December 17, 2012

One year on (PART 2): Come together (Post-2015) – The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation

Days before civil society came together in Nairobi to launch the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) had a meeting of its own in London on 5-6 December – bringing together the members of the GPEDC Steering Committee in their first face-to-face meeting. The representatives – including civil society – met to discuss four things: the substantive priorities for the Global Partnership, in particular as they relate to the Post-2015 agenda; plans for the first Ministerial meeting of the Global Partnership in 2013; updates on the monitoring framework, indicators and targets; and the communications and outreach plan for the GPEDC.

Not surprisingly, discussion of a CSO Co-Chair, of a second CSO seat, and of a seat for the trade unions (outside of the CSO seat) and local government was completely shot down. This issue, among others, was a sore point for civil society in June, and caused us to take a step back from the process. Instead the decision to expand has now been left to the Ministers at the first Ministerial – like that is ever going to happen! But despite this major setback, there does seem to be greater efforts to accommodate all the members of the Steering Committee, and so for now, civil society has decided to remain engaged.

But back to the meeting.

In terms of synergies with the Post-2015 agenda, the joint OECD-UNDP secretariat and some members of the Steering Committee are trying to situate the GPEDC within the work of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Agenda (HLP) and to carve out a niche for themselves as a successor to MDG 8 and the global partnership for development.  The connection makes some sense and the links won’t be hard to make. British Prime Minister David Cameron is an HLP Co-Chair and British Development Minister Justine Greening is one of the Steering Committee Co-Chairs; the other two GPEDC Co-Chairs, Indonesian National Development Armida Alisjahbana and Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, are also either represented on the Panel (Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also an HLP Co-Chair) or are HLP members.

In terms of merging the post-2015 process with the agenda of the Busan Partnership for Development Effectiveness (BPd), the secretariat has also made some clear linkages. It draws on a number of elements: the role of the private sector and private flows; the opportunities for knowledge sharing and peer learning in South-South Cooperation; the multi-stakeholder nature of the Partnership in terms of engaging civil society, local, municipal and regional governments, as well as parliamentarians; the “Beyond Aid” focus of the BPd.

In practice, going forward the Steering Committee envisages four work streams leading up to the first GPEDC Ministerial meeting (provisionally set for October). Under the broad umbrella of “What’s changed since Busan,” these include the following: the post-2015 linkages; domestic resource mobilization, including tax evasion, linked to country financing and discussions around global financing for development; the role of the private sector and its ability to leverage aid resources; inclusive development, including a focus on democratic ownership, rights based approaches, gender equality and decent work; and, knowledge sharing and peer learning, as an effort to more readily engage emerging economies.

What remains unclear as the Steering Committee looks to identify synergies between its role and this work, is how this complements – and doesn’t undermine or displace – existing fora, including the HLP, the UN Development Cooperation Forum, the UN Financing for Development process, regional initiatives and the work of the G-20.  For some governments, the GPEDC has yet to establish its legitimacy and credibility (since Busan, India, China and Brazil have remained on the periphery), in particular as it relates to more inclusive and universal fora like the UN. But given the concrete space and voice that civil society has defined for itself within the Steering Committee of the GPEDC, the GPEDC may have some added-value in terms of influencing potential.

Regardless of where you sit, the GPEDC clearly envisages itself as a key player and fora for these discussions and any post-2015 framework, and the intent is to showcase this at the First Ministerial. These Ministerials need to maintain political momentum in the process. Beyond profiling the outcomes of these workstreams, and highlighting synergies with other existing for a, the Ministerials will also need to profile data and evidence gathered that demonstrates progress on the global indicators and Busan commitments.  Again how the secretariat and Steering Committee plan to do this is also unclear. In the paper on the monitoring framework that was prepared for the meeting, only five of the ten global indicators have been finalized, with varying degrees of progress on the other five. Most are not expected to be concluded until March. This leaves barely six months to generate the data and evidence required to feed into the Ministerials.

This will be challenging since the secretariat is still developing operational guidance to enable countries to implement the various methodologies, many of the indicators will still need to be test-piloted, and data gathering at the country level in many cases still requires substantial support. Although some of the indicators may have developed some evidence by then, what may be more feasible – although not necessarily desirable, given the criticism CSOs have placed on the indicators – is establishing how these indicators could complement or inform the future accountability framework that is expected to accompany the post-2015 framework.

Finally, the GPEDC secretariat is also developing a communications and engagement strategy for the Partnership. This includes creating a visible brand around the GPEDC; a multi-lingual web site of key information, publications newsletters and opinion pieces; a web-based knowledge platform; and live web streaming and an archive of past meetings – key to promoting the transparency and accountability of the Partnership to its various constituencies.

2013 will be an important year for the Global Partnership. Will it come together?

This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

December 13, 2012

One year on (PART 1): Come together – The Pamoja/Nairobi Declaration for Development Effectiveness

It has been just over a year since the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) concluded in Busan, South Korea, and I find myself in another country, and on another continent. This past weekend, around 50 representatives from around the world and from the rural, faith based, feminist sectors and international civil society organizations (CSOs) met on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya. We met to plan our future engagement around the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) and our work at the regional and national level, and to potentially launch a new collective CSO Platform for Development Effectiveness (CPDE). But coming together has not been so easy. And as incredible as it sounds, it has taken a year to get to this point, building immediate consensus with around 500 people and generating 20 drafts of the CPDE founding document!

