The Development Leaders Conference 2020: Paving the Way for Better Development Cooperation post-COVID

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the consensus on best practices in development cooperation had been weakening and the fragmentation of both the donor and partner landscapes had been creating new challenges. Emerging development cooperation providers have become increasingly important, changing the approaches of aid provision. At the same time, development trajectories of partner countries have diversified too. Now, both fiscal pressures on donors’ budgets and tensions between domestic political interests and sustainable development support abroad will further increase demands on development agencies. However, with poverty rates rapidly on the rise and only one decade to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the need for effective development cooperation among both traditional and new donors remains high. Next month, the 2020 virtual Development Leaders Conference (DLC), co-organised by Sida and CGD, will provide an opportunity to foster collaboration and evidence sharing through independent peer-to-peer exchange.

The last two Development Leaders Conferences (2018 in London and 2019 in Beijing) have demonstrated the value in providing heads of development agencies and selected international institutions with an opportunity to discuss common challenges in an informal setting. By design, the conferences are held under private conditions to engage each other in the most constructive dialogue possible. The key aspects of last year’s conference have proven to be even more pressing and important to get right in today’s new environment. The 2020 edition of the conference will build on and develop the following previous DLC themes:

  • the purpose of the effectiveness principles effectiveness principles for development cooperation and how they relate to domestic policy goals;
  • the changed donor landscape and its impact on traditional fora of collaboration; and
  • how to best deal with the immense challenges of climate change and fragile contexts in partner countries.

Over the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted most aspects of the aid system. The pandemic has necessitated that development agencies develop new strategies and priorities, adapt their value chains to avoid disruption, accommodate new and more pressing tradeoffs on the ground, and manage uncertainties for its finances and personnel.

Evidently, this global health emergency will also dominate the discussions at this year’s DLC: How can we increase our own resilience to become more sustainable development actors? How do we navigate the pandemic to build back better and more inclusively? We will present initial responses and deliberate how to best adapt strategies to the new reality.

In light of the long-term need to adapt our business model, we will also encourage strategic discussions on how to best address climate change. By discussing these issues outside traditional multilateral fora, the DLC helps enable emerging and new donors to find a more collaborative and more sustainable development approach. We look forward to the fruitful discussions that will take place during the conference, and we will share key insights that will help us deliver better development cooperation post-COVID.  


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.