Nonetheless, violent conflict and growing strain on the environment continue to threaten progress towards the international goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
The OECD has produced three sets of guidelines designed to provide practical orientations for aid agencies in the areas of poverty reduction, sustainable development and conflict prevention. The guidelines seek to enhance policy coherence in key areas such as debt relief, trade, investment, agriculture, environment, migration, health research, security and arms sales. They emphasise the role of good governance and sound economic policies that encourage stronger voices for the poor and marginalised, promoting participation and democracy, competitive markets, efficient institutions and prudent macro-economic management.
Key objectives are gender equality and “pro-poor” growth policies to benefit marginalised ethnic and social groups. Evaluation of programmes and dialogue with all stakeholders are also important for the guidelines to work, as are partnerships among donors, governments, business and NGOs.
The international community is converging strongly around the goal of poverty reduction in the developing world. The DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction signal progress among development co-operation agencies in a number of policy areas, such as agreement on common approaches and on the need to ensure that the recipients share ownership of development programmes.
Development agencies will increase efforts to co-ordinate aid within country-led sectoral frameworks. Priorities include capacity building, institutional reform and broad participation by local stakeholders. The guidelines call for policies that promote rapid and sustainable growth in which the poor can participate fully. This is crucial for poverty reduction, and requires such steps as better access to education, credit and land tenure, including for women and girls.
Sustainable development means integrating the economic, social and environmental objectives of society in ways that maximise the well-being of people living now, without com-promising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
The DAC Strategies for Sustainable Development: Practical Guidelines for Development Co-operation identify successful strategies that foster convergence among the different strategies in place within a country – essential to avoiding conflicts among various policy frameworks, duplication, and straining development capacity. This is the best way to monitor social, economic and environmental trends, define top policy objectives, set realistic targets and track progress – and this must involve marginalised communities and business. They also look at strategies that build on the mechanisms for sustainable development already in place in developing countries.
Work in war-torn areas is a major challenge for development co-operation. Helping Prevent Violent Conflict: Orientations for External Partners is a supplement to the 1997 DAC Guidelines on Conflict, Peace and Development Co-operation on the Threshold of the 21st Century, which looks at the fundamentals of preventing violent conflict. These include efforts to recognise the potential, but also the limits, of the international community’s capacity to influence violent conflict situations, and use constructive engagement to promote peace and discourage violence.
It is fundamental to help societies grapple with the challenges of justice and reconciliation, and support peace processes. Partnership with civil society must also be encouraged. Business can make positive contributions to preventing violence and avoiding actions that feed it. The political economy of war, such as corruption, criminality and vested interests in sparking and perpetuating violent conflicts, must also be taken into account.
©OECD Observer No 226/227, Summer 2001