Sensible partnership

Readers' views No 248, March 2005
OECD Observer

Secretary-General Donald J. Johnston rightly identifies lack of coherence as a factor impeding the effectiveness of international development strategies (“Giving development a chance”, OECD Observer No 245, November 2004). But there are, I think, some early signs that useful lessons are now being learned.

From an effectively balkanised situation, with so many of the key players–IFIs, WTO, EU, donor countries and NGOs doing splendid work but essentially ploughing their own furrows–there are (not before time) indications of progress towards a more integrated approach. Donors are working in harness with each other and with recipients, to complementary rather than competing agendas.

The recently published report of the Commission for Africa is an impressive example of a new resolution to consider development strategies in the round. In its 460-odd pages, improved governance takes its place alongside preventive security strategies, the dismantling of trade barriers, action on health, education and exclusion, measures for encouraging investment and entrepreneurship, substantial increases in aid targeted on poverty reduction and last but not least more efficient implementation by the IFIs and Africa’s own multinational institutions. Addressing Donald Johnston’s point about the flight of skilled professionals from Africa, the Commission recommends that donors should work closely with African governments to fund salary enhancement programmes for particular priority skills which are difficult to recruit or retain.

Meanwhile, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, while beating the drum for more trade liberalisation in the WTO’s Doha Development Round, is pressing the case for capacitybuilding in the poorer countries if they are to have a real chance of joining in the world trade system.

What all these “holistic” approaches have in common is a new willingness to build genuine across-the-board partnerships between donors and the developing countries, coupled with practical “bottomup” initiatives–not out of political correctness, but because collaborative approaches are more likely to deliver the goods.

Let’s hope that we can now move quickly from shared analyses and agreed approaches to real plans of action–beginning at the G8 Summit in the UK in July, and at the UN’s special summit in September 2005 to review progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Maurice Fraser
Fellow in European Politics, London School of Economics

©OECD Observer No 248, March 2005

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