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Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)

SADC and donors – ideals and practices: From Gaborone to Paris and back

Elling N. TjС€nneland

Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)


SARPN acknowledges Research for Regional Integration and Development as the source of this document.
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  1. This report sets out to take stock of the current relations between SADC and its international cooperating partners – the external donor agencies providing support and assistance. It identifies obstacles and opportunities for making progress and discusses the current efforts, inspired by the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, to provide modalities and mechanisms for a new partnership between SADC and donors.

    This report was commissioned by the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA), under the Formative Process Research on Regional Integration (FOPRISA) programme. It is part of an effort by BIDPA and partner institutions to provide policy research and technical assistance that may help advance the cause of regional co-operation and integration. It is carried out in close consultation with the SADC Secretariat and its unit on policy and strategic planning.

  2. The report provides an overview of how and to what extent external donor agencies support SADC and regional co-operation. It reviews support in relation to each of SADC’s sectors and areas of work. External development finance and foreign donor agencies have played a critical role in the evolution of SADC. Foreign donors remain a crucial source of funding for SADC and its operations. The report notes that there has been a noticeable change of emphasis and thinking among donors in their support for regional cooperation. This is a reflection of the evolving mandates and changing priorities of SADC, as well as changing trends and priorities in official development assistance.

    The report identifies and highlights recent trends following the start of SADC’s period of institutional reform in 2001. An increasing number of donor agencies are now expressing the need to develop a more strategic framework for working with SADC and its Secretariat. The donor documents differ in style, depth and priorities but they share a number of common features. One is that all the major donor agencies express strong support for regional co-operation in Southern Africa and emphasise general support for SADC and its policies. Their commitments to supporting specific SADC priorities are less clearly stated. The alignment with SADC is weakened if we look at the coherence of donor policies and compare what the donor countries do in other policy areas (such as trade policies) or in their bilateral country programming.

    A second trend among donors is disappointment with SADC’s performance, especially in relation to implementation and capacity to absorb donor funds. This has led to a situation where donors have reduced financial support to SADC and relied on other channels for assisting regional co-operation.

    A third trend is a strong emphasis on the role of South Africa. Many donor agencies provide funding for regional activities in their bilateral country programmes with South Africa. Several agencies are also providing funding to South Africa and South African institutions from regional programmes and bilateral country programmes with other countries.

    A fourth trend is that donors agencies now give much higher priority to good governance and security issues in their engagement with SADC. HIV/AIDS issues have also become increasingly important.

    Finally, it is also evident in many documents that the much greater attention given to regional cooperation and policy guideline for supporting it, are derived from a number of global and continental initiatives associated with the Millennium Development Goals, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme.

  3. The report also provides an overview and assessment of current mechanisms for dialogue and communication between SADC and the donor agencies. It also reviews SADC’s capacity to facilitate increased ownership, alignment and harmonisation of donor policies.

    The report notes that the Secretariat’s institutional capacity to engage with donor agencies remains limited. It has not yet been in a position to take a more strategic approach to the role of donors. High-level political dialogue between SADC and important donors has also been weakened in recent years.

    There is little harmonisation of external development assistance to SADC. Common arrangements for planning, funding, disbursement, monitoring, evaluating and reporting are almost absent. This has reduced the effectiveness of external aid. The institutional reform of SADC has not yet enabled the Secretariat to take a stronger role in co-ordinating and harmonising foreign aid. Several steps have, however, been taken to address these issues. They have included the expansion of the resource mobilisation section in the Secretariat, the establishment of a joint forum between the Secretariat and the donor agencies and – most recently – the preparation of a Declaration providing guidelines for a new partnership between SADC and its external donors.

  4. The final chapter of the report discusses the new partnership framework expected to be approved at SADC’s consultative conference with its international co-operating partners in Windhoek in April 2006. Will aid effectiveness be improved? And will regional co-operation and integration be advanced through this proposed new partnership framework?

    The proposed framework for a new partnership is closely modelled on the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, which seeks to reform the way aid is delivered and managed. The Paris Declaration is an international agreement signed by nearly 100 governments, including eight SADC member states and most of SADC’s donor countries. The proposed Windhoek Declaration calls for effective structures for dialogue and improved alignment and harmonisation, outlines the principles for partnership, proposes a structure for dialogue and identifies key areas of cooperation.

    The sections outlining the principles for partnerships – the main part of the document – is closely modelled on the Paris Declaration. In most cases the various paragraphs are identical in the two documents. The significant difference revolves around national development vs. regional co-operation. The Paris Declaration does not address regional issues and all recommendations in that document are based on the need to support national development efforts. The Windhoek document has simply replaced “national” with “regional”, “SADC, or “RISDP/SIPO”. However, the Windhoek document contains two potentially significant paragraphs addressing this issue. Here SADC commits itself to strengthening the linkages between regional and national development and the donor countries commit to linking regional programming to bilateral country programming. These paragraphs are, however, not elaborated upon.

    The report does not provide any definite answer on how a new framework will impact on aid effectiveness, but it does identify critical issues. The Windhoek Declaration may facilitate stronger leadership by SADC and increase ownership. The foundation for a stronger SADC has been laid through institutional reform. To succeed, however, the capacity of the Secretariat’s Unit on Policy and Strategic Planning, including the Section on Resource Mobilisation, needs to be expanded and strengthened.

    Can the Windhoek Declaration lead to greater alignment? The report notes that it may be relatively easy to ensure that donor countries base their overall support on SADC’s priorities, but the main challenges revolve around alignment between national and regional priorities. This is a challenge for SADC which needs to ensure greater coherence between the RISDP/SIPO and national development priorities. However, this is also a challenge for donor countries, which need to improve coherence between what they support at the national level and their regional programming.

    The Windhoek Declaration may facilitate a better co-ordination and harmonisation of donor support. The Paris Declaration will also make it easier for SADC to put demands on the donor agencies and to reduce procedural constraints. There is considerable scope for improving harmonisation through the establishment of technical theme groups in selected areas. As a bare minimum, SADC should be able to reduce duplication in management as well as the number of donors it deals with individually.

    The report also points out that several sub-sectors would benefit from the establishment of thematic groups. One such area is support for capacity building at the Secretariat. Here we are already witnessing a duplication of effort. Consideration should also be given to the establishment of thematic groups in sub-sectors falling under the SADC Organ, in particular, those related to the SADC standby brigade and selected governance issues such as elections. This will require further clarification of the relationship between the RISDP and SIPO and the role of SADC’s Unit on Policy and Strategic Planning in relation to the SADC Organ.

    Improved harmonisation also depends on the ability of SADC to exercise leadership. This in turn depends on a strengthening of capacities at the Secretariat. The SADC Secretariat needs to be able to identify and analyse the various donors’ comparative advantage. And they must be able to point out how donor complementarities can be achieved at regional or sector levels.

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