Trade Unions at the DAC Senior Level Meeting

The Senior Level Meeting of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) took place from the 10th to 11th of October 2016. Trade Unions were present to provide their perspective on key issues up for discussion.

By Matt Simonds

A meeting of the Heads of Agency of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) took place on 10-11 December with the aim of reviewing ongoing work and decisions taken at a High Level Meeting (ministerial level) in spring of 2016. The Senior Level Meeting was the first to be presided over by new DAC Chair, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka. Among the key areas of discussion was the current work on modernising the definition of ODA, the setting of a program of work on blended finance, the development of a new Total Official Support for Sustainable Development measure (TOSSD), reporting from working group on refugees and migration, updates on effective development cooperation and the reform of the DAC. Trade unions were able to intervene throughout the deliberations on the basis of a set of messages prepared for the meeting . The meeting did not produce an official outcome or take any definitive decisions, but the DAC Chairs summary provides a record of the debates which took place .

The issue of ODA modernisation, which primarily seeks to measure aid allocated through private sector instruments, provided the most varied discussion amongst members. There is a growing consensus among DAC member countries that the private sector needs to be elevated in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), so in turn donors should not face disincentives from allocating aid flows to the private sector. However, there is still some reservation about how to do this without disrupting the integrity of ODA, especially in key public sectors. As such, and beyond just better measurement, the issue of blended finance will be a main focus of the DAC’s work in the 2017-18 work programme. John Evans, General Secretary of TUAC emphasised that there is a risk of blurring the line between the developmental purpose of ODA with commercially motivated activities, like export credits. The issue of developmental additionality of private flows can be relative and subject to ambiguity. Mr Evans emphasised the role of social dialogue when undertaking development efforts which involve the private sector.

Work on the TOSSD measure continues. However, it appears there are new questions emerging, about its intended purpose and how to make it a useful tool for policy makers and practitioners. The meeting was not able to resolve these issues. There have been positive efforts to broaden the inputs on TOSSD from diverse constituencies, including the suggestion to create a governance structure for the work around TOSSD which better reflects the diversity of development actors. Paola Simonetti, Coordinator of the Trade Union Development Cooperation Network (TUDCN), welcomed the effort to make all official flows more transparent and in line with the effectiveness principles. She shared the concern about how the measure would be used and what implications it would have in driving behaviour on the ground. Ms Simonetti suggested that TOSSD serve as a disaggregated figure showing all official flows separately and avoid the temptation to develop a single catch-all measure. She went on to insist that donor costs be excluded and that the measure focus only on flows to developing countries.

An information sharing session was organised on the continued work being undertaken by donors to harmonize in donor costs associated with refugees and migration and to work towards “comprehensive solutions” through donor programmes in countries of origin. A working group on the issue was established and continues to develop a series of proposals in this light.

The session on effective development cooperation focused on the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) and the discussion centred on its renewed mandate. Paola Simonetti presented the trade union priorities on the topic, suggesting that the GPEDC should continue to focus on its core business, the implementation of the effective development cooperation commitments, in its effort to contribute to the SDGs. She further emphasised that the mandate should reinforce the multistakeholder nature of the partnership and its accountability function. She elaborated that the GPEDC mandate should not be about how to foster one actor or another (like it is the case currently), but on how all the partners can contribute to the implementation commitments. Ms Simonetti also emphasised the importance of linking substantive work (including Global Partnership Initiatives) with the monitoring framework in order to trigger change.

The final point on the agenda focused on how to make the DAC a more inclusive body. It was clear that there is some difficulty to arrive at a balance of including constituencies not currently represented while preserving the strengths of the DAC.

The TUDCN will continue to monitor this work, and develop trade union positions especially in the areas of private sector instruments, blended finance and the issue of ODA eligibility in relation to this. The work in this area is expected to progress quickly with some important milestones coming before the end of the year.

The Trade Union messages which were put to the DAC Senior Level Meeting are available here.