Global Donor Platform for Rural Development
Godesberger Allee 119 | 53175 Bonn | Germany
phone: +49 228 249 341 65
fax: +49 228 249 342 15
Sonja Palm became Coordinator of the Secretariat of the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development in 2006. Three-and-a-half years later, as she prepares to pass the torch to her successors, she reflects on the strides the Platform has made, and those that still lay ahead.
When I started working for the Platform Secretariat three-and-a-half years ago, mine was one of only two professional positions — and the other one was only part-time. The Platform has grown impressively since those modest beginnings. Although it remains an informal network of like-minded professionals, united in their conviction that agriculture and rural development (ARD) is central to poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, the Platform has become an increasingly recognised player in ARD. Building on a growing awareness that ARD professionals and their agencies need to work together to achieve the impact on hunger they desired, the Platform has emerged as an effective global network.
I believe the Platform demonstrated its “added-value” vis-a-vis the aid effectiveness agenda during the European Rural Forum 2007, which set us on course to bring ARD onto the agenda of the Accra HLF III. These were turning points for the Platform’s long-term success, because they revealed the influence and weight it provides as a network. The joint voice of individuals and their organisations under the Platform umbrella has consistently served to strengthen the case for agriculture in the international aid effectiveness debate, and helped to push agriculture sector experiences onto decision makers’ radar screens.
That said, it would be misguided to suggest that the Platform alone was responsible for bringing agriculture back into the mainstream of political debate, as it is today. This could not have happened without the external stimuli of rising food prices, and concern for growing rates of poverty and hunger. But networking prepared Platform members for these crises, and contributed to the coherence of their views and responses. Advancing a debate further than a single institution can on its own requires dialogue, broad ownership and members’ support. Combining these features with its neutral convening power, the Platform provides the ideal forum for committed donors to achieve increased poverty reduction through ARD.
I believe the Platform is moving in promising new directions, and there is a growing consensus that working through the Platform adds value. The Platform’s engagement with the climate change debate, for example, or with CAADP, advances global dialogue more than a single institution could do. By adhering to the Paris and Accra principles, we make it easier for our partners to interact with the multitude of development partners and their differing approaches. As such, we help our partners provide leadership at national and global levels.
Still, strategic approaches for reducing rural poverty remain fragmented. Take, for example, Nicaragua’s approach to planning and monitoring. Nicaragua manages three national systems, and 16 different formats for as many donors, as part of its physical-financial planning. The number of projects requires some 448 different progress reports, with four different formats for each project. The resources required merely for reporting far exceed the capacity of the available personnel. Other important tasks are delayed and disrupted as a result, including those that would enhance implementation of services and other public expenditures.
So, there is certainly still a long way to go. Building on its experience and strength as a network, the Platform has a role to play in strengthening the impact of agricultural development and in advancing the aid and development effectiveness agendas beyond Accra. In its mission to further enhance the effectiveness of development and contributing to a more inclusive process, the Platform will have much to contribute by way of collating and assessing ARD sector-specific experiences for the 4th High-Level Forum in 2011. Platform members also need to continue to build capacity within their agencies to provide more coherent assistance to partner governments. The principles of aid effectiveness are fairly well known, but practical implications for their management and application at sector level are a different matter – they depend on capacity development and the right incentives for donors, both at headquarter- and at country-level.
For 45 years development was about donors saying, “I’m king of my project.” Now that’s all changed. Donors today are formally obliged to coordinate their activities. Donor harmonisation and alignment is hard work though. It involves a major shift in thinking and a great deal of stamina. It takes time and can mean delays in disbursement. That is not easy to accept for members whose performance in the past was measured by the rate at which they spent their funds. So, one important message to our Focal Points has been, “Keep the faith and stay the course!”
I continue to believe, maybe now more than ever, that although it is inherently complex, agricultural development can and must play an important role in the fight against hunger and poverty. But there are no magic bullets; we must stay the course and continue to work towards improved aid effectiveness, in authentic partnership with our partner countries, and on the basis of evidence-based policy making.
Last but not least, people count! The Platform lives off its members and their commitment to advancing a specific common good, globally and within their own institutions. Personal relationships are crucial for building the trust and understanding required to advance dialogue toward consensus and results. The Platform is informal and people-centered — it depends upon the goodwill and efforts of individuals who are honestly determined to change the way they do business.
Want to respond to this interview?
Send your comments to
We will do our best to publish your response here, but may edit it for reasons of clarity and space.