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Strategy sessions II.8> Partnerships with Funding Agencies
 
World Education Forum
Dakar, Senegal 26-28 April 2000
 
Building effective partnerships with funding agencies
Issues Paper
 
Strategy Session II.8
 
Original : English
 
  The evolution of international aid during recent years has not been encouraging. The data provided by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) show that Official Development Assistance (ODA) has been steadily declining during the 1990s . At current prices and exchange rate, total net ODA between 1992 and 1997 shows a drop in absolute terms from US$60,8 million to US$48,3 million. In relative terms, this represents a fall from 0.33 per cent of the donor countries' combined GNP to 0.22 per cent. It is the lowest percentage ever reached in development co-operation and far below the 0.7 per cent target set by the international community. Detailed statistics indicate that the fall is mainly due to cuts in the aid budgets of the G7 countries, while aid flowing from other countries has remained more or less stable.
 
   According to the latest information made available by the DAC earlier this year, there has been a modest reversal of the downward trend in 1998, which reflects special measures taken in relation to the Asian financial crisis but also "explicit policies on behalf of certain donor countries to stabilise or rebuild aid programmes". In 1998, the total net ODA thus stood at US$51,9 million which represents 0.25 per cent of the total DAC members' GDP. Yet in 1998, only Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden managed to exceed the official UN target of 0.7 per cent.
 
Aid to education represents roughly 10 per cent of the total bilateral ODA, and 7 per cent of total multilateral ODA. These proportions have remained more or less stable over time. Much of this aid still goes to higher education, including funding of students and trainees from the developing world. The proportion of bilateral education aid devoted to basic education is estimated at about 12 per cent, which for 1995-1996 was in the order of some US$600 million per year. Furthermore, the actual amounts of bilateral aid for education have not varied much during the first half of the decade. In 1990, some US$5.604 million went to education, compared with US$6.037 million in 1995 and US$5.084 million in 1996. More preoccupying is the fact that over half of the bilateral ODA for education goes to countries which already have the vast majority of their children in primary school. The 1998 DAC Development Report states that still in 1995-1996 just six countries - China, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Thailand and Turkey- received 40 per cent of the total bilateral aid for education while only about 30 per cent went to countries with less than half of their children in primary school.
 

Obviously, the renewed commitment to basic education inspired by the Jomtien Conference has not been matched with a corresponding increase of development aid.

 
Emergence of a new development co-operation paradigm
 
However, the volume of aid is only one aspect to be considered. As important, if not more so, is the way in which the aid is being administered and used. It so happens that during the 1990s, there was a serious re-examination of the classical development assistance approaches, including those in the area of education. Criticism of the structural adjustment prescriptions, so popular in the 1980s, and of their negative effects on social development, has been growing. The collapse of the socio-economic systems in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the increasing marginalization of low-income countries within the overall globalization process, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, particularly in the developing world, have pushed the international community to look for more efficient, more sustainable and more equitable co-operation patterns.
 
In terms of the orientation of development assistance, the emphasis has been shifted back from structural adjustment to poverty reduction. Today, there is a widely-held belief that unless poverty reduction becomes an explicit development objective, the problem of growing marginalization - if not exclusion - of low-income countries and population segments cannot be reversed. Consequently, most agencies - bilateral as well as multilateral - have made poverty reduction the explicit or implicit priority of their aid policies. This has put basic education, together with other basic services, such as basic health, population and water supply, high on the international development agenda. Basic education is generally recognized as an essential precondition to reduce poverty and to build sustainable and equitable development.
 
In relation to the assistance modalities, the traditional project approach has equally come under severe criticism. It is considered that projects with separate management units, separate financial arrangements and separate monitoring and evaluation procedures, not only lead to overlaps and inefficient use of resources, but also undermine the capacity of national governments to control their own development and build their local capacities. The principles that emerged from this critical examination have led to the definition of the new sector-wide approach which claims that, in order to be efficient, development co-operation has to be integrated into a broad, commonly agreed-upon policy framework, based on local leadership and responsibility, planned through participatory processes, and implemented through existing national structures. As indicated in the 1997 DAC report this approach calls for a new partnership strategy: between donors; between donors and recipient governments; and between governments and civilian society.
 
Selected issues for discussion
 
This new development co-operation paradigm involves action to be taken at different levels: at international level to agree on general rules and principles; at regional level to analyze common problems, exchange experiences and identify promising strategies; and at national level to put the new paradigm into practice.
 
During the strategy session concrete examples of recent initiatives taken at each of these levels will be discussed: the case of the informal code of conduct for education developed by a group of agencies, under the auspices of the European Union, as implemented in Mozambique through sector-wide approach; the case of the partnerships between ministries of education and financing agencies in the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the case of government co-ordination of donor assistance to basic education in India.
 
While examining these three examples, presenters and participants are invited to concentrate on practical issues and challenges involved in implementing the new partnership approach, some of which are briefly indicated below:
 
1) Co-ordination between donor agencies - Dialogue between donors is regularly taking place at top level within the framework of several international and regional organizations such as the UN agencies, the OECD, the European Commission, etc. As for the education sector, several special consultation and exchange mechanisms also exist, such as the International Working Group on Education (IWGE) or the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), which also includes African Ministers of Education. At policy level therefore, consensus building seems to have become a regular and relatively smooth process, which has led to several interesting initiatives such as the preparation of checklists for strengthening partnership (DAC/OECD) or of a code of conduct for education aid agencies (IWGE/The Horizon 2000 Group of the European Union), etc.
 
