Peer reviews of DAC members

Italy (2009) DAC Peer Review - Main Findings and Recommendations


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  • See also Italy's Aid at a a Glance
  • Italy (2009), Full report (pdf).


As an active member of the G8 and G20 countries, a founding member of the European Union and with the 8th largest aid volume of DAC member countries in 2008, Italy holds a responsible position in the international community. Fully aware of this position, Italy actively contributes to international policy processes, such as food security, innovative financing mechanisms for health and effective aid.
The DAC 2000 and 2004 peer reviews of Italy outlined the political, structural and systemic challenges facing Italian Co-operation. In 2008 the Directorate General for Development Co-operation (DGCS), in collaboration with other players in Italian Co-operation, started to implement some of the 2004 recommendations, especially those that can be addressed through administrative acts though some steps had already been undertaken in previous years, especially as regards the process of decentralisation of responsibilities to UTLs. However, most of the previous peer review recommendations have still not been implemented (see Annex A, DCD/DAC/AR(2009)2/12/PART2). Italy needs to address the 2004 recommendations, as well as those which are new in this peer review, to ensure a high quality, transparent, accountable and results-oriented aid programme.


Overall framework for development co-operation


Legal and political orientations


Continued need for a new legislative framework…


Law 49/1987 provides the legal and political foundations for Italian Co-operation, establishing development co-operation as an integral part of Italian foreign policy, and giving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) responsibility for development co-operation. Article 1 sets out the rationale for Italian Co-operation – international solidarity and the fulfilment of human rights – as well as objectives such as meeting basic needs, food security, environment, gender equality and responding to humanitarian disasters.


However, the law no longer reflects contemporary development co-operation paradigms and several of the articles covering organisational structure, management and procedures constrain Italian Co-operation. For example, an inter-ministerial co-ordination mechanism is needed for development policy, yet this mechanism was abolished through a 1994 amendment to the law. Strict application of the detailed articles can also prevent a fast and flexible response to changing needs in partner countries and to new ways of delivering aid, such as through partner country systems.


Italian Co-operation needs a new, simplified and clearly-targeted legislative framework. Italy has made a number of attempts to reform its aid system. In 2007, the government again proposed to parliament to prepare new development co-operation legislation. However, months of parliamentary hearings and debate failed to achieve cross-party political consensus on the reform. The incoming (2008) foreign affairs minister, who took full responsibility for the development co-operation portfolio,  indicated that the summary text on the reform debate would be the basis for restarting a parliamentary discussion. He also stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would undertake to submit a new proposal for legislative reform. However, the government has not yet indicated when such a proposal will be submitted to the Council of Ministers and parliament.


Strong political drive and leadership on development co-operation, as recommended in 2004, continues to be necessary if Italy is to address effectively the structural challenges facing its aid programme, have a new proposal on legislative reform approved by parliament and secure the financial resources that will enable Italy to meet its international aid commitments.


…and a national vision for development co-operation


Italy has yet to create a broadly accepted national vision for development co-operation as recommended in 2004. DAC experience shows that a legislative framework is not enough; overarching policy statements outlining the vision, purpose and objectives of development assistance help to secure a long-term interest in effective development, provide a common purpose for all institutions involved and strengthen accountability for results. According to the MFA, the multi-annual Programming Guidelines and Directions (2009-2011) serve this purpose. These guidelines were prepared in co-operation with the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) and in consultation with other Italian Co-operation actors and civil society and serve as a point of reference for them. In reality, however, and despite their limited jurisdiction, the guidelines prepare the ground for a national vision on development co-operation. The MFA and especially DGCS should now take the lead in developing a shared national vision with other government and non-government stakeholders.


Commitment to focus on a limited number of priority countries


The 2009-2011 Programming Guidelines and Directions identify 35 priority countries for Italian Co-operation, of which 21 are listed as Priority 1 and 14 as Priority 2. This prioritisation is an unprecedented step for Italy and one which the DAC welcomes. It also welcomes the MFA’s plan to increase the scale of operations in the priority countries, especially those in Sub-Saharan Africa. In another 37 countries, Italy will either complete or hand over existing programmes and projects to the partner in a sustainable way, or else change the nature of its engagement. While it is too soon to tell whether Italy is meeting these geographical objectives, sticking to these commitments will reduce fragmentation and focus the aid programme better. This concentration on fewer priority countries is even more important given the aid cutbacks foreseen up until 2011. Italy needs to outline clearly its selection criteria for priority countries and which aid modalities will support the two categories. Italy should consult partner country governments and communicate its exit strategies for the 37 non-priority countries.


