The Swedish Agency for Public Management
Meny

Sweden’s Policy for Global Development. The Government's joint responsibility? (2014:1)

Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been assigned to evaluate the Swedish Government's management and working methods in respect of Sweden's Policy for Global Development. Statskontoret is to submit proposals for how the management, working methods and monitoring can be improved, as well as examining whether, and if so, how the policy can be continuously evaluated.

Background

In 2003, the Riksdag (the Swedish Parliament) decided that Sweden should strive to have a coherent Policy for Global Development. The policy should be based on an overall view of the driving forces behind development and on the measures required to achieve equitable and sustainable global development.

Sweden's Policy for Global Development contains the Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) agenda which means that all Governmental policy areas are to contribute to the goal of equitable and sustainable global development. A rights perspective and the perspective of poor people on development are to permeate the policy. Coherence between the various different Swedish policy areas should, according to the Government, be strengthened so that all policies can better promote global development. Coherence should characterise both national policies and policies which are formulated and passed within the EU. This also involves clarifying the links between the various policy areas and identifying any conflicts of objectives and interests.

International development cooperation is handled in a separate chapter within Sweden's Policy for Global Development. An overall objective for development cooperation was established: "to help create the conditions that will allow poor people to improve their living conditions".

The starting point for the policy is the Government's combined responsibility for its implementation. How this combined responsibility for implementation is to be brought about is not mentioned in the policy and there are no specific funds allocated for the policy implementation. Within the Government, the Minister for International Development Cooperation has been specifically designated the responsibility for coordinating the policy. Within the Government Offices, the organisational responsibility rests with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA). Furthermore, within all ministries a "focal point" has been appointed and an inter-departmental working group has also been formed. A dozen or so agencies have, according to their instruction and/or appropriation directions been assigned to work with the Policy for Global Development. However, there is no one agency with specific responsibility for management or monitoring of the policy. The Government follows up activities within the policy every other year through an official communication to the Riksdag.

In the 2012 communication to the Riksdag concerning the implementation of the policy, the Government deems that coordination and cooperation within the Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) can be improved. The communication refers to the peer review of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) that stated that the design of the Swedish PCD-agenda is good, but that the implementation of the policy has been more difficult regarding, for instance, coordination and coordination mechanisms. Furthermore, the OECD notes that a there is a lack of a strong mechanism for coordinating the implementation of the policy. OECD also finds that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) has limited tools and capacity with which to coordinate and mediate between the various sections of the Government Offices.

Statskontoret's conclusions and proposals

The Policy for Global Development adopted by the Riksdag in 2003 and further developed in Government Communications to the Riksdag, is very ambitious. The policy is expected to form the basis for a consistent and coherent policy that will contribute to an equitable and sustainable global development. In order to achieve this, improved cooperation between actors across the whole of the society is necessary. Within the Government and the Government Offices, the responsibility for achieving these objectives is to be distributed amongst all of the ministries.

Increased international focus on Policy Coherence for Development

A point of departure for the Policy for Global Development is insight into the fact that international development cooperation, on its own, cannot solve global poverty. In order for global challenges to be met, initiatives within several policy areas are required. The conclusions and the starting points that formed the basis for the introduction of the Policy for Global Development are, according to Statskontoret, even more relevant today. The demand for global solutions to global challenges is very much a topical issue. In addition to this, the relative strengths of main players in the global economy have changed. This has led, amongst other things, to a continuing reduction in aid flows in percentage of the total financial flows to poor countries. From a global perspective, there is also a mutual interest in the creation of new rules and institutions, so that economic crises can be avoided and financial stability can be created. A sustainability perspective continues to be relevant. There are many challenges, including issues such as climate, environment, water provision, energy, migration and epidemics.

On an international level, there are currently several initiatives for increased policy coherence for development. A broader development perspective will probably be the basis of for the work under way within the UN to develop new global development goals after 2015. Within the EU, the coherence perspective has been strengthened. The 2009 Treaty of Lisbon includes an undertaking to work with Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). This commitment has subsequently been fortified in the EU strategy document "Agenda for Change".

The OECD has for long been a driving force and a setter of standards for Policy Coherence for Development. At an OECD Ministerial meeting in 2012, a strategy was approved in which fortified Policy Coherence for Development is one of the most important objectives. Also notable is the fact that the PCD issues within the OECD have been moved from the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) to the office of the Secretary-General.