On December 2, 2011, the day after HLF-4, BetterAid and the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness met to discuss our post-Busan agenda. With a set of global standards in place, including the Istanbul Principles for CSO Development Effectiveness, everyone knew that any new structure needed to evoke the spirit of Busan, “Country Heavy, Global Light”, and to get down to the nitty-gritty of implementation. In practice, this meant that more energy and resources needed to be filtered down to the national and regional levels, to build the capacity of national CSOs to monitor and engage with national development plans and the Busan commitments, to coordinate at a regional level, to promote minimum standards around the enabling environment, and to begin implementing the Istanbul Principles.  At a global level, this meant developing a light global structure that would engage with the new GPEDC, continue to press our CSO Key Asks on the Road to Busan, and hold governments to account for their commitments.

But over the past four years, hundreds of organizations and constituencies have invested huge amounts of time, energy and identity into BetterAid and the Open Forum. While this work, and what we have accomplished, can’t ever been taken away, closing the doors on two organizations still seems quite final. It feels like we are ending two chapters before we know the conclusion of each story.  The past four years has also pitted egos, priorities and competing interests – and sometimes platforms – against one another. In the lead-up to Busan, the two platforms had held it together, but we still needed to come together. Nairobi, therefore, was an important conclusion to the often heated discussions of the last year and an effort at, as they say in Swahili, “pamoja” or “togetherness”. The Pamoja Declaration does this. It unites our collective vision, mission, principles and goals going forward (as well as key decisions reached), and finally launched the new CSO Platform for Development Effectiveness.

And so what does this entail? The Declaration itself can tell the story:

Our Vision

We envisage a world where respect for human rights, participatory democracy, social and environmental justice and sustainability, gender equality and equity, and decent work and sustainable change are achieved.

Our Mission

To promote development effectiveness in all areas of work, both our own and the work of others, including through active engagement with the GPEDC, we will be guided by a human rights based approach.

In order to develop a strong basis for CSO participation in the creation and realization of our vision, mission and goals for development, the CPDE will work with a strong focus to support country, sub-regional and regional, and sectoral civil society, combining this with the coordinated regional and global work on development effectiveness.  

To achieve this vision, we need to also address exclusion, oppression and removing structures of power that perpetuate injustice.

Therefore, we are committed to social justice approaches and mechanisms, to challenge unequal power structures, especially for women (such as by working towards a feminist approach), in order to achieve emancipation of excluded communities and people.”

“Our Goals

To realize our shared vision, we commit to work together in partnership on a global-scale in relation to development effectiveness and the GPEDC to achieve the following goals:

  • to pursue and advocate for a transformative agenda for development and development cooperation, informed by our guiding principles and a human rights-based approach to development that prioritizes gender equality, decent work, and environmental sustainability, as well as dignity, justice and improved livelihoods for all people living in poverty, including the most marginalized, victims of violence, and those with disabilities, and the full realization of human rights for all;
  • to protect and deepen policy gains made in Paris, Accra and Busan, and reverse any of the harmful provisions that continue to guide those three agendas;
  • to continue to advocate for development effectiveness in development cooperation policy and practice, in particular as it relates to the accountability of governments to the broader development effectiveness agenda, the Internationally Agreed Development Goals and to people;
  • to continuously work to improve our own effectiveness and the realization of an enabling environment for civil society as independent development actors in our own right.
These goals are informed by our CSO Key Asks on the Road to Busan, including those raised ahead of Busan by women’s organizations, the trade unions, and faith-based organizations; the Istanbul Principles and Siem Reap International Framework; and prior assessments of the Paris, Accra and Busan commitments.”

It is a tall order. But then civil society has never been short on ambition. We now need to focus on putting this into action, and perhaps above all, to truly coming together.

This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

November 22, 2012

The MDGs post-2015: why we should do less

Three years out from the 2015 deadline for the MDGs, and debate on “what next” is already reaching fever pitch. Proposals for a post-2015 version of the MDGs are coming from an increasingly crowded field that includes individual experts and academics, think tanks and research institutes, NGOs and civil society groups.
The Centre for International Governance Innovation, for instance, suggests eleven potential goals, targets and indicators, including in areas such as ensuring freedom from violence and sustainable management of the biosphere. The Center for Global Development (CGD) also identifies possible goals, targets and time frames, and even goes so far as to incorporate these into suggested draft language for an updated Millennium Declaration. Oxfam has also released a draft paper on how a post-2015 agreement can drive “real change”.

These and other proposals amount to a substantial body of thinking that means there is already no shortage of options for the post-MDG framework. But what does it mean for what we should do next in the lead up to 2015? The best that organisations like CIGI, CGD and Oxfam can do, as well as the rest of us who are based in developed countries, is to take a deep breath - and then do less.

Adopting a “do nothing for now” approach at the precise moment when debate is hotting up on the post-2015 framework might be anathema to those of us who are deeply invested in development thinking and action, and in ensuring the next version of the MDGs is better than the first. It might, however, be just what developing countries need right now: the rest of us out of the way, and the time and space to stake their own claim on the post-2015 agenda.

Here’s why. The large majority of proposals on the next MDGs are put forward by people and institutions based in developed countries. So far, thinking and proposals that emanate from developing countries, and that reflect the interests and priorities of people in these countries, are getting relatively limited traction in policy debates and discussions.

