Effective development co-operation

Country programmable aid (CPA): Frequently asked questions


1. What is country programmable aid (CPA) and why is it important?

Donors’ contributions to country-level development programmes are best captured by the concept of country programmable aid (CPA). It is a subset of gross bilateral ODA critical for the support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). CPA tracks the proportion of ODA over which recipient countries have, or could have significant say. CPA reflects the amount of aid that involves a cross-border flow and is subject to multi-year planning at country/regional level. Several studies have also shown that CPA is a good proxy of aid recorded at the country level (excluding humanitarian aid).


CPA is defined through exclusions, by subtracting from total gross bilateral ODA activities that:


  • are inherently unpredictable (humanitarian aid and debt relief);
  • entail no cross-border flows (administrative costs, imputed student costs, promotion of development awareness, and costs related to research and refugees in donor countries);
  • do not form part of co-operation agreements between governments (food aid, aid from local governments, core funding to NGOs, ODA equity investments, aid through secondary agencies, and aid which is not allocable by country or region).


CPA from multilateral agencies is measured using a similar methodology. CPA is derived by subtracting from gross multilateral outflows the non-CPA elements that are applicable to multilateral agencies (such as debt relief and humanitarian aid).


CPA is measured in disbursement terms and does not net out loan repayments since these are not usually factored into country aid decisions. CPA is derived from the standard DAC and Creditor Reporting System (CRS).


2. When was the concept of CPA launched?

The methodology of CPA was first discussed at the DAC Workshop on Scaling up for Results and Aid Allocations in February 2007. It was developed in close collaboration with DAC members when defining the coverage of the DAC 2007 Survey on Donors’ Aid Allocation Policies and Indicative Forward Spending Plans. This statistical concept has formed the basis of the DAC work on past and future country aid allocations (e.g. on aid fragmentation).


In addition to the historical CPA data derived from the standard DAC statistics, the OECD collects forward-looking CPA data up to three years ahead through the annual OECD DAC Survey on Donors’ Forward Spending Plans. For more information on this survey, please see the aid predictability page.


3. What is the technical definition of CPA?

Below is explained how the Secretariat derives CPA data from the DAC and CRS databases.

 Gross bilateral ODA (grants and loans; Source: DAC2a columns 201 and 204) minus:


  • Debt relief (Source: DAC2a column 212, 214 and 221)
  • Humanitarian aid (Source: DAC2a column 216)
  • Food aid (Source: DAC2a column 213)
  • Administrative costs (Source: CRS sector code: 91010 or type of aid: G01)
  • Imputed student costs (Source: CRS sector code: 11425 or type of aid: E02)
  • Promotion of dev. awareness (Source: CRS sector code: 99820 or type of aid: H01)
  • Refugees in donor country (Source: CRS sector code: 93010 or type of aid: H02)
  • Core support to national and international NGOs (Source: CRS bi-multi: 3 and channel code 2xxxx or CRS sector codes: 92xxx or type of aid: B01)
  • Aid from local governments (Source: CRS expenditures reported under these agency codes)
  • Equity investments (Source: CRS flowtype:19 or finance type; 5xx)
  • Aid not from main agency (Source: CRS agency code identified by the donor)
  • Other non-CPA items (Source: CRS: additional elements identified by the donor)
  • Other unallocated (transactions reported as 998, unallocated, and is not in any of the categories above)




4. What CPA data are available online?

CPA data by donor and recipient have been retroactively calculated from 2000 onwards, and are available online on OECD.STAT, and for full download in excel or text format on the  CPA main page. CPA data are derived from DAC2a and CRS statistics.


Since 2007, CPA data are more robust compared to earlier years due to improved quality in donors' reporting to the CRS activity database. CPA data is also available for a number of non-DAC donors. However, note that CPA for these donors may be over-estimated since most non-DAC donors do not report to the CRS Aid Activity database.


Data on sector level CPA derived directly from the CRS are also available on the  CPA main page. Please note that the sector level data may slightly differ from CPA data by donor and recipient country since they are based solely on the CRS.


5. Why does there appear to be two ways of calculating CPA?

For all cross-country analyses (e.g. analyses on fragmentation across countries), the CPA data derived on the basis of DAC2a and CRS are used.  However, for country-level analyses (e.g. analyses on in-country fragmentation), it is important to not only look at total aggregates by donor and country, but also at the sector distribution of these resources. Since no DAC table include sector level information by partner country, CPA must be derived solely on the basis of CRS.


Please note that the sector-level aggregates may to some extent differ from the CPA calculated using DAC2a and CRS, since the overall coverage of all flows captured in the CRS is less than in DAC2a. Not all multilateral and non-DAC donors that report their aggregates to DAC2a also report activity level information to the CRS. In addition, despite the increasing coverage of CRS during the past years, there remain a few DAC donors for which the CRS data is not 100% complete.


6. Can CPA be derived directly from the DAC1 table?

No, it cannot. While it may be possible to use the DAC1 table to get an indication on overall CPA levels by all DAC members, the DAC1 table does not include full information on all resources that are excluded from CPA (e.g. local governments, aid not from main agencies etc.), which for individual donors can be a substantial part of their bilateral ODA. In addition, the DAC1 table does not allow disaggregation of CPA at country level.


7. What is the category “Aid not from main agencies”?

This category includes aid extended by agencies other than the main development agency, which according to some members cannot be considered programmable by the central government. Since 2008, there has been ongoing work with some DAC members to refine the derivation of CPA to better reflect each donor’s specificities and practices. Please note that this category only applies to a few countries (e.g. in the case of Austria and Canada, only operations of the Austrian Development Agency and Canadian International Development Agency are counted as CPA).


8. What does the category “Other non-CPA items” include?

This category only applies to a few countries. It includes other forms of aid that are not considered programmable by the donor, and that cannot be included in any other category. For instance, The Canada Fund for Local Initiatives is not considered programmable by Canada, although these resources are extended by Canadian International Development Agency, since these resources are not planned at the country or regional level.


9. What is “unallocated” and why do you exclude these resources?

Resources reported to the DAC where the beneficiary is not a country or region are reported as “bilateral unspecified” (recipientcode = 998), and are therefore by definition excluded from CPA. Resources reported as “bilateral, unspecified” usually include non-country programmable aid such as administrative costs, refugees in donor country and research costs. The category “unallocated” includes all resource flows reported as “bilateral, unspecified” that cannot be classified in any of the other non-CPA categories.


10. Why and how do you exclude “research costs” from CPA?

Research is excluded from CPA as it is not part of donor governments’ programming and usually does not involve a cross-border flow to developing countries. Research costs are typically reported by donors as unallocated as most research is not country-specific.


11. What is the difference between CPA and sector allocable aid?

Sector allocable aid is another subset of ODA regularly used in analyses on aid flows to developing countries. It is different from CPA that it excludes general budget support, an important part of CPA, while it includes for instance imputed student costs and aid from local governments, which are not a cross-border flow or are not country programmable by the central government. Depending on donors reporting, sector allocable aid can be considered a more appropriate proxy of CPA than ODA.


12. Why are regional allocations considered CPA?

Regional allocations are included in CPA since it is common among donors to have multi-country programmes, and donor preferences and/or statistical limitations prevent these resources from being reported at country level.


For more information on CPA, please also see our Development brief Getting closer to the Core - Measuring Country Programmable Aid.


If you have further questions on CPA, please contact us at [email protected].


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