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Simon Maxwell

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PCD: Not just for anoraks

Some people think that PCD – Policy Coherence for Development – is for anoraks. They’re wrong. In a world with fewer low-income countries, and in which official aid is declining in importance relative to other sources of finance, policy engagement is the future and PCD its standard bearer. That point was made very strongly by the UK parliament’s International Development Select Committee, in its Report early in 2015 on the subject of Beyond Aid; and it has been reinforced by the publication of two landmark reports, one by the EU and the other by the OECD.

Declaration of interest: I was Specialist Adviser to the IDCInternational Development Committee enquiry, was invited to speak at the launch of the EUEuropean Union report, and have an essay in the OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Report. I expect that makes me an anorak. I am not alone, though. Owen Barder, the Europe Director of the Center for Global Development, submitted no fewer than three memoranda to the IDC. The 2015 edition of the CGD’s own Commitment to Development Index was launched in June.

We will come to my own views shortly. In brief, however, they can be summarised as:

  • First, the various reports demonstrate that PCD is a valuable concept, which opens new conversations. There has been useful learning, especially on strategies, instruments and reporting. These can be reframed, actually, as being about ideology, power and accountability. Seen in this light, PCD offers a new paradigm of development.
  • Second, the new paradigm is what development will increasingly be about in the future. This, of course, has huge implications for the orientation and staffing of development agencies.
  • Third, in a world in which global public goods and global deals become central to the development project, ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ is a misnomer, implying a one way relationship, when what we need is a two-way, shared commitment to collective action. ‘Policy Consensus for Development’ might be a better term.
  • Fourth, procedures and processes matter, but substance matters more. We should celebrate past work on conceptual frameworks and checklists, declare victory on process, and ask for a moratorium on method.
  • Fifth, when it comes to substance, we should choose a few priorities and really push. My view is that the priority is to move away from high level statements (‘PCD is important’) and methodologies (‘we need a framework’) to action on specifics (‘what are we going to do about refugees?). I ask people in this field: ‘what are you angry about?’. My own list includes refugees, of course, but also additional action on climate change, environmentally sustainable and fair trade, joint technology and innovation work, macro-economic coordination, and other things.

Some practical suggestions follow. For the EU, for example, one possibility is to take advantage of the forthcoming review of the European Consensus on Development to make PCD more visible. Another is to revise the EU Results Frameworkto include PCD-related items. A third is to lock together the Global Strategy, the Consensus, and the Humanitarian Consensus, with a specific focus on shocks. And, of course, there remains the need to act: on refugees, on climate change, and the rest.

Beyond Aid: the report of the UK International Development Select Committee

I’ve reported on the IDCInternational Development Committee Report before. It covered a range of topics, from taxation to drugs, also including migration, trade, human rights and corruption (Figure 1), and concluded with a series of recommendations, including for new legislation, a new results framework for DFID, new procedures and powers for cross-Government work, and new or expanded skills in DFID. The Government response, published just before the election in May 2015, was only modestly supportive of these ideas. In particular, it rejected the need for new legislation and did not want to be drawn into a comprehensive competence review of staffing needs. Importantly, however, the then administration accepted the need for a new results framework with greater focus on the outcome of policy work – and in general, was supportive of the IDC’s enthusiasm for action ‘beyond aid’.

Figure 1

Topics covered in IDCInternational Development Committee enquiry

Source: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmintdev/663/663.pdf

Policy Coherence for Development: the EUEuropean Union Report

The biennial EUEuropean Union Report on PCD, published in August, but officially launched on 19 October, provides useful information on how countries around the EU, as well as the Commission itself, approach the issue of PCD. It also deals in detail with a range of issues.

On the question of how countries deal with PCD, it turns out (UK take note) that thirteen Member States have a legal basis for PCD, and that most have inter-ministerial coordination mechanisms, reporting requirements, and parliamentary involvement. The EUEuropean Union itself has a legal basis, a formal ‘inter-service consultation’ procedure and a requirement for impact assessments and sustainability impact assessments. There is also a Standing Rapporteur on PCD in the European Parliament.

More interestingly, this legal and procedural foundation underpins some valuable thematic initiatives. For example, and following the Rana Plaza disaster, the Netherlands has prioritised work on the textile supply chain. As far as the EUEuropean Union is concerned, there are six main areas of focus: trade and finance; food security; climate change; migration; and security. The report reviews each of these, and concludes with a summary of the key challenges ahead: there are recommendations on topics like trade facilitation, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, the cost of remittance transfers, and conflict prevention. Overall, it is upbeat about the progress made.

