We Can Get the 2030 Agenda Back on Track – With More Empowered, Inclusive, & Equal Partnerships

Credit: United Nations

By Ulrika Modeer and Susanna Moorehead
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 5 2019 – The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, universally adopted in 2015, is a plan to create a better and more sustainable future for all in just 15 years, through 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs). It sounds implausible.

And yet, when we work together, across international borders, and social boundaries, we are capable of extraordinary progress. But that progress is by no-means guaranteed.

Success will depend on more equal and trusting partnerships between aid donors and recipients; the ‘development partners’ and ‘partner countries’ in the jargon of the sector.

How we go about achieving these is one of the key issues for discussion at a senior meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the GPEDC, in New York on 13-14 July.

Development progress and challenges

Take sub-Saharan Africa. Since 1990, maternal mortality has halved; and the mortality rate for children under five has fallen by more than half. In South Asia the risk of child marriage for girls has almost halved. In the poorest countries, the share of the population with access to electricity has more than doubled. Each of these numbers is life-changing, and life-saving, for millions of people.

But the pace of change is still too slow, and too many people are being left behind. A recent special edition of the UN Secretary-General’s report on ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals’ identifies some of the challenges: hunger is rising, due to conflict and climate change; more than half of the world lacks access to managed sanitation facilities, increasing the risks of disease; and more than a million species are facing extinction.

A call for principled collective action

Investing in our common future demands urgent action. The SDGs provide a clear and measurable vision of what we want to achieve. And the Financing for Development process provides a good understanding of what this vision needs.

Now is the time for a concerted effort to work out how we work together: focusing on results and inclusive partnerships; and based on country ownership, mutual accountability and transparency.

These four ‘principles of effectiveness’ were agreed by 161 nations and 56 international organisations in Busan, the Republic of Korea, in 2011. They are the basis of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation – a voluntary alliance of governments, civil society, trade unions, the private sector and other development partners, committed to making development more effective.

They agreed that if we invest in partnerships that are more responsive, inclusive, and transparent – more equal – we will achieve more sustainable development results.

Making development cooperation more effective

During 2018, a record 86 countries and territories that receive aid took part in an exercise (along with hundreds of civil society organisations, private sector representatives, foundations, trade unions, parliamentarians and local governments) to monitor the extent to which all partners are walking the talk in terms of promises made on development effectiveness.

There’s good news and bad. Relationships between development partners are increasingly based on mutual trust. Development planning, led by recipient governments, has improved in quality and in scope.

International development actors are increasingly using local procurement systems, meaning more of the resources intended to support development overseas are staying where they are most needed.

But donor reluctance to fund government activities means that fewer resources are available for the public sector in partner countries. Recipients of aid find that it is now less predictable and long term, undermining countries’ efforts to plan.

In some places, state-civil society relations have worsened and space for civil society actors is shrinking. These findings demonstrate that while progress has been made, there is much more to be done.

Particularly so against a backdrop of falling levels of official development assistance (ODA) from major donors from 2017 to 2018: a decline of 3% to the group of least developed countries, and a drop of 4% to Africa.

Looking to the future

To achieve the SDGs, our collective development efforts need to be as effective as possible. We need to protect the space for different development actors to make their contributions, to invest in national capacity to measure progress, to use country systems in ways that can build trust, and to make sure all actors are living up to their commitments under the 2030 Agenda.

These are some of the messages we hope will stick in the minds of decision-makers, as they leave the senior level meeting of the Global Partnership in New York this month. That how we do things matters; that working together on a more equal footing, can lead to better, more sustainable outcomes for us all; and that committed international action can make even the implausible a reality.

*Ulrika Modeer also represents the UN Sustainable Development Group on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership. Prior to this, she served as the State Secretary for International Development Cooperation and Climate at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. She has undertaken assignments across Latin America and Africa.

*Susanna Moorehead also represents the DAC on the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership. She has previously served as British Ambassador to Ethiopia, Djibouti, and the African Union, and as an Executive Director at the World Bank.

About the Global Partnership:

The Global Partnership is led by four Co-Chairs, currently: Mustafa Kamal, Minister of Finance, the People’s Republic of Bangladesh; Norbert Barthle, Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Federal Republic of Germany; Matia Kasaija, Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Republic of Uganda; and Vitalice Meja, Executive Director of the CSO Reality of Aid Africa.

Twice a year they convene a 23-member Steering Committee, which includes representatives of civil society, trade unions, the private sector, parliamentarians, local government, civic foundations, international financial institutions and the international multilateral system. The Steering Committee guides the work of the Global Partnership, including the biennial development effectiveness monitoring exercise, with support from the OECD and from UNDP.

