«Changes must take place in both donor and recipient states»

Article, 14.04.2014

Donor states in the field of international development cooperation want to improve the effectiveness of the aid they offer. To this end, representatives of these states are to meet in Mexico from 15 to 16 April 2014 to attend the first High Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. SDC director-general Martin Dahinden will lead the Swiss delegation in Mexico. In this interview he explains what the meeting will be about and what changes have been made in international and Swiss development cooperation over recent years.

Martin Dahinden is leading the Swiss delegation at the first High Level Meeting of the new Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico.

Mister Dahinden, you are leading the Swiss delegation at the first High Level Meeting of the new Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation in Mexico. What is this meeting about?

People from many different countries working in the field of development cooperation are set to meet in Mexico – for example, representatives of government organisations, civil society, businessmen and women or members of parliament.

A range of topics will be up for discussion, including the outlook for international development cooperation in the coming years, who will be involved and how.

Funding is another topic for debate. There is agreement amongst the international aid community that developing countries should also address the question of funding, generate funds themselves and contribute in this way to the their own development.

We shall also be examining the progress made since the meeting in Busan in South Korea in 2011. Switzerland also attended this international forum and endorsed the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation along with over 160 other countries. This is a politically binding document. One important point is that emerging countries, global funds, foundations and civil society organisations are also members of the new Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation.

Do such discussions really lead to improvements in development cooperation?

Yes, because they change ways of seeing things and procedures in international development cooperation. For example, nowadays we know that changes in one part of the world influence other parts of the world. I’m thinking of climate change or migration, which affects the whole world as a result of the movements involved. This kind of information needs to be incorporated in international development cooperation.

Donor countries are agreed that it is not merely a question of bringing about change in poor countries, but also querying and changing our own behaviour. Subsidies are a good example of this point. These can lead to imbalances and can, for example, make it impossible for poor countries to sell their own products. Food security is another point of interest. 50% of food in Switzerland is thrown away. This leaves us with the question of whether it is right to increase food production in the south, or whether we also need to make some changes.

Switzerland is continuing to work with its partner countries to increase the effectiveness of development cooperation. Its main aim is to reduce world poverty. This is line with the primary aim of the United Nations Millennium Declaration issued in 2001. At the same time, it is involved in many so-called fragile states with weak or unstable institutions and structures, where the local populations suffer from poverty, violence, corruption and political despotism.

Why is it important for Switzerland to attend the High-Level Meeting in Mexico? What are Switzerland’s specific objectives?

The meeting in Mexico is one of the two most important meetings to be held this year on the subject of development cooperation. This is in addition to the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2014. Switzerland plays a major role in international development cooperation. It needs to be able to present its beliefs to an international audience, as otherwise their effectiveness is limited. Amongst other things, increased effectiveness means agreeing targets with partner states and international organisations. Switzerland will be able to achieve this in Mexico and that’s precisely why it is important to attend this meeting.

Switzerland believes that it is important to be involved in countries experiencing conflicts and vulnerable situations. Little progress has been made in the fight against poverty in such countries over the past 15 years. Switzerland is stepping up its efforts in this field and is also concentrating on this aspect in its programmes.

In 2011, you led the Swiss delegation at the 4th World Forum on Development Cooperation in Busan in South Korea. What progress has been made since then? Has Swiss development cooperation changed at all?

It has changed a great deal. One important aspect is that emerging countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Chile, South Korea or South Africa are accepting more responsibility and building up their own development cooperation, sometimes to the benefit of poor countries. For many years the emerging countries played no part in development cooperation. Switzerland is in contact with the new donor states and involves them in its own development cooperation work. The agreement between Switzerland and Mexico on trilateral cooperation is just one example of this. It was signed in Montreux on 25 October 2013 and confirms Switzerland’s and Mexico’s intention to implement development projects with third countries in Latin America.

Important agreements to promote effectiveness: more responsibility for recipient countries, improved aid coordination
Donor countries would like to organise development cooperation more efficiently and thus improve its effectiveness. They are supported by the following agreements:

  • Rome Declaration, 2003
    The participants of the Rome Conference in 2003 signed the Rome Declaration in which they undertook to harmonise their development cooperation efforts with the structures, institutions and strategies of developing countries.

    Rome Declaration, 2003

  • Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, 2005
    The Paris Declaration placed greater emphasis on the individual responsibility of the recipient countries – they were obliged to create their own strategies for eradicating poverty and assume the management of foreign aid. The donors should use the countries’ own systems, for example, for funding and procuring aid. Donor and recipient countries are required to align their efforts. The declaration was signed in Paris by the OECD, its member states, international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, regional development banks and partner countries.

    Paris Declaration, 2005

  • Accra Agenda for Action, 2008
    Amongst other things, the Accra Agenda for Action states that donor countries should provide information on their development plans three to five years in advance. Local institutions and structures should be used to distribute aid. The Agenda for Action placed even greater emphasis on the individual responsibility of the receiving countries – they were asked to set targets and priorities in the development partnership.

    Accra Agenda for Action, 2008 (en)

  • Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, 2011:
    The Partnership Agreement concluded at the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan in South Korea in 2011 created the new Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation. In addition to the industrial nations, this also saw the involvement of emerging countries, global funds and foundations, the private sector and civil society organisations for the first time.

    Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, 2011

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