DAC Information Note on the Peer Review Process for Peer Review Participants


The DAC regularly assesses its peer review process to ensure continued relevance to member country needs. Please note that an updated version of this text will be available soon.

The Peer Review of the Development Assistance Committee

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) functions as a forum where bilateral donors come together to exchange experience and to address issues of common interest or concern. Its overarching objective is the continuous improvement of Member efforts in all areas of development assistance, through the exchange of best practices and the promotion of co-ordination and collaboration among members. In order to promote the process of learning, the DAC periodically (every 3-4 years on average) undertakes reviews and assessments of all Member development co-operation systems. This is done with the intent of promoting continually improved development co-operation practices in a complex and rapidly changing environment. Recommendations and suggestions for improvement are extended, and a follow-up is done in order to ensure that lessons are translated into improvements in the practices of DAC Member development co-operation programmes and policies.

The main objectives of the Peer Reviews are:
  • To monitor DAC Members’ development co-operation policies and programmes, and assess their effectiveness, inputs, outputs and results against the goals and policies agreed in the DAC as well as nationally established objectives.
  • To assist in improving individual and collective aid performance in both qualitative and quantitative terms.
  • To provide comparative reporting and credible analysis for wider publics in OECD countries and the international community.
  • To identify best practices, share experience, and foster co-ordination.

Use of Peers

The DAC Secretariat, in consultation with the DAC, designates two of its members as “Examiners” for each review. They may be Delegates, although it is also common to assign staff from headquarters or field offices. Examiners are an integral part of the review team, together with members of the Secretariat, and the DAC Chairman. They are considered representatives of the DAC as a whole, assigned both to contribute to, and to learn from, the Peer Review process. In this regard, they are expected to take an active role during all stages of the process: planning; field visits; missions to the capital; contributing to the Peer Review reports, Issues Paper for the review meeting and the Chairman's Press Release. Finally, they lead discussions at the Peer Review meeting itself.


On average, the whole Peer Review process can be estimated to take 6 months, from the early planning and research stage to the Peer Review meeting at OECD headquarters. The large number of actors involved throughout the process and the logistical challenges this entails places limits on the extent to which pre-set, estimated timeframes are followed. Due to these constraints, the timeframes outlined in this note for each activity are necessarily only indicative, and there may be modifications on the sequencing or timing of events depending on the circumstances surrounding each review.

The Process

For Examiners and the reviewed Member representatives, the Peer Review process involves seven fairly distinct stages: (i) Preparation, (ii) Visits to the Field, (iii) Mission to the capital, (iv) Peer Review Meeting (v) Editorial Session, (vi) Publication, and (vii) Follow-up. In addition, there is interaction on a continuous basis between Examiners, the reviewed country, and the Secretariat during this period. The standard sequence of events for each Peer Review is recapitulated at the end of this Annex.

i) Preparation

Once a country is designated for review and the date of the review meeting is set, the relevant authorities are notified. The Secretariat selects the Examiners, and a meeting will be arranged between the examining team and representatives of the examined country to plan arrangements.

The country under review is requested to submit all relevant documentation to the Secretariat, which should be made available in one of the OECD official languages (French or English). In addition, all DAC members submit a country memorandum on a yearly basis, usually around mid-July. Members are free to submit their annual report in place of the memorandum, provided it follows the format agreed upon by the DAC for the memorandum.

ii) Field Visits

Purpose of field visit: The purpose of the field visit is to gain an understanding of the way in which policies and implementation is carried out in the field. These short field missions are not intended to assess, in a comprehensive way, the relevance and effectiveness of the country programme of the reviewed DAC Member, nor to evaluate individual projects. Rather than trying to grasp the problems of the country being visited and the ways in which the reviewed Member tries to find specific solutions, the review team will focus on generic or system issues that are representative of the reviewed Member’s development co-operation and which may be applicable elsewhere.

Frequency: There are now normally one or two field visits for each review, often comprising two members of the Secretariat and one or more examiners. At least one field visit is typically scheduled before the mission to headquarters so as to give examiners the opportunity to use findings and observations from the field visits as inputs in the mission to the capital.

Timeframe: Usually taking approximately a week, the field visit schedule includes travel and meetings with a wide range of local actors, including partner government officials, beneficiaries, civil society representatives and other major donors to that country. Often a separate report of the field visit, with its findings, is prepared by one or more of the review team members and is generally circulated separately, or is included as an annex to the published peer review report. In the case where two field missions occur, they are usually conducted in different regions and are structured so as to reflect the content of the aid programme under examination.

