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International (development) cooperation in a post-COVID-19 world: a new way of interaction or super-accelerator?

8. Mai 2020 - 7:58

The outbreak of COVID-19 as a global health emergency and the resulting socio-economic crisis is testing global structures of cooperation. The challenges give rise to new forms and expressions of transnational solidarity. The UN Secretary-General titled one of his articles on COVID-19 “We will come through this together” – reminding us that no country can tackle this issue alone and cooperation is crucial for addressing existing challenges. In April 2020, UNDP Seoul Policy Centre held a series of webinar discussions where representatives from think tanks around the world presented their views on what to expect in the area of international (development) cooperation after the pandemic. This blog post, while not intending to represent the views either of our panellists or of UNDP, is informed by the discussion at those webinars.

We expect that the future framing of development cooperation will be significantly impacted by the current global crisis. With the crisis acquiring global dimensions, the provision of global public goods seems to be increasingly more important. Is this a new narrative for development cooperation, particularly with international cooperation budgets coming under increasing pressure in developed countries?

The North-South cooperation model remains important, but it is continuously losing significance as the predominant cooperation model in developing regions. South-South cooperation has received a push – at least in terms of visibility –but has also spurred creative solutions. At the same time, we also see other forms of cooperation becoming increasingly prominent, including “South-North cooperation” (for example China’s support to Italy) and “East-North cooperation” (for example Russia sending medical material to the United States). In these circumstances, the status seeking efforts of the countries are intertwined with the peoples’ spirit of mutual solidarity in the face of a common challenge.

These examples represent cooperation that is increasingly multi-directional and universal. Will these developments herald a new form of cooperation or do they indicate the reinforcement of existing tendencies? The establishment and adjustment of institutional structures will mainly be a non-linear process; it will take place through incremental steps and modifications. However, certain changes could also be brought on by abrupt political decisions (like the United States’ decision on contributions to the WHO).

We do not know the details of what a post-COVID-19 world will look like. However, we do know that high-quality international cooperation is fundamental for dealing with existing and emerging global challenges. Addressing the needs of the most vulnerable countries through development cooperation will be an essential part of future cooperation structures. Meeting global challenges through international cooperation is in compliance with national interests! This argument is not only valid within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, but is also relevant to mega-challenges such as climate change.

In our view, we are facing three main crossroads when we reflect on the post-COVID-19 international (development) cooperation landscape.

1. COVID-19: game-changer or super-accelerator?

Initial debates indicate that COVID-19 needs to be regarded as a game-changer in international relations, including development cooperation. However, looking at the evidence available, the COVID-19 pandemic might instead speed up several pre-existing trends. The international development cooperation environment continues to be characterised as highly competitive even during the COVID-19 crisis. Some experts also highlight the existence of a fundamental paradox between the increasing demand for greater and better cooperation, and a decreasing willingness of the international community to act collectively. International cooperation is weakening in many areas, and the sharpening role of rising powers and their impact on development cooperation norms and standards through South-South cooperation might serve as important illustrations in this regard. Thus, such indications hint to COVID-19 being a super-accelerator for trends that existed in the international system before the pandemic.

2. Better and more cooperation or further thinning of multilateralism

Is COVID-19 leading to an enhancement or to further thinning of international cooperation? Over the last few years, we have seen a fundamental “thinning of multilateralism”. Generally speaking, collective action by the international community (for example, multilateral solutions) is well-suited for dealing with the current global health crisis and is necessary for all other types of global and regional challenges. Actors in public health recognise that there is an urgency to follow a “weakest link” approach (that is, the global public health situation depends on the countries with most limited capacity). Hence, multilateral solutions work naturally.

However, in a global context, where a significant number of governments are explicitly competing to maximise national gains, the creation of win-win strategies through multilateral approaches becomes considerably more difficult to achieve. Thus, most IR (international relations) textbooks would probably suggest a multilateral approach to manage the current pandemic and the underlying systemic weaknesses of the global health situation. In reality, the risk is that we might experience a number of specific approaches where governments might prefer bilateral cooperation, as well as more club governance (like G20) and a more pronounced way of “forum shopping” (that is, looking around for the best institutional offer or even creating new platforms and institutions). These approaches do not exclude multilateralism. However, these comprehensive forms of collective action might rely on smaller groups of “like-minded” countries.

