Peer Review › How does it work?
There is no standardised peer review mechanism but all peer reviews share certain structural elements: a basis for proceeding; an agreed set of principles, standards and criteria against which the country’s performance will be reviewed; designated actors to carry out the review; and a set of procedures leading to the final result. The OECD’s executive body, the Council, made up of representatives of all member countries, controls the development of peer review programmes through its examination of the organisation’s programme of work and budget.
Peer reviews are generated in a number of ways. OECD committees or working parties dealing with a particular issue can decide to undertake peer reviews as part of their activities, or to carry out a one-time peer review at the request of the country being examined. Non-OECD members can also request peer reviews. OECD countries that are not members of its Development Assistance Committee , for example, may request a special review which can help them in considering and preparing for DAC membership. For far-reaching review programmes, a mandate may be needed from the OECD Council.
Peer reviews can also be built into international treaties, agreements or other legally binding instruments. One example is the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. It calls on signatories to "co-operate in carrying out a programme of systematic follow-up to monitor and promote the full implementation of this Convention". This has been the basis for a rigorous process of multilateral surveillance, centred on peer review.
But the most common form of peer review is to assess a country’s performance in implementing policy recommendations and guidelines. Perhaps the best-known are the OECD’s Economic Surveys of individual economies, carried out on a regular basis for every OECD member (and some non-members, such as Russia, China, India and Brazil) by the OECD’s Economic and Development Review Committee (EDRC). These reviews assess a country’s performance in relation to broad economic guidelines. Peer reviews by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, which groups the world’s major official aid donors, assess performance in development co-operation in areas such as poverty reduction, conflict prevention or policy coherence. Specific indicators and benchmarks, such as reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, are used in areas such as Environmental performance reviews and in regulatory reform reviews.
The same peer review can include assessments against a number of different measures. Environmental performance reviews assess the country against its own domestic objectives and international commitments, as well as benchmarks and national and international legislation and regulations.
Peer review is a joint operation involving the reviewed country, the examining countries and staff from the OECD Secretariat. The entity responsible for a peer review can be part of the OECD’s decision-making structure such as the EDRC, or a working party. The frequency of reviews varies; economic surveys on individual member countries are carried out on average about every 18 months or so, while Environmental performance reviews are on a five-to seven-year cycle and those of the DAC on an approximately four-year one.
Taking part in peer reviews may be a condition of membership of a committee or working party. Participation implies the duty to co-operate with the examiners and the Secretariat by, among other things, making documents and data available, responding to questions and requests for self-assessment, and hosting on-site visits.