The Network of Southern Thinks Tanks (NeST) was established in April 2014 at the fringes of the first High Level Meeting of the GPEDC, with the purpose of 'generating, systematizing, and sharing knowledge on South-South Cooperation (SSC)'.
Over the course of the next two years, academics and experts from the global South have consolidated national and regional chapters, developed analytical frameworks, and conducted a number of case studies that have improved the evidence and understanding on the contribution that SSC makes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
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NeST Monitoring & Evaluation Framework for South-South Cooperation: Why it Matters?
The issue of the accountability of development cooperation is met with growing concern by citizens based in Southern countries as South-South Cooperation (SSC) further contributes to larger financing of global, regional and national development initiatives.
New southern-led initiatives such as the BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asia Infrastructure Investment (AIIB) demonstrate how SSC is a valuable complement to North-South development cooperation. The NDB, which has a starting capital of USD $50 billion, with capital increased to USD $100 billion over time to support infrastructure and sustainable development projects. Formed at the end of 2015, the China-led the AIIB already has capital in the range of USD $100 billion, equivalent to two-thirds of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
South Africa, a member of the BRICS and founding member of the NDB, has an equal share in the NDB, including voting rights. Often seen as a small player in the BRICS club, South Africa (SA) plays a global role in this arena when it comes to Africa. A recent study entitled 'South Africa and the DRC: Evaluation a South-South Partnership for Peace, Governance and Development' by SAIIA shows that between 2001 and 2015, SA spent at least ZAR45 8.5 billion (over USD $1 billion) on DRC-related SSC through various government departments and public entities. In its peak year of 2008, Pretoria’s development co-operation was found to be nearly ZAR 1.5 billion (approximately USD $181 million), making SA the third biggest development partner in the DRC in absolute terms.
Matters concerning the accountability and inclusive participation in SSC were hotly debated during the Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) held in Nairobi, Kenya from 28 November to 1 December 2016. During the HLM2, countries from all over the globe gathered to deliberate on ways to improve development effectiveness, both of traditional donors as well as Southern providers.
Oxfam, working closely with partners from the Network of Southern Think Tanks (NeST) convened several SSC side events at the HLM2. This included the convening of a workshop entitled 'The Monitoring and Evaluation of SSC' during which NeST Africa launched the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for South-South Cooperation (NeST Framework). Between 2015 and 2016 NeST developed, tested and refined a new framework to measure the quantity, quality and impact of SSC towards sustainable development. As part of this framework, principles emerging out of historical conferences of the global South (Bandung, 1955, Buenos Aires, 1978, Nairobi, 2009, Bogota, 2010, Delhi, 2013) were distilled into 20 operational indicators, organised in 5 dimensions, to measure the quality of South-South partnerships and processes. The NeST Framework has so far been used for new research by Southern experts to better understand the role of SSC, including case studies on the role of emerging countries such as SA, Mexico, Brazil, India and Turkey in promoting development, peace and stability in developing countries.
The NeST initiative seeks to address the challenges related to information management systems, which prove to be very weak across most Southern providers. Existing mechanisms and efforts for reporting SSC focus on the inputs, activities and immediate outputs of the often ad hoc and short-term SSC projects. Some Southern-based experts explain the key challenge of accountability in SSC relates to the limited funds and capacity of Southern providers to develop data management systems needed for reporting, and monitoring and evaluation systems. However, the reality is that SSC sources are growing both in quantity and geographic reach, along with the public expectations for accountability of these funds. The NeST framework is a first step towards initiating a mechanism towards greater accountability and transparency of SSC.
During the 'The Monitoring and Evaluation of SSC' event, NeST experts emphasised the role of accountability in SSC, stating that 'when it comes to the transparency of public funds, accountability is a non-negotiable matter…accountability pertains to citizens understanding how funds may be used with public money, as well as to the recipient country, which receives public funds. Citizens must have access to information on what public funds are being received and how it is being spent'. A Southern government respondent further emphasised the important responsibility of government to be accountable to tax payers. He posed, 'How can we not be transparent on what we spend, and be effective? Although, accounting of SSC is difficult (based on capacities), we need to invest in resources to do this. And, this takes a long time'.
The event concluded with the need to further engage with governments to explore the extent by which Southern providers can include aspects of the NeST framework in their policies and practices. Civil society has an important role here in calling out government where needed, and the excuse of the lack of data does not hold up as legitimate anymore. Such debates revealed the growing political momentum on moving forward towards the development of an accountability framework for SSC from the theoretical to the practical. The stakes are high given the growing value of SSC, both in terms of quantity as well as the potential to create new models of development in the context of the 2030 agenda.
From Oxfam’s perspective, whilst exploring how to take forward the use of the NeST Framework for use for national, regional and global accountability mechanisms for SSC, we must ensure that people to people solidarity be at the forefront of our efforts. A strong critique of SSC expressed by recipient countries during the HLM2, especially African voices was that SSC is mostly about government to government relations. This is despite the principle of people to people solidarity being historically rooted in SSC: solidarity among peoples and countries of the South that contributes to their national well-being, and their national and collective self-reliance. It is therefore imperative that SSC be re-centred today on people to people solidarity, and ultimately delivers for the poor, and a more just, equal society. People-centred development must be a key driver of this process.
Author: Marianne Buenaventura Goldman, Project Lead: South- South Cooperation
From The Side-Lines in Nairobi: South-South Cooperation (SSC) and Mutual Accountability – The Good and the Bad, Or Just Ugly?
On September 25th 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to 'end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all'. Goal 17 stresses the importance of mobilising human and financial resources through government, the private sector and civil society partnerships. This goal is premised on an assumption that SSC partnerships enable mutual accountability and extend limited resources.