The Policy for Global Development has been nationally deprioritised over time

The introduction of the Swedish Policy for Global Development in 2003 received international attention. Sweden was the first country in the world to create a national policy document specifically for increased Policy Coherence for Development. Initially, there was also great commitment to and enthusiasm for the policy from many actors.

Our assessment is that the Swedish Policy for Global Development, paradoxically enough, has been gradually deprioritised, while we see the opposite development on an international level. There are several reasons for this. One reason, according to those we have interviewed, is that the Government, in recent years, has been focusing on the management by results of Swedish International development cooperation. This has meant less room for promoting Policy Coherence for Development. Another reason is that the Policy for Global Development, for various different reasons, has been considerably harder to implement than it was to introduce. At the start, the Government had a very general approach to the policy. All policy areas were expected to be included in the work. In order to be able to implement the policy, commitment was needed from all Ministries, and this proved to be difficult to achieve.

We have noted that no ministry has taken an integrated approach to Policy Coherence for Development, based on an overall analysis of how the issues ought to be pursued within their own ministry. Both the focal points within the Government Offices, and agency representatives, speak of a mediocre interest in PCD issues within the Government Offices.

A contributory factor to the reduction in the impact of the policy over time, according to Statskontoret, is that the issues have also been deprioritised with regard to resources, within MFA. The responsibility for the policy initially lay at senior civil servant level within MFA. The issues were then subsequently handled by a group manager aided by several staff with specific expertise in the area. Currently, one civil servant has responsibility for coordinating the policy within the whole of the Government Offices.

There is uncertainty about what the Policy for Global Development means

The Policy for Global Development is a cross-sectorial policy. If we look at the six identified global challenges on which the policy rests, these are also cross-sectorial in themselves. Like other cross-sectorial areas, the Policy for Global Development is characterised by the ministry in charge, MFA, not having full right of disposition over the issues. For the policy to have an impact, initiatives involving actors within and outside of the Government Offices are required. It is therefore important that a PCD perspective, or a development perspective, has a broad impact. Unlike other cross-sectorial issues, it does not primarily concern impact on government agencies or municipalities, even if these are expected to play important roles. PCD is to a large extent concerned with establishing a development perspective in activities governed by the Government and which are prepared within the Government Offices.

The objectives set for the Policy for Global Development are of a markedly visionary nature and they describe an ideal state of affairs. This affects the conditions that govern the policy. Our assessment is that there is a need to develop operational goals that clearly state what the various actors are expected to achieve.

Statskontoret's assessment is that there is also uncertainty regarding the meaning of the concept of "Policy Coherence for Development". PCD is primarily concerned with identifying parts and initiatives within the Swedish policy making that need to be handled from a development perspective. It is important to emphasise that PCD is not primarily concerned with who is to implement a certain activity or initiative, or how these are to be financed. Consequently, PCD is more about an adopted approach in connection with political decisions.

Many of the initiatives to which Ministries and agencies refer when they describe their PCD work could be identified as initiatives within development cooperation. This can probably be explained by the fact that the Policy for Global Development took its starting point in international aid policy, and that the responsibility for coordination came to rest under the auspices of the Minister for International Development Cooperation. International aid still has an important role to play within PCD efforts, and should continue to do so even in the future. However, it is currently unclear how the Government intends to use the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) as a catalyst and actor with expert knowledge of development issues. If the changes that have been advertised in the work with the new global development goals are implemented, the direction of the aid policy may also change and become broader.

Statskontoret proposes that the Government clarifies the implications of the Policy for Global Development and what it expects of the actors involved. There is also a need to clarify the interface between PCD and aid policy.

The Ministries' ownership needs to increase

The objectives that have been set for the policy are visionary and need to be operationalised. In order for the objectives to have a management role in the Government's implementation, an operational link is required between the overall objectives and ambitions stated in the Government Bill on the Policy for Global Development and the Government's communications, and the activities currently conducted within the Ministries.

We note that no ministry have conducted an analysis of the extent to which its overall operations affect PCD, which issues have a development perspective, or the degree to which the activity can contribute to improved PCD. In interviews with representatives of the Ministries and the agencies with assignments within the scope of the policy, it has been emphasised that the Government and the Government Offices have not been very active in communicating the ongoing prioritising of the policy's implementation.

However, this does not mean that there are no activities currently under way that affect PCD. We note that most Ministries conduct some form of international work. The work of the Ministries to promote development is, to a certain degree, summarised within the scope of the Government's communications to the Riksdag. If this international work does not have any clear link with the goals within the Policy for Global Development, then many see it as being completely unconnected with the policy.