3. Quick economic recovery versus smart recovery

Managing the socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic might lead to perceived trade-offs between “better recovery” and “quick wins”. COVID-19 requires a massive socio-economic recovery effort. Numerous actors are in the process of setting up plans to mitigate negative consequences and working on mid- and long-term recovery plans. It is very clear from the beginning that the recovery process requires vast amounts of financial resources, which can be invested by several OECD countries to some extent. Additionally, many other countries (especially low-income countries) will need significant external support through development cooperation in finance, technologies, and knowledge.

We expect a period of extraordinary pressure, demanding all countries to move as quickly as possible towards recovery. Economic growth will be, and needs to be, a fundamental aspect of any recovery strategy. However, growth is a means, not an end. The rationale behind the Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains unequivocally valid. There is a risk that governments might disregard ecological aspects of socio-economic recovery during the implementation of massive recovery plans to achieve rapid results. As Geoffrey Boulton and Heide Hackmann have rightly stated, “[t]he new global ecology we have created through our ravaging of Earth’s resources holds great risks for humanity.” Naturally, countries will look for quick solutions; the same might apply to development cooperation. The search for quick wins might neglect and override fundamental priorities of sustainable development and climate change. Therefore, international (development) cooperation needs to start with a “smart recovery” approach from the very beginning. Development cooperation, during the pandemic and in its aftermath, has been presented with an opportunity to build a better approach for “smart recovery”, one that does not replicate the unsustainable patterns of the past.

This post is part of the #COVID-19 and international development series.

This post originally appeared on devpolicy.org, run by the Australian National University.

Kategorien: english

Reflections on development that respects human rights

8. Mai 2020 - 7:27

Defence of the universality and indivisibility of human rights is essential for the construction of a peaceful society and for the overall development of individuals, peoples and nations.
– Pope John Paul II

Recently, in my capacity as a co-chair of the global civil society platform CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE), I participated in the remote conference, Towards a Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) Work Programme, which outlines the plans of the partnership for the next two years. The GPEDC is a multi-stakeholder platform to advance the effectiveness of development efforts by all actors, to deliver results that are long-lasting and contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In the course of my participation, I was reminded of these words of Pope John Paul II, quoted above, on the occasion of the World Day of Peace in 1999. I realised that today, over two decades later, the defence of human rights for genuine and inclusive development is more relevant than ever. 

In the past years there has been a marked pattern of shrinking civic space and political repression of civil society, rights advocates, and activists. Last year CPDE rallied our members and partners around two key initiatives, the Belgrade Call to Action and the Global Day of Action during last year’s International Human Rights Day.

At the conference, CPDE reiterated the need for “concerted action from all actors, international and domestic CSOs, partner country governments and development partners, to reverse the trend of shrinking civic space and support efforts for strengthening people’s voice for development”. This view is enshrined in the GPEDC’s Nairobi Outcome Document, further concretised at the 2019 GPEDC Senior Level Meeting, and recently reaffirmed by the leadership of the Partnership in its vision and strategic priorities for its immediate future.*

The Belgrade Action Agenda, among other initiatives, spells out positive measures that can be undertaken by all actors for enabling civic space that maximizes civil society contributions to development. Indeed, during the conference, the key principle of inclusive partnerships resonated with many of those who joined in defining the work ahead.

CPDE highlighted the importance of country actions, as it is at this level that shrinking civic space impacts on development outcomes, particularly those affecting the lives and conditions of people in poverty and the marginalised. It is at the country level where the existence of an environment that enables civil society to maximise its engagement in and contribution to development is most relevant.

As we move closer to defining the immediate tasks of the GPEDC, we at CPDE are pleased to move forward with the specific workstream that seeks to promote CSO partnerships by addressing shrinking civic space, especially at country level. We likewise appreciate  that the  civil society indicator of the GPEDC monitoring framework is a strong starting point.** Through this framework, the following multiple facets of an enabling environment for civil society  can be addressed: the legal and regulatory environment; space for multi-stakeholder dialogue; CSO development effectiveness, accountability, and transparency; and official development cooperation with CSOs.