Italy will continue to focus on crisis areas and fragile and post-conflict states. In such fragile situations, to maintain the integrity of Italian ODA, Italy needs to apply whole of government approaches that promote development co-operation and principled humanitarian action. Italy’s special focus on these situations will require more relevant expertise and analytical capacities within DGCS. Sectoral guidelines will need to address the particular challenges involved in working in environments where capacity, commitment and stability are likely to be limited and aid must be sensitive to the context.


Increase public awareness and support in a strategic manner


Italy needs to raise the public and political profile of development co-operation issues, building on a clear vision of Italian Co-operation. Despite the 2004 peer review recommendation, Italy has not yet prepared a strategy to achieve this, although it has modernised some of its communication tools and participated in public information campaigns. The Information and Communication Unit and Office VII (which finances information and development education by NGOs) should work together to prepare a comprehensive strategy and ensure that they have the necessary professional expertise. DGCS should also discuss with the Ministry of Education the provision of development education through the formal education system. When preparing its public awareness strategy, Italy should draw on best practice via the Informal Network of DAC Development Communicators.

Promoting policy coherence for development


The 2004 peer review recommended that promoting coherence between development co-operation and other domestic and foreign policies should become an explicit goal of the Italian Government. It recommended Italy to deliver a public statement to this effect and mobilise expertise and analytical capacities both within and outside government to identify policy areas incoherent with development objectives. While Italy supports EU, OECD and G8 agreements on policy coherence, it has yet to translate these commitments into a national statement or set of priorities for improving coherence.


DGCS is making some progress in disseminating information about policy coherence within the MFA and other government departments; however, embedding coherence across government departments will require more systematic monitoring and review of departmental policies. As identified in 2004, Italy needs appropriate government mechanisms to foster better coherence among policies. While the Council of Ministers could fulfil this task at the highest political level, Italy still needs a central body with the authority to review policy proposals and to monitor the performance of relevant ministries in adapting their policies. Italian authorities are aware of this.  The lack of political commitment, policy statements, and any mandate to ensure policies are coherent with development objectives, make institutional co-ordination and monitoring difficult. The Steering Committee on Development Co-operation  has asked DGCS to continue to develop proposals for promoting and co-ordinating coherence across ministries. So far, DGCS has proposed a reflection exercise to prepare a political statement and establish implementation methodology. The recommendations of this exercise will require strong backing from the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Economy and Finance if the government is to act on them.




To build a stronger foundation for development co-operation, Italy should:

  •  Approve new legislation on development co-operation as a matter of priority.
  • Prepare an overarching policy vision for development co-operation through broad consultation, which is endorsed at the highest political level and binds all institutional players. This should be backed by a clear performance and results approach.
  • Develop clear criteria to distinguish between Priority 1 and Priority 2 countries, explain how it will engage with each category and prepare exit strategies for non-priority countries.
  • Define, approve and implement (in collaboration with civil society) a well-targeted and resourced strategy – linking information, public engagement and development education – to raise public awareness and the political profile of development co-operation.
  • Through a whole of government policy statement clarify mandates and responsibilities for promoting, arbitrating and monitoring policy coherence for development, and build required capacity. Italy should make demonstrable progress in promoting greater coherence across a set of priority policy areas within the EU framework on policy coherence.


Aid volume, channels and allocations


Italy’s net ODA was USD 4.85 billion in 2008, equivalent to an ODA/GNI ratio of 0.22%. In 2008, Italy was 8th out of 23 DAC members in terms of aid volume but only 19th in terms of ODA as a percentage of GNI. Italy’s past ODA performance – and aid cuts planned for 2009, 2010 and 2011– mean it will not meet its EU promise to provide 0.51% of GNI as ODA by 2010. Current ODA projections suggest that Italy’s aid volume will be USD 4.03 billion in 2010 (0.19% GNI). To meet the 2010 target, Italy would have to increase its aid by USD 6 billion (or 124% of the 2008 aid volume).  This shortfall will have a significant impact on the EU meeting its 2010 aid target.