The Council of Ministers considered the report and issued supportive ‘Conclusions’ on 26 October. It said, inter alia, that

‘The Council confirms its political engagement to Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) and recalls the Treaty obligation to take into account the objectives of development cooperation in the policies which are likely to affect developing countries, as well as to pursue these objectives in the overall framework of the Union's external action. The recently adopted 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development also emphasises the importance of policy coherence for sustainable development. PCD is a crucial contribution to increasing the effectiveness of the EU's development cooperation and its contribution to global sustainable development. ‘

It is interesting, by the way, that the new EUEuropean Union trade strategy, announced by Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom on 14 October, is deliberately framed in an inclusive way, with an emphasis on a more responsible trade and investment policy, inside and outside the EU. In her Foreword, Ms Malstrom says that

‘The new approach also involves using trade agreements and trade preference programmes as levers to promote, around the world, values like sustainable development human rights, fair and ethical trade and the fight against corruption. We will use future EUEuropean Union agreements to improve the responsibility of supply chains.’

Better Policies for Development: the OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Report

The annual OECD Report on Better Policies for Development was published on 25 September. It is a different kind of product to the EUEuropean Union report, longer, more detailed, with chapters written by named authors, and a large number of independent contributions, including mine, in the form of essays. There is a special focus on green growth, but the report also covers many other topics, for example illicit financial flows. It takes the new Sustainable Development Goals as an overall context.

The OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has quite a comprehensive approach to different kinds of national and international PCD, summarised in Figure 2. It also has a summary of lessons learned from PCD efforts, as in Figure 3. Note the stricture to focus on issues, which I will come back to.

Figure 2

Source: http://www.oecd.org/pcd/Better%20Policies%20for%20Development_2015.pdf

Figure 3

Source: http://www.oecd.org/pcd/Better%20Policies%20for%20Development_2015.pdf

PCD and the future of development cooperation

Now, I do not want to be misty-eyed about either of these reports, and to pretend that they have all the answers. Nor, on this occasion, do I want to review the substantive content, theme by theme. Instead, it seems to me there are some over-arching points to make about PCD. At the launch of the EUEuropean Union report, I made five.

First, the various reports demonstrate that PCD is a valuable concept, which opens new conversations. There has been useful learning, especially on strategies, instruments and reporting. These can be reframed, actually, as being about ideology, power and accountability. Thus, PCD illustrates what development is really about (ideology), how Governments can manage joined up thinking and ensure consistency (power), and accountability to all stakeholders, including in developing countries. Seen in this light, PCD offers a new paradigm of development.

Second, the new paradigm is what development will increasingly be about in the future. As the IDCInternational Development Committee report made clear, the number of low income countries is falling and those that remain are mostly fragile states that require multiple aid and non-aid interventions. Further, the provision of global public goods like a sustainable environment call for policy measures at least as much as cash. This, of course, as again the IDCInternational Development Committee report emphasises, has huge implications for the orientation and staffing of development agencies. I described aid management as being likely to become a rustbelt industry in the future, while PCD was the Silicon Valley of development, located in a sunshine state.

Third, in a world in which global public goods and global deals become central to the development project, ‘Policy Coherence for Development’ is a misnomer, implying a one way relationship, when what we need is a two-way, shared commitment to collective action. ‘Policy Consensus for Development’ might be a better term. The OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Report makes a similar point and suggests re-naming the concept Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development. The OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development also, as indicated above, lays great emphasis on engaging emerging powers and other stakeholders in the developing world.

Fourth, procedures and processes matter, but substance matters more. The OECDOrganisation for Economic Cooperation and Development makes this point, and it was one also made at the EUEuropean Union launch by the Commissioner, Neven Mimica, and the Head of Luxembourg development cooperation, currently holding the EUEuropean Union Presidency, Martine Schommer.  I argued that we should celebrate work on conceptual frameworks and checklists, declare victory on process, and ask for a moratorium on method.

Fifth, when it comes to substance, we should choose a few priorities and really push. My view is that the priority is to move away from high level statements (‘PCD is important’) and methodologies (‘we need a framework’) to action on specifics (‘what are we going to do about refugees?). I asked ‘what are you angry about?’. My own list includes refugees, of course, but also additional action on climate change, environmentally sustainable and fair trade, joint technology and innovation work, macro-economic coordination, and other things. Others in Brussels added: illicit financial flows (Martine Schommer), and tax and investment rules (Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD). Problems with EPAs were also mentioned. CONCORD has publishedon those topics.

Some practical suggestions follow. For the EU, for example, one possibility is to take advantage of the forthcoming review of the European Consensus on Development to make PCD more visible. Another is to revise the EU Results Frameworkto include PCD-related items. A third is to lock together the Global Strategy, the Consensus, and the Humanitarian Consensus, with a specific focus on shocks. And, of course, there remains the need to act: on refugees, on climate change, and the rest.

_____________

Image: http://www.corrieblog.tv/anorak.jpg

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