At the conference, some suggested that the issue of shrinking space belongs more in the discourse of human rights than in effective development cooperation, and consequently in the UN arena, not the GPEDC. While we realise that these concerns stem from the fear of alienating governments, especially of partner countries, they are inconsistent with and undermine standing commitments made by GPEDC. This is not so much a political issue as a moral issue. As Pope John Paul II also remarked: “a form of development that is not respectful of human rights is not worthy of humankind.”

So while we continue to mobilise the widest range of actors to address the situation of shrinking civic space, we also urge them to respect the wisdom behind the commitments that they have already made, and to acknowledge the reality that these have yet to be fulfilled on the ground.   

As our members continue to suffer the brunt of shrinking spaces, our leaders being persecuted and civic action criminalised, CPDE will be steadfast in the defence of the universality of human rights, its centrality in development and, therefore, its relevance in the pursuit of effective development cooperation.

The absence of a conducive political, legal, and financial environment greatly affects the capacity, and even the survival, of CSOs as effective independent development actors.  Reversing the trend of shrinking civic space requires addressing these barriers and challenges faced by civil society in all their aspects.

We are hopeful that through their dedicated and concrete efforts, in partnership with CSOs, GPEDC can create greater awareness, dialogue, engagement, and political momentum for policy and behavior change at the country level, to address the issue of shrinking civic space.#

* As articulated in the Co-Chair’s Proposal for Strategic Priorities for Workstream 2.4 for the Global Partnership’s Work Programme 2020-2022: Link
** Civil Society Indicator: Civil society operates within an environment that maximises its engagement in and contribution to development. This indicator seeks to assess the extent to which governments and providers of development co-operation contribute to an enabling environment for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and to which CSOs are implementing development effectiveness principles in their own operations.

Kategorien: english

Adapting to crisis – a virtual workshop for the Global Partnership’s 2020-22 work programme

30. April 2020 - 20:50

A summary of the workshop can be found here and resources for the workshop here 

On 17-20 March, the Global Partnership conducted a virtual workshop with over 80 partners, bringing new energy and different perspectives to the development of the work programme, due to be adopted by the Steering Committee in May. 

The spread and risks of COVID-19 meant partners were not able to travel to Brussels, at the kind invitation of the European Commission, as planned. But the virtual workshop provided a practical, and safe alternative for partners to convene and discuss issues (and even allowed us to include a few more partners than were due to travel to Brussels).

‘Action area’ leads – driving work on thematic areas under each of the proposed priorities (i. supporting 2030 Agenda implementation, ii. building better partnerships, and iii. leveraging monitoring for action) presented brief ‘pitches’ of proposals, inviting partners to provide feedback, and express their interest in areas of work. 

Discussions also touched on how the Global Partnership can support partners at country level, how to best adapt the monitoring exercise, and how we articulate a narrative that brings together the different areas of work into a coherent development offer for the ‘Decade of Action’ toward 2030. 

Key conclusions from the workshop included looking ahead to the next high-level meeting on effectiveness in 2022, and what the Partnership wants to deliver at the 2030 Agenda ‘mid-point’: 

  • A robust demonstration of how the effectiveness principles deliver SDG impact, building the stronger and more inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships needed to meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda. 
  • Positioning the Partnership as an important ‘vehicle for change’, with a growing and inclusive community of development stakeholders putting the effectiveness principles into practice. 
  • A revised framework and process for the Global Partnership’s monitoring exercise, that helps drive behaviour change among partners, focused on accountability at country and global levels. 

Partners’ development efforts responding to the fallout, and recovery, from COVID-19 will take centre stage for the immediate period to come. The rest must take the proper precautions to protect themselves and their communities, by travelling less, and continuing their work, where possible, virtually. 

At the same time, the Global Partnership, and the many dozens of partners who responded to the invitation of the Co-chairs remain committed to the principles and ethos of effectiveness: working together on the basis of inclusive partnerships, mutual accountability, a focus on results, and country ownership of interventions. 

Because principle-based international collaboration is always at the heart of addressing global challenges; even when part of the solution, at this particular moment, is learning to be together a little less – for now. 

Kategorien: english