Trade Union – Development Assistance Committee (OECD) Forum 2018

The fourth edition of this annual forum brought together representatives of the Member States of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) with those of leading labour organisations, both from donor and partner countries. Together, they reviewed the latest evolutions in the work of the DAC and explored opportunities for maximising its contribution to the 2030 Agenda and the Decent Work Agenda. The Forum took place on the 20 of March 2018 in the OECD Headquarters in Paris and took place back-to-back with the Thematic Seminar on Social Dialogue in the SDGs Era.

The DAC is made up of OECD Member States and has the mandate to promote development co-operation and other policies so as to contribute to sustainable development, including pro-poor economic growth, poverty reduction, improvement of living standards in developing countries, and a future in which no country will depend on aid. It is responsible for defining the terms of Official Development Assistance (i.e. public funding dedicated to development cooperation), and determines the reporting requirements of donors. As development actors, trade unions are impacted by this work and the Trade Union-DAC Forum provides an important space for them to input into this process.

The first session, titled blended finance, going beyond principles and putting them into practice, was chaired by the Charlotte Petri Gornitzka (DAC Chair). Blended finance is the practice of using ODA funding to attract additional resources from other actors, in particular from the private sector. The session’s panel brought together the key actors focussed on engaging the private sector for development, and on blended finance in particular: government, multinational and development finance institutions. Participants discussed the OECD’s recently developed Blended Finance Principles as well as ways forward. Panellist Jorge Moreira da Silva (Director of the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate) notably provided insights into how the principles tie into a broader process that includes upcoming guidelines and an adaption of reporting standards.

Trade unions raised a number of issues associated with the principles and with blended finance more generally. Pierre Habbard (General Secretary of TUAC) made the case for a cautious approach to integrating private sector instruments, such as blending, to development cooperation, reminding participants of past failures, notably of the PPP approach. Evidence that blended finance favours middle-income countries raised questions about how it can be aligned to the needs-based approach that underpins development cooperation. Employment creation is often put forward as a key development contribution of these initiatives. Participants highlighted the inadequacy of current provisions to ensure labour standards are met and that the adequate grievance mechanisms are put in place. A more rigorous approach would help to refocus of these initiatives on the target end-beneficiaries, rather than on the private sector intermediaries. Trade unions pointed to the findings of TUDCN research that highlights other shortcomings of the current approach to blended finance.

The second session, titled The DAC, trade unions and SDG implementation and monitoring, focussed on identifying opportunities for aligning the DAC’s reporting function with efforts to achieve the SDGs. Paola Simonetti (ITUC Development Policy Coordinator) presented the trade union strategy on the 2030 Agenda, highlighting the role of trade unions in its implementation, monitoring and accountability. Julia Benn (Head of Unit in the OECD’s Financing for Sustainable Development Division), provided a detailed overview of the current adaptation of the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System (CRS) in order to align it with both the 2030 Agenda and the Decent Work Agenda.

The Trade Union-DAC Forum is an important space for exchange and the 2018 edition yet again provided a platform for an honest and productive appraisal of ongoing efforts and identified opportunities to strengthen their coherence and coordination going forward.

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