Next Generation of Development Cooperation Must Fight Economic & Gender Inequality and Protect & Expand Civic Space

Economic and gender inequalities are at the core of the current challenges humankind is facing, and without tackling them, there is no chance that the SDGs will be achieved. A wide set of policies and political reforms must be put in place for that end, and development cooperation has had in the past and must have in the future a stronger role in fighting and correcting gender and economic inequality.

Development cooperation must therefore be, for the coming decades an instrument to support the people of developing countries as they fight economic and gender inequality, assert their human rights, promote sustainable development, and work to protect the space for genuine participation of civil society and active citizens in decision-making at all levels.

While ministers, heads of state, government officials, civil society organizations, parliamentarians, foundations and private sectors representatives are gathering in the second High Level Meeting of the GPEDC (Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation) in Nairobi, we have identified the following priorities:

1. The very idea of solidarity and global social justice is under threat. Donors are forgetting their moral responsibility to fulfill their long-time promises on development resources and policies. They are failing to ensure that the assistance they provide prioritizes direct benefits to people in poor and vulnerable countries and reduces gender and economic inequality and poverty.

2. We consider the GPEDC principles -- ownership, transparency, accountability and inclusiveness -- indispensable for the future of development cooperation, in order to establish genuine development partnerships based on solidarity and justice. All governments and organizations involved in development should re-commit to them in Nairobi and implement and promote them continuously. The GPEDC should be the custodian of such an agenda through a robust monitoring process.

3. There is an increasing threat worldwide to the role and voice of civil society that undermines and reduces the basis for democracy. Development cooperation must be an instrument that promotes not just protection of existing civil and political space, but its expansion, especially in states where it has been constrained. Civil and human rights are crucial issues that must be at the core of the development cooperation agenda. Investment in building the requisite capacity of civil society to effectively engage in planning, implementation and monitoring across all levels is key.

4. The international community should safeguard the policy space that allows countries to determine their own development policies. Country ownership of development priorities should be inclusive, respecting the initiatives and reflecting the needs of citizens, particularly the most impoverished and marginalized communities. As such, all stakeholders, including CSOs, should see their role in policy making properly reflected.

5. With the gap between the rich and poor rapidly increasing in many states, especially in developing countries, it is imperative that sound development, tax and economic policies and practices are designed to ensure inclusive, sustained and sustainable development that addresses inequality and poverty. We recognise that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as well as the principles and commitments of aid and effective development co-operation can play a key role in addressing economic inequality.

6. Gender inequality and women’s rights should be a top and permanent priority for all countries in development partnerships, as well as for South-South and triangular cooperation. All partners in development should commit to combat gender inequality, including by ensuring that women have necessary and equal access to - and control over - productive assets and vital resources; as well as expanding gender-responsive public services.

7. All development partners must support increased domestic resource mobilization. They should do so in a way that requires full tax compliance and disclosure by private entities, closes tax loopholes, and makes sure the better off pay their fair share. This is of utmost importance in addressing systemic inequality and poverty especially in developing countries.

8. Development cooperation and flows are increasingly being entrusted to private entities. The time is ripe for a definitive assessment of the effectiveness of such a strategy in benefitting poor and vulnerable populations. We call for a participatory global process to be carried out within the next two years to guide future development policies on the role of the private sector in development cooperation. Until that happens, any plans to turn essential public services over to private entities should be suspended. We also call for private entities to be held accountable for abiding by all human rights, labor rights, economic and social rights and environmental regulations when operating as part of publicly-funded projects.

9. Developing countries and civil society organizations have been largely excluded from the current debates about the definitions of official development assistance (ODA), which takes place at the OECD level. This is a clear betrayal of the notion of “development partners.” Developing countries and their citizens must have a decisive voice in that definition and the policies needed for them to escape poverty and inequality.

10. The diversion of development assistance funds to cover in-country refugee costs must be stopped; as must the threat of withholding funds to coerce governments into closing their borders to prevent those seeking asylum or a better life from leaving, or facilitating the return of those who have already left. Development cooperation should not be used as a bargaining chip to obtain agreements on readmission, stronger border control or stifling of mobility; each of these outcomes risks greatly exacerbating inequality. These actions are now a threat to human rights of vulnerable human beings across the planet.

11. We consider it fundamental to reinforce transparency and accountability for the international development cooperation community, so call for a comprehensive GPEDC Monitoring Framework with adequate civil society participation, starting with the CPDE, as a necessary condition for accountability.

To read the statement in PDF format see here.