Walking the SDG talk: Are we ready to change the way we do development?

By Doug Frantz, Deputy Secretary General, OECD


E_SDG_goals_icons-individual-rgb-17.pngThose most in need don’t care about the labels their countries are given: be it low – or middle – income, fragile or emerging, donor darling or orphan. What they care about is peace and security, having opportunities to do decent work, and providing their children with a better future.

Nearly 1.1 billion people have escaped extreme poverty since 1990. But for the 800 million people still living in poverty – half of them under the age of 18 – conditions are frighteningly unchanged. They have no water, sanitation or electricity. Often, because they lack services and income, they depend on informal or illicit resources to protect themselves from hunger, sickness or violence.

We have a responsibility to help them. Last year, with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders renewed their focus on reaching those left furthest behind. They agreed on a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, reduce inequality and preserve our planet, with a special focus on the most vulnerable countries and populations.

International development co-operation can help low- and middle-income countries make strategic, pro-poor investments into policies that help achieve the SDGs. If we are serious about these goals, we must be serious about improving the effectiveness of available resources to reach them – finance, technology, capacity building and knowledge sharing.

This means enhancing ownership of development by the countries themselves, focusing on producing real results, being inclusive in our partnerships, and demonstrating transparency and accountability to each other for the actions we take. These commitments are an important part of the solution to lifting people out of poverty and protecting our planet.

In Nairobi at the end of this month, under the patronage of H.E. President Uhuru Kenyatta, and under the auspices of the “Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation”, ministers, representatives of civil society and other high-level development actors from countries around the world will come together with the aim of agreeing on global priorities for improving international development co-operation to ensure long-lasting, sustainable results.

Honestly, those most in need also do not care about high-level meetings where politicians agree on action agendas that are often enough not directly felt by them. Yet, we know that we need political buy-in at the highest level to be able to run with solutions that work, to solidify and scale them up, and pool resources in ways that have maximum impact. High-level meetings are critical to ensure promises made are promises kept.

To craft “better policies for better lives,” the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) believes that data and evidence are vital to hold politicians answerable and to inform their decision-making.

Recent results from the Global Partnership monitoring process led by over 80 developing countries were published jointly by the OECD and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Making development co-operation more effective: 2016 progress report. It shows that we still have a long way to go if we are to preserve and scale up the hard-won gains we have made in development co-operation.

This means, among other things, making funding more predictable, so that countries can plan ahead and strategically manage diverse development co-operation resources. It means that we better use local systems for procurement and public financial management in countries receiving financial support. And it means making sure that everybody’s voice is heard when we design development programmes and policies.

The evidence and data presented in that report will underpin the discussions in Nairobi. Facts from the report form a basis for real accountability among all concerned: Who met development effectiveness commitments? Who did not? What can we do to make things better?

The OECD will continue to contribute its experience in bringing data and evidence to bear on solving development challenges. Together with UNDP, we will support monitoring the progress of effective development co-operation – an important input also to the overall SDG follow-up and review taking place at the United Nations.

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation is poised to produce results for the people who need them most. The meeting in Nairobi will seek a clear consensus on priorities and practical steps in making development co-operation more effective.

And while stand-alone, high-level meetings will continue to be part of this follow-up, we will ensure that they are held back-to-back with other large international meetings, to minimise costs and raise synergies. We will also invest in new opportunities for policy makers and practitioners to find ways to address bottlenecks and challenges in making development more effective – a critical effort to inform decision-making and strengthen accountability at all levels.

Nairobi will set the direction for how effective development co-operation can best help realise the ambitious 2030 agenda, unlocking the full potential of available funding, ideas and knowledge to truly reach and help those most in need in all countries. The OECD looks forward to contributing to charting the road ahead, and to being part of this unprecedented collective undertaking.

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