OECD-DAC peer review: A long wish list for Canadian aid program

The Canadian flag. A peer review by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development believes the country can be a model for other donor countries. Photo by: Christopher Lancaster / CC BY-SA

Although a recent review of the Canadian aid program has some good things to say, it contains more suggestions on what the North American donor country needs to improve on when it comes to its development cooperation practices.

The peer review by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development happened over a six-month period ending May 15, 2012, and involved visits to the Canadian capital of Ottawa. The peer review team also visited Ethiopia to gather information on Canada’s aid delivery and priorities in the African country, among others. The peer examiners were France and the Netherlands.

The review believes Canada can be a model for other donor countries on two areas: opening its trade to least developed countries and making progress on untying its aid. On the latter, it noted that 99 percent of Canada’s aid to least developed countries are now untied, although overall, it’s only 80 percent.

The recent reduction in Canada’s official development assistance didn’t escape the reviewers’ notice.

Canadian aid amounted to $5.3 billion in 2011, a decrease of 5.3 percent from 2010. This represents 0.31 percent of the country’s gross national income. According to the peer review, for Canada to remain a major player in international development, it has to maintain the current aid level of 0.31 percent of GNI but with a view of going back to the previous higher level (0.34 percent) as soon as possible, as well as adopt a plan to make sure it reaches the internationally agreed target of 0.7 percent of GNI.

Besides that, here’s what the Canadian government needs to work on, per the review:

  • Create an overarching vision for development cooperation that will guide the government for at least the next five to 10 years, including defining the approach and objectives, particularly its thematic and geographic priorities.

  • Complete civil society effectiveness and gender equality strategies.

  • Develop a strategy for engaging the private sector.

  • Strengthen policy coherence for development.

  • Invest resources to successfully implement whole-of-government approaches.

  • Complete the Canadian International Development Agency’s decentralization.

  • Streamline CIDA project approval procedures.

  • Clarify, harmonize and simplify CIDA project reporting requirements.

  • Develop a comprehensive human resource plan that can address senior staff turnover and respond to employee concerns at CIDA.

  • Have open, regular dialogue and communication with CIDA staff and partner countries to keep them informed of changes and reforms.

  • Update CIDA’s aid effectiveness action plan to ensure it is fully aligned with Paris and Busan agreement principles.

  • Completely untie aid and avoid tying more aid in the future.

  • Disseminate a cross-government humanitarian strategy, with transparent and measurable objectives and expected results.

  • Provide guidance for matching fund applications.

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.