Better together: coordination in private sector development


Business for development works. That is our motto for working with the private sector in promoting sustainable development. Our focus is to bring results to the ground. At the same time, we are eager to improve policies and programs continuously. We rely on expert insights and seek cooperation with other donors, and engage in strong partnerships with counterparts in developing economies.

At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we are in good contact with colleagues in other countries who encourage the private sector to contribute to sustainable development. We regularly exchange views in meetings of the European Union, the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. As donor, we harmonize our ways of working particularly in the DCED, a forum with over 20 agencies, of countries and multilateral organizations, like the World Bank/International Finance Corporation (IFC). In the DCED we exchange views on effective ways to create economic opportunities for the poor, based on the experiences we have with our programs.

Harmonizing how to support and work with companies …

The DCED has also developed the standard how to measure results. It publishes valuable guidelines, for example to ensure that support to the private sector is additional to what would have happened anyhow. One of the six DCED working groups looks into private sector engagement. Our priority for this year is to harmonize, how to continue support companies to contribute to sustainable development, while ensuring that such support will not create market distortions.

The valuable work of DCED also feeds into the OECD-DAC, the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD-DAC, established in 1950, is an intergovernmental body of the 30 largest donor countries. The Committee defines and monitors global standards.

The Netherlands has recently undergone the regular Peer Review of development co-operation policy. We had in depth and frank dialogues with other countries. The report appreciates many strong points, such as the innovative character of Dutch development cooperation. There are also observations where The Netherlands can do better, including in streamlining our different private sector programs. Earlier, I had the pleasure to take part in a thematic OECD peer learning, fully dedicated to private sector development. A team of reviewers visited the Netherlands, and I joined the team with colleagues from Luxemburg and South-Korea, which looked into how Germany works with the private sector in developing economies.

… to be more effective in the field

But what does this mean for partners in developing economies? They appreciate opportunities to pool donors’ efforts to improve the business climate and support companies. They often feel confronted with a myriad of incoming initiatives. Without effective harmonization among donors, the wheel is re-invented and energy is lost in meeting all kinds of separate demands.

Donor coordination requires that we work together in the field and create opportunities to scale up successful programs. This is complicated, takes time and demands commitment upfront. It also requires good communication in design, implementation and evaluation.

In a (more) joint approach, the identity of each donor has to be respected as well: investing taxpayers’ money makes it pertinent to reach out to public and parliament at home. They deserve a clarification, how national priorities and commitments are fully recognized, while a coordinated approach is delivering more results to share.

Let me conclude with one of my favourites of such joint efforts: TradeMark East Africa (TMEA). Since 2010, six African countries and eight investing countries, including The Netherlands, are supporting growth of regional and international trade in East-Africa, with tangible gains for people in the region. TMEA has established dedicated cooperation with the private sector, civil society, and knowledge institutions. It is well ahead and substantially improves access to markets with better roads and one-stop border posts, reduced handling time, and empowered women traders, who now run sound businesses across borders.

We can share the success of such true partnerships for sustainable development: we are better together!

Marcel Vernooij