NeST Monitoring & Evaluation Framework for South-South Cooperation: Why it Matters?
by Marianne Buenaventura Goldman, Project Lead: South- South Cooperation
The issue of the accountability of development cooperation is met with growing concern by citizens based in Southern countries as South-South Cooperation (SSC) further contributes to larger financing of global, regional and national development initiatives.
New southern-led initiatives such as the BRICS New Development Bank(NDB) and the Asia Infrastructure Investment (AIIB) demonstrate how SSC is a valuable complement to North-South development cooperation. The NDB, which has a starting capital of $50 billion, with capital increased to $100 billion over time to support infrastructure and sustainable development projects. Formed at the end of 2015, the China-led the AIIB already has capital in the range of $100 billion, equivalent to two-thirds of the capital of the Asian Development Bank and about half that of the World Bank.
South Africa, a member of the BRICS and founding member of the NDB, has an equal share in the NDB, including voting rights. Often seen as a small player in the BRICS club, South Africa (SA) plays a global role in this arena when it comes to Africa. A recent study entitled “South Africa and the DRC: Evaluation a South-South Partnership for Peace, Governance and Development” by SAIIA shows that between 2001 and 2015, SA spent at least ZAR45 8.5 billion (over $1 billion) on DRC-related SSC through various government departments and public entities. In its peak year of 2008, Pretoria’s development co-operation was found to be nearly ZAR 1.5 billion (approximately $181 million), making SA the third biggest development partner in the DRC in absolute terms.
Matters concerning the accountability and inclusive participation in SSC were hotly debated during the Second High-Level Meeting (HLM2) of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) held in Nairobi, Kenya from 28 November- 1 December 2016. During the HLM2, countries from all over the globe gathered to deliberate on ways to improve development effectiveness, both of traditional donors as well as Southern providers.
Oxfam, working closely with partners from the Network of Southern Think Tanks (NeST) convened several SSC side events at the HLM2. This included the convening of a workshop entitled “The Monitoring and Evaluation of SSC” during which NeST Africa launched the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for South-South Cooperation (NeST Framework). Between 2015 and 2016 NeST developed, tested and refined a new framework to measure the quantity, quality and impact of SSC towards sustainable development. As part of this framework, principles emerging out of historical conferences of the global South (Bandung, 1955, Buenos Aires, 1978, Nairobi, 2009, Bogota, 2010, Delhi, 2013) were distilled into 20 operational indicators, organised in 5 dimensions, to measure the quality of South-South partnerships and processes. The NeST Framework has so far been used for new research by Southern experts to better understand the role of SSC, including case studies on the role of emerging countries such as SA, Mexico, Brazil, India and Turkey in promoting development, peace and stability in developing countries.
The NeST initiative seeks to address the challenges related to information management systems, which prove to be very weak across most Southern providers. Existing mechanisms and efforts for reporting SSC focus on the inputs, activities and immediate outputs of the often ad hoc and short-term SSC projects. Some Southern-based experts explain the key challenge of accountability in SSC relates to the limited funds and capacity of Southern providers to develop data management systems needed for reporting, and monitoring and evaluation systems. However, the reality is that SSC sources are growing both in quantity and geographic reach, along with the public expectations for accountability of these funds. The NeST framework is a first step towards initiating a mechanism towards greater accountability and transparency of SSC.
During the “The Monitoring and Evaluation of SSC” event, NeST experts emphasised the role of accountability in SSC, stating that “when it comes to the transparency of public funds, accountability is a non-negotiable matter…accountability pertains to citizens understanding how funds may be used with public money, as well as to the recipient country, which receives public funds. Citizens must have access to information on what public funds are being received and how it is being spent”. A Southern government respondent further emphasised the important responsibility of government to be accountable to tax payers. He posed, “How can we not be transparent on what we spend, and be effective? Although, accounting of SSC is difficult (based on capacities), we need to invest in resources to do this. And, this takes a long time”.
The event concluded with the need to further engage with governments to explore the extent by which Southern providers can include aspects of the NeST framework in their policies and practices. Civil society has an important role here in calling out government where needed, and the excuse of the lack of data does not hold up as legitimate anymore. Such debates revealed the growing political momentum on moving forward towards the development of an accountability framework for SSC from the theoretical to the practical. The stakes are high given the growing value of SSC, both in terms of quantity as well as the potential to create new models of development in the context of the 2030 agenda.
From Oxfam’s perspective, whilst exploring how to take forward the use of the NeST Framework for use for national, regional and global accountability mechanisms for SSC, we must ensure that people to people solidarity be at the forefront of our efforts. A strong critique of SSC expressed by recipient countries during the HLM2, especially African voices was that SSC is mostly about government to government relations. This is despite the principle of people to people solidarity being historically rooted in SSC: solidarity among peoples and countries of the South that contributes to their national well-being, and their national and collective self-reliance. It is therefore imperative that SSC be re-centred today on people to people solidarity, and ultimately delivers for the poor, and a more just, equal society. People-centred development must be a key driver of this process.
 The Moscow Times, 10 July 2014, “BRICS Bank ready for launch — Russian Finance Minister”, [Online] Available from http://in.rbth.com/economics/2014/07/10/brics_bank_ready_for_launch_-russian_finance_minister_36599
 Besharati, N and Rawhani, C (2016), South Africa and the DRC: Evaluation a South-South Partnership for Peace, Governance and Development, [Online] Available from: http://www.saiia.org.za/occasional-papers/south-africa-and-the-drc-evaluating-a-south-south-partnership-for-peace-governance-and-development
 Pérez, J A, Ibarra, A, Delgadillo, A L, Reyes, M J (2016). Sistema Mesoamericano de Salud Pública del Proyecto de Integración y Desarrollo de Mesoamérica. Primera Fase de Operación 2010–2015 (available only in Spanish), Oxfam Mexico
 Besharati, N, Moilwa, M, Khunou K and Garelli Rios, O (2015), Developing a Conceptual Framework for South-South Cooperation, Working Document. [Online] Available from: http://www.saiia.org.za/general-publications/891-developing-a-conceptual-framework-for-south-south-co-operation/file