Mexico meeting on effective development cooperation: Flash in the pan or slow burner?

By Claire Leigh, Chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development

At a meeting in Busan, Korea in 2011 the international development community met to discuss how to improve aid effectiveness. The major outcome of that meeting was the establishment of ‘The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’, a broad collection of donors, international organisations, aid recipients and middle income countries. The two innovations of this group were firstly that for the first time MICS (often both donors and recipients of aid) and recipient countries were brought to the table as equal partners, and secondly that the groups remit was to extend far beyond aid, to include development cooperation of many different types (knowledge sharing, private sector development, taxation etc).

Fast forward two years and the great and the good of the development community gathered last week in Mexico for the first ministerial-level meeting of the Global Partnership. The ministerial meeting didn’t get off to a good start in the preceding weeks, with chaotic organisation and a general sense among aid-watchers that the meeting had a somewhat underwhelming agenda.

In the end the meetings ran relatively smoothly, and participants by the closing ceremony were giving the event better marks out of 10 than anticipated, both for organisation and substance.

That said, the event lacked a clear focus on action, and I was frustrated by the lack of room for genuine discussion, with plenary sessions involving 1000+ people and moderated a glittering array of moonlighting news anchors. There was also a remarkable absence of discussion on the post-2015 agenda; One way to make the Global Partnership really meaningful would be to link it explicitly to the next set of global development goals, as the ‘how’ to its ‘what’. There was also not nearly enough time given to discuss achievements against the original Busan commitments. The progress report released alongside the meeting, despite being 140 pages or so long, could report little real change since 2011 and focused (rather depressingly) on welcoming the continued ‘commitment’ of GP partners to improving aid effectiveness.

The main agenda focused instead on the pet topics of the three co-chairs: Domestic Resource Mobilisation (Nigeria), South-South knowledge sharing (Indonesia) and Private Sector Development (UK). These are all important topics, but by moving the conversation away from the core Busan agenda of how to make aid more effective we missed the opportunity to give that agenda the boost it so sorely needs.

It might be that Mexico will be a slow burner. But last week it felt more like a flash in the pan.

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