Politics of Poverty

Big stakes for development cooperation: Did the GPEDC prove its legitimacy?

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What happens when civil society are not invited into the tent? Here, leaders from wealthy countries are encouraged to tackle global poverty during the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in 2009. Photo: Chris Rolinson / Oxfam America

A wrap-up of the First High-Level Meeting in Mexico City

Tariq Sayed Ahmad is a Researcher with the Aid Effectiveness Team at Oxfam America.

The First High Level Meeting (HLM) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development (GPEDC) ended last week in Mexico City and Oxfam was there to help ensure that accountability and inclusion remained the core characteristics of aid effectiveness at the international level. The Mexico HLM was intended to be a moment to reflect and reiterate the commitments made in Busan in 2011. So what happened?

Successes & Challenges

Many officials were happy with the results of the meeting and renewed collaboration towards participatory development. And indeed, there were a few things Oxfam was really excited about too: specific mentions towards private sector accountability, continued focus on Busan values like human rights and gender, and pro-active dialogues on the integration of domestic resource mobilization into the broader development effectiveness discourse. In addition, the Mexico HLM demonstrated the rising influence of Southern participants – governments, civil society organizations, and private sector.

Yet, simultaneously, some key challenges remain. The same South-South aid providers reissued demands that their way of providing development cooperation should be exempt from some of the core mandates of the GPEDC, like being more transparent and untying their support. Worse, participants failed to reiterate a clear mandate to strengthen and use the global aid effectiveness monitoring framework as a tool for participant accountability.

Consensus = Legitimacy?

Despite these challenges, maybe the real success of the HLM was that it achieved a consensus at all. As more and more participants entered and left the conversations (notably Brazil’s entrance and India and China’s departure from the GPEDC meeting), there was a real threat that consensus on a final document, the “Mexico Communiqué,” would not be reached. While good policy was scrapped in order to ensure all participants agreed, the Mexico stakeholders did reach consensus in the end.

A number of observers were watching the HLM, to see if the GPEDC is truly a legitimate platform for propelling development conversations. According to the organizers of the GPEDC, the forum’s inclusive approach—the ability to bring together a wide array of stakeholders to recommit towards a partnership—is exactly what gives the GPEDC its legitimacy. If the Mexico meetings had failed to reach a consensus, the GPEDC’s very existence would have been at stake.

The GPEDC and the MDGs

Discussions are already underway on how the international community will come together around a new set of development objectives as the UN Millennium Development Goals are set to expire in 2015, and the GPEDC has already been dubbed as the means to carry out the post-2015 goals.

Yet some players involved in GPEDC process still see the newly-created forum as being largely OECD-based. Some rising countries in the development arena would rather strengthen the power of UN-centric development forums, like the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum, or even the G77+, where rising economies hold more sway. Jonathan Glennie of the Overseas Development Institute clearly articulated the challenges of competing global development fora in a piece he wrote on the eve of the HLM. But unlike many other fora, civil society at GPEDC is actually invited “inside the tent” and has a seat at the decision making table.

At the end of the day, the people who matter most—the men, women, boys and girls who live in poverty—will not be sitting at the table when decisions are made about the post 2015 development goals. That is why the international community needs a process that provides the most opportunity for those voices to be heard. Right now, the GPEDC, with a formalized civil society role, has the most promise.

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