However, practical problems occur when it comes to putting top level agreements into practice. Some have to do with visibility. Specific agencies may request visibility, not so much for publicity purposes but rather for accountability reasons. Indeed, public opinions in donor countries and their political representatives in parliaments are expressing more and more interest in how development assistance budgets is being spent. Donors, therefore, may often wish to maintain separate projects within an overall sector development plan rather than making untied contributions to a common fund. What does this mean in terms of the concept and the application of a genuine sector-wide approach?
 
Other problems relate to differences in procedures and modalities of operation, including procurement procedures, appraisal methods, monitoring and evaluation practices, etc. If the sector approach is to succeed, procedures will have to be simplified and harmonized. In principle, donors should adjust to the local procedures of the recipient country, which in turn may involve bringing these procedures up to international standards and strengthening the local management capacity to guarantee their proper application. One particularly delicate issue is that of tied aid still practised by many agencies but not easily compatible with national ownership of the recipient country nor with effective partnership between agencies. Competitive international bidding and local procurement are generally seen as the two main devices for untying aid. But do they indeed make for efficient aid?
 
2) Government leadership - National government leadership in the design and implementation of sector development plans and programmes is generally seen as a condition for efficient and sustainable development co-operation. Central governments should have a strong co-ordination mechanism by which different aid programmes could be negotiated and integrated within the national development priorities.
 
The point is, however, that many countries are not in a position to set up such a mechanism in the short term. Indeed, poor countries, which are most in need of development assistance also, struggle most with problems of political stability, weak institutional capacity and low technical competence. Under such circumstances, it is difficult to organize equal partnership between donors and recipients. The donors tend to dominate, conditionalities to play a major role and agencies' priorities to prevail over the national policy objectives. In certain cases, aid agencies simply fill the vacuum by asking one of them to assume the co-ordination role instead of the government. In others, where national authorities have little orno commitment to the well being of their population, some donors may even ignore or bypass the government and work directly with NGOs and representatives of the civilian society. But how efficient are these solutions in the long term? And is there another way out for donors than to invest more seriously in strengthening national policy-making and management capacities, that is to say, in institutional reform and technical training, in order to make efficient partnerships possible?
 
3) Beyond Government/Agencies partnership
 
The role of NGOs - During the last two decades, a diversified range of NGOs emerged, which have had a profound impact on development approaches and practices. Some of them are specialized in advocacy while others are fully action-oriented. Some are small and heavily depend on resources from bilateral or multilateral government agencies, while others are big and mobilize their own funds. The relationships between NGOs and governmental agencies have for a long time been distant, if not sometimes conflictual. Today however, NGOs are recognized as full partners within the donor community as well as by the recipient countries.
 
It is generally considered that NGOs have a comparative advantage in meeting the basic needs of the poor and in operating at lower cost, while their major problem is going on scale. Some also argue that because of their belief in promoting specific values, NGOs sometimes lack openness to work effectively with other organizations who do not share the same culture. In any case, and in order to be able to maximize the contribution of the NGO sector, the following questions may need further discussion: What are the specificities of different types of NGOs? What are their comparative advantages and disadvantages? What are the roles which they can best play in the delivery of basic education services and how?
 
Involving civil society - The most difficult challenge within the new co-operation paradigm is to build partnerships with the civilian society. It is commonly accepted that achievements in social development, including the development of basic education depend on people's ability to express their demands and to engage in collective action. An essential prerequisite for universalizing basic education is therefore to mobilize the poor segments of society and to empower them so that they can defend their own rights and get involved in decision-making concerning development programmes which are supposed to respond to their specific needs.
 
At the same time, the partnership building has to extend beyond the poor themselves and involve all social organizations such as trade unions, mass media, research institutions, professional associations, etc. As clearly stated in the Jomtien Declaration, genuine partnership of all segments of society in planning and implementing basic education programmes is at the heart of the expanded vision and renewed commitment to EFA.
 

Obviously, building such partnership has a political dimension and is in the first instance a national challenge. However, donors cannot stand totally aloof from this process, since it directly affects the nature and relevance of their interaction with national governments. What precisely then is the position and role of international donors in this respect? What about conditionalities? How pro-active can (or should) donors be?

 

Moderator

- Ms Françoise Caillods, Co-ordinator of Decentralized Programmes UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, Paris, France

Panellists

- Ms Agneta Lind, Adviser, Sida, Stockholm, Sweden

- Mr M. Bireme Abderahim Hamid, Minister of National Education, Chad Chair, Bureau of Ministers, Association for the Development of Education in Africa

- Mr Shri Abhimanyu Singh, Joint Secretary, Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India

- Mr Adrian Verspoor, Lead Specialist, Education. World Bank, Washington D.C., USA

Rapporteur

- Mr. Roy Carr-Hill, Centre for Health Economics, University of York, U.K.

 
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