With the end of the Millennium Development Goals in sight, there was much consternation about whether the MDGs would be a success. Even more important, there was more introspection among the the aid community about how to deliver their aid more effectively. From this soul-searching sprang the High Level Fora on Aid Effectiveness. After meetings in Paris, Accra, and Busan, a new agenda was adopted to include more country ownership of development, focus on results, inclusive partnerships, including civil society organizations and the private sector, and transparency and accountability.
These meetings did not end with Busan. Recently in Mexico City, the First High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was convened on April 15-16th. For the most part, the GPEDC reaffirmed their goals and principles, along with collaborating with other organizations, such as the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum. A large portion of increased advocating was centered on transparency, civil society organizations, and a stronger emphasis on results-based approaches. The GPEDC increasingly recognizes that Middle Income Countries (MIC) still contain sizable populations of poverty, necessitating plans and strategies to continue aid to MICs in more targeted ways. They also increasingly recognized the importance of South-South cooperation, business, and philanthropic organizations.
Even though this was a two day event, 38 separate voluntary initiatives were agreed upon at the GPEDC. A couple of the voluntary initiatives stand out in particular. The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), proposed a number of initiatives, one of which has been talked about in the past: development impact bonds. Development impact bonds allow investors to invest in development outcomes, with aid agencies compensating investors for meeting goals. While this has largely been the realm of theory, DFID announced that they are going to issue the first development impact bond. This commitment is a £1.5 million deal to design the development impact bond offering. Another organization, Instiglio, is working on a DIB to fund girls’ education in Rajasthan, India, with UBS Optimus Foundation investing, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation paying out, and Educate Girls implementing. These would be the first two instances of these particular products, marking the start of a possible new tool in the development toolbox.
Another voluntary initiative announced at GPEDC was the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement. This initiative, supported by the OECD Global Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD), European Foundation Centre (EFC), Stars Foundation, UNDP, and Worldwide Initiative for Grantmakers Support (WINGs) is set of voluntary, non-binding guidelines to aid collaboration between philanthropies and other stakeholders, including governments. These guidelines are grouped under three main themes: dialogue, data & knowledge sharing, and partnering. For dialogues, the initiative focuses on engaging in multi-level dialogues with all stakeholders while focusing on philanthropic foundations’ comparative advantage of risk tolerance and responsiveness. The initiative also emphasizes sharing data and knowledge between philanthropic organizations and governments about spending, inputs, due diligence assessments, impact evaluations, and others. Lastly, the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement acknowledges the varied nature of philanthropic organizations, from large foundations like the Gates Foundation to small local foundations. Therefore, the Guidelines emphasize engaging in more partnerships and empowering local partners, utilizing all the tools available to philanthropic organizations to leverage the comparative advantage of each partner.
This was the first of many meetings that should be taking place over the future. 38 voluntary initiatives is a large amount to carry out. Many of them are commendable goals, including the Development Impact Bonds and the Guidelines for Effective Philanthropic Engagement. As these are voluntary and non-binding, only time will tell of the efficacy and sustainability of everything undertaken, but it’s an interesting and promising step forward.