• Report
  • 1 April 2021

Development actors at the nexus: Lessons from crises in Bangladesh, Cameroon and Somalia: Appendix 1

Development cooperation partnerships and ways of working


We recognise that development cooperation takes different forms and includes a broad range of actors that work in different ways and have different roles. This appendix explores some key elements of development cooperation partnerships and ways of working.

Development actors are generally bound by a common commitment to work primarily with and – ideally – through national governments, in line with aid effectiveness principles that emphasise the importance of national ownership. In fragile contexts where either government capacity or political will to address the needs of vulnerable people is weak, development actors must balance supporting central governments in policy and institutional reforms and strengthening their service delivery capacity with addressing immediate needs and engaging marginalised and vulnerable populations. In protracted crisis contexts, service delivery to crisis-affected populations often becomes the sole responsibility of humanitarian actors. This can create parallel, internationally led delivery systems that operate outside of central and local government institutions and that can be complex, inefficient and expensive to run. For a durable and sustainable approach, development and humanitarian actors need to work in ways that support and strengthen government capacity and responsibility for service delivery. While working to build government capacity, development actors may focus on community-based initiatives implemented by non-governmental or multilateral partners. Development actors have a key role to play in maximising the potential of existing partnerships with government and leveraging larger scale finance to strengthen government service delivery in crisis regions.

Development actors are working towards this through both direct (bottom-up) and indirect (top-down) approaches, both of which are necessary and potentially complementary.

  1. Direct or bottom-up programming targets crisis-affected regions and populations. It may be carried out in direct partnership with central and/or local governments, but often engages a broader range of government, non-governmental and private sector stakeholders. This may include local governance programming (e.g. local government-led development planning), community-based approaches (e.g. facilitating multi-stakeholder processes to develop and implement community action plans focusing on peace, recovery or other goals), or area-based development approaches (e.g. strategic plans to address medium to long-term systemic issues in crisis-affected regions).
  2. Indirect or top-down approaches support government policy and institutional reforms, usually working primarily at the central government level. This may include technical assistance and policy dialogue to ensure social inclusion; better targeting and the equitable and transparent use of public resources in national development planning and budgeting and sectoral policy and planning (e.g. education, health, etc); and more fundamental governance reforms, such as decentralisation processes. It may also include support to develop national policies, systems and institutional capacities to manage shocks, such as national social safety net and social protection systems and national disaster management and risk reduction capabilities.