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EuropeAid (2007) SWAPs in motion. Sector wide approaches: From an aid delivery to a sector development perspective.

This paper has been developed by Nils Boesen and Desiree Dietvorst as a contribution to the Joint Learning Programme on Sector Wide Approaches (JLP) that offers sector-specific in-country learning events for development agency partners and domestic stakeholders and is financed by Denmark, EU, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K. The paper is a critical stocktaking based on 12 JLP events, with the intention of contribution to the general debate about programme based approached and aid delivery methods.

The Sector Wide Approach (SWAp), as well as the wider concept of Programme Based Approaches (PBA), was born out of a concern about aid effectiveness. However, this is not the ultimate objective that should be not so much effective aid, but effective development. This paper argues that maintaining a narrower focus on aid with SWAps (and PBAs) viewed as aid delivery mechanisms risks confusing the means with the ends. The central argument of this paper is that there is need to move beyond the aid delivery focus and embrace the SWAp as an approach to effective sector development. Moreover, SWAps and PBAs offer an opportunity to deal with the messy, conflict-ridden, multi-actor and multi-incentive realities of sectors in developing countries and of donors from developed countries and this entails risks. Some recommendations are provided such as:

  • Moving beyond the aid effectiveness agenda in SWAps and adopt a sector development perspective as the basic point of departure, recognising that sectors and SWAps do not start from scratch;
  • Adopting an explicit political economy perspective on the sector, the stakeholders (including donors) and the wider context in which the sector operates, recognising the fundamental political nature of sector development processes and understanding drivers and constraints to change;
  • Adding a consistent actor/stakeholder perspective on SWAps and sector programmes, asking not only what is in it, but also who are in it and who does what;
  • Strengthening managerial inputs in the process – stronger “management from the top” from domestic authorities, better “management from below” from donors.
  • Focusing on results in a basic, common sense, practical way in all processes and encounters related to SWAps and sector development.

(Adapted from Executive summary present in the document)

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Jorge Rodriguez Bilbao
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27 July 2011

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