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A New Development Cooperation Framework that works for whom?

FRIDAY FILE: Six months after the 4thHigh Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) took place in Busan, a new Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was launched, but civil society organizations have expressed concerns about the inclusiveness of the process and scepticism that any real change will take place.

By Ana Inés Abelenda[1]

Emerging economies from the Global South such as Brazil and China, have shifted economic geopolitical power (im) balances, coupled with a context of multiple crises - including economic, financial, climate, food, care and energy - has necessitated global decision-making spaces to rethink the current development framework. Additional factors include the slow progress towards achieving even minimum targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – as recognized in the recent MDGs Report 2012 released by the United Nations (UN).

One of the major spaces leading negotiations on aid effectiveness and development cooperation at the global level has been the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), composed of 34 member countries, most of them high-income developed countries. Situated under the OECD, was the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF) that lead discussions and follow-up on implementation of development cooperation and aid effectiveness agreements between 2008 and June 2012.

Recognizing that development cooperation is much more complex than a linear donor-recipient relationship, the WP-EFF increasingly brought together a larger range of stakeholders and development actors beyond its membership, such as the private sector, south-south co-operators and civil society organizations (CSOs)[2].

Women’s rights groups have been critical of the OECD-led aid effectiveness process, which they argue should be situated within the United Nations (UN), which aims for equal participation of all countries. Women’s rights organizations and gender equality advocates, together with other CSOs such as those under the umbrella of the BetterAid platform, have long been calling for a human rights based approach to development and development cooperation, including women’s rights and gender equality, decent work, and environmental sustainability[3].

Previous agreements on development cooperation within the framework of the OECD, such as the Paris Declaration (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008) were a step forward in setting the guiding principles for effective development cooperation but delivered poor results[4].

The 4thHigh-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HFL-4) in Busan, Korea[5]produced a final document - the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (BPd)- that was agreed by a wide range of development actors[6]. The document builds on and strengthens the core principles set out in previous Paris and Accra agreements and expresses commitments to set up a new framework for development cooperation that should be more inclusive of different development actors. While the Busan outcomes were received with mixed feelings by CSOs and feminist organizations in particular, the BPd recognizes that a shift is needed to move towards a less technical agenda that is inclusive, and where development priorities are defined by countries themselves rather than by aid delivery.

No final agreements were reached in December 2011 regarding how to monitor progress on implementation, nor how this new partnership will be guided in terms of governance. Instead, stakeholders agreed to continue negotiations until June 2012 through a smaller group named the Post-Busan Interim Group (PBIG).

Civil society had one seat in the PBIG[7], which met three times between February and June 2012 to bring a clear proposal on the working arrangements of the new structure to the WP-EFF plenary meeting that took place 28-29 June 2012 in Paris, France. This meeting marked the end of the WP-EFF and formation of the new framework, called the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC): what is new?

According to the BPd, the aim of the new GPEDC is to "support and ensure accountability for the implementation of commitments at the political level" and "offer an open platform that embraces diversity, providing a forum for the exchange of knowledge and the regular review of progress".

The working arrangement of the GPEDC introduces a few changes that reflect the demands for a “global light-country heavy” approach, which sets the focus on in-country implementation rather than on many global debate instances.

The GPEDC has two representative levels: the Ministerial-level meetings that will take place every 18-24 months and the Steering Committee, currently composed of 18 members, one of which will represent civil society. There will be three co-chairs of the GPEDC - one from a “recipient and provider of development co-operation”, another from a “recipient of development co-operation” and one from a “provider of development co-operation”[8]. Thus, despite the intentions, on paper, to establish a multi-stakeholder partnership, the new GPEDC accepted only governments in its commando.

In terms of global monitoring, a set of 10 indicators were approved - the bare minimum to safeguard the most critical commitments made in Paris, Accra and Busan. Among the indicators there is a CSO enabling environment indicator (#2) and a gender equality and women’s empowerment indicator (#8).

Civil society reactions and concerns

One of the major concerns for the 35 civil society representatives at the WP-EFF meeting in June 2012 was the lack of space for any further negotiations and the minimum representation of civil society in the governance structure of the GPEDC.

The CSOstatement to the Working Party on 29 June expressed doubt over the consensual nature of the GPDEC given that suggestions raised by the various groups were rejected. Representatives of the BetterAid coalition in Paris left the room in protest, and in order “to go back to [their] constituencies to see what the basis of that continued engagement [with GPEDC] should be.” What should have been a space for deliberation in the Paris meeting ended up being an imposed consensus with little space for negotiation.