That’s not to say they don’t exist. Ernest Areetey (Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana) and Charles Abugre (Africa Regional Director of the UN Millennium Campaign) both recently shared their thinking on the post 2015 framework (here and here). Abugre argues for a model aimed at the global community that addresses systemic threats to equitable and sustainable development, and that is based on the principle of “common but differentiated needs and responsibilities” that (amongst other things) would be applied to address the global financial, food and energy systems.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa is also taking a role in articulating that continent’s perspectives on the post-2015 agenda. Drawing on studies and consultations with member countries and other stakeholders, it proposes a model that would adapt the existing MDGs, while maintaining a balance between development outcomes and enablers, the latter including aspects such as good governance, human rights for all, and a credible participatory process.  

These are just a sample of what developing country thinkers and stakeholders are saying on the post-2015 framework. So far, however, it’s the “noisier” proposals coming out of North America and Europe, mostly from usual suspects like CGD and the Overseas Development Institute, which are dominating debates on what happens next. Many of the organisations making these proposals are falling over each other to mark out their territory on the post-2015 policy agenda. To do so, they are trading on notions of their superior intellectual heft, as well as leveraging their greater resources and their privileged access to the powerful: to rich country governments, official development institutions, and the UN system. 

And who can blame them? Everybody wants their proposal to be the one that makes a difference. Otherwise, what’s the point of putting it forward in the first place? What this means, though, is that in the rush to prepare for 2015 we are at risk of making exactly the same mistake that was made the first time around with the MDGs. On that occasion, people in developing countries had woefully inadequate engagement in the process of designing the MDGs. If proposals emanating from developed countries continue to dominate policy dialogue on the post-2015 model, many people will see the outcome in the same way that they now see the MDGs: as something that was “concocted by the elite”, that has little relevance for them, and that they have little ownership over.

Fortunately, the UN appears to have recognised that it’s essential that the post-2015 framework should take developing country priorities and perspectives into account. UNDG is set to conduct consultations in 50 countries, and there could be more if, as has been suggested, the number of countries is increased. UN specialized agencies will also canvas opinion on 9 thematic areas, including on topics not currently covered by the MDGs such as inequality, growth and employment, and population dynamics.

Then there is the question of how the consultations will be conducted, and with whom. As a ONE report recently suggests, “notwithstanding [the UN’s] impressive program of consultation, there is a real risk that the most critical voices will be largely missing – the world’s poorest citizens”. To its credit, UNDG seems to be aware of this possibility, and has developed comprehensive guidelines for undertaking the country dialogues, “to ensure the post-2015 debate is informed by inputs and ideas from a broad base of civil society, marginalized groups, and others previously left out of discussions on development priorities”.

But irrespective of how well the consultations are conducted, the UN remains an outside actor intervening within countries to extract information. As a result, the consultations run the risk of being seen as a yet one more externally-driven process, designed and undertaken not by local actors within each country, but under the auspices of the UN, and contrived within an unrealistic time frame: the country consultations will be completed by March 2013, and thematic consultations by June 2013, so that they can feed into the next major UN meeting on the MDGs in September 2013.

It’s not surprising, then, that there are alternative suggestions for generating developing country engagement with, and ownership over the process. In his paper, the Australian National University’s Scott Wisor suggests deliberative (rather than extractive) approaches that would complement the UN and other consultations. These could take the form of citizen assemblies, in which participants would have the opportunity not just to speak, but also to “be heard, listen, reflect, negotiate, analyze and decide” on issues.  The IDS project “Participate: knowledge from the margins” focuses on participatory methodologies, and aims to engage the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. ONE proposes a “What the World Wants Poll” to canvas opinion in both developed and developing countries.

These suggestions on process remind us that existing proposals for the format of the post-2015 framework are putting the cart before the horse: in identifying new goals and targets, they are pre-empting the information gathering and consultation processes that should inform what the final framework will look like. The problem, though, is that the suggestions on process are also coming from individuals or organisations located in developed countries.  And together, they add to the increasingly cluttered array of options on the post-2015 MDG agenda, one in which developed countries are over-represented.

That’s why now is the right time for practitioners and analysts in developed countries to take a step back, and to make room for people in developing countries to advance their own thinking on a post-2015 framework.  That doesn’t mean the existing thinking isn’t worthwhile. It’s just that there is enough of it for now. It’s fair enough that we loosen our grip on the post-2015 agenda a little, and give those who it will affect most the opportunity to shape it more strongly.

Bill Morton is an independent researcher and policy analyst based in Ottawa. He previously worked for Oxfam Australia and The North-South Institute. Previous versions of this blog appeared on the Development Policy Centre blog and NSI’s Canadian International Development Platform. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

November 12, 2012

False Hope: the harmful promotion of agrofuels in Asia and Canada

When the price of agrofuel production finally became economically competitive with the high price of oil around 2005, a debate soon opened up about whether transport fuel produced from crops (such as palm oil, corn, sugarcane, jatropha, etc.) could actually help our planet to cope with the fuel, food, climate, and financial crises we face. While production of agrofuel shows no sign of slowing down (see OECD tables for global agrofuel production), there is an overwhelming body of evidence that agrofuels are not the solution we need.

Oil palm plantation, Malaysia

Production of agrofuels (also widely referred to by the more hopeful term ‘biofuels’) is harming communities and ecosystems around the world. Agrofuel production, particularly in industrial monoculture plantations has led to land grabbing, food insecurity, poor labour conditions, decreased biodiversity, soil erosion, deforestation, and increased carbon emissions (through production, land use change, and transport).