In 2004, the DAC recommended that Italy set out an explicit growth path to fulfil its ODA commitments announced at the Barcelona European Council meeting in March 2002. Italy has not implemented this recommendation, although the 2008-2011 Economic and Financial Planning Document proposed a non-binding roadmap for reaching the 2010 EU aid target. Only a predictable long-term increase of financial resources, along with overall system reform, will equip Italy with a reliable and results-oriented aid programme. Italy should use the most effective tool, whether legislation or a joint statement by MFA and MEF, to define a binding growth path to meet its EU target of 0.7% by 2015.

A striking feature of Italian aid is the high share of multilateral aid


In 2008 41% of total ODA was bilateral and 59% multilateral aid. The DAC average for multilateral aid was 26% in 2007. Italy’s relatively large multilateral contribution does not reflect a specific commitment to give greater support to the multilateral system. Indeed, Italian Co-operation is trying to increase allocations through the bilateral channel. Instead it can be explained by aid budgeting constraints such as assessed contributions. For example, contributions channelled through the EU (which accounts for 57% of multilateral aid) are obligatory. This means that when budgets are tight the multilateral share stays high while other parts of the aid programme, including bilateral aid, are cut. The multilateral share of Italian aid is likely to stay high until the overall aid volume increases.


The 2004 peer review stated that despite Italy’s strong tradition of close co-operation with multilateral organisations, the criteria used to guide its aid allocations did not reflect a longer-term strategic vision. It also recommended stronger MFA-MEF collaboration on multilateral aid. The MFA and MEF have published separate guidelines for multilateral assistance. Developing a common multilateral strategy and objectives for Italian participation in the multilateral system could further strengthen coherence and collaboration between MFA and MEF and increase transparency to multilateral organisations and taxpayers.


The DAC welcomes the MFA’s commitment to concentrate voluntary contributions on fewer multilateral organisations and to develop strategic guidelines for those international organisations with which Italy collaborates most closely. It should also ensure that multilateral agencies are consulted on and aware of the allocation strategies. Italy should participate in joint donor multilateral assessments, for example through the Multilateral Organisations Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN).

Commitment to Sub-Saharan Africa


As an EU member, Italy promised in 2005 to allocate half its ODA increases towards the 0.7% ODA/GNI target to Sub-Saharan Africa. Italy’s 2007-2009 Programming Note for Italian Co-operation committed at least half of Italian Co-operation resources to poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, trends show that Italy is not on target to meet this commitment. In 2008, 30.1% of total gross bilateral aid allocable by country, excluding debt relief, was allocated to Sub-Saharan Africa. This is almost half the share allocated in 2001 (59%). The DAC welcomes the fact that the 2009-2011 Programming Guidelines and Directions re-emphasise this commitment. Italy now needs to make significant efforts to implement it.


Greater policy dialogue with NGOs


Since the last peer review, policy dialogue and consultation between NGOs and DGCS have improved significantly and discussions are more open and frank. NGOs bring useful perspectives, experience and support to Italian Co-operation. Therefore the DAC welcomes DGCS plans to renew its framework agreement with NGOs in 2010.


The 2009 Italian Policy and Guidelines for NGOs clarify NGOs’ role in and contribution to Italian Co-operation and define funding eligibility criteria and co-financing mechanisms. However, NGO co-financing is unstable. For example, in 2007 support to NGOs represented 5% of total net ODA, while the 2008 allocation fell to 2%, significantly lower than the 2007 DAC median of 7%. 2009 will see a further decrease in NGO financing. Fluctuations in aid for NGOs can undermine their project planning and management.


NGO co-financing criteria stipulate that Italian NGOs should work with local partner organisations to help build their capacity. However, the peer review team noted in Lebanon that Italian Co-operation worked almost exclusively through Italian NGOs. Most Lebanese NGOs could only access funding through these NGOs. Now that Italy’s Action Plan on Aid Effectiveness (2009) prioritises democratic ownership and NGOs, Italy should consider other ways of supporting local NGOs in partner countries. For example, Local Technical Units (UTLs) could have a specific budget line for local NGOs and increase opportunities for regular consultation and policy dialogue on the country programme.




Planned cuts to the aid budget until 2011 cast doubt on Italy’s commitment to meet its international aid targets for 2010 and 2015. Italy should therefore:

  • Rebuild credibility of its intention to meet its aid commitments by outlining in a binding manner how, and by when, it will reach the targets.
  • Develop a joint MFA-MEF strategy for multilateral assistance, outlining clearly the objectives of Italian multilateral aid, especially for priority multilateral organisations and consider concentrating its multilateral contributions further.
  • Give credibility to the agenda for concentrating bilateral aid in fewer partner countries by allocating 50% of its aid to Sub-Saharan Africa and adhering to the priority countries outlined in the Programming Guidelines and Directions.


