Development finance standards

Untied aid


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Evidence has shown that "tied" aid - offering aid on the condition that it be used to procure goods or services from the provider of the aid - can increase the costs of a development project by as much as 15 to 30 percent. Untying aid, on the other hand, avoids unnecessary costs and gives the recipient the freedom to procure goods and services from virtually any country. Annual reviews monitor progress of member governments' untying efforts with respect to the Untying Recommendation and other international agreements. We also offer a global portal of ODA contract opportunities for the benefit of the international business community.

Untied aid at a glance

Revised DAC Recommendation on Untying Official Development Assistance to the Least Developed Countries and Heavily Indebted Poor Countries

Members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) agree to the objective of untying their bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs) as a means to:

  • foster co-ordinated, efficient and effective partnerships with developing countries; 
  • strengthen the ownership and responsibility of partner countries in the development process; 
  • demonstrate responsiveness to the requests from partner countries and others to increase the use of untied aid in order to promote aid effectiveness; and 
  • contribute to broader efforts with partner countries to promote their integration into the global economy.

This Recommendation reflects the results of discussions in the DAC to respond to the Mandate provided at its 1998 High Level Meeting. It also reflects the subsequent decision by the DAC to revise the Recommendation in 2008 to extend its coverage to include the non-LDC HIPCs, to introduce provisions inviting non-DAC donors to untie their aid in parallel with DAC Members and inviting those responsible for procurement to promote respect for internationally agreed principles of corporate social and environmental responsibility. Finally, it also reflects the outcome of the 2013 review of the provision to extend the geographic coverage of the Recommendation to include non-LDC HIPCs. The shared intentions of DAC Members are to:

  • untie their ODA to the LDCs and HIPCs to the greatest extent possible; 
  • promote and sustain adequate flows of ODA in terms of quality, volume and direction, in particular to the LDCs and HIPCs and ensure that ODA to these countries will not decline over time as a result of the implementation of this Recommendation; 
  • achieve balanced efforts among DAC Members.

Read the latest version of the Recommendation


From tied to untied aid

Tied aid describes official grants or loans that limit procurement to companies in the donor country or in a small group of countries. Tied aid therefore often prevents recipient countries from receiving good value for money for services, goods, or works.

Untying aid – removing the legal and regulatory barriers to open competition for aid funded procurement – generally increases aid effectiveness by reducing transaction costs and improving the ability of recipient countries to set their own course. It also allows donors to take greater care in aligning their aid programmes with the objectives and financial management systems of recipient countries.


Progress in untying aid

From 1999-2001 to 2008, the proportion of untied bilateral aid rose progressively from 46% to 82%.

Despite this considerable progress, donors can do more. In a changing global context, challenges include a growing role of non-DAC donors that provide largely tied development funding, new vertical funding and new forms of funding to address the global financial crisis in the short-term and climate change in the longer term.

Find a detailed analysis of progress in Untying Aid: Is It Working?, the first independent evaluation of donor efforts towards untying, prepared with the Overseas Development Institute.

History: The DAC and efforts to untie aid

Since its creation in 1961, the OECD Development Assistance Committee has worked to improve the effectiveness of its members’ aid efforts. One major issue has been whether aid should be freely available to buy goods and services from all countries (“untied aid”), or whether aid should be restricted to the procurement of goods and services from the donor country (“tied aid”).

Work culminated in a Recommendation to Untie Official Development Assistance to the Least Developed Countries (DAC High Level Meeting, April 2001).

The objectives of this recommendation are to:

  • untie ODA to the least developed countries to the greatest extent possible
  • promote and ensure adequate ODA flows, in particular to the least developed countries
  • achieve balanced efforts among DAC Members in untying aid

The recommendation calls upon donors to make developing countries responsible for procurement. A list of untied official development assistance contract opportunities allows the private sector to compete for aid-funded contracts.

The recommendation was amended in March 2006 to eliminate the thresholds and in July 2008 to expand the coverage to the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs).

Members' actions to implement the recommendation are continually monitored and their performance is measured against agreed statistical indicators. Their tying policies and practices are also reviewed through the DAC Peer Review process and recorded in annual implementation reports to the DAC.

Since January 2002, ODA to the least developed countries has been untied in the following areas:

  • balance of payments and structural adjustment support
  • debt forgiveness
  • sector and multi-sector programmes assistance
  • investment project aid
  • import and commodity support
  • commercial services contracts and ODA to NGOs for procurement related activities

Most Members have now untied all categories of ODA covered by the Recommendation. In the few remaining cases, full implementation of the coverage provisions is awaiting the conclusion of co-ordination processes.

Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have untied ODA beyond the requirements of the recommendation.


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