The Asia-Pacific Working Group, one of CCIC’s regional working groups, recently finished drafting a report on this topic: Agrofuel in Asia: Production, Impacts, International Incentives & Canada’s Role. The report analyzes current production of agrofuel across Asia, examines the impacts of this production on communities and ecosystems, looks at international demand and incentives for agrofuel, and asks what role Canada plays in promoting agrofuel. I presented this report (view presentation online) at a Canadian Asian Studies Association conference earlier this month.

Our report finds that although many countries (including Canada, but also several in Asia - Korea, Japan, Vietnam) are investing in research into agrofuel production that does not require food crops (these are the so-called second and third generation agrofuels, to be produced from grasses, fast-growing trees, agricultural residues, algae, etc.), the vast majority of current agrofuel production still comes from taking food crops produced on good agricultural land, and converting them into ethanol or agro-diesel.

This means that the global demand for transport fuel is being partially satisfied by using agricultural land (often in developing countries, for export) to grow food crops that, instead of being used to feed humans, are used for fuel. That this practice is leading to land grabbing and food insecurity should come as no surprise. As land is acquired abroad to grow agrofuel to meet domestic demand (ActionAid puts the global total at 50 million hectares of land grabs for agrofuel), poorer groups lose access to their traditional lands, which compromises livelihoods and access to food.

Canada’s strategy in regards to agrofuels is based on the ideas of sustained growth, and problem solving through technological innovation, which aligns with the vision of a “green economy” (being promoted by the UN Environment Programme among others) in which technological solutions will provide the answers, while the current production processes of producing agrofuel from crops, continue unchanged. The Canadian government is investing in agrofuel subsidies, blending mandates and research into alternative agrofuel feedstock sources (notably its NextGen Biofuels Fund and BioFuelNet Canada). Encouraging demand for agrofuels in Canada makes it likely that more agrofuels will be produced in Asia since Canada may not be able to satisfy its own needs with domestic production. By promoting the consumption of both ethanol and agrodiesel, the Canadian government is also supporting agrofuel production in Asia, which leads to the many negative consequences outlined above.

For further reading: 

Besides the research undertaken by academics and international institutions, many CSOs have done extensive work to analyze the impacts of agrofuel production and agrofuel subsidies and blending targets. 

For more details, see: Fuel for Thought: Addressing the social impacts of EU biofuel policies (ActionAid 2012); The New Biomassters (ETC Group 2010); Driving to Destruction: the impacts of Europe’s biofuel plans on carbon emissions and land (Friends of the Earth 2010); The Hunger Grains: The fight is on. Time to scrap EU biofuel mandates (Oxfam International 2012); Food for Fuel? (USC Canada 2008); and Industrial Agrofuels Fuel Hunger and Poverty (La Via Campesina 2009).

This blog was written by Jack Litster, Assistant Coordinator of the Asia-Pacific Working Group, CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

November 5, 2012

Education for All: Looking Back, Looking Forward (Part 2 of 2)

A report back from the UNESCO Collective Consultation with NGOs on Education for All. 
Looking ahead: 2015 and beyond

There are common threads in the discussions about what will/should replace the EFA and MDG goals in 2015, not least of which is that this is an opportunity for us to reframe our assumptions. We need to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about the purpose of education and about education’s role in creating the world we want.

Recognizing the risks of keeping two separate agendas, the education community is forging ahead with articulating a vision for EFA beyond 2015, while hoping to continue to influence the broader development agenda. We know that we want to put human rights and social justice at the core of whatever frameworks are to come, and that we cannot succumb to a reductionist agenda.

That being said, our greatest collective impact may be felt if we can articulate a broad, comprehensive goal that the education community can stand behind and advocate for inclusion in the post-MDG framework. I was disappointed that we did not make much progress on this as a sector at CCNGO, but threads of this are starting to emerge.

The common demands across all aspects and levels of education include the need to address equity, quality and financing issues in education. As in other sectors, we cannot achieve our goals without targeted interventions to address and include the most marginalized among us, including those with disabilities, ethnic and linguistic minorities, those affected by conflict, etc.

We must address quality moving forward, ensuring learning for all with concrete and measurable indicators that do not distill achievement to learning outcomes in literacy only. We must also ensure that adequate numbers of qualified teachers who are regarded as professionals and partners are seen to be at the core of the quality agenda.

Finally, we need an actionable agenda on financing a holistic education framework. At the national level we need to ensure that past pledges to spend 20% of budgets, or 6% of GDP on basic education are met. This means integrating the education sector more fully into national planning, advocating for progressive taxation, and ensuring that profits from resource extraction are spent on the social sector. It also means donors stepping up to fill the financing gap and ensure that “no countries seriously committed to education for all will be thwarted in their achievement of this goal by a lack of resources” (Dakar Framework for Action).

Civil society has never been more organized or more influential, especially in the education sector. We’ve learned a lot about what works and what needs to be done to achieve these goals. After a thought-provoking and energizing week in Paris, I am hopeful that we can work with our national and multilateral partners to articulate a vision for education and for development that embraces the spirit of the EFA framework and ensures the realization of human rights around the world.

Natalie Poulson is the National Coordinator for the Canadian Global Campaign for Education. The views expressed are her own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.
The first part of this blog was published on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

November 2, 2012

Education for All: Looking Back, Looking Forward (Part 1 of 2)

Capacity, coordination, frustration, evidence, openness, hope, communication, knowledge-base, reflectiveness, convergence, options, unfocused, dissemination

These were some of the words that participants used to sum up our discussion when I had the pleasure last week of moderating a working group on reaching the Education for All (EFA) goals by 2015.