Organisation and management


Italy’s institutional framework has not changed since the peer review in 2004 with MFA remaining overall responsible for Italian Co-operation. Under the direction of the Steering Committee, DGCS is responsible for all bilateral aid (including soft loans), voluntary contributions to the UN, policy dialogue and other substantive matters with multilateral organisations, and providing development expertise for Italian Co-operation. MEF’s Treasury Department has competence for institutional relations with the international financial institutions and for providing financial resources. Also, the Treasury, through its participation in the Steering Committee, has a role in the decision making process over development co-operation policies, programmes and projects presented by DGCS.


In the Italian system, the Audit Office in the MFA carries out an ex ante control of development co-operation expenditures on the basis of the General Accounting Regulations. This control function can constrain certain projects and programmes where partner country realities often require flexibility to adapt to changing situations. A greater flexibility and ex post control based on objectives for expenditures and results achieved would be desirable. This would require a change in the current legislation on expenditure controls.


Italy has made some progress on the 2004 DAC recommendation to devolve greater authority to co-operation offices (UTLs). They now have more responsibility to define country portfolios; identify, formulate and implement programmes and projects; and – to some extent – recruit local staff. This is a good start but more needs to be done. Delegating more financial and policy dialogue responsibility to UTL directors will reduce embassies’ administrative workloads and simplify unnecessarily long approval procedures. Given co-operation offices’ proximity to the realities and needs of partner countries, they should have a greater role in defining the strategic orientation of a country programme. There is also room to improve the sharing of experiences and institutional learning through more structured exchanges between UTLs and headquarters.


The need for organisational reform and better human resource management


As in 2004, DGCS recognises that the overall organisational and management structure of Italian Co-operation requires thorough review and reform. Italian Co-operation must evolve from an ad hoc approach to a system-wide, results-oriented approach. It needs clearly defined working methods at headquarters and in the field, along with knowledge management systems. While updating legislation will be necessary for a comprehensive reform, the Minister of Foreign Affairs can redefine the organisational structure by decree in advance of such reform. DGCS should therefore continue to identify ways to redefine its organisational structure within the constraints of the law. 


The last peer review also recommended personnel management reform. It suggested the need to better match individual skills to responsibilities, to implement performance-based management and to rejuvenate the Central Technical Unit (UTC). The DAC regrets that Italy has not made progress with this recommendation. Two other challenges remain. First, with development co-operation integrated within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, management and head of unit positions are held by rotating career diplomats, who often have limited specialist and technical expertise in development co-operation. A more strategic policy for staffing DGCS and appropriate training and institutional learning mechanisms will be necessary to build and sustain the capacity needed to manage development co-operation.


Secondly, development experts have a distinct career path within the ministry. They are integrated into programme cycle management and they are increasingly solicited by management to contribute to policy making and to take the lead in developing sector guidelines. While this is welcome, development experts should have more recognition for this contribution. DGCS recognises that conditions need to be improved. It has submitted a proposal to the minister to hire more experts in line with Law 49/1987, rejuvenate the UTC, raise salaries and promote existing experts. The DAC urges the MFA to clarify the status of DGCS’s proposal. MFA/DGCS should also develop a staff performance management system for non-diplomatic staff and assess the skills mix, location and number of staff needed to inform its recruitment, performance management and training policies and its ways of working. Finally, DGCS also needs a policy for recruitment in partner countries which allows for flexible and effective programme implementation in the field.


The need to formalise country programming and budget allocation mechanisms


The long decision-making process for projects and programmes referred to in the 2004 peer review has been addressed mainly through decentralisation and streamlining of DGCS procedures. Italy can now formalise programme management by preparing multi-annual country programmes for all priority countries. In doing so it should consult with key partners – partner country governments, multilateral organisations, NGOs and the private sector – and make country programmes publicly available. Moreover, country budget allocations by DGCS geographical desks should follow more formal procedures and use transparent criteria. Italy should build on the 2009-2011 Programming Guidelines and Directions by creating a transparent multi-annual, results-oriented, budget allocation mechanism for country programmes and a monitoring system to guide headquarters in its decision making.