The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC), formed post-Busan to facilitate the implementation of global agreements on development assistance, supports and ensures mutual accountability for co-operation. The partnership is premised on commitments to developing and supporting country systems; ensuring transparency on financial flows; monitoring results progress, and using a range of stakeholders, mostly local.
The second GPEDC High Level Forum took place in Nairobi on 30 November and 1 December 2016. Here senior members of government from all over the world gathered at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) to review progress. The so-called new donor BRICS countries were conspicuous in their absence, having opted out of the GPEDC process.
The Nairobi Outcome Document (1 December 2016) reaffirms the commitment to mutual accountability and ensuring that all stakeholders, donors and recipients, are 'equal and inter-dependent partners in development'. All actions agreed are based on '… ownership of development priorities by developing countries, focus on results, inclusive development partnerships, and transparency and accountability'. In principle, these are all necessary conditions for sustainable development cooperation, given mutual goals to leave no one behind.
In practice, however, the politics of cooperation tracking and accounting are complex, dynamic and embedded. They are evident even in venue selection. A few pre-event sessions were hosted in central Nairobi hotels complete with air-conditioning and snacks. Others, such as the Nairobi Civil Society Forum, were further out and look place (mostly) under marquees. The contrast in venues, donors on one side, and civil society on the other, tests the idea of mutuality in a world so starkly defined by inequalities of voice, power and resources.
This inequality, the ‘bad’ which is seen to define established N-S development relationships, through conditionality, financial and reporting controls, is mediated by the ‘good’ of mutuality implicit to S-S commitments and associated GPEDC partnerships. There is an underlying assumption that the power dynamics implicit to development assistance are less uneven, and more transparent, between southern partners with similar experiences. But is this the case?
The word from the side-lines is no. It seems that accountability is a contested and loaded term in almost any context – as the questions ‘to whom’ and ‘for what’ are hard to answer. Linked to these is the loaded discussion on ‘measures’ – what and how – and the ever-present question of ‘why do we need to?’. And so, it cycles back, for transparency, for accountability – to whom, for what – what measures and how do we collect and share data. Does the 'publication of open data on development cooperation' enable development that improves the lives of the most marginalised and impoverished in our worlds?
I attended several side-events. The first was hosted by the German Development Institute (DIE), entitled 'Efforts and accountability for Development Cooperation under the 2030 Agenda: moving towards convergence?' The second, hosted by RAN, Oxfam and NeST Africa explored 'Inclusive Participation and Accountability in SSC.' Other side events attended debated the roles and accountability of SS partners for Africa’s development; alternative frameworks for monitoring and evaluation (Oxfam and NeST), transparency and accountability in finance reporting.
So, what did I learn about SSC and mutual accountability?
- There are two ‘approaches’ to development cooperation: emerging donor or SSC, seen as collaborative and supportive; and traditional ODA or N-S cooperation characterised as unequal and conditional. The good and the bad? Each has a different accountability mechanism, one imposed and the other mutual. Is there an emerging third way rooted in transnational cooperation that recognises local contexts and adapts accountabilities to project conditions?
- Accountability is about answerability and enforceability, and involves vertical and horizontal agency. It is affected by culture and context, historical relationships, and capabilities. For example, Rwanda uses a donor forum to monitor donor assistance and ensure mutual accountability. But many recipients lack the capability or force of will to ‘manage’ donors – regardless of their origins. How are common norms and standards defined when distribution favours the powerful and aid recipients are absent from decision making?
- We are still not sure what SSC is, and this affects how we think about mutual accountability and responsibility, and what is transparent and what is not. For example, China is committed to the SDGs, SSC and partnership. And is strongly accountable to Chinese citizens and their development commitments. But they do not see the necessity of adapting their country monitoring and financial systems to provide data for global monitoring when the purpose is fuzzy. What is the information for and who is judging? And if the recipient country is happy and benefits, does it matter?
- The face of SSC is government to government, despite the solidarity which defines its origins. SSC can close spaces for civil society organisations (CSOs) – “they give us a deaf ear”. SSC is an opportunity to do things better, but there is a need to strengthen in-country democracy to make it work. On the surface, SSC is appealing but in practice it can repeat the same power practices as ODA. The politics of partnerships should be managed to ensure an institutionalisation of SSC principles. Despite intentions, SSC is not a partnership of equals and it should take care not to affect the democratic independence of recipient countries.
- We agree that we need some common measures so that we can learn from progress (or failure). But this is easier to achieve within countries than across the globe. Our differing contexts make it difficult to find standardised ‘things’ to measure and so there is an attempt to monetise processes and results. This does allow comparability (if it’s needed?) but does not say much about the politics of the process, or the effects of the interventions on development and poverty. NeST SA have attempted to address this with a qualitative framework that goes some way to addressing the political economy of development relationships, but it is highly dependent on the willingness of partners to commit. The SDGs provide a global framework for mutual accountability but again – how to move beyond the number tick box to sustainable impact? Measures are never politically neutral.
Our choices are not simply about the good or the bad – SSC, ODA or SDGs. In the practice of shifting the global resources distributions, insufficient attention is paid to constitutive processes - the ‘rules’ which govern who is heard, and for what reason. We have to tackle the ugly and work out what accounting for results mean for the politics of process? Does the outcome of sustainable development justify the means used to achieve the SDGs? Or are the results only sustainable if you follow the right steps? And in an unequal and resource-hungry world, it is always the poor and marginalised that are silent and invisible.
Author: Prof. Anne Mc Lennan, Wits School of Governance, for Oxfam South Africa and NeST Southern Africa.