Accountability in the orchestra of development

Photo DESA

When thinking about development as a collective, orchestral pursuit, every musician in the orchestra plays the instrument that she or he can play best. Even though all musicians follow one song-sheet, only by each of them pulling his or her respective part can the orchestra successfully play its song. This analogy helps to understand the important role of keeping in mind each actor’s role in and contribution to development and the need of keeping them all accountable to each other for their tasks and for results.

Together with the Government of Germany, DESA organized a High-Level Side Event on 25 September  to publicly launch the preparations for the High-Level Symposium in Germany. Under the title “Effectiveness and accountability in the post-2015 development agenda – lessons from the MDG experience”, representatives from governments in the global North and South, from civil society and international organizations met in New York.

The large presence of stakeholders during the first week of the annual General Assembly not only helped to reaffirm the importance of this topic, but also provided plenty of food for thought for shaping the agenda for the Symposium and the background studies to be prepared.

Panellists included H.E. Mr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development from Trinidad and Tobago; Mr. Juan Valle Pereña, Executive Director, Mexican Agency of Cooperation from Mexico; Mr. Anthony Smith, UK Sherpa for the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, and Mr. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah, Secretary-General of CIVICUS. The discussion was moderated by Mr. Joahnnes F. Linn from the Brookings Institute, with wrap-up remarks by Mr. Navid Hanif, Director, Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

A unified and universal agenda

Ongoing deliberations on a post-2015 development agenda show that such an agenda must be unified and universal. It has to bring together the objectives of poverty eradication and sustainable development. It has to apply to all countries, developing and developed. These two big shifts will have important implications for a third shift: how to bring about the enhanced monitoring and accountability that will be needed to ensure the agenda’s success.

Under-Secretary General Wu Hongbo of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs poses important questions about global accountability in development cooperation post-2015: “First, we have to think about the main pillars. What key concepts define a global accountability framework? What defining features are necessary for its success? Where, for example, do key concepts such as monitoring and effectiveness of development cooperation fit in? Second, what would be the core elements of such a framework? How can we be sure it addresses both development cooperation and sustainable development? Third, how can we promote a bottom-up approach, where needs and capacities are voiced at country-level and considered at the global level?”

Multi-layered aspects of accountability

One of the key messages that participants arrived at during the event was that accountability was more than reporting and flagging non-delivery of commitments. The process of accountability is about mutual learning and knowledge sharing, about engaging with each other in a dialogue to foster the process and implementation of development goals, about strengthening the interaction among actors.

Similarly, each actor has an important role to play, but they cannot all be measured by the same yardstick. Civil society organizations for example play an important role in development cooperation. Mr. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah explained that civil society is not only assisting with the execution of development projects but helps to hold other stakeholders and themselves accountable. However in order to so do they, and all other stakeholders involved in development cooperation, require conducive and enabling environments.

Accountability in practice

H.E. Mr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie provided participants with a hands-on example of how accountability can work in practice. He outlined how Trinidad and Tobago streamlined its five sustainable development priorities into budgets and the work of ministries by linking them to the recurrent budget and the development budget. The selection of projects was measured through a careful assessment of each project and the respective ministries and ministries were clustered around priorities to address them in all three dimensions.

To hold ministries accountable, the government established a performance monitoring and management system, the National Transformation Unit. Four year indicators were agreed upon and a respective policy framework was accepted by parliament with annual performance reports. In addition to parliamentary review, the government founded an Economic Development Advisory Board and a Civil Society Board which both serve in advisory functions to the Ministry of Planning.

Linking accountability and development effectiveness

Development effectiveness relies on strong monitoring and accountability systems. It seeks to maximize the impact and quality of development efforts undertaken, with ownership and transparency as key aspects. Advancing the development effectiveness agenda is also important for meeting public expectations to justify expenditures and actions in development cooperation. Ms. Gudrun Kopp, Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development highlighted, that, “Development effectiveness is crucial to the success of the post-2015 process. We need to design all our cooperation in such a way that it leads to sustainable results.”

A range of participants therefore called to continue the strategic dialogue between the Development Cooperation Forum and the Busan Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, to assist each forum to further leverage its respective strengths while avoiding duplication of efforts.

Avoiding a blue-print approach to accountability

There was broad agreement among participants that a blueprint approach to accountability will not be sufficient. Each country has a different mix of actors supporting development cooperation nationally and countries have different priorities that need to be reflected when aligning national development strategies to internationally agreed development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals.

Participants stressed the urgent need to understand the actual challenges in each country and assess which instruments will be most effective in addressing these and which forms of partnerships and collaboration can make the most impact and deliver the right resources. For example, middle-income countries, who are both providers and recipients of development cooperation, find themselves in a different situation than the most vulnerable countries, which are still highly dependent on official development assistance.

All these conclusions will be further discussed at Germany High-level Symposium to take on 20-21 March 2014 on “Accountable and effective development cooperation in the post-2015 era”.

Supporting the process of developing an accountability framework

Examining these questions and contributing to the design and implementation of a post-2015 global accountability framework is a key objective of the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF), as it prepares for its July 2014 session in New York.

The work towards the biennial forum is putting a particular focus on global accountability. It is also helping to lay the ground for the renewed global partnership for development that will be needed to underpin the post-2015 developments agenda.

Analytical preparations include the launch by DESA of the third DCF survey on global accountability, which maps out the status and progress of national mutual accountability efforts in all developing countries. The survey will provide not only fresh data on these issues but also lessons and experiences to build on.

DESA is organizing, with host Governments, a series of high-level symposiums, complemented by thematic meetings and stakeholder dialogues. The DCF Ethiopia High-level Symposium on 6-7 June 2013 examined defining features of the renewed global partnership for development, its strategic focus and how it should work in practice.

How development cooperation will have to evolve to effectively support a unified and universal post-2015 development agenda will be question at the centre of the DCF High-level Symposium in Montreux, Switzerland, on 24-25 October 2013.

A High-Level Symposium on global accountability in Germany

The DCF High-Level Symposium in Germany, on 20-21 March 2014, will focus on advancing the dialogue on global accountability and development effectiveness.

Bookmark and Share