First steps towards an operational monitoring and evaluation unit


DGCS is in the process of establishing a regular system of monitoring and evaluation as recommended in the 2004 peer review. This is particularly welcome since DGCS has not done independent, systematic evaluations since 2002. The newly created Inspection, Monitoring and Initiatives Assessment Unit, to which a director was appointed in early 2009, is mandated to develop an institutional evaluation policy. DGCS’s priorities are now to integrate monitoring and evaluation into project cycle management, secure a dedicated budget and adequate staffing, and establish a multi-year monitoring and evaluation programme which includes learning processes and communication. The DAC urges DGCS to use DAC members’ evaluation policies as a model. This would save time and capitalise on extensive international experience in monitoring and evaluation.




Legislative reform is necessary for Italy to build an effective aid structure. In the meantime, however, MFA and DGCS can make the following management improvements:

  • Prepare and publish multi-annual country programmes for priority countries and establish formal, results-oriented and transparent mechanisms for allocating resources to country programmes, and train staff in results-based management.
  • Acquire leeway to create competitive employment conditions to attract and retain specialist staff. Recruit new specialists with the skills to meet current needs.
  • Provide the new evaluation unit with the mandate, budget and staff to implement a modern culture of evaluation and results monitoring. This unit should develop a system for integrating policy lessons, including in Italian humanitarian action.


Practices for better impact


Implementing aid effectively


Italy’s first Aid Effectiveness Action Plan was approved by the Steering Committee on Development Co-operation in July 2009. The plan reflects the commitments made at the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana in 2008, as well as those contained in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness, with the exception of capacity development, managing for development results, mutual accountability and supporting the role of parliamentarians. DCGS will need to take further action to build awareness and support for this plan throughout Italian Co-operation. Implementing this ambitious action plan by 2010 will be a challenge for Italy given DGCS’s limited human resources and the fact that 27 outputs need to be achieved by February 2010. There is a real risk that DGCS will not have the capacity to run the working group on aid effectiveness or the ten thematic working groups which will work on specific outputs, that there will be insufficient time for consultation with UTLs and that staff will be overburdened by these additional tasks. To ensure that the entire Italian Co-operation system strives to make aid more effective and is accountable for making progress, MFA should find ways to bring other ministries and decentralised co-operation under this plan. Italy has suggested that the mandate of the Inter-ministerial Technical Working Group on Italian ODA could be enlarged to do this. The DAC considers this to be a good way forward and urges Italy to give special attention to applying the aid effectiveness principles to decentralised co-operation.


Italy can expand harmonisation by supporting joint assistance strategies, engaging in silent partnerships and delegating co-operation. Indeed, a new law allows Italy to take on a delegated role (from the European Commission and other EU Member States), though not to delegate to another donor or international organisation. Delegated co-operation and silent partnerships may be hard to achieve while Italy continues to work through projects, another reason to adopt more joint projects and programme-based approaches. At the same time, it is imperative that Italy’s aid becomes more predictable, that the information it shares with partner countries on aid flows is as transparent and timely as possible and that common budgeting and reporting procedures are adopted to facilitate programme-based approaches. Finally, Italy should ensure that parallel implementation units allow for country ownership and build capacity, and that they are eventually phased out.


Untying aid: catching up with DAC averages


Article 6 of Law 49/1987 implicitly states that all soft loans should be tied to Italian suppliers, while allowing for local cost financing and regional procurement. With this provision, in 2004 Italy endorsed the DAC recommendation on untying aid to least developed countries (LDCs) and its extension to heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC). However, soft loans to other developing countries cannot be completely untied. Also, there is no provision for grants to be fully untied. Generally, Italy ties its aid to Italian services, supplies and works, mainly in the health and agriculture sectors. According to the DAC, Italy tied 36% of its total bilateral aid in 2007 (USD 1.4 billion including debt relief) (OECD, 2009).  Of the remainder, 54% is untied while the tying status of the remaining 10% is not reported. While Italy has made progress in untying bilateral aid, from an average of 30% untied in 1999-2001 to 54% in 2007 (ibid), it is still below the DAC average of 79%. 


