• From Aid to Coherence - Making Development More Effective | Helen Clark

    09 May 2012

    Afghan children in school
    The policy coherence agenda is critical for achieving sustainable development and building the trust necessary between developed and developing countries to tackle global development challenges together. Photo: UN/Shehzad Noorani

    There is growing awareness that many of the most pressing challenges we face, from climate change to the spread of epidemics, the consequences of financial crises, and the forced displacement of people, require global solutions. 

    The focus must shift from aid effectiveness to development effectiveness.  Below, I am outlining some key policy areas where more coherence is needed:

    Trade and finance: Trade barriers are detrimental to the efforts of developing countries to grow their exports. 

    Climate change: Donors continue to invest in fossil fuel-based energy production.

    Migration: Recruiting health personnel from developing countries and investing in the health sector of those countries at the same time can be costly for donor countries and cause critical shortages of labor and a brain drain in developing countries.

    Investment policy: Without environmental, labour, social, and fiduciary standards, foreign direct investment may become exploitative of people, a country’s institutions, and the environment, instead of fostering economic growth and sustainable development. 

    Food security: Fears have emerged that other policies, like support for biofuel production in the global North to promote cleaner energy, contribute to raising food prices and jeopardize food security for food importing countries in the south.

    Tax and aid policies:  A lack of transparency can in extremis facilitate money laundering, which in turn may be used to fuel corruption, fund illicit arms flows, and destabilize countries.

    We need a paradigm shift in the development discourse in which reducing poverty and inequality, generating growth, strengthening democratic governance, building resilience, and achieving environmental sustainability are seen as strongly interconnected: in pursuing one, we can advance, slow, or stall progress in the others.

    The policy coherence agenda is critical for achieving sustainable development and building the trust necessary between developed and developing countries to tackle global development challenges together.

    Talk to us: How can we make development more effective?


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Helen Clark became the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme in 2009, and is the first woman to lead the organization. She is also the Chair of the United Nations Development Group.

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