Top bilateral donors: A primer

Photo by: (Top-Bottom, L-R) Brendan Stephen, Kamemaru2000, Wovox, and DfID

International development has seen its donor community expand over the last few years. Amid a greater awareness on the global poor’s plight, more and more corporations, foundations and individuals – from social entrepreneurs to billionaire philanthropists – are joining the aid-giving fray.

Bilateral donors, however, remain the key players in this industry. In 2010, member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee, or 23 of the world’s richest countries, disbursed nearly $129 billion, or 90 percent of the more than $143 billion total from all donors that report their official development assistance to OECD, according to preliminary data. OECD tracks aid from more than 70 donors, which also include multilateral agencies, emerging donor nations, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Donor countries rely mainly on their own agencies to manage their ODA. Some have created offices with the sole purpose of overseeing aid programs, like the United States and Australia, while others, including the Netherlands and Denmark, have put their foreign affairs ministries in charge of development cooperation.

These agencies offer lucrative funding opportunities, some exceeding $100 million. Although most bilateral donor agencies allow foreign organizations to bid on at least some of their procurements, a majority of contracts tends to end up in the hands of domestic non-governmental organizations and consultancies. Agencies that allow for global competition of grants and contracts include the Agence Francaise de Developpement, U.K. Department for International Development, Irish Aid, Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Millennium Challenge Account, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. AusAID also does not restrict its funding opportunities to Australian organizations except when they are funded by the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development.

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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.