Letters to the editor
Nigeria after the elections: standstill at a low base
Letters to the editor
[ Multilateralism versus bilateralism, D+C 2003:3, p.110 ]
Well-known reproaches and stereotypes
The question of the proper relationship between multilateral and bilateral instruments of development cooperation deserves cautious and careful consideration. Unfortunately, the article by Helmut Asche does not provide that. Well-known reproaches and stereotypes, such as the ostensibly mechanical regional and material concentration of German development cooperation, the alleged general shortcoming in efficiency of "the" multilateral agencies, and the widespread notion of a World Bank that is sluggish in conceptual terms are merely repeated, not justified. Instead of providing substantiated statements or proof, Asche simply refers in each case to what is "proverbial in the branch". That cannot be enough for the readers of D+C. For the content of development policy is changing. The basic idea of countries having their own poverty reduction strategies and programme-oriented support offers obvious solutions to two problems which Asche portrays as conceptually open: not only donor coordination but also the measuring of developmental success belong in the long term in the responsibility of the partner.
In turn, bilateral development cooperation has long not been the mere "export" of German experiences, which Asche still believes he must attack. It is also surprising that Asche cites the important problem of the influence on international organisations without, however, addressing two decisive framework conditions: the competence for issues of global structural policy now lies often with organisations such as the European Union (EU) to that extent, only indirect forms of helping to shape things remain Germany's remit. Even more important, of course, is to point out the opportunities which precisely bilateral instruments open up for the professional joint steering of multilateral programmes. German Technical Cooperation offers here some illustrative material the interaction of the GTZ and EU in South Africa's vocational training sector is only one of many examples.
Dr Roger A. Fischer, BMZ, Bonn
Reply from Helmut Asche: The article criticised by Dr Fischer renders my personal opinion, not the corporate policy of the GTZ. However, it is interesting that in the reaction to it the two core arguments are not called into question directly: we lack sufficient political influence on the multilateral development cooperation institutions, and equally a systematic weighing up between the use of bilateral and multilateral funds. That this weighing up belongs in the long term in the responsibility of the partner is right, but that does not contradict the argument. Also, that the article cannot provide exact proof not only of shortcomings in efficiency but also of the political skew of the multilateral institutions goes without saying. How then can that be done?
The phrase "development cooperation export" is shorthand for saying that German values, regulatory policies and technologies obviously go into bilateral assistance. I am, as Mr Fischer knows, a convinced advocate of newer forms of coordinated development cooperation such as PRSPs and sectoral programmes. I merely plead for these basic orientations to be brought into multilateral assistance, too, with the required vigour. In this respect, I speak out for a "self-confident multilateralism". What is actually against tackling this question in an exemplary way in the proposed World Bank Task Force?
Dr Helmut Asche, GTZ, Eschborn
Promoting education is not an example of "multilateralising"
Pointed statements sometimes give new and important food for thought; but they are to be enjoyed with caution if they are based on selectively interpreted facts. The promotion of education cited by Helmut Asche is not a suitable example of the alleged "multilateralising" of German development cooperation. Asche's thesis that the reduction of bilateral promotion of education rests on the implicit assessment that educational programmes are in better hands in the multilateral sector can hardly be proved. Thus, explaining the actual sharp decline in pledges by Germany in the education sector between 1994 and 2001 solely by the reduction in the number of cooperation countries and the forming of priority areas in terms of content by German development cooperation is taking too short a view. For these two processes took effect in a much stronger way only after the change of Federal government in 1998. In addition, the decline in German promotion of education matches an international trend; in 1995 the proportion of education promotion of all bilateral donors averaged 11.2 per cent of total ODA inputs, while in 2001 it was only 8.6 per cent.
This decline was in no way offset by corresponding growth in the multilateral sector. Only the European Commission increased its promotion of education during the same period. In the case of the World Bank and the regional development banks, however, there was a very sharp decline. There is no mono-causal explanation for this trend. But the assumption which arose against the background of significant successes in some Asian and Latin American countries in the 1990s and which we now know was premature - that developing countries were themselves increasingly in a position to ensure a wide access to education might have played a role.
The Education for All Fast-Track Initiative cited by Asche, a union of more than 20 donor organisations to promote the development goal of comprehensive basic education for all children by 2015, is a new approach in which bilateral and multilateral inputs on-site and at international level are coordinated. This pragmatic venture, which thanks to much more intensified donor coordination and once again rising promotion inputs for basic education is already showing initial results, arose from among other things the recognition that bilateral and multilateral approaches should complement rather than replace each other.
Dr Stefan Lock, BMZ, Bonn