In today’s world, international aid is fickle, financial flows unstable, and many donor countries are facing domestic economic crises themselves, driving them to apply resources inward. In this environment, developing countries need inner strength. They need inner stability. And they deserve the right to chart their own futures.
This is within their grasp, and last week the launch of an unassuming-but-powerful tool marked an important step forward in this quiet independence movement. It’s called the TADAT, or Tax Administration Diagnostic Assessment Tool. At first glance, this tool may look inscrutable, technical, and disconnected from development. But listen.
Sustainable development was once thought of as primarily a concern for the poorer, so-called “developing” countries. Today, with industrial civilization spreading across the entire world, devouring ever more resources and emitting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, economists believe wealthy countries too are in a sense still “developing” ones. Life on Earth will not survive in its current form if lifestyle of the northern countries remains as it is and extends across the planet.
That is the spirit behind the Bertelsmann Foundation’s latest report on wealthy country’s progress on fulfilling Sustainable Development Goals. Recent developments have often not been pretty. Many countries have stuck to energy-intensive economic models, and inequality has been rising almost everywhere, with economic elites getting an ever-larger part of the pie, while working and middle classes decline.
The adoption of governance focused SDG #16 and its targets is being claimed a great victory for proponents of good governance.
All UN member states approved the goal to “build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” and committed to develop action plans to achieve targets that “substantially reduce corruption”, practice “responsive, inclusive and participatory decision making”, and “ensure public access to information.”
On the surface this appears to be a major paradigm shift from the MDGs.
A closer examination suggests that these intentions have a caveat that may weaken the supposed shift in the political economy of governance for development. All of these commitments are subject to national legislations that vary broadly in scope in terms of access to information, public participation and strength of anti-corruption policies and institutions. Moreover, governments involved have different opinions on what key concepts such as rule of law, fundamental freedoms, and accountable institutions mean.
There is no sign that the revival of interest in adaptive and entrepreneurial approaches to development work is going tail off soon.
That’s why the demand is growing for indications of how the broad principles, as summarised in the Doing Development Differently Manifesto, apply to the various sectors where interested practitioners are found.
Fred Golooba-Mutebi and I have just published an ODI working paper that begins to fill that gap for one particular economic infrastructure sector, road construction and maintenance. The country is Uganda. The purpose of the study was to revisit a 2009 paper on the political economy of reform in the sector, which was followed by the launching of a DFID-funded programme called CrossRoads.
Proposed Sustainable Development Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”
The UN General Assembly adopted this ambitious objective as one of the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”) when they convened last week. This is a landmark recognition of the importance of justice services for poverty eradication and sustainable, inclusive development. But how will it work in practice?
In the midst of ensuing debates around this question, Colombia offers valuable lessons. In a country torn by almost seven decades of civil war and conflict, Yet inefficiencies of the courts, and their concentration in select urban centers, raise the cost of access. Compounded by lack of information, these barriers have kept justice services out of reach for many citizens, particularly for the poor and most vulnerable.
Recently, I participated in an ODI-organized conference on ‘Driving change in challenging contexts’. The ongoing refugee crisis in Europe as well as the adoption of the SDGs is bringing efforts to revive and accelerate development in challenging contexts to the forefront of political attention.
Progress in such contexts is inevitably difficult. But actual practices are also still far from the possibility frontier of what could be done. Four issues stand out:
Most people now realize the cost of inaction to deal with climate change is far higher than the cost of action. The challenge is mustering the political will to make smart policy choices.
A new report by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, of which I am a member, shows climate action delivers local development benefits as well as emissions reductions. In fact, smart policy choices can deliver economic, health and climate benefits for developed and developing countries alike.
“You cannot solve a problem you haven’t fully understood.” – Chief Justice Mutunga, April 15, 2015
It’s difficult to know whether you’re succeeding in any institution – public or private – if you don’t set targets and collect data to measure progress against them. Courts are no different.
The Kenyan Judiciary has been making great strides in performance management. A ceremony at the Supreme Court in Nairobi last month was the latest step. Chief Justice Willy Mutunga signed “Performance Measurement and Monitoring Understandings” with the heads of Kenya’s courts.
These commit each court to targets such as hearing a case within 360 days, delivering judgments within 60 days of the end of a trial, and delivering a minimum number of 20 rulings a month.
If you were a football (soccer) player, who would you be? Representatives of Ministries of Finance from 20 African countries were confronted with this question at a CABRI-sponsored conference in Johannesburg last April.