Coordination is lacking both from the internal structures of donors as individual departments and committees do not communicate with each other, and from the host countries.
Although most donors agree on the need for coordination, on the ground, streamlined approaches to their efforts are still gravely lacking. This translates into overlapping efforts, duplication of work and lack of communication between funders.
Such duplication should be regarded not only from the perspective of securing value for money but also through the prism of ethics as ultimately, it is not only wasting scarce resources in the long run, but also potentially causing harm by driving resources away from other (and potentially equally urgent) areas.
Some reasons for the deficiency of coordination are worth highlighting.
Firstly, ‘the international community’ is not a monobloc with a shared vision: the term applies to governments, multinational organisations such as the EU or UN, IGOs and philanthropic organisations, but also – and increasingly – business actors. The assumption that they share the same vision for the region or country of interest is misguided. And even if they do – as, for example, may be the case in the Western Balkans (i.e. regarding EU accession) – they may not necessarily agree on how to achieve that shared vision.
National strategies for foreign policy may also differ significantly on complex issues such as cross-border migration, and coordination of efforts may simply not be possible for political reasons. And even if national strategies aligned, the coordination costs implied would still be regarded as a barrier.
Moreover, the idea that host countries should take ownership over coordination rarely translates into reality. Competition within local organisations and host countries may undermine efforts for coordination and that is why project funders should focus on better outreach strategies to signpost where they are working.
It is useful to understand coordination within the context of shared interests - security reforms serve as a good example that perceptions of common interest will also drive coordination. This needs to be replicated in other less obvious areas such as social policy or gender reforms.
Donor coordination is not an easy goal but investing in it is a key stepping stone towards greater transparency and accountability in international development and, ultimately, to the success of the projects we implement.
Coordination should therefore become an integral part not only of our assessment of value for money but also of adherence to ethical considerations and standards of conflict sensitivity.
Dr Jessie Hronešová is the Manager for Western Balkans at Aktis Strategy, and among others also collaborates with the EU-CIVCAP Project on their research in EU’s impact on peacebuilding. You can read Jessie’s full article on donor coordination here and keep an eye on our website for further updates.