The working group was part of a larger meeting of UNESCO’s Collective Consultation with NGOs on Education for All (CCNGO/EFA), which brought together over 150 representatives of national, regional and global NGOs and civil society networks from around the world. We came together to take stock of our achievements in education, discuss solutions to the challenges that remain, and begin to articulate a vision for education post-2015.

But before I jump into where we are going, let’s talk about where we’ve been.

Education for All
In short, a set of global goals was established in the World Declaration on Education for All in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990.  A decade on, the goals were reaffirmed by the international community through the Dakar Framework for Action (2000), and two of those goals were picked up by the Millennium Development Goals (universal primary education and gender parity).

Since that time we have seen increased national spending on education, the abolition of school fees and rights-based frameworks translated into national legislation in many countries. This has spurred unprecedented enrollment in primary school and a narrowing gender gap. Comprehensive education plans are being drafted to fit within national development strategies, and civil society participation in the governance of education (and not just low-cost service provision) has sky-rocketed.

Education has often been highlighted as the success story of the MDGs and, indeed, there is much for which we should be proud. But the most consistent message coming out of participants at the CCNGO is that the road ahead is still long and that we must remain vigilant.

As for many sectors, the next two years represent our “moment of truth,” so to speak, as we make a push to achieve the MDG and EFA goals by 2015. The newest data released by the Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report earlier this month shows us that progress in education has been uneven across the goals, and is stagnating.

Against this backdrop, civil society gathered at the CCNGO identified a number of common challenges that will require targeted action if we are to achieve the EFA goals.

So what next?

Underlying Currents
There were two underlying currents that were pervasive throughout CCNGO. First, EFA is unfinished business – these are goals that must be attained rather than scrapped for an entirely new agenda. The most neglected goals, those pertaining to early childhood education, youth skills and adult literacy, need immediate redress.

Secondly – and this may surprise some readers - the EFA agenda was actually negatively impacted by the Millennium Development Goals. Certainly the MDGs were a useful mobilizing tool and did much to shed light on education issues;  it recognized them as central to the long-term sustainability of development. But by extracting two goals from a set of holistic, mutually-reinforcing education goals, both the MDGs and EFA goals were set to fail.

Those are strong words, so let’s break it down.

Although universal primary education (UPE) and gender parity are important goals, they will never be achieved without attention to the full education agenda. We know that children in low-income countries who are malnourished and underdeveloped, who have never benefited from comprehensive and holistic early childhood education programs, and whose parents are illiterate, have significantly decreased chances of staying in school and succeeding. We know that no country has ever achieved universal primary education without a certain percentage of secondary school spots as incentive to move forward. I could go on, but I think the point is clear that focusing on UPE is not a sufficient way forward.

On the MDG side, those of us in the education community can point to mounting evidence that education is an underlying factor in the level of achievement - or lack thereof - in all of these worthy 8 goals. And so, if we cannot achieve the MDGs without addressing education, and we cannot achieve MDG 2 (UPE) and MDG 3 (gender parity) without addressing all of the EFA goals, then we seem to be at an impasse.

(The second part of this blog will be published on Monday, November 5, 2012)

Natalie Poulson is the National Coordinator for the Canadian Global Campaign for EducationThe views expressed are her own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

October 26, 2012

What our new case studies on the Istanbul Principles tell us about development

This week, CCIC published to its web site 24 case studies profiling best and innovative practice among Canada’s development and humanitarian sector – relating this practice to each of the eight Istanbul Principles for CSO DevelopmentEffectiveness.
It is a process that has been nine months in the making, but I think well worth the wait.
When CCIC conducted a series of workshops on the Istanbul Principles out West in the winter, one message was clear: while everyone was enthusiastic about the Principles, it all felt just a little too abstract. What was needed, we kept hearing, was a series of case studies that would help organizations better see how the Istanbul Principles could be translated into practice.
And so CCIC kick-started a process, working in collaboration with some of our members, the Provincial and Regional Councils and their members, to pull together more than 30 different case studies (some are still forthcoming) with at least two or three on every Principle.
Each case study speaks volumes about the incredible work that organizations across the country are already doing.
But having been intimately involved in helping to bring these all together, there are eight reflections that I wanted to share from reading the case studies as a collection. They are all obvious, but still worth mentioning since I think we often neglect them in the stories we tell our supporters about development.
1.      Best practices are rooted in diversity. No organization has a monopoly on best practices. The case studies are drawn from across the country, from Antigonish to Vancouver, from small groups like Women’s Empowerment International Foundation to big ones like Oxfam Québec.
2.      The Istanbul Principles are complementary and interrelated. To some degree, the Principle under which some of the case studies fall is somewhat arbitrary. KAIROS’s “Womenof Courage” tour is as much about human rights and empowerment as it is about gender equality. Canadian Foodgrains Bank’s “Conservation Agriculture” is as much about the promoting environmental sustainability and realizing positive sustainable change, as it is about creating and sharing knowledge.
3.      Learning is invaluable and needs to be integrated as a core component into our work. The Humanitarian Coalition, from the outset, invests in evaluations of its interventions in Pakistan, Haiti and the Western Sahel. Oxfam Canada engaged in a process of blind evaluation by its partners, to see what they really thought of Oxfam. Inter Pares set out to document the connection between its recognized program results and its feminist values and approach. In each case, organizations found the resources in their budget to learn and to improve their practice.
4.      Long term outcomes require long-term investments. For groups like CAUSE and EQUITAS, working with human rights defenders in countries with a long history of violence and conflict, change is slow – but when it comes, also deeply rewarding.
5.      Sustainable Projects mean people are the subjects of development, not objects. The Agha Khan Foundation’s Community Development Councils, World Vision’s Child Health Now Program, Change For Children’s “Community Water Committees”, and Save the Children’s “As We learn, We Grow” (forthcoming) all put men, women and children in the drivers’ seat, not as passengers, of development.
6.     Civil society is incredibly innovative and resourceful.  CARE Canada has developed a toolkit for practitioners to help them better integrate climate adaptation issues into their development programs, making them more resilient and sustainable. Light Up The World is working to equip remote communities with renewable sources of energy and the knowledge to be able to maintain the equipment. Engineers Without Borders work on transparency has translated into both an advocacy campaign to make the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) more transparent, and measures to placed their own organization under the same set of standards they were demanding of CIDA.
7.      Sustainable change is key. CAWST has set up Water Expertise and Training (WET) Centres in the areas where it work to provide education, training, and consulting services on water, sanitation and hygiene so that this knowledge stays in the community. Christian Children’s Fund has made building the skills, capacity and professionalism of its partners a key pillar of programming, not just an afterthought.  CODE’s approach to education goes beyond the students, to enhancing the professional development of teachers, the community, government officials and national teaching standards. While enhancing the literacy of marginalized women and children in India is primary focus of the programs that World Literacy Canada runs, WLC is also slowly creating space for women in the political life of their villages. 
8.      Development is an iterative process. This is true of all the case studies. Good development identifies a challenge, proposes a solution, and then adapts and readapts until the program has a life of its own within the community of country.
Finally thanks to all of the organizations who have put in a huge amount of time and energy (and probably, some blood, sweat and tears), to help us pull this off. It was certainly worth it!
To read these and other case studies, go to
This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.

