Embracing localization is just one way the global development landscape is evolving. And against the backdrop of interrelated global crises, the global development community is finding more strategic ways to use limited resources to create long-term change.
We don’t have a crystal ball, but here are five predictions from R4D’s experts for how some of the most pressing issues in the health, education and nutrition sectors may unfold in the coming year.
1. Prediction: The global development community will get more sophisticated about localization
Gina Lagomarsino, R4D President & CEO
I think there’s going to be a continued focus on localization, or local capacity development — but funders, development partners and governments are going to become much more sophisticated about what that means. It’s about more than just funding locally-based organizations. There will be a focus on how to do more government-to-government assistance, how to ensure that local and regional experts are engaged to support governments in creating sustainable solutions.
And there’s going to be more focus on developing stronger national and regional institutions that drive strategies for improving health care and education, and reducing malnutrition.
And those of us who lead international organizations must continue to think about how we need to evolve in this changing landscape, as local and regional institutions assume more leadership and responsibility. We will need to play supportive roles, enabling development and transfer of knowledge around the world, especially how-to knowledge. We are going to serve more coaching and learning partner roles.
And, finally, I hope that the funders — philanthropists, bilateral agencies and multilateral agencies, who are committed to localization talk to each other, and think about how their funding can move beyond supporting specific local organizations to creating a stronger ecosystem that fosters learning, connections and collective action.
2. Prediction: Spending for health may decline, but primary health care should be prioritized
The health sector received unprecedented attention in 2020 with the COVID pandemic, as governments increased health spending significantly. During COVID, we learned that, more than ever, countries need sustained commitments to achieve universal health coverage (UHC) and strengthen their health systems’ resilience. Primary health care (PHC) was instrumental in addressing the pandemic. And recent evidence shows that PHC is key to achieving UHC.
As global attention shifts away from COVID, we predict health spending is likely to decrease in 2023. Given intensifying macroeconomic pressures on fiscal space, we must continue to focus on smart investments in PHC as the core of resilient health systems to address current health priorities, promote equity, and avert future pandemics.
3. Prediction: Commitments to address malnutrition will continue to accelerate in 2023
Last year, nutrition partners stepped up in a huge way by committing over half a billion US dollars to child nutrition, helping to address the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, spikes in food insecurity and major fluctuations in food prices. Much of this funding was targeted to address severe wasting, and while this means more children who need access to treatment will receive ready-to-use therapeutic foods, these were time-bound commitments that will not address the underlying challenges in the wasting financing landscape.
Looking ahead, while much more work needs to be done to ensure sustainable and strategic financing for nutrition, we’re optimistic that the historic investment made by global health leaders last year will serve as an opportunity to make sustainable change. Our recent blog series on sustainable strategies to improve access to wasting treatment discusses what kind of investments are needed in the system and where.
4. Prediction: Inequities in learning outcomes will grow in 2023 — but evidence-based approaches can help
Mark Roland, R4D Education Practice Co-Lead
Growing evidence highlights that COVID-19 has widened cleavages in educational achievement. Students with access to things like reliable internet or social and emotional support were better able to withstand interruptions to in-person learning. Those that did not were often those who were already struggling relative to peers, and they fell further behind.
Despite the fact that most schools are back to in-person instruction, the effects of these interruptions will reverberate for students in 2023 and beyond — that is, unless policymakers and school leaders adopt new approaches.
Encouragingly, there are evidence-driven approaches for mitigating learning loss. We know, for example, that curricula that are tailored to students learning level (rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach) can facilitate “catch-up learning.” We also know that EdTech, if coupled with sound pedagogical practice and adequate training and support, can play an accelerator role. And we know that structured pedagogy (developing detailed lessons plans for teachers and providing training and coaching on how to use them) has been shown to improve learning levels.
Despite the promise of such evidence-driven approaches, their adoption will take time and 2023 global learning assessments will only further sound the alarm for the need for adopting comprehensive, evidence-driven strategies.
5. Prediction: Increased demand for support in evidence-informed decision-making
Abeba Taddese, R4D Evidence to Policy Practice Lead
In 2023, there will be growing demand from country leaders for funding that is better aligned with their research agendas and the interactive and messy nature of policymaking. There will be a continued push to recognize and acknowledge the critical role of local experts and institutions — including the research community, government agencies, and community members — who are most proximate to the evidence that is being produced and who have the greatest stake in outcomes.
There will also be more commitment to developing a deeper understanding of how to mainstream gender in policymaking through a closer examination of power systems and relations, norms, and other factors that influence evidence production — who produces it and how it is interpreted and applied.
Have a prediction for your area of practice in global development? Let us know in the comments below.