OECD DAC High Level Meeting outlines priorities for the next year

The OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) recently held its annual High Level Meeting (HLM) on 4-5 December in London. The meeting convened Ministers from DAC member countries and other OECD countries as well as high-ranking officials from different Multilateral Development Banks. The DAC’s immediate priorities, as outlined in the HLM’s communiqué, are the post 2015 work, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation and the issue of development finance more broadly. Importantly the communiqué identifies, and in some instances agrees, next steps towards fulfilling different commitments under the mentioned priority areas.

In providing context the HLM communiqué rightly recognized that “[s]ocial inequalities are increasing in all countries – developed, emerging and developing – and are a growing concern given the threat they pose to social, political and economic stability.” It also acknowledged the changing terrain of development co-operation underscoring the emergence of South-South partners and the increasing importance of civil society and the private sector.

The HLM communiqué was particularly encouraging in its agreements around the post 2015 development goals. The communiqué signals strong support for the High Level Panel and UN led process while also asserting that the process should not be donor-driven. There is clear acknowledgement that any future framework should have full ownership by all members of society. Perhaps the most notable point in the communiqué is the understanding that the human rights principles should underpin the future framework and particular attention should be given to “the role of democratic institutions, human security”, while going beyond conventional development paradigms rooted in national income measures.

Slightly less ambitious was the communiqués support towards the Global Partnership. A desire for the Global Partnership to take up efforts to reduce fragmentation and increase transparency and predictability are highlighted. There is acknowledgement of those Busan commitments, which were to be completed by 2012, but without any concrete information about whether and how these commitments would be fulfilled. One notable positive was the communiqués suggestion that the Global Partnership should provide space to discuss the impact of broader public policy decisions that undermine development efforts.

Somewhat troubling were the communiqués agreements on development finance, which largely focused on measuring development finance and in particular ODA. It is no mystery that many donors are falling short of their commitments in terms of levels of ODA. For some time now donors have been toying with the idea of redefining ODA, likely due to the difficulties with meeting current commitments. In this respect, the communiqué hints further at expanding what qualifies as ODA going forward, including for example looking into ways to measure “donor effort” and in so doing to consider “modernis[ing] the ODA concept.”

For a certainty, the communiqué makes clear that the DAC will assert itself and continue to play a critical role in the debates around development co-operation.

Unfortunately, despite being invited to and having participated in the DAC Senior Level Meeting (SLM) in April 2012, the international trade union movement through TUAC/ITUC was not invited to attend the recent HLM.

Read the full OECD DAC HLM communiqué

Article by Matt Simonds, TUAC