October 17, 2012

A wealthier nation doesn’t necessarily mean lower poverty rates.

The world has marked Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty every year since 1993,when the United Nations General Assembly designated a day to promote awareness that poverty and destitution in all countries must be wiped out. This has become a stated development priority for most donor countries as well as many national governments and local groups working on the ground in both developed and developing countries.

Despite the multiple commitments and efforts to do away with extreme poverty, there are as many poor people today then there were in the early 1990s, with poverty in some nations, including Canada, being stubbornly persistent. Even with the progress made on the Millennium Development Goals, and in particular the goal that tackles poverty and hunger, the fact remains that there are only four to five per cent fewer poor people in absolute terms in the world today. And, notably, the vast majority of those living below the poverty line today (72 per cent) live in countries now considered “middle income,” whereas these same states were low-income countries in the early 1990s. At that time, 93 per cent of those below the poverty line lived in low-income countries. In other words, the increasing wealth of a nation does not necessarily correspond to decreasing poverty rates. High-income countries like Canada are a good example of this phenomenon. Canada is one of the richest countries in the world. Yet there are between three million and 4.4 million people living in poverty, representing 10 to 13 per cent of the population. This level of poverty is unacceptable in an affluent country well capable of a poverty rate close to, if not right at, zero.

Little attention paid to underlying causes
How do we explain that middle-income countries (such as Pakistan, India, China, Nigeria, and Indonesia) that have increasing resources to fight poverty, and even developed countries like Canada, allow for such sizeable numbers of their citizens to remain unable to meet their basic needs? Part of the answer is in the limited attention that has been given at the global and national levels to the underlying causes of poverty—including inequality, discrimination, and disempowerment. To date, mobilization to eradicate poverty has focused on addressing the symptoms of poverty instead of on the policy changes needed to do away with the causes of poverty. Canada has a historic future opportunity to provide leadership at the international level on this critical global issue. In 2013, the UN has convened a major event to assess progress on the Millennium Development Goals (before they expire in 2015) and prepare the ground for the post-2015 development framework. Global leadership is urgently needed to ensure that in the next round of goals, the structural causes of poverty are boldly addressed.

Canada can provide that international leadership, building, for example, on its role in maternal child health. But to do so with credibility, Canada must first show leadership and robust action at home. The federal government must urgently address poverty, homelessness, and hunger in Canada starting with the adoption of national intergovernmental strategies based on national and international human rights principles including equality and non-discrimination. This should include rights-based participation, such as complaints mechanisms and independent monitoring and review with enforceable targets and timelines. Canada must also show leadership by increasing and enhancing its aid commitments directed exclusively at ending poverty in the world.

The theme for this year’s International Day for the Eradication of Poverty,“Working together out of poverty,”highlights the need for all levels of government to work in concert to end poverty in Canada, as well as for a truly global anti-poverty alliance, one in which both developed and developing countries participate actively in addressing poverty issues everywhere. We are encouraged that today parliamentarians will be attending an evening panel discussion called “Ending Poverty Together: Real Stories, Real Solutions,” organized by the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus. We are also encouraged that today a group of civil society organizations, working on poverty issues internationally, are launching the “Reverse the Cuts” campaign, aimed at garnering popular support for the needed boost in the quantity and quality of Canadian aid. We are moving in the right direction, and with federal leadership we could make significant progress.

Julia Sanchez is the president-CEO of the Canadian Council for International Co-operation, Canada’s coalition to end global poverty. Leilani Farha is the executive director of Canada Without Poverty and the CWP Advocacy Network, organizations dedicated to the elimination of poverty in Canada.

