06/06/2001 - The Netherlands remains a leader among the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Member countries for the share of its gross national product (GNP) devoted to official development assistance (ODA). Its ODA totalled USD 3.07 billion in 2000, representing 0.82% of GNP and the second best performance in the DAC. This is almost a 10% increase over the 1999 budget. Given the Dutch system of a GNP-linked aid budgeting mechanism, the volume of Dutch ODA is likely to continue to increase significantly over the coming years.
The Netherlands started an ambitious sequence of internal reforms in 1995, and then again in 1998, with the aim of making its aid programmes more effective and coherent. Poverty reduction has now been designated as the overarching objective for Dutch development assistance and the Netherlands is playing a strong role in testing operational approaches to this theme.
The DAC reviewed the Dutch development co-operation policies and programmes on 5 June 2001. The DAC Chairman, Mr. Jean-Claude Faure, summarised the Main Findings and Recommendations:
The Dutch commitment to maintaining a high ODA/GNP ratio is laudable. Such an achievement is facilitated by strong and widespread public and political support for development assistance. The DAC encouraged the Netherlands to continue to maintain the current strong commitment to ODA levels, combined with high quality and creative developmental programming, including multi-year approaches. The DAC expressed its concern that staff constraints within the MFA render difficult the task of effective management of this regularly growing ODA budget.
The association of functions between foreign affairs and development co-operation within the MFA has had positive effects, especially at the level of policy coherence. Nevertheless, it has exacerbated management difficulties, including issues in personnel management, such as recruitment, size and skill mix. The DAC strongly recommends that the MFA develop a clear statement of vision for the personnel policies of the development co-operation operations of the MFA. The DAC also recommends that the MFA strengthen the administrative authorities of the Minister for Development Co-operation in the areas of personnel recruitment and management, to help ensure an appropriate mix of skills at headquarters and in the field.
Dutch development co-operation has long been engaged in pursuing greater policy coherence among Dutch actors and on the international scene. Nevertheless, the task of policy coherence is highly complex and requires a strengthening of the MFA analytical capacity to best address this task. The DAC welcomed the Dutch intention to establish such a capacity within the Ministry and at a senior level of government, so as to better identify and address areas of policy coherence in relation to Dutch developmental objectives. The DAC welcomed Dutch interest in deepening its current attempts to network with civil society, so as to permit a more systematic discussion on policy coherence and other issues concerning development co-operation.
The Netherlands uses country-owned strategies, in particular, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP), as a model for the delivery of bilateral aid, based on lessons learned from over 30 years of development co-operation. The DAC welcomed the focus on ownership, on the importance of the utilisation of domestic resources, and on poverty reduction, but also underscored the challenge that future Dutch development co-operation could face in terms of risk management, whenever the implementation of such models proves difficult. It was therefore suggested to review ways in which the use of the PRSP model as the privileged approach for implementation of Dutch bilateral aid can be advanced.
In light of its interest in achieving greater policy coherence, the Netherlands has been actively involved in co-ordinated action with selected multilateral agencies. The Netherlands has been similarly engaged in shaping European development policies and was encouraged to continue to do so.
The Netherlands has provided strong political commitment and support for untying of development assistance. Further the April 2001 High Level Meeting agreement on untying aid to least developed countries, the DAC welcomed the Dutch intention to re-allocate the funds previously used for tied-aid projects in the LLDCs to a special multilateral facility for future development use. In the same spirit of openness, the Netherlands has also encouraged greater opportunities for the Dutch NGO community to participate in co-financing programs.
The DAC applauded the Netherlands for its ambitious decentralisation of management and authority. It was, in particular, suggested that the MFA initiate the actions necessary to effective communications between headquarters and the field, so as to ensure that perspectives from both ends are fully understood and utilised. Policy makers should also be fully informed from the field perspective. The DAC also welcomed the announcement by the Minister for Development Co-operation to move the main responsibility for management of macroeconomic funds to country embassies.
While efforts have been made to strengthen the Dutch monitoring and evaluation systems, this Peer Review echoed the recommendations contained in those of 1994 and 1997. The DAC recommends that the Netherlands initiate the range of actions necessary to the creation of a coherent, overall monitoring and evaluation system. Such a system should be structured conceptually around the use of feedback, particularly that of the field, for learning and future management decision-making. The DAC was pleased that the MFA now uses the International Development Targets in its reporting to the Dutch Parliament.
During the review, the Dutch Delegation was led by Ms. Eveline Herfkens, Minister for Development Co-operation. The examining countries were Germany and Portugal.
The Main Findings and Recommendations arising from the DAC review will be available as from next week on the DAC/OECD internet site at http://www.oecd.org/dac. A full record of the review will be published in the DAC Journal. Journalists seeking to obtain further information or to meet participants are invited to contact Helen Fisher, Media Relations Division [tel. (331) 45 24 80 97].