"The international community must scale up the impact of its engagement"

Article, 09.07.2019

In mid-July 2019, SDC Assistant Director General Thomas Gass will assume the co-chairmanship of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) for a two-year term. In this interview he explains how he intends to lead this broad-based platform to ensure that the ambitious goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are achieved as quickly as possible.

A family harvesting vegetables in a field.
The SDC is committed to ensuring that development cooperation bears fruit. © SDC

What is the GPEDC and what does it do?

With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global community has set itself ambitious goals that can only be achieved if all actors work together as efficiently and effectively as possible. This requires strong partnerships based on common principles. The GPEDC brings together the most important actors and leads the dialogue on effective development cooperation. A key principle is that each country bears primary responsibility for its own development and sets its own priorities. Development agencies should base their work on these priorities and make measurable contributions. Another core principle is the involvement of civil society and the private sector. Countries have a duty to create the conditions to allow civil society and the private sector to advocate for their interests and contribute expertise. The GPEDC regularly monitors whether all parties are adhering to the principles of effective development cooperation and issues recommendations.

Can't the UN also do this?

The UN is an organisation focused on states, but non-state actors also play a significant role in development, which is why we need a platform where their roles and potential can be discussed in a solution-oriented way. The insights gained are then fed into the UN processes, for example country reviews of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and efforts to secure financing for the 2030 Agenda. The GPEDC brings together member states from around the world as well as representatives of civil society, foundations, the private sector, multilateral and bilateral organisations, research institutes, regional forums and local governments. In order to achieve faster progress, the global community must join forces and scale up the impact of its engagement. This also requires innovative approaches to mobilise additional resources for development cooperation.

Portrait of SDC Assistant Director General Thomas Gass.
SDC Assistant Director General Thomas Gass. © SDC

For the next two years, you will be one of three co-chairs of the GPEDC. What does this office mean for Switzerland and what does Switzerland stand to gain from it?

The SDC has a responsibility to the Swiss people and to Parliament to use the funds it is allocated effectively and transparently. We also want to uphold this principle at the international level through the GPEDC: all development actors must render an account of the progress they've made with regard to the 2030 Agenda. We can also integrate Switzerland's culture of consensus and dialogue in our international cooperation work. We have experience in bringing different partners together to jointly tackle important social issues. And Swiss development cooperation has an excellent international reputation. We work on the ground and have extensive practical experience. The involvement of Swiss experts in forums like the GPEDC is laying the foundation for future cooperation. And, last, the GPEDC works on issues that are also priorities for Switzerland, such as getting the private sector on board and promoting the rule of law.

What are your goals as a co-chair of the GPEDC?

The GPEDC's work should first of all support the international community in implementing the 2030 Agenda. We have just 11 years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. That's why we need to use resources in a very targeted way. We must all work on behalf of the poorest and most vulnerable, because if they are left behind, we'll never be able to eradicate absolute poverty.  But many countries lack statistical data on these population groups: they're 'invisible' and largely overlooked by development plans. As co-chair of the GPEDC, I will work to improve the availability and quality of data, including through new technologies. It is also important to step up the dialogue with China, India and other new donors and talk together about their experiences. We must promote constructive cooperation across the board to ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals are achieved as quickly as possible.

The GPEDC: 161 countries, 56 international organisations and numerous other actors

The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) helps countries, businesses and organisations increase the effectiveness of their development efforts, contribute to long-term outcomes and support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The GPEDC was founded in 2011 at the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea. The GPEDC brings together representatives of 161 countries, 56 international organisations, civil society organisations, parliaments, local governments, businesses, philanthropic organisations, trade unions and other stakeholders.

As a forum for advice, shared accountability, peer learning and experience-sharing, the GPEDC promotes four internationally agreed principles that form the basis for effective development cooperation:

  • Ownership of development priorities by developing countries
  • Focus on results
  • Inclusive development partnerships
  • Transparency and accountability to each other