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Development effectiveness

In the Financing for Development outcomes, governments commit to efforts to enhance the effectiveness of international development cooperation and ODA in particular. The Addis Ababa Action Agenda presents a range of commitments to enhance the quality, impact and effectiveness of international development cooperation, including adherence to agreed development effectiveness principles. In this regard, development partners committed to align activities with national priorities, untie aid, promote country ownership, support results orientation and strengthen country systems, use programme-based approaches where appropriate, strengthen partnerships for development, reduce transaction costs, and increase transparency and mutual accountability. They also committed to make development more effective and predictable by providing developing countries with regular and timely indicative information on planned support in the medium term. The Addis Agenda also notes that efforts to pursue effective development cooperation will be addressed primarily in the Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), while taking into account the efforts of other relevant forums, such as the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). The data, information and analysis contained below draw on the findings of the latest DCF Global Accountability Survey, conducted since 2008 by UN DESA, in collaboration with UNDP, and of the 2016 Monitoring Report of the GPEDC.

National development cooperation policies (NDCPs)

As both the 2030 Agenda and the Addis Agenda reflect a broader concept of development cooperation, including diverse modalities and actors, countries are starting to shift from aid policies to a more comprehensive national development cooperation policy approach. Some countries have started to reflect key aspects of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, such as the importance of all three dimensions of sustainable development, commitments to address inequality, and the universality of the new agenda and its applicability to all countries in their policies.

Country results frameworks

The 2016 GPEDC Monitoring Report, which found that ninety-nine per cent of countries have development strategies at the national and sector levels, noted that 74 per cent of countries have priorities, targets and indicators in a single strategic planning document. At the same time, it found that in the design phase, 85 per cent of new development cooperation interventions draw their objectives from these country-led results frameworks.

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Yet moving from planning to managing for results remains a challenge, both for countries and for their development partners. The development effectiveness of policies and programmes is constrained, on the one hand, by countries’ need to further strengthen their results-based budgeting, monitoring and evaluation systems. On the other hand, while development partners have aligned with existing country systems in the planning phases, they need to extend this to monitoring and evaluation, including relying on countries’ own monitoring indicators and sources of data, and carrying out joint evaluations with governments.

This lack of alignment to country systems in implementation is also reflected in the DCF Global Accountability Survey. It finds that 34 out of 58 countries currently have a country results framework directly related to development cooperation, but that in most countries these frameworks seem to be disconnected from national monitoring and evaluation.  83 per cent of respondent countries reported that parallel systems were being used to fair, great or very great extent.

The DCF Global Accountability Study emphasizes the urgent need for development partners to adjust their NDCPs – including operational policies – with a view to removing parallel systems and supporting institutional and technical capacities of developing country governments that are relevant to monitoring and review of development cooperation, including in the areas of procurement and information management.

Country results frameworks were less likely to contain objectives and targets for local governments and individual development cooperation partners. A number of developing countries indicated capacity gaps, in particular in areas such as operationalizing results frameworks and securing sufficient skills in results-based monitoring and evaluation.

Use of country systems

Country performance in strengthening public financial management systems is mixed: 18 per cent of countries participating in the 2016 Global Monitoring Report have strengthened them, 23 per cent have experienced a decline and 58 per cent of countries show no substantial change. At the same time, several countries in fragile contexts and small-island developing states made progress in strengthening their country systems.

Progress in increasing the use of country systems is also slow. Overall, 51 per cent of development co-operation disbursements to the public sector used country systems in 2015, compared to 45 per cent in 2010. Non-DAC bilateral partners showed the biggest improvement. Improvements in the quality of public financial management systems led to higher use of country systems by development partners – with the exception of aid-dependent countries, where higher use of country systems is driven by the need to support the government budget.

Untying of aid

The share of ODA by OECD DAC providers that is untied has decreased slightly in recent years, from 83 per cent in 2013 to 78 per cent in 2015. Several countries maintain fully or almost fully untied aid. The increasing involvement of the private sector from development partner countries in delivering development cooperation needs to be carefully managed to avoid further tying of aid.

Tracking allocations for gender equality and women’s empowerment

According to UNDESA’s DCF Global Accountability Study, gender equality and women’s empowerment is promoted in 58 per cent of national development cooperation policies.  The survey outcomes show that 57 per cent of countries include gender-specific targets in their NDCPs.  However, gender-disaggregated expenditures and results are tracked by only 21 per cent of developing country’s development cooperation information systems. 

Transparency and quality of data

Many development actors have made progress in the comprehensiveness of publicly available information on development cooperation, and moderate progress in upgrading reporting practices to make reporting more timely. However, publishing forward-looking information to enable countries’ effective planning and strategic management of diverse development resources remains as a challenge. 

Effectiveness of the United Nations system

The effectiveness of United Nations system operational activities for development is reviewed by the General Assembly and ECOSOC through the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review of operational activities for development of the United Nations system (QCPR). Every four years, the General Assembly adopts a resolution to guide, monitor and assess the operational activities of the United Nations development system with the aim to improve its effectiveness, efficiency, coherence and impact.

Tax exemptions on aid goods and services

Members States also committed in the Addis Agenda to not consider requesting tax exemptions on goods and services delivered as government-to-government aid, beginning with renouncing repayments of value-added taxes and import levies.

South-South cooperation and effectiveness
South-South cooperation is steadily incorporating a regional and multilateral focus. For example, several Southern partners, such as Brazil, China, India, and Turkey, have dedicated and regular forums to engage with African countries as a group.
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Development effectiveness - based on the core principles of South-South cooperation – respect for national sovereignty, national ownership and independence, equality, non-conditionality, non-interference in domestic affairs and mutual benefit – has become more prominent in these forums.  For instance, the 2015 India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) agreed to develop a detailed Joint Plan of Action and Modalities for a monitoring mechanism and similar discussions have taken place in the Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). In order to foster evidence-building, knowledge-sharing and mutual learning, there are ongoing discussions among Southern partners on improving the availability, quality and comparability of data and information related to its flows.  Read more on the estimates of South-South flows in the section on South-South cooperation