Sequence of events:

  • Country selection and funding: In consultation with the Secretariat, the reviewed member selects the country to be visited for the review, taking into consideration the extent to which the chosen country is representative of their overall development co-operation programme as well as other relevant issues. Also, because the OECD does not have funds for Secretariat participation in the field visits, the reviewed Member is asked to put necessary funding in place.
  • Documentation: Once a country is agreed upon for the field visit, the reviewed member is requested to provide Examiners and the Secretariat with relevant information about their co-operation programmes in that country, such as country strategies, country agreements, regular reports, evaluation reports, financial report summaries, etc. The country under review should attempt to ensure that all relevant documentation is translated into either English or French.
  • Questionnaire: A questionnaire is sent out to the reviewed country approximately one month in advance of the visit, and provides the reviewed member with the issues of priority for the field visit. The drafting of the questionnaire is done by the Secretariat. It is then circulated to Examiners involved to allow for comments and inputs to be made before it is sent on to the reviewed Member. A formal letter is sent to the reviewed country’s representative along with the questionnaire, briefly explaining the process and requesting meetings with various relevant actors in the field, such as staff in the field, beneficiaries, local staff, civil society representatives, etc.
  • Agenda: The questionnaire functions as a guideline for which areas are of priority and interest to the review team and consequently determines the general schedule of events and arrangements made by the reviewed Member in the field. A draft agenda/programme should be shared with the review team well in advance of the scheduled visit, in order to allow for inputs from the Secretariat and Examiners and for possible adjustments to the agenda.
  • Field visit: The reviewed Member’s field office is responsible for organising practical arrangements during the field visit, including scheduling meetings with all relevant actors, visits to project sites, hotel reservations, transportation, etc.

Participation and co-ordination: In preparation for the field visit, the review team may hold a preparatory meeting, where the role of each member is discussed. The specific roles and level of involvement of Examiners during field missions will be decided on an ad hoc basis in collaboration with the Secretariat, based on a variety of considerations such as expertise in specific areas, time constraints, etc. Examiners may be asked to cover a specific theme/area, and be assigned corresponding questions. At the end of the field visit, findings are discussed among the review team. Examiners play an important role in this process with their active input is encouraged. Preliminary findings are also shared with the reviewed Member and provide an opportunity for discussion on both the positive aspects as well as challenges in the programme. Such interaction and open sharing of findings is an integral part of the peer review process and constitutes an important part of the dynamic learning element of the exercise.

iii) Visit to the Capital of the Member under Review

Purpose of mission to the capital: The visit to the capital constitutes the main fact-finding mission of the review team. The mission to the capital seeks to cover all relevant areas of the reviewed Member’s programme, and involves interviews/meetings with a wide range of functional units within the aid ministry/agency. Meetings with Parliamentarians are also usual, as are sessions with NGO umbrella groups. Academics and research initiatives sometimes provide invaluable information and critiques.

There is usually one mission to the capital, but two missions may be required in some cases. Normally led by the Director or Deputy Director, the missions now commonly include 2-3 other Secretariat staff and 1-2 representatives from each Examiner, and lasts 4-5 days. Opening and closing sessions are commonly held with the head of agency and usually there is a meeting with the Development Co-operation or Foreign Affairs Minister.

Sequence of Events:
  • Documentation: As with the field visits, all relevant documentation should be provided in advance of the mission, and in English or French.
  • Questionnaire: The mission to the capital is prepared on the basis of a series of questions sent by the Secretariat to the capital. The questionnaire for the visit to the capital is drafted by the Secretariat. Again, Examiners are consulted and given the opportunity to provide inputs before it is sent out.
  • Agenda: The questionnaire provides an indication of areas and issues of priority to the review team, and should be used as a guide to planning the agenda for the visit. The agenda/programme for the visit to the capital should be shared with the review team in sufficient time to allow for inputs and possible adjustments.
  • Preparatory Meetings: In preparation for the mission to the capital, Secretariat staff and Examiners may meet to discuss general issues of concern and the organisation of the mission, and if necessary, assign specific roles for each member of the review team.
  • Capital visit: The reviewed Member’s headquarters is responsible for all practical arrangements during the visit to the capital, including scheduling meetings with all relevant actors, hotel reservations, transportation, etc.

Participation and co-ordination: At the end of the visit to the capital, preliminary findings are discussed among the review team and presented to the reviewed Member's representatives at a closing "wrap-up" session, providing an opportunity for discussion and input from the DAC Member being reviewed.

iv) The Peer Review Meeting in Paris

Overview: The review process culminates in the Peer Review meeting at OECD headquarters in Paris, where the review team’s findings are presented and the DAC prepares recommendations to the Member under review. The meeting lasts one day, with an editorial session taking place in the morning of the following day. A Main Issues Paper provides the general outline of discussions for the review meeting, and includes written questions for the reviewed Member (DAC Delegates also typically attend peer review meetings and are given an opportunity to raise other questions during the review meeting). The DAC draft Main Findings and Recommendations, the draft Secretariat report, the reports on the field visits as well as the draft Press Release are also discussed.

