Perspectives on global development

International Development Co-operation in OECD Countries: Public Debate, Public Support and Public Opinion - Background Note


Background Note

As stressed by several Ministers during the last OECD DAC High Level Meeting (Paris, May 2001), awareness of and public support for international development co-operation are crucial*. Indeed, over the last decade, public support had appeared to remain strong in most OECD Member countries. More recently, however, the evolving public debate about the consequences of globalisation, doubts about the effectiveness of aid, the decline of ODA as a share of DAC members' overall GNP, and the changing nature of donor activities overseas (becoming less "tangible") have made the provision of information sharing and awareness raising more complex. In that context, the sparse signs of declining support that have just begun to appear in some OECD countries seem to indicate that the development community may soon be confronted with new challenges.

In this context, the topics of the proposed informal meeting are four-fold:

1. Trends in public opinion

What are the trends in public perceptions, support and understanding of co-operation to help poor countries- Does the available evidence reveal a stagnation in public support- Have "anti-globalisation" protests have an impact on the general public's perception of development co-operation- What are the new challenges facing information managers in development agencies, bilateral, multilateral and civil society organisations (CSOs)-

2. Development actors' messages and public opinion

Have official priorities in raising public awareness on development issues changed- What are the objectives of raising public awareness about development- How can these objectives be met- What messages do donors, CSOs and multilateral organisations really want to get across to the public- Are the messages adapted to meet the objectives-

3. Effectiveness

Are actors getting their message across- What are examples of "best practices" in OECD countries, in civil society and in international organisations- How can "effectiveness" be evaluated- How can it be increased- What new forms of collaboration exist-

4. Future work

What should be the agenda today for research and dialogue on public opinion and awareness about development co-operation- How can "effectiveness" be assessed- What are the "best practices" for raising public awareness and how can they be refined-

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*: The OECD Development Centre has produced analytical material on this topic for almost ten years, and is pursuing this work by updating its 1998 publication on "Public Attitudes and International Development Co-operation", to be jointly published inautumn 2002, with the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe.