Considerations in rethinking effective development cooperation monitoring

April 14, 2020

 

 

Since 2011, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) has been at the forefront of efforts to monitor progress in implementing effective development cooperation. During its recent conference, which I joined as a member of the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), we talked about revamping the way we monitor these commitments.

 

This piece contains my reflections on the accountability implications of the changes we are adopting. I am particularly reminded me of a Latin phrase: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?). How do we ensure that our way forward in monitoring continues to abide by our effectiveness thrust? How do we remain accountable as we make changes in our monitoring process?

 

A key item discussed was the future of the global monitoring process, which has been a centerpiece of the partnership dating back to the origins of the effectiveness agenda and the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The process assesses progress on effectiveness commitments using a standard set of indicators to gather data at the country level. For civil society, the Global Progress Report is a crucial contribution of the GPEDC: a unique mechanism that promotes the accountability of development stakeholders. As the civil society representative to the platform, we cannot over-emphasise how important it is to have access to the findings from regular, comprehensive reporting to foster change in line with the effectiveness principles.

 

We cannot shy away from the reality that the most recent 2018 monitoring round, as with previous rounds, demonstrates the monitoring results are unevenly put to use. Evidence shows that progress is patchy: there are challenges, bottlenecks, and hurdles to achieving the effectiveness agenda and limited or no progress in several important areas indicating weakness in appropriate action and response to previous findings. We are encouraged that this is broadly recognised by the GPEDC and that there is a clear ambition to address these challenges and build momentum around delivery in the coming plan of work.

 

CPDE recognises the need for quality data to provide impetus for necessary behavior changes clearly pointing to areas of success and the obstacles to overcome. In this regard, we see the opportunities coming with a revision of the monitoring process that places a strong emphasis on using data and results to make decisions at country level. Similarly, we recognise the value of dedicated initiatives within workstreams which aimed to use the results of the monitoring process more effectively.

 

At the same time, some aspects of the existing monitoring practice must be safeguarded. For example, the process must remain a regular, global, and periodic exercise as agreed in the Nairobi Outcome Document. Additionally, CPDE believes collection of information must be through a singular and standardised process in order to uphold data integrity data. We agree with the call for better alignment with Partners’ country systems and processes, but believe it is also in the Partners’ interests to rely on a reporting process that is properly standardised and firmly anchored to a joint framework that ensures quality, comparable data. The deliberations during the GPEDC conference seem to suggest that the periodic and standardised aspects of the global monitoring process may be part of what can be lost in the revision. 

 

In place of a global monitoring report, the emerging suggestion is to present a collection of different types of evidence produced by GPEDC constituencies and through the workstreams. While this type of evidence offers certain value, it can hardly replace a standardized global monitoring process and will offer little by way of assessing progress or comparability of data. 

 

We appreciate the need for a transitional period as we improve the current monitoring framework but are alarmed by some suggestions of “a new monitoring offer” that would strip away some of the critical elements of the global monitoring process which make it comparable over time and across countries. We agree that a review exercise should be organised in a way that is based on country experience, forward-looking, and adapting the GPEDC to be fit for purpose. It should focus on how to strengthen complementarity with other global processes (Agenda 2030) and not on whether it is worth continuing. It should seek to reaffirm the development effectiveness principle and the inclusive nature of the partnership, including at the leadership level.

 

With respect to current monitoring, the dominant view seems to be that it will not be possible to conduct a global monitoring round while also revising the monitoring framework. CPDE, however, believes that the GPEDC cannot wait until after the next High-Level Meeting (HLM) to roll out another round of monitoring. We realize that the revision, especially towards better use of monitoring results, will take time, effort, and resources. Nevertheless, CPDE believes that there is a need for parallel processes which allow the GPEDC to conduct monitoring in 2021 using existing indicators, in order to maintain monitoring for the next HLM.

 

We recall the deliberations of the GPEDC Senior-Level Meeting, and believe the course of action outlined therein should not alter the global reporting rounds. The lack of a global monitoring process between now and the next HLM in 2022 not only breaks with customary process, but risks undermining high-level engagement entirely. In this scenario, HLM delegates, including Ministries and possibly Heads of State, will be in no position to make informed strategic decisions. Thus, we should ask ourselves if this will indeed be helpful in garnering the political traction needed to progress on effectiveness. 

 

We, along with the entire GPEDC community, would surely benefit from greater clarity on the magnitude of what is at stake: giving up on a Global Progress Report for a collection of country evidence. There should be a clear assessment of what we are going to lose and gain from this shift in terms of quantity and quality of data. Consequently, we should evaluate the shift’s impact on global accountability to the effectiveness principles.

 

If we are to become effective watchmen of our commitments, we must not lose sight of this big picture. Instead, we must stay rooted to our principles of accountability, and our vision of true and lasting development. #

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