More than 1,500 leading government ministers, diplomats, NGO representatives, corporate leaders, parliamentarians and policy analysts from 130 countries met last week in Mexico City at the first High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.
Hosted by the Government of Mexico, the meeting reviewed global progress in making development cooperation more effective and part of the post-2015 global development agenda.
Founded three years ago in Busan, South Korea, this conference was the first High-Level Meeting – and an active one at that. The meeting spawned a total of 38 new initiatives to improve the way the international community works to end poverty.
Numerous panel discussions ranged from boosting progress to mobilizing domestic tax resources to adopting more effective approaches for middle income countries to improving South-to-South and triangular cooperation to defining the role of business in development cooperation.
Along with Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia and GPE champion, I joined a discussion with the Sanitation and Water Partnership and the International Health Partnership Plus on the role of partnerships in turning principles for effective development cooperation into practice.
The Busan principles lead to better outcomes
I was able to present the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) as an example of how multilateral collaboration can work effectively if grounded in the principles of ownership, results, mutual accountability and inclusivity.
The GPE operating model is firmly based on the principles of effective development cooperation. We work through local education groups, which gather all stakeholders at the country level. They include development agencies, civil society and private sector partners - all led by ministries of education to plan and help build effective and lasting education systems. What’s important is not only the blueprint that comes out of that process, but the process itself, which creates stronger political commitments by all parties to ensure success as exemplified by the example of the Ethiopian-GPE partnership.
Country ownership is critical
When moving from the global to the local level, it is essential that donors’ streamlining and cooperation efforts don’t end up undermining the country ownership principle and imposing "one size fits all" solutions.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, called on developing countries during our panel discussion to follow this principle. "Countries", she said, “if international partners and U.N. agencies do not want to align with your national plan, tell them to go away!”
From a similar perspective, the Global Partnership for Education is vigilant about country ownership, as well. While we provide local stakeholders with guidelines to facilitate the preparation of sector strategies, we also ensure that appraisal processes are owned by the country and that the local education group endorse the sector strategy.
Including civil society
At the Global Partnership for Education, we also emphasize the importance of having national civil society representatives at the table. Their role is to ensure strong accountability for implementing national plans. The Global Partnership for Education is the only multilateral organization that has dedicated more than $30 million since 2009 to support the capacity of civil society in 50 partner countries to engage in policy dialogue, social mobilization campaigns and oversight of education.
Civil society is crucial in helping get oversight from parliaments, citizens and beneficiaries of education. This, in turn, contributes to greater political commitment and accountability from governments.
Most importantly, the political commitment to support national education plans translates into budget allocations that are crucial to turn plans into reality. We then help to bring external financing to our developing country partners, coordinate other external resources in support of those plans and monitor progress.
This is an effective way to stimulate dialogue among all stakeholders to build sustainable country systems.
Turning political commitment into better use of resources
The current replenishment campaign of the Global Partnership for Education is a reflection of the shared responsibility that partnerships require. That’s why we are inviting financial commitment from all of our partners, not only donor governments. We are also using this replenishment campaign to stimulate a data revolution with commitments by all of our partners leading to more accountability and making the use of resources more transparent and effective.
Anders Nordstrom, the moderator of our focus discussion, eloquently said, “This agenda is not about principles, it's about people.” For us it’s about 250 million children who fail to make it to grade 4 or don’t learn the basics by the time they reach grade 4.
At the Global Partnership for Education we know that we owe these children a quality education. The only way to get there is to work in partnership, to turn the Busan principles into reality by mobilizing the political will and resources for a bold post-2015 agenda in education.