More information on the Global Partnership and the up-coming Senior-Level Meeting can be found here.

Africa’s Free Trade Area Misses Nigeria

Fishing trade in the village of Orimedu, Lagos State, Nigeria. Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank

By Mattias Sköld
UPPSALA, Sweden, Jul 5 2019 – When Africa’s free trade area launches on 7 July, a key player will be missing. However, Victor Adetula, head of research at Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Sweden, predicts that Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria, will gradually open up and join the project.

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade and create jobs. The AfCFTA initially requires members to remove tariffs from 90 percent of items, allowing free access to commodities and services across the continent.

When the agreement’s operational phase is launched on 7 July at an African Union summit in Niger, 52 of the continent’s 55 countries will be on board. Only Benin, Eritrea and Nigeria have yet to join the project. Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy, making it the most notable non-signatory to the AfCFTA deal.

“If Nigeria is not playing along, it is going to affect the progress of the free trade area. Nigeria is needed”, says Adetula, who is himself Nigerian.

Nigerian government representatives have claimed they need to consult with domestic economic stakeholders before making a decision. The president of Nigeria’s largest labour union Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, has described the AfCFTA as “an extremely dangerous and radioactive neo-liberal policy initiative… that seeks to open our seaports, airports and other businesses to unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country”.

Adetula says that while Nigeria and the whole continent are likely to gain from the creation of the free trade area, some of the country’s nascent industries could be damaged as European, Asian and US products enter the market through other arrangements, such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Victor Adetula. Credit: Mattias Sköld

“Africa’s industries can’t compete with Europe’s. For instance, virtually all the industries are small, and generally vulnerable. Africa’s comparative advantage is still in the production of primary resources, not in manufacturing goods”, Adetula says.

“If their industries are not well protected and secured against all unregulated external influence and risks, uncontrolled trade liberalisation by the African countries will merely open their markets for others to take advantage of. It will kill rather than stimulate industrialisation in Africa. Look at what happened to the textile industry, for example – it is almost dead in African countries due to globalisation.”

Adetula says that while some might argue that Nigeria’s position amounts to nothing but protectionism, African countries have good reason to be careful and protective of their economies. He points out that even the EU countries are operating with certain degrees of guarantees of protection for their local industries as part of their national interests.

“Is there any country that is not protecting its own industry? There is none!”

Adetula says that Nigeria’s position can partially be explained by history. Since the 1960s, the West African nation has always acted carefully before entering regional cooperation deals.

“Nigeria is already operating a trade liberalisation policy within the framework of the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme. Already there are concerns within the ECOWAS region and other similar sub-regional integration arrangements that the EU-led EPA will result in multiple trade liberalisation schemes on the continent.

The AfCFTA will likely introduce a new trade liberalisation arrangement. Managing multiple trade liberalisation schemes requires that Nigeria be more careful”, Adetula says.

Another concern is about the structure of the economies of African countries. Take, for instance, the structure of their industrial sectors. They do not complement one another perfectly to enhance complementary cooperation between industries on the continent, according to Adetula.

“Also, if you consider the structure of African trade, many countries are producing the same items. So, how then are they going to trade and with what products? It is not just ‘Let there be trade and there will be trade’ – what do you trade in? How industry and trade are integrated with each other is a question that needs to be addressed.”

Adetula takes the case of West Africa.

“Nigeria is producing cocoa, Ghana is producing cocoa, Côte d’Ivoire is producing cocoa – so who is going to trade with what?” Adetula says it is a positive indicator of global development when the right of a country to say yes or no to a proposal for international cooperation is respected.

“For example, Sweden is a member of the EU but does not subscribe to the common European currency. Similarly, Nigeria might find it favourable to join some parts of the AfCFTA but not others. It is a possibility.”

Adetula predicts that Nigeria will opt to become a member of the free trade area through a gradual transition process.

He compares the situation with the development of the EU, which started with a small group of countries, with UK joining in 1973 and eastern European countries much later.

“Nigeria’s position is not a definite ‘no’, but Nigeria will not be rushed by anyone. Generally, Nigeria’s policy on external trade can promote international trade and development while supporting regional initiatives towards increased intra-African trade.

Nigeria has persistently cautioned against rushing the agenda of the AfCFTA without extensive consultation with all the stakeholders. Nigeria needs to take into consideration some peculiarities of its political economy, as well as some lessons learned from the EU’s recent experience.”