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The rarest and most powerful natural resource

7 September 2015
by Guest author
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Today’s post, by Erik Solheim, Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, is also the editorial of  the “Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action”, published today.

The global development progress over the past decades has been unprecedented in human history. Extreme poverty has been halved and in the People’s Republic of China alone, more than 600 million people have been brought out of poverty. Child mortality has also been cut in half, with 17 000 fewer children dying every day. Almost all children now go to school. Children born today can expect to live for 70 years on average, 20 years longer than those born 50 years ago. They are also growing up in a world that, contrary to what many people think, is much more peaceful than ever before.

The remaining challenges are undeniably huge. More than 1 billion people still live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 per day. We need to produce more food and more energy for more people than ever before while protecting the planet. The world is now embarking on the historic mission to end extreme poverty by 2030 and to implement the new Sustainable Development Goals.

We know that today, for the first time ever, humanity has the capacity, knowledge and resources we need to end poverty and green our economies. What we need is to go ahead and do it. We cannot wait for a master plan or for everyone to agree before we take action. The planet and its people who are living in poverty cannot wait for the slowest, the undecided and those least willing to act. Nations, organisations, companies and individuals who are willing to address specific development challenges need to get started – now! For this, we need to mobilise political will behind coalitions for action.

All the great success stories have happened because someone had a goal and pulled people together to get it done. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Meles Zenawi chose sound policies and mobilised the necessary assistance and investments to set his country on a path to implementing the Millennium Development Goals and becoming a middle-income country without increasing greenhouse emissions. Bill and Melinda Gates made the initial investments to energise the Gavi Vaccine Alliance, a successful partnership that has vaccinated 500 million children and saved millions of lives. Brazil, Indonesia, other rainforest nations and a few providers of development assistance inspired the UN-REDD rainforest coalition to reduce deforestation. So far Brazil has reduced deforestation by 80% and Wilmar, Asia’s largest palm oil producer, has promised not to contribute to any further deforestation. African governments and over 200 companies are working together through Grow Africa to expand and green African agricultural systems. The United Nations Sustainable Energy for All initiative is mobilising the financial resources and political will to provide green energy for 1.3 billion people who lack access to electricity and billions more with insufficient access.

These are just a few of the many success stories that are teaching us through their example. And there are plenty of other coalitions for action just waiting for leadership. Here are some suggestions for ways we can make change that really matters.

We need a coalition against fossil fuel subsidies, which cost developing countries around $500 billion annually. Some poor countries spend more on subsidising cheap petroleum than on health and education combined. Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive, mainly benefit the upper middle class and increase pollution. A financial front-loading mechanism would allow governments to provide benefits – such as cash disbursement schemes and better public services for the poor – before removing the inefficient, but sometimes popular, fuel subsidies.

We need a global coalition to protect our beautiful oceans, currently under threat from climate change, pollution and overfishing. Developing countries are losing billions of dollars from illegal and unreported fishing while sustainable fishing could increase the value of global fisheries by more than $60 billion. The world’s coral reefs – which are home to many unique species and help protect coastal communities from extreme weather – are threatened by climate change and pollution. Protecting the oceans is a win-win for humanity and the environment.

We need coalitions to better manage the magnificent rivers of the world, crucial to providing clean hydropower, irrigating agriculture to feed a future 9.6 billion people by 2050 and managing increasing floods resulting from climate change. International expertise and front-loaded financing could help balance immediate costs with the longer-term benefits of river management.

These are just some of the many potential coalitions for action that would be highly beneficial for people and the planet.

This report shows how partnerships and coalitions for action can contribute to ending poverty and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. It offers a theoretical framework for making partnerships coalitions for action and gives many inspiring examples of successful partnerships. The key insights are that effective partnerships must:

  • Have strong leadership
  • Be country-led and context-specific
  • Apply the right type of action for the challenge
  • Maintain a clear focus on results.

Most important is leadership. Leadership is the rarest and most powerful natural resource on the planet. Unless someone leads, nothing will happen. But when someone leads, everything is possible!

Useful links

Development Co-operation Report 2015: Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action

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