Why Integrating Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance into Development Programming Matters

By Daniel F. Runde

 Integrated development is a process that seeks to link the design, delivery, and evaluation of projects across different sectors. Integrated development is not a new phenomenon but has returned over the last 15 years as part of a search for greater effectiveness and coherence especially in the context of fragility and conflict.  Integrated development was applied in some sectors in the 1970s and 1980s with mixed success. There are important reasons why we should care about integrated development and its relation to democracy, human rights, and governance (DRG):

  • First, the development “zeitgeist” is returning to more integrated approaches, making an impact on the practice and implementation of development, including in the U.S. bilateral context. The new Sustainable Development Goals (all 17 of them and their 169 sub-indicators), which are the “what” of international development, are to be approached in an integrated way.  The Paris/Accra/Busan/Global Partnership process – the “how” of development – presupposes an integrated approach to development.  Finally, the Addis Ababa Financing for Development process, the “how we are going to pay for development process,” refers to “integrated financing frameworks.”

In the U.S. context, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Partnership for Growth (PFG) and Country Development Cooperation Strategies (CDCS) reflect U.S. attempts to think about U.S. assistance in an integrated way, and one should expect expansion of these approaches in the future.  Recent changes in how the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) spends money also reflects integrated development concerns.

  • Second, given this changed environment, it is expected that in the U.S. bilateral assistance context, program design and requests for proposals (RFPs) will likely incorporate components of this newer approach in the future. As a result, competing for U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), PEPFAR, Department of State or MCC “business” will require more integrated approaches going forward for the foreseeable future.
  • Third, corruption and public administration are critical issues for development. These two issues are moving higher up the list of challenges that many developing countries want to confront.  In the last 30 years, many developing countries have become wealthier, healthier and freer.  With the rise of the middle class, increased urbanization, new technologies and independent media, the demands for better education, better health, better infrastructure, cleaner air, more respect, and more inclusion, among other wants, are significantly growing louder and louder.  In the future, we’ll most likely witness greater demands for better governance, including in more authoritarian regimes.

Corruption creates a massive “tax” on development and weakens the political will for hard policy reforms such as education, health, the environment or the macro economy. The World Economic Forum cites that in 67 of 144 countries corruption was a top three issue for conducting business.  The United States, with all our imperfections, has stood up and led the anti-corruption movement since 1970s. The U.S. should remain at the front of that parade.  If you are concerned by issues like natural resource management, teachers being in schools, or medicines getting to the right people, then corruption issues should be part of your agenda.

The United Nations uses terms such as “accountable governance” to imply that accountability is increasing even in non-democracies across the world.  Many countries that have “graduated” from development assistance will find their governments more accountable over the next decade. Good governance is closely linked to economic growth. This is why investing in the governance and growth nexus is crucial to combat global poverty, as our CSIS report explains.

One of our takeaways is that public administration, an area of practice for development agencies in the past, is something we need to restore.  Most of the world lives in cities, and the success of cities will highly depend on capable leaders in all sorts of public sectors functions, including health care, education, sanitation, water, policing, and infrastructure.

Especially in infrastructure, there is going to be enormous need to build the capacity of hundreds of thousands of procurement officials as the global standard of purchasing roads, bridges, building schools, hospitals, and purchasing medical devices moves from “low bid” to “life cycle cost.” This will likely take decades and cost billions.  Government agencies such as the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and USAID will be asked to carry a significant part of the cost burden to confront this massive global change.


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