This Op Ed was published in Embassy Newspaper on October 17, 2012.

October 5, 2012

Wheels in motion for establishing a new set of global development goals

In the year 2000, at the UN Millennium Summit in New York, world leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration. A commitment to a peaceful, prosperous and just world, the declaration included a set of global goals for development and poverty reduction, to be reached by 2015.  These goals came to be known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight goals on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, HIV/AIDs reduction and environmental sustainability in developing countries, as well as a ‘global partnership for development’, covering rich countries’ commitments to aid, an open and non-discriminatory trading and financial system, technology transfer and debt relief.

Some goals look set to be achieved by the 2015 target date. For example, the share of people living in extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.25 per day, has fallen globally from 47% in 1990 to 24% in 2008. This is largely thanks to China’s phenomenal growth and poverty reduction, but is also part of a global trend. The world is on track to meet the targets set on access to safe drinking water and achieving parity in primary education between girls and boys. But progress in other areas has been disappointing. Hunger remains a global challenge and decreases in maternal mortality are far from the 2015 target. Progress on the ‘global partnership for development’ has been slow. Indeed, the MDG Gap Taskforce Report, released last week by the UN, says that in 2011, Official Development Assistance, or aid, from rich countries to poor countries fell for the first time in many years.

As the 2015 target date approaches, attention is turning to what should replace the MDGs. This was the focus of a conference hosted by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of International Development (CASID) in Ottawa last weekend. It will also be the focus of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which will meet for the first time on September 25th, alongside the 67th UN debate session of the General Assembly in New York.  The panel, co-chaired by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, has been asked by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to prepare a bold yet practical vision for a global post-2015 development agenda. It is expected to submit its report in May 2013, which will serve as a key input into a UN special event on the MDGs and the post-2015 agenda in September 2013.

If the MDGs are anything to go by, the post-2015 development agenda will have much influence over international development priorities in the decades beyond 2015.  It is likely that the High-Level Panel, and others attempting to influence the post-2015 process, will suggest that some elements of the MDG approach be kept. For example, the clear, quantifiable and time-bound nature of the MDGs helped galvanize political and public support for global poverty reduction efforts like never before, and served to unite the world around a common set of development targets. Given this success, building the post-2015 agenda around a set of global goals that can be clearly communicated, and that resonates with the public, makes sense.

But to be relevant and meaningful not only in 2015, but also the decades following, the post-2015 agenda will need to go further than the MDGs.  To really tackle extreme poverty, and capture a vision of development that is environmentally sustainable, it will need to focus on more than poverty reduction in developing countries, and will require policy commitments from developed countries, such as Canada, that go far beyond aid.  Given the planetary crisis of global warming, and the implications of this for the world’s most vulnerable people, the post-2015 agenda will need to prioritize sustainability and climate change and incorporate targets on these for all countries.   With trade  such an important driver of development in developing countries, a global development framework that does not expect rich countries to commit to fairer trade rules will fall short.  With inequality on the rise in many countries, as the Occupy movement and entrenched poverty in middle-income countries attest, incorporating inequality into the framework could recognize and seek to tackle one of the biggest problems that many rich, emerging and poor countries face.

Ultimately, the post-2015 agenda will be a political agreement, negotiated by member states of the United Nations. Given the world’s recent track record on global governance – the failure of Doha and disappointments in Copenhagen on climate change and at Rio+20 on sustainable development – stakeholders will need to be balance ambition with pragmatism. The changing nature and composition of global politics will also need to be taken into account.  The line between rich and poor countries is more blurred now than it was in 2000, and a global agreement that does not reflect the views and commitment of emerging economies would be a disappointing outcome.  Non-state actors, such as philanthropists, business, international NGOs and anti-poverty youth movements, are much more prominent in global affairs today than they were at the start of the millennium, and the framework will need to make sense to them and clearly show that they can contribute.

2015 may seem like a long way away, but the wheels for establishing the post-2015 development framework are well and truly in motion. The process itself will consume a lot of time, energy and money, and critics will surely question its relevance in a context of diminishing aid resources. But based on the MDGs experience, the post-2015 agenda is set to play an important role in framing global development for decades to come.

By Kate Higgins, from The North-South Institute.

Kate Higgins leads the Governance for Equitable Growth program at The North-South Institute.

This article was first published in iPolitics:, on Sept.25, 2012. Thanks to iPolitics for permission to post on CCIC's website.

June 29, 2012

This was a wake-up call, not a walk-out, to the Global Partnership

If I push my face right up to the window of my hotel room, I can just about see the Eiffel Tower rise high above Paris’s cityscape. Just below me is the Seine. And behind me, out of view, lies the office complex of La Défense and its modern-day Arche de Triomphe.
The contrast between the two visions – traditional and modern – is striking.
For the past week, I have been here in Paris preparing for, and then participating in, the final meeting of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness (WP-EFF).
Since 2003, the WP-EFF has led a series of High Level Forums on Aid Effectiveness (HLF), initially among OECD donors and partner governments, and more recently a much broader range of development actors. The HLFs produced the seminal Paris Declaration (PD) in 2005, the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) in 2008, and more recently, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (BPd) in 2011.
While Busan did move the agenda forward, for the past six months civil society has been keenly observing and participating in the work of the Post-Busan Interim Group (PBIG). The PBIG was tasked with the design of the global monitoring framework and indicators for assessing progress on Busan, and the governance framework of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).

