage increases in aid, improve predictability for partners, balance bilateral and multilateral allocations, respond to humanitarian crises and implement the Accra Agenda for Action. Non-DAC donors contribute considerably to international development efforts. They are a heterogeneous group of countries with diverse historical ties, strategic interests and comparative advantages which can be brought to bear in developing countries. They contribute additional funding as well as valuable expertise. However, these donors face significant practical constraints in allocating effective aid.
Managing Bilateral ODA
DAC member countries finance development co-operation programmes in several ways, through budget appropriations, funds provided through sub-national authorities, civil society organisations and debt relief grants. This means that it is important for those responsible for the different kinds of bilateral aid to work closely with those who report development-related expenditures so that all bilateral ODA is included. Another concern with bilateral aid is that much of it is allocated annually, which is hard to reconcile with the long-term nature of development co-operation. DAC member countries need to consolidate aid budgets and plan development aid over the medium term. If aid flows to partner countries are predictable they can plan to make the investments required to achieve the MDGs.
Managing Multilateral ODA
Multilateral institutions are an important channel for DAC member countries’ ODA. In the eyes of many countries and, in particular, the smaller donors, multilateral organisations offer the advantage of being able to mobilise significant volumes of resources and to broaden development objectives. They also help co-ordinate donor responses to global development issues. However, to improve the coherence of the overall aid system, strategic and operational links between the bilateral and multilateral sectors need to be strengthened. Global funds are distinct from multilateral institutions but, nevertheless, offer another way for DAC member countries to address development challenges at a regional or global level. While global funds have some strengths, aid managers need to consider their accountability, the extent to which they duplicate existing structures and the extent to which they take a partnership approach.
Implementing the Aid Effectiveness Agenda
DAC member countries face political, institutional and operational challenges as they implement the aid effectiveness agenda. Implementing the principles of the Paris Declaration often means that donors need to adapt the legislative basis and fundamental orientation of their development co-operation policy and institutions. Moreover, the principles may run counter to political objectives, such as raising visibility in the short term and strengthening political relationships. This means that donor agencies must be relentless in winning and sustaining political support and leadership, and in communicating effectively with key stakeholders, including the public.
Managing Cross-sectoral Issues
Poverty reduction, gender equality, good governance, environmental sustainability, capacity development, HIV/AIDS and human rights cut across all sectors. Addressing these issues is critical to making aid more effective and achieving enduring impacts. While almost all DAC members have cross-sectoral policies, only a few have the staff, budgets and management practices needed to implement them. Bridging the gap between cross-sectoral policy and implementation is critical.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Managers of development assistance need to keep parliaments, government and civil society informed and provide evidence that development programmes are well managed and achieve results. The evidence of the impact of development assistance is vital for decision makers to choose where to direct resources to make the most difference in reducing poverty. Ways of gathering evidence include monitoring and evaluation, results-based management, audits by national authorities and inputs, feedback and reviews from advisory bodies. But donors will need to simplify their monitoring and evaluation procedures so that they can be integrated with other systems, notably systems in partner countries.
Humanitarian action provides a safety net to stabilise populations in crisis. It paves the way for post-crisis recovery processes and protects previous development investments anticipating crises and putting in place crisis mitigation and preparedness measures. Humanitarian need drives frontline humanitarian action at the onset of a crisis. However, disasters are rarely isolated or unpredictable events. Many communities live under constant threat of conflict or natural disaster. The vulnerability of crisis-prone communities has stimulated donors and implementing agencies to re-examine the processes through which needs are assessed and assistance is disbursed, as well as the role of humanitarian agencies in providing civilian protection. Vulnerability and risk have therefore become drivers for humanitarian action over the longer term. Moreover, recognition that the longerterm vulnerability of marginalised, stakeholder groups (including women) can be reduced through their participation in key humanitarian decision-making processes has generated interest in participatory processes across the humanitarian sector.
As part of its core task of monitoring its members’ aid efforts, the Development Assistance Committee has mandated its Secretariat in the OECD’s Development Cooperation Directorate to collect data on aid flows. To the extent possible, this includes flows from non-DAC bilateral donors, and from multilateral donors. The data collection is the only reliable source of internationally comparable data on aid.
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