Forging partnerships for effective development cooperation

Burundi remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Its social, economic and political development has been hampered by years of internal conflict. External resources, mostly Official Development Assistance (ODA), have played a crucial role in financing development in the country. They have largely been invested in state building, security, strengthening institutions and establishing physical, economic, and social infrastructure. According to the OECD, external resource flows to Burundi were well over US$626 million in 2011 representing about 25.3% of the country’s Gross National Income (GNI).

On the global scale, substantial progress has been made towards expanding and improving the quality and of effectiveness of development cooperation. The latest global consensus on development cooperation was the endorsement of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation in Busan, South Korea in 2011. This set four principles aiming to: 1) enhancing ownership of development programmes by developing countries; 2) ensure that development cooperation produces tangible results, impacts on the lives of citizens in developing countries; 3) ensure development partnerships are as inclusive as possible involving a broader range of stakeholders; and 4) foster transparency and mutual accountability between development partners and between governments and their citizens.

A study conducted in February 2014 by Development Initiatives – Africa Hub to evaluate the extent to which the set of principles agreed on in Busan were working to enhance effective development cooperation and improve the portfolio of resources available for financing development in Burundi reveals that:

1.    There is a strong sense of alignment of resources, and action by most stakeholders (especially Development Partners) to the country’s development blueprints – the Vision 2050 and PRSP II: Development partners are actively tailoring their strategic plans to the priorities of the Government of Burundi and aligned resource allocation to suit the resource demands of those priorities.

2.    Substantial progress has been made in improving governance and security, as well as state and institutional reconstruction through development cooperation: External resource allocations to governance and security following the years of conflict had been significant. This saw substantial improvements in terms of governance and peace building, which are requisites for successfully implement a solid economic development plan.

3.    A significantly inclusive system that ensured participation of a broad spectrum of stakeholders was in place at the sector level of implementation and continued to facilitate coordination of DPs and their programmes: Efficient mechanisms have been designed to enable a better cooperation among the different stakeholders and thus easing the harmonisation of the different projects, however weaknesses still remain in implementation. The economic strategy is realised at the sector level, which enables technical debate among specialists. Areas such as education showed substantial complementarities amongst donors.

4.     ‘Absorption capacity’ continued to be regarded as an impediment to effective development cooperation in Burundi: The limited capacity of the government of Burundi to utilise all resources disbursed by Development Partners was cited as one challenge to achievement of effective partnerships for development cooperation in the country. This limited the level of support that can be extended to country. In addition, lengthy procedures and regulations preferred by DPs – for procurement, reporting or approval of projects limit the ability of the government to effectively ‘absorb’ development assistance.

 5.    Paris remained the reference point for discussions on Global Partnership. DPs talked partnership but in practice preferred bilateral relations, often ignoring priorities and local knowledge. The Paris declaration had a sizable impact on how the different players understood partnership and as such the shift inclusive development partnerships and cooperation wasn’t very apparent.

 6.    Aspects of governance, transparency and accountability remain weak such as in the management of public finance or the lack of leadership in some ministries: These continue to stifle effective partnerships. In part this is due to the absence of, or weaknesses in public institutions due to the long period of conflict in the country. There is a perception that the Government is amongst the least transparent.

7.    Data limitations frustrate the measurement of progress in terms of poverty reduction.

The study indicates that whilst the Government of Burundi has made some progress in domestic resource mobilisation, structural and systemic issues regarding public financial management, fiscal policy and taxation, domestic resource generation have ensured that resources available for development remain below par. With the prevailing resource constraints and institutional insufficiencies, Burundi cannot succeed in reducing poverty and financing Vision 2050 on her own. The Government of Burundi thus needs to explore and forge more strategic partnerships for effective development cooperation in order to succeed. It needs to involve as many stakeholders as possible in determining how best different streams of financing for development can address the country’s socio-economic needs.

The study further recommends that:

  1. The Government of Burundi strengthens capacity, legislation and policy to facilitate prudent management of public finance in order to encourage Development Partners to honour commitments to the partnership;
  2. The Government of Burundi works to increase the breadth and depth of participation of local communities in development cooperation discourse;
  3. The Government of Burundi clarifies objectives in the PRSPs to allow for easier measurement of progress and focus on results;
  4. Development Partners need to work more with the government and other stakeholders in taking decisions; and
  5. Development Partners should consider local context for their interventions and not just be driven by self interest of interventions.

View the Burundi case study