This final meeting was to discuss and finalize the PBIG proposals and launch the new Global Partnership, the WP-EFF’s successor.

For me personally, this has just been a journey over the past year and a half, but for many of my colleagues here they have been following the trajectory of the WP-EFF and developments around aid effectiveness as far back as 2005.

Back then there were 17 people protesting out on the streets. Today there were 35 of us participating inside the room.
This past week, we managed to get a bit of a taste of how far we have come since Paris. On Wednesday, as it did for HLF-3 in Accra, BetterAid released a book documenting the accomplishments, experiences, assessment and outcomes of what we achieved between HLF-3 and HLF-4 in Busan.
Separate from that book, people here feel that In Accra, we were encouraged by the promises made by governments for an enabling environment, for human rights, decent work, sustainable environment and gender equality. And we welcomed our inclusion after Accra as independent development actors in our own right and as full members of the Working Party.

Through BetterAid, we advocated for a human rights framework for development, gender equality, decent work and environmental sustainability. Through the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness, we created the Istanbul Principles and the Siem Reap CSO International Framework.
At Busan we made some small progress – as well as suffered some big losses - both in terms of substance and process, engaging for the first time technically as an equal negotiator at the table.

And in Busan, while we recognized the incremental changes we had made, it felt like everything was still contingent on these coming six months.
In that vein, I guess the past two days have been a success.
The Working Party adopted the mandate and governance of the Global Partnership, with periodic Ministerial-level meetings, and a process driven by a Steering Committee of 18 - with a seat for civil society and co-Chaired by Andrew Mitchell, British Secretary of State for International Development. Two co-Chairs – from emerging economies and partner countries (likely Africa) – still have to be nominated by the end of July, as do ten of the other Steering Committee members.  (The North American seat will be taken by Donald Steinberg, US Administrator of USAID, with Canada opting to take the next rotation following the first Ministerial meeting of the Global Partnership in 2014.) The prospect of a possible observer seat for local government and trade unions has been kicked to the first Steering Committee meetings, likely to occur sometime this fall.

The monitoring framework and a set of 10 indicators - that will be used to assess progress on the commitments made in Busan - were also endorsed, using baselines of 2010 to measure progress. The indicators include a focus on inclusive country processes to determine results, enabling environment for CSOs, the contribution of the private sector to development, transparency, predictability, reporting of aid through budgets, mutual accountability, gender equality and women’s empowerment, effective institutions and the use of country systems, and untying aid. Wherever possible, the indicators are drawing on existing sources of data.  The Joint Support Team to the Steering Committee – UNDP and the OECD – still have to determine how to actually operationalize the agreed indicators.

Also endorsed at the meeting was a framework for a common open standard on transparency as agreed in Busan. This standard will ultimately join together the standard of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), which Canada signed on to at HLF4, and the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System. IATI is an aid data standard, whereby signatories provide detailed comparable information in an open data format. The CRS is also an open data database on donor aid spending produced by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) at the OECD. Whereas the CRS provides historical annual OECD donor data on aid flows, IATI allows users to dig down deeper into past, current and forward-looking spending at the project level (including narrative reports). The two standards will now be completely aligned and integrated, allowing for a single electronic reporting standard over the full range of aid spending for all donors, including CSOs as donors.

But while some of the outcomes seem positive, the past two days have left a sour taste in the mouth of many of the CSOs – and others – here.

Why? Perhaps not surprisingly, this first full gathering since Busan of WP-EFF members felt much less like the final negotiation of the Global Partnership, than a party for the Working Party. It began with somewhat mindless panels (about changing mindsets), high-level speakers giving warm and fuzzy speeches, and farewell parties. This is perhaps warranted to some extent given what the WP-EFF has achieved.

But as a result, it provided barely any opportunity to debate proposed changes to the proposals on monitoring and governance that had been drafted by the 18 members of the PBIG. Every amendment from CSOs, from NEPAD or CARICOM was responded to by the Chair with the resounding thud of a rubber stamp on the original proposal.

This hit a nerve for all of us in BetterAid – as well as partner countries, and some other stakeholders. So following the morning’s opening panel with OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria and Secretary of State Mitchell, the two BetterAid co-Chairs made a constructive statement to the Working Party addressing a sentiment that has been mounting and finally crystallized here in Paris. In short,

“The past six months have confirmed our belief that since Busan the multi-stakeholder nature of this forum has itself been compromised. It is not a global partnership, interested in generating consensus and compromise among the range of stakeholders – whether us or others. [...] At this point, we have elected to go back to our respective constituencies – more than 5,000 networks and organizations - to see whether we should continue to engage in this Global Partnership, and what the basis of that continued engagement should be. We remain committed to the spirit and principles of Busan.  For us, that means moving beyond paternalism and power imbalances to inclusive partnership and mutual respect.”

We are at the table, sure, but it is still a process led by three governmental co-Chairs, who can simply choose to replicate the experience of the past six months. And that is not a position we want to be in.

Various officials over the past few days have underscored time and time again the benefits and legitimacy that having civil society at the table has brought to this process.

It is great that these officials can see the benefits of having us there. We need to be able to see the benefits too. And for us, that means having a co-Chair and a seat for trade unions.
As I said at the beginning, from my window I can only see the old Paris out my window. But I can’t quite see the new.

This blog was written by Fraser Reilly-King, Policy Analyst (Aid), CCIC. The views expressed are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of CCIC or its members.