In addition, BetterAid’s co-chairs sent a letter to the WP-EFF members on 27 June 2012, stressing the inadequate civil society representation, particularly on the Steering Committee, where only one CSO seat is expected to represent the diversity of civil society actors, including women’s rights and feminist organizations. In the spirit of a fair and inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership, CSOs demand additional seats on the Steering Committee, a co-chair seat and gender balance, including a women’s rights defender.

In terms of the monitoring framework, the BetterAid statement to the WP-EFF released June 2012, expressed particular concern with the over emphasis on the voluntary nature of the agreement. All stakeholders should look to maximise their engagement with the monitoring process because past experiences show that what is not measured, is neither pursued nor accomplished.

Why does the GPEDC matter for the advancement of women’s rights and gender equality?

The outcome document from Busan HLF-4 opens a window of opportunity to advance gender equality commitments in development cooperation. However, it does not come without critique, as it does not explicitly mention women’s rights, nor does it include an integrated human rights based approach to development cooperation[9]. A paragraph on gender equality (§20) was included, which clearly states that all parties involved in development cooperation have to collect gender sensitive data and use that data to guide implementation[10].

Indicator 8, on gender equality and women’s empowerment, was developed by GENDERNET[11]and UN Women. It is one of 10 progress indicators that currently measures the percentage of countries with systems that track and make public allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment. In the months following Busan, several women’s rights groups[12]built support for the inclusion of this indicator in the GPEDC, both amongst governments and within the BetterAid CSO platform. The indicator is now part of the monitoring framework and women’s rights organizations are working to further strengthen and refine the indicator.

But women’s rights organisations and other CSOs sense a low level of ambition in terms of what can be achieved with the new GPEDC framework as it stands now. However, it remains an important political agenda to influence and critically engage with considering that development cooperation is at an inflection point in terms of progress towards women’s rights and the level of reception to women’s rights organization’s proposals.

What is next?

CSOs are currently organizing themselves in relation to the latest developments and the GPEDC[13]. As part of these strategic consultations, women’s rights groups from across the globe gathered at the “International Women’s Rights Organisations and Networks Consultation on CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness" that took place in Nairobi, Kenya on 25-26 July 2012[14]. The overarching demand remains for a human rights-based approach to development and development cooperation that recognizes the centrality of gender equality and women’s rights to all development efforts.

It remains to be seen how the implementation of the new framework will take place at the country level once the GPEDC is set in motion. Also, how the current geopolitical context will impact leadership in the new development cooperation framework. The emerging landscape is marked by increasing focus on the role of the private sector in development, the rising influence of conservative blocs and states, and shifts in geopolitical power with new alignments of aid and key actors taking place.

Given this shifting context, women’s rights organizations and gender equality advocates are taking time to reflect on the successes of past efforts to influence this agenda and identify strengths and weaknesses in order to define strategies to move forward.

[1] With contributions from Anne Schoenstein and Mayra Moro-Coco /AWID.

[2]For more information on the members of the WP-EFF and how it worked see AWID's Primer 9: The Road to Korea 2011: Key official and civil society actors, pages 1-4.

[3] For more reference see the Key Demands from Women’s Rights Organizations and Gender Equality Advocates and the CSO key messages and proposals.

[4] This was recognized by traditional donors themselves in an OECD report called Aid Effectiveness 2005-10: Progress in Implementing the Paris Declaration

[5] 29th November to 1stDecember 2011

[6] Including traditional donors, South-South co-operators, CSOs, multilateral organizations and the private sector

[7] Represented by BetterAid Co-chairs Tony Tujan (IBON) and Mayra Moro-Coco (AWID)

[8] The three co-chairs have accepted the nominations: Ms Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister of Finance, Nigeria; Ms Armida Alisjahbana, Minister of State for National Development Planning, Indonesia, and Mr Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, United Kingdom. See the list of confirmed Co-Chairs and Steering Committee members as of 3 August 2012.

[9] Ibid. 4

[10] An in-depth review of the final §20 can be found in the assessment of the BPd from a civil society perspective released March 2012.

[11] the Network on Gender Equality that sits within the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee

[12] Particularly the ones part of the BetterAid Coordinating Group (BACG): AWID, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), and Coordinadora de la Mujer/Bolivia.

[13] More information on the CSO process via BetterAid.

[14] The women’s consultation was hosted by FEMNET and co-organized with APWLD, AWID, and Coordinadora de la Mujer/Bolivia.