The PCD focal points appointed within the Ministries have limited opportunities to promote a development perspective based on the Policy for Global Development. They often perceive the interest in PCD issues as weak. This applies both to the Ministries that have extensive international work with a development perspective, and those where the issues are more peripheral.

In the view of Statskontoret, a common and coherent policy for development, in accordance with objectives and ambitions expressed in the Policy for Global Development and subsequent communications, cannot be obtained without all Ministries fulfilling their responsibilities. For the policy to become a guiding force, it must be operationally adapted. This means that it is only the Ministries themselves that can decide how the issues should best be handled, and how the agencies involved can most effectively be employed for this purpose.

In the same way as the Government through a special decision has established a strategy for how gender equality policy is to be handled and integrated within the Government Offices, the Government and its Ministries must also establish how they see their combined contribution to the implementation of the Policy for Global Development. The contexts in which the policy is relevant will vary from ministry to ministry. Within certain Ministries, the issue may come to be handled as something peripheral. However, this is something to be decided upon by the management of the respective ministries.

Statskontoret proposes that the Government decides that the ministries, based on a specific strategy, shall report how their overall work with PCD is to be conducted.

The resources for coordination do not match the Government's ambitions

The responsibility for coordinating the Policy for Global Development has always rested with the Minister for International Development Cooperation, with its organisational home within MFA. There are a number of advantages with the placement within MFA. Within the MFA there are several policy areas central to the policy, such as foreign, security, aid and trade policy. Several units also have a clear link to the six identified global challenges. The ministry also house development expertise. MFA is also responsible for the governance of the missions abroad.

According to many of those we interviewed, the responsibility for coordination must be elevated to an overall level in order for the policy to have a real impact in line with the Riksdag's intentions, preferably to the Prime Minister's Office. In the opinion of Statskontoret, this does not however guarantee that the issues will have a greater impact. It is therefore sensible that the coordination responsibility for the policy is located within MFA.

The coordination responsibility for the policy is currently found within the part of MFA that deals with development cooperation. This solution is not without its problems. There is a risk that the issues are perceived as being a part of the aid policy rather than as a joint government policy. We have previously pointed out that PCD issues have gradually been deprioritised within MFA, both in terms of organisation and resources. There is currently one civil servant who is responsible, on a part-time basis, for coordinating and promoting the policy. This civil servant is also responsible for the coordination of the Government's communications to the Riksdag. This can be compared with the work at the Gender Equality Unit within the Ministry of Education and Research, which has a dozen or so employees, two of which work full-time monitoring and promoting the gender equality work within and outside the Government Offices.

Assuming that the ambitions expressed in the Riksdag's decision on the Policy for Global Development continue to apply, then it could be questioned whether the resources currently available are sufficient. If the ambition is that the coordination responsibility is also to encompass a responsibility for actively promoting PCD work within the whole of the Government Offices, then the issues need to be elevated to an even higher organisational level within MFA.

Statskontoret proposes that the coordination function for the Policy for Global Development within MFA be provided with resources and an organisational placement that corresponds with the Government's political ambitions.

The policy must be made visible

Policy Coherence for Development means that conflicts of objectives and interests are to be identified and contrasted against each other. In conjunction with its decision on the Policy for Global Development, the Riksdag considered that the Government should guarantee the political handling of identified conflicts of objectives. In order for the policy to be successful, the standing Parliamentary committee on foreign affairs found that a coherent, coordinating, 'driving' function was required. No such organisational unit was established. Instead, a system with informal steering mechanisms at civil servant level was established. Our view is that this working method has proved stable over time, if not particularly proactive. The inter-ministerial PCD working group is primarily a forum for exchange of information and has not, in recent years, had any explicit task to promote the implementation of the policy.

The PCD focal points within the various Ministries perceive their roles as being indistinct and unclear, both in relation to the inter-ministerial working group and to their own ministry. One problem that has been highlighted is the difficulties in communicating the added value that PCD represents and the difference between PCD and the development cooperation, or the international activities that the Ministries already conduct.

The cooperation that currently exists is primarily concerned with the retrospective collection of information regarding the PCD activities that have been conducted within the ministry in question. This is used as data for the Government Communication to the Riksdag. Statskontoret's view is that the policy survives largely due to the communications to the Riksdag.

