Fit for purpose means continuous change

by Susanna Moorehead, Chair, OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)

As I arrived in Paris last week to take up office as Chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the 30 DAC Members gathered for a Senior Level Meeting. It was a great opportunity for me to meet people and understand the DAC’s role in helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The DAC needs to be fit for its purpose of ending extreme poverty, which is increasingly concentrated in conflict-affected and fragile places. By 2030, 80% of poor people will be living in these conditions. In addition, 100 million more people will have fallen back into poverty if nothing is done to mitigate the effects of climate change and to make their livelihoods more resilient.  At the Senior Level Meeting,  Members endorsed the new DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus. This will drive coherence when working in conflict and fragile zones and demonstrate how the DAC is responding to changing development challenges.

These challenges also require the DAC to work in different ways with different partners. Members need to go ‘beyond aid’ and ‘beyond governments’ to harness other resources. We need effective partnerships with the private sector and private financing instruments, with emerging donors not in the DAC, with multilateral institutions, with civil society organisations (CSOs), and with philanthropic organisations. We need more and better ideas about how to use official development assistance (ODA) as a catalyst for different types of finance and to draw on a broader range of development finance. Existing finance also needs to better integrate sustainability aspects.

The DAC has a key role to play in upholding principles and guidelines to ensure donors remain incentivised, and in ensuring that robust safeguards are in place. Partners are watching to make sure a focus on leveraging private capital does not mean shying away from commitments to provide ODA, particularly to countries most in need. DAC Members need to provide global leadership and balance these two aspects of development finance.

The DAC is reforming by using the wealth of expertise and the analytic capacity of the OECD and responding to the changing development landscape and Members’ demand. Some important changes in recent years include:

  • An update of the Peer Review Methodology to enhance the quality, effectiveness and impact of development co-operation;
  • An increased focus on the impact of our contributions in crises and fragile places, manifested in the DAC Recommendation to enhance coherence across the development-humanitarian-peace nexus;
  • An increased focus on mobilising resources beyond ODA through several recent outputs, including the adoption of the Blended Finance Principles, the continued work on blended finance and on total official support for sustainable development (TOSSD)’s statistical framework, and the release of the new flagship report Global Outlook on Financing for Sustainable Development;
  • An updated Global Relations Strategy that serves to foster inclusive policy dialogues with non-DAC development assistance providers; and
  • A framework for dialogue between the DAC and CSOs that has helped structure the relationship between CSOs and the DAC.

The DAC needs to engage more effectively in international development fora and help shape the global development system. We need to shake off the perception by some influential developing countries that this is a rich donor club, which does not listen and imposes its rules on ODA recipients. The Global Partnership for Effective Development Co-operation (GPEDC) is a key tool, which the DAC needs to use to help refresh its image as a forward-looking leader in development assistance. Making TOSSD a global good and standard statistics framework will also help.

The DAC needs to continue to be the guardian of ODA, helping Members to live up to commitments and hold each other to account. ODA is a scarce resource, going where no other resources go. If we are going to succeed in leaving no one behind, members of the DAC need to increase ODA flows to the poorest countries, including making new financial instruments work in these countries and to target more of this resource on women and girls.

As I start my tenure, I am enthusiastic about the possibilities and confident that Members can build consensus on key issues. To ensure that the DAC remains fit for purpose we should pursue an evolutionary not revolutionary approach and plan for continuous change. We need to bring all Members with us, appreciate the value and legitimacy of opposing views, and be open to influencing and being influenced by partners outside the DAC. It will also be important to use the full capacity across the whole OECD.