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Development Cooperation in a Multilevel and Multistakeholder Setting: From Planning towards Enabling Coordinated Action?


The call to reduce fragmentation and promote joined-up action is an evergreen topic in development policy discussions. This article reviews past coordination efforts and changes in international cooperation and finds that, in recent years, donors did not adequately apply coordination standards that they promoted, while developing-country governments frequently failed to articulate an effective demand for coordination. Dominant coordination approaches have been inherently statist and managerial, whereas the increasingly multilevel and multistakeholder nature of the changing development cooperation context calls for new approaches involving four elements: positive framing of coordination, enlargement of involved stakeholders, increased focus on enabling over planning, and growing attention to coordination across countries and within sectors. The Sustainable Energy for All initiative serves as an example of a multistakeholder platform confirming both continued coordination needs and a changing perspective on the relevant avenues for addressing coordination deficits.

L’appel à la réduction de la fragmentation de l’aide et à la promotion d’une action conjointe est une constante dans les discussions sur les politiques de développement. Cet article examine les efforts de coordination passés et les changements dans la coopération internationale. Il constate que ces dernières années, les bailleurs de fonds n’ont pas correctement appliqué les normes de coordination qu’ils ont promues, tandis que les gouvernements des pays en développement ont souvent omis de faire une requête efficace de coordination. Les approches de coordination les plus répandues ont été intrinsèquement étatiques et managériales, tandis que le contexte changeant de la coopération au développement, de plus en plus pluri-niveaux et pluri-acteurs, nécessite de nouvelles approches impliquant quatre éléments: une présentation positive de la coordination, l’élargissement des parties prenantes impliquées, un accent accru mis sur la facilitation plutôt que sur la planification et l’attention croissante accordée à la coordination au-delà des pays et au sein des secteurs. L’initiative «Energie Durable pour Tous» sert d’exemple d’une plate-forme pluripartite qui confirme les besoins continus de coordination et fournit une perspective différente sur des façons pertinentes de remédier au manque de coordination.

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  1. An example of the former case is a European Commission proposal published in 1999: “The Member States, like the Community, are under pressure to reduce the volume of official development assistance; they must improve the quality and efficiency of their operations and are now under an obligation to produce visible results. Greater complementarity between Member States’ aid and community aid is an ideal means of obtaining better results and greater visibility” (EC 1999, p. 3).

  2. The European Union’s (2007) Code of Conduct on Complementarity and Division of Labour in fact presents both perspectives in an order of priority: in the first instance the partner country should take leadership to ensure a division of labor among donors, and if the government does not do this the EU donors should themselves coordinate and agree to such a division of labor (EU 2007).

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Correspondence to Erik Lundsgaarde.

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Lundsgaarde, E., Keijzer, N. Development Cooperation in a Multilevel and Multistakeholder Setting: From Planning towards Enabling Coordinated Action?. Eur J Dev Res 31, 215–234 (2019).

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