Preparation: The Secretariat will hold a preparatory meeting with Examiners and the DAC Chairman shortly before the review, often the day before. The purpose of this meeting is to address general practical questions in connection with the review meeting, and each Examiner will be assigned a set of questions to introduce.

The DAC Chairman: The DAC Chairman leads the Peer Review Meeting.

Examiners: The Examiners are responsible for presenting the questions and issues outlined in the Main Issues paper to the reviewed Member. The Examiners must be committed to preparing for the review by absorbing the documentation and organising input from their capitals and field offices, as the basis for active participation in the several rounds of questions and response.

Secretariat: The Secretariat is part of the review team, and provides support to the Examiners in charge of presenting the questions to the reviewed Member.

Reviewed Member: The delegation of the reviewed Member is normally led at the head or deputy head of ministry/agency level, with other relevant staff present, including their DAC Delegate. The reviewed Member should inform the Secretariat and the Examiners of their representatives for the review before the meeting. Traditionally, the reviewed Member invites the DAC Chairman, examiners and the Secretariat for lunch on the day of the review where the press release is discussed.

Drafting: The Secretariat is responsible for drafting the peer review report (with its two sections), the field visit report(s), and the Main Issues paper and the DAC Chairman’s Press Release. In some cases, Examiners have written the field report, and Examiners regularly contribute comments on specific issues in the form of boxes in the reports. Examiners also provide substantial inputs during the development of the Main Issues paper, which outlines the questions to be presented to the reviewed Member at the meeting. Ideally, Examiners take a leading role during preparations of the Main Issues paper.

Before being put on the OECD On Line Information Service (3-4 weeks ahead of the Peer Review meeting), a preliminary draft of the Secretariat Report is circulated, first to Examiners (1 week), then to the capital of the reviewed Member for factual checking (1 week), and finally to the Head of PRPM and the Director of DCD for final approval.

Meeting Documentation:
To recapitulate, the documentation for each review consists of:
  • The Country Memorandum or most recent Activity Report/Annual Report prepared by the reviewed DAC Member. This memorandum is an important source of information and input for the DAC report, and is submitted by all DAC Members on an annual basis, usually around mid-July. An indicative format for reporting and a checklist for issues to be covered is presented in Annex 1 to DCD/DAC(96)25.
  • The Peer Review Report. The report is prepared by the Secretariat in consultation with the examiners. It consists of two parts:
  • The DAC’s Main Findings and Recommendations. It summarises the main findings of the review team and provides a list of DAC principle recommendations.
  • The entire text of the Secretariat Report.
  • Field Visit Reports, prepared by the Secretariat or an examiner. These can be submitted separately or included as boxes within the Secretariat Report.
  • The Main Issues Paper is prepared by the Secretariat and examiners, and cleared with the DAC Chairman in advance. The Main Issues Paper forms the core of the discussions at the meeting and presents written questions for the reviewed Member. It is submitted on Olis 2-3 weeks in advance of the meeting.
  • The Press Release is issued by the DAC Chairman following the actual review meeting. A draft press release is prepared a week or so in advance of the Peer Review meeting. This draft is then discussed among the reviewed Member’s representatives and the examiners at lunch on the day of the review and may be amended following discussions at the end of the peer review meeting. As soon as it is finalised and approved by the DAC Chairman, it is released and put on the OECD Internet site.
  • The Agenda lists the documents available for the review and sets the general order of events.

v) Editorial Session

After the Peer Review meeting, an editorial session is held, usually the following morning, in order to incorporate any comments from the DAC meeting into Main Findings and Recommendations. Necessary consequential corrections to the Secretariat Report are also made. The editorial session is attended by the Examiners, the reviewed Member representatives, and the Secretariat.

The editorial session is not an opportunity to negotiate the text with the Secretariat and the Examiners. Changes in any of the documents should be kept to factual issues. Any other suggested changes will be considered but not necessarily adopted. For purposes of transparency, any change in language or disagreement with conclusions or recommendations suggested by the Examiners should be raised in the Peer Review meeting itself in order to ensure that only issues that seem legitimate to other Members will be considered.

vi) Publication

The final report is published as part of the DAC Journal and can be published separately (preprint). The DAC Journal is released every three months. Pre-prints are produced on order. The reviewed Member is responsible for all details concerning the ordering of pre-prints from the OECD’s Public Affairs and Communication (PAC), and should specify the number of copies required, which languages, etc. Approximately 6-8 weeks is required to process the order.

vii) Follow-Up

Following the review meeting in Paris, perhaps six to eighteen months after, the DAC Chairman, occasionally accompanied by representatives of the Secretariat, pays a visit to the capital of the reviewed Member. The purpose of this follow-up visit is to discuss adoption of the recommendations made at the time of the peer review meeting. The reviewed Member hosts this visit, and should present relevant information on follow-up activities taken, or planned, as a consequence of the Peer Review.