Learning from experience on priority topics


Capacity development


Beginning in 2009, DGCS has become more engaged in the DAC dialogue on capacity development. A focal point on capacity development has been designated (currently director of the UTL in Albania), co-ordinated by the Deputy Director General, and Italy has launched a survey of UTLs to identify good and bad practice in capacity development. This survey will be used to prepare a concept note on capacity development. The DAC welcomes these initiatives as well as efforts to increase awareness and to identify training needs of staff. Nevertheless, the core concepts of capacity development need to be better understood by all staff. Once it has prepared a concept note on capacity development, Italy should define its capacity development priorities and approach in line with DAC practice and draw on DAC work to benefit from the experiences of other donors.


Capacity building is central to Italy’s approach to local development in Lebanon, where it works with municipalities through Italian NGOs. However, NGOs should have clearly defined capacity development objectives and result indicators so that their performance can be evaluated. As project implementation units often also provide technical assistance, Italy should focus more on using local expertise instead of seconding Italian expatriate staff to local institutions. UTLs’ capacity could also be strengthened for improving their back-stopping support on capacity development and to promote it in policy dialogue. In line with its commitment to the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action, Italy should consider co-operating with other donors to strengthen country systems – such as public financial management, monitoring and evaluation and procurement systems – so as to enhance country capacity to manage technical co-operation and, more broadly, their development programmes.


Agriculture, high food prices and donor responses


The DAC commends Italy for promoting agriculture and food security at the highest political level in international forums. This was demonstrated during its 2009 presidency of the G8, when the G8 committed to invest USD 20 billion in agriculture and food security over three years while setting policy priorities for their investment. Through Italian Co-operation, Italy has a good track record in responding quickly to global crises, such as the 2008 high food price crises. A positive and key feature of Italy’s bilateral support to agriculture is that it differentiates between a wide range of entry points for investment according to geographical regions. In the Near and Middle East, for example, fruit cultivation, production of olive oil and natural resources management are central priorities. These are typical Mediterranean activities, where Italy has its own experiences to share and thus a comparative advantage over other donors. Despite this vast experience and its strategic approach Italy has no written strategy for its support to agriculture. Its commitment to prepare strategic guidelines for agriculture by February 2010 as part of its Aid Effectiveness Action Plan is particularly welcome, and should help Italian Co-operation to manage and plan more strategic interventions in this sector.


Italy is considered a consistent and reliable partner in the multilateral agricultural system. In hosting the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme, it is one of the most important contributors to all three institutions. These Rome-based organisations report that they have excellent and regular contacts with the Italian administration. However, they also report that wide annual fluctuations in Italian ODA make extra-budgetary funds allocated by Italy difficult to predict. Extra-budgetary and multi-bi priorities are negotiated regularly at central or at country level, but are sometimes prone to unforeseeable policy changes which may be in response to requests from the relevant organisations. In addition, voluntary contributions to trust funds often require separate financial and operational reports for Italian Co-operation, but they are not used for institutional dialogue or learning. The DAC encourages Italy to continue moving towards a more programmatic approach, accepting common reporting for all donors.


With six agricultural experts in the UTC, three in the UTLs and 45 staff at the Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare Italian Co-operation has a critical mass of technical expertise. Italy has a rich applied experience to offer which it is encouraged to document and share across countries and donors. Italy could also be more active in influencing bilateral co-operation in agriculture such as through its participation in the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. It could also contribute to international working groups and think tanks exploring new directions for investment in agriculture and food security. However, obstacles include Italy’s lack of a written strategy for support to the agriculture sector and the fact that while it actively contributed to the DAC guidelines on pro-poor growth and agriculture , these guidelines are not well-known in the field.




To build on its commitment to make aid more effective and its good practice in supporting agriculture, Italy should:

  • Continue to disseminate the Aid Effectiveness Action Plan and its guidelines and decisions to all Italian Co-operation stakeholders, especially diplomatic staff, UTC experts, embassies, UTLs, decentralised co-operation and the MEF.
  • Ensure urgently that DGCS has the necessary human and financial resources to implement the Action Plan on Aid Effectiveness and to promote behaviour change across Italian Co-operation so that aid is delivered according to the new guidelines.
  • Untie aid further and improve tied aid reporting to the DAC. Italy should implement its Accra commitments to untie remaining tied aid “to the maximum extent”. New legislation should reflect these commitments.
  • Develop and implement a strategy for capacity development, provide appropriate training for staff at headquarters and in the field, and give a clear mandate and programme, including for monitoring and evaluation, to the focal point on capacity development.
  • Prepare strategic guidelines for agriculture by February 2010 in line with the Aid Effectiveness Action Plan. These guidelines should help Italy to manage its strategic competence and reinforce mid-term planning by staff and its large network of partners, particularly its farmers’ associations.


