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OECD/DAC peer reviews: 50 years

In 2012, OECD/DAC peer reviews celebrate 50 years of critical, respectful and helpful support - helping members make their development programmes more effective.

Rachel Scott

on 25 November 2012

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Transcript of OECD/DAC peer reviews: 50 years

1960's: annual
aid reviews
by the DAC chair The beginning of a long tradition: members agree to an annual examination of their development assistance policies 1964 A divergence of opinion on the scope of peer reviews: “little DAC” members, led by the United Kingdom, say that the DAC should not undertake reviews of collective effort in specific developing countries
Eventually, this view prevails
1965 1966 Sweden is part of the review process
for the first time 1968 Engagement with a wider group: the DAC chair looks for informal co-operation with the USSR and Eastern European countries, perhaps related to specific countries, such as Indonesia 1970 1974 - 1975 1978 1980 1981 1990-1994 1995-1999 2002 2004 2005 2007 “The primary purpose... shall be to review the amount and nature and effort being made by each member to assist developing countries in their economic development and to exchange experience regarding bilateral aid...”
Resolution Instituting an Annual Review, 1962
2012 1962 Here is a story of 50 years It all began.... 1962: the beginning The cycle is established: each member is subject to vigorous questioning regarding its programme and performance over a three month period, and suggestions are made for improvement.
Reviews are based on the premise that assistance is a marginal element in development, and that to treat aid as abstracted from the wider development process is unrealistic
Mutual accountability Mutual
Learning Respectful, critical and helpful support Since 1962 Peer reviews... And the result is...... Of
OECD Development Assistance Committee
Peer Reviews 1970’s: Balancing praise with encouragement for improvement 1980's: less frequent but more structured 2000+: more rigourous reviews, focus on accountability and learning 1990's: field missions and publication The first Aid Reviews are examined
in the DAC’s High Level Meeting, July 1962.
In September, the reviews are published
in the first DAC Chairman’s Report Evidence for policy: The first aid review
asks members to reverse the trend
towards tied aid – the DAC would
eventually make a formal
recommendation on tied aid in 2001. Switzerland and Australia
join the aid review Each peer review now has two levels: a press report
balancing praise with
encouragement for improvement, and
a classified report
identifying programme weaknesses Increasing peer pressure:
after considerable discussion,
the DAC begins to issue
press releases on aid reviews –
starting with Norway, Germany
and the United Kingdom 1974:
New Zealand is reviewed for the first time

Portugal opts out of the annual aid reviews and leaves the DAC 1975:
Finland has its first aid review The DAC chair floats the idea of
including a reviewer
from a developing country
on each aid review –
but this view is so controversial
that the idea is dropped The annual review process ends:
resources earmarked for peer reviews
are re-allocated to the
newly formed policy unit
in the Secretariat Aid reviews are now conducted
on a bi-annual basis The first annual comparative Joint Review
of member’s aid performance and prospects The DAC holds a review of aid
by the CMEA socialist countries Women become a focus area
for aid reviews:
the DAC analyses the role of
women in development and
decides to give more attention
to gender issues in aid reviews
and statistical reporting 1990: Field visits are added
to the peer review programme:
members support these missions
with special financial contributions 1993: Luxembourg has
its first review.

Portugal returns to the DAC,
and to the aid reviews 1994: A new era of transparency:
aid reviews are published
and NGOs are encouraged
to participate in the process The US Peer Review criticises
US aid policy and leadership.
The report is used by the
USAID Administrator,
J Brian Atwood,
as ammunition to help
the Clinton administration
persuade Congress
not to cut foreign aid Late 1990's: A country study
exposes mixed results
and gets mixed reactions:
a review of the
collective actions of
DAC donors in Mali
highlights the difficulty of
making donor co-ordination
work in the field.

The report was embarrassing
for DAC members –
and there were no more
country studies Three changes to the methodology:
following a survey of members,
the review standards are clarified
and become more results-orientated,
reviews are broadened to include policy coherence,
and general conclusions and lessons are drawn.

Building on the success of
Rome’s High Level Forum:
DAC peer reviews become a mechanism
for promoting more effective aid Observers from
non-DAC countries and institutions
begin to take part in
both capital and field peer review visits –
the first observer is the
Economic Commission for Africa,
to help them set up the
African Peer Review Mechanism Humanitarian assistance is reviewed for the first time – starting with Norway and Australia Managing aid,
highlighting the steps
individual donors are taking
to fulfill their
development co-operation ambitions
and make aid more effective,
is first published Special reviews of
non-DAC members
kick off with a review of
the Czech Republic’s
development programme A new systematic
analytical framework
is developed
and implemented 2008 Mid-term reviews –
focusing on the impact of,
and progress against,
peer review recommendations –

Belgium is first Effective aid management,
outlining lessons from peer reviews
in the areas of strategy, organizational
and management of delivery,
is published 2012 Lessons from peer reviews
are published in
a new easy to use format:
the first of the twelve lessons series –
towards better humanitarian donorship –
is launched in March Korea is reviewed
for the first time
Full transcript