In the opinion of Statskontoret, the Swedish model of joint drafting procedures within the Government Offices does not sufficiently capture cross-sectorial issues. In order for a development perspective to be recognised in the joint drafting procedures, the issues must be integrated at an early stage. However, this presupposes that there is knowledge, both regarding the Riksdag's decisions about the Policy for Global Development and of how a development perspective can be taken into consideration. This also presupposed that the political management has expressed this as being important. One conclusion is therefore that the joint drafting procedure, such as it functions today, does not guarantee the integration of a development perspective into the process.

If the Government wishes a development perspective to be incorporated into future decisions, this presupposes, above all, a pronounced political commitment, rather than organisational changes. In the opinion of Statskontoret, there are no reasons to establish new structures for coordinating and promoting the PCD within the Government Offices. On the other hand, Statskontoret considers that MFA, which is responsible for the coordination of the policy, should make the policy more visible and use existing steering mechanisms more actively. This can be done, for example, by conducting seminars on a regular basis similar to the PCD seminar that the Government organised in the spring of 2013.

Another way of making PCD visible would be to utilise other topical political processes as a driving force to illustrate the importance of a development perspective. Such issue could be climate issues and issues of global financial stability. Statskontoret perceives that it is exactly this that MFA has attempted to do by, for example, selecting economic exclusion as the theme for its 2012 Communication to the Riksdag. Such an approach can, in the opinion of Statskontoret, be developed and used in different forums. MFA should utilise other existing inter-ministerial working groups within the Government Offices in order to highlight and promote a development perspective within issues relevant to PCD.

Statskontoret is of the opinion that MFA should also involve the diplomatic missions abroad in the work with PCD. These currently have no active role in PCD. One of the main tasks of the missions abroad is to report back to the Government. As local observers, the diplomatic missions abroad would be able to become an on-site source of information regarding how Swedish policies collectively affect poor countries and their people. Swedish delegations to international bodies could also, to a large degree, become sources for feedback based on PCD.

Statskontoret proposes that MFA adopts a more active role in making the Policy for Global Development more visible.

Evaluating the Policy for Global Development is a challenge

Statskontoret believes that the Government Communications to the Riksdag have developed in a positive direction in recent years. The PCD monitoring that is conducted in the Government Communication should therefore constitute a starting point for an external evaluation of the policy. Such an external evaluation should be viewed as a complement to the Government's own monitoring.

In its communications to the Riksdag, the Government has stated that the Policy for Global Development should be evaluated both in terms of its implementation and of its effects. The OECD has also stressed the need for evaluation. However, in the opinion of Statskontoret, the preconditions for measuring the effects of the Swedish PCD are limited.

There are several challenges and difficulties associated with evaluating a policy as visionary as the Policy for Global Development. The policy is cross-sectorial and the goals are general and all-encompassing by their very nature. PCD activities are also characterised by very long chains of governance where effects are expected to be achieved in another part of the world and in the long term.

In the light of this, Statskontoret believes that the Government should refrain from creating a comprehensive system for evaluation of the effects of the policy using, for example, indicators. The value of constructing a comprehensive system for evaluating Swedish PCD must be considered in relation to the costs associated with the construction of such a system. Preconditions for putting the knowledge from the system into action must also be considered. With this in mind, Statskontoret finds that the Government, in the first instance, should help to develop systems for evaluation of PCD on an international level.

This need not be done at the expense of evaluating on a national level. A national evaluation can aim, through in-depth analyses, to increase knowledge about the complex patterns and preconditions for the Government's future policy development. The evaluation should be based on the Government's own monitoring and constitute a complement to this monitoring. A national evaluation of the policy can focus on highlighting internal decision-making processes within the Government Offices, and whether these processes have contributed to improve PCD. Another approach could be to study specific partner countries in order to evaluate the overall results of the Swedish Government's collective actions, based on a rights and poverty perspective.

With regard to monitoring, evaluating and control, a prerequisite for the Government is that in-depth analyses of effects and efficiency of an official activity should be conducted by a party that operates outside the auspices of the actor in question. Applied to the Policy for Global Development, this would mean that an evaluation ought to be conducted by an actor outside the Government Offices.

Since the Policy for Global Development is cross-sectorial, Statskontoret believes that an external evaluation should be based on a multidisciplinary approach. There are several actors that would be able to take on such a task. The Expert Group for Aid Studies has the mandate to evaluate "Other issues that are of relevance to Sweden's international development cooperation may also be studied" and would probably be able to undertake to evaluate the policy. The task could also be conducted by an independent committee. There are also a large number of international actors with the necessary competences to undertake the task.

Statskontoret proposes that an actor independent of the Government Offices be assigned on a regular basis (every three years) to evaluate relevant aspects of the Swedish Policy for Global Dev