Humanitarian action


Italy has endorsed the Principles and Good Practices of Humanitarian Donorship (GHD). Article 1 of Law 49/1987 makes humanitarian action an integral part of Italian foreign policy and outlines the legal basis for bilateral emergency responses. It sanctions the involvement of Italian NGOs in providing humanitarian assistance and deployment of civil protection assets. Humanitarian concerns are represented by the principal objective of protecting life and humanitarian dignity although Law 49/1987 does not specify provisions to protect fundamental humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence. New legislation should take account of these principles that have been accepted by Italy in the GHD initiative and EU context.


The 2004 peer review did not contain specific recommendations for Italian humanitarian action. However, it highlighted the need for a more cohesive overall policy; the need to distinguish between humanitarian and development co-operation activities as well as between “emergency food aid” and “programme food aid”; and the need for evaluation systems to support learning and accountability. These issues remain largely unaddressed. In particular, a policy statement with a strategic vision and measureable indicators is needed. The DAC welcomes Italy’s proposal to publish national guidelines for implementing commitments to GHD by the end of 2009. This is a useful opportunity to spell out priorities, to clarify its approaches to humanitarian protection and to refine the linkages between humanitarian and development assistance. As observed in Lebanon, convergence between humanitarian and development activities provides useful flexibility to initiate recovery and development activities in dynamic post-crisis environments. Italy should be mindful that humanitarian funded activities that fall outside the normal remit of humanitarian assistance do not compromise the principles of humanitarian action.


There are also extensive linkages between the Italian Armed Forces and humanitarian actors in peacekeeping contexts, for example in Afghanistan, where Italy is the lead nation in the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Herat. Italy has been a strong advocate of integrated missions in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Italy is not alone in confronting the dilemma of maintaining its GHD commitments to the primacy of civilian authority over humanitarian action and a clear separation between civil and military functions. Building on the success in forging an agreement on civil-military co-operation in Lebanon, Italy should clarify within its defence and foreign policy statements how GHD commitments will be upheld in other complex security environments.


Italian humanitarian action is characterised by a strong sense of expediency; its capacity to draw on a considerable pool of technical expertise for overseas emergency responses and disaster risk reduction is widely appreciated. An integral component of this deployable capacity is the National Civil Protection Service. Italy should make further efforts to ensure that bilateral humanitarian action conforms to GHD commitments to co-ordinated and beneficiary-led humanitarian action. It should also ensure that global implementation and accountability standards defined by the GHD initiative are fully integrated into the systems and procedures of the National Civil Protection Service during overseas deployments. At present there is no formal mechanism for dialogue and co-ordination with the National Civil Protection Service to facilitate this. Nevertheless, there are examples of effective, informal co-ordination, e.g. in the South Asian tsunami. The Committee was also informed of the crisis mechanism set-up in the Gaza Strip in December 2008. It would be helpful to clarify in the proposed guidelines on Italian humanitarian action how GHD commitments are to be applied in bilateral humanitarian deployments.


Italy provides both core support and lightly earmarked (multi-bi) allocations to nine organisations through Emergency Bilateral Funds. These allow rapid access to Italian humanitarian support. However, Italy’s contributions to its principal humanitarian partners have fluctuated significantly. Italian NGOs pointed to lengthy assessment and approval procedures that can delay release of grants for emergency activities by up to four months after the event occurred. This delayed response time – together with a shortage of humanitarian funds available to NGOs – may undermine a real opportunity to harness well-respected Italian capacities for delivery of humanitarian assistance. Italy’s aid effectiveness plan aims to address these concerns.




The DAC welcomes Italy’s commitment to prepare forthcoming guidelines for humanitarian action. Italy should: 

  • Translate its global humanitarian commitments into a national implementation plan, clarify its approach to humanitarian protection and identify appropriate linkages between humanitarian and development assistance.
  • Aim to explain the process for deploying Civil Protection Department assets as well as for applying GHD implementation and accountability standards in bilateral humanitarian activities.
  • Increase the volume of humanitarian aid and the predictability of contributions to key partners in line with its ambitions as a key humanitarian actor. In particular, Italy should streamline grant approval processes for NGOs to enable swifter mobilisation in crises.