CSO DAC Strategy meeting 2019

DAC-CSO Reference Group Strategy Meeting – Synthesis 

28-29 December 2019 || Paris, France


Influencing the DAC: Why, how, what do we want out of this?



  • Success in the past: strategic with issues hooked in the DAC agenda, long-term planning
  • Future strategy: priority to influence quality and quantity of aid, caution with thematic priorities, focus on issues directly in the DAC agenda 


Assess the relevance of the DAC: DAC members following their own standards instead of DAC’s rules, climate finance impact, lower relevance of ODA measurement rules in some places


Narrative around aid and political agenda at the DAC:  politicize discourse around aid

  • Bring back the political discussion into the table even when discussing technicalities: need to tackle inequality for International partnerships (EU priority)
  • Need for a stronger vision/narrative (not only add to the technical discussion): 
    • Aid on the back of slavery and colonization: aid is not a matter of charity but of responsibility
    • Colonization of Africa not about politics but taking resources from the continent: political independence but economic systems still implemented 
    • Not about giving back money but not taking money in the first place (e.g. Switzerland)


Thematic Advocacy priorities:

  • Role of agenda-setters: determine what we want to set on the DAC agenda
  • Limit discussion around the DAC 
  • Share good and bad practices from the ground (in thematic and technical discussion)
  • Define our vision of meaningful dialogue (debate and incremental change at the DAC)
  • Topics:
    • Broadening and deepening DAC-CSO engagement (subsidiary bodies: WP-STAT for ODA modernization) to be more proactive rather than reactive
    • ODA modernization unfinished business: focus on the impacts of implementation 
    • Implementation of DAC decisions/recommendations/guidelines by donors (e.g. PSEAH)
    • Climate emergency 
    • Greater focus on gender equality
    • Link between private finance and 
    • CSO enabling environment: 
      • Advocacy strategy at national, regional and global level: target specific government and ministries and bring that advocacy at the DAC
      • Link with private finance: how is private finance enabling development actors?
    • Proposals for increased transparency of governments’ policies and progressive taxing policies to avoid tax evasion, in an articulated way with platforms specialized in these subjects 

🡪 Distinction between priorities to be tackled at the DAC and others in bilateral agencies for a matter of credibility, taking into account the technical level of conversation at the DAC

🡪 The DAC is a technical discussion forum of political discussions of DAC members: members discuss topics based on recommendations from their political masters (agreed subjects, no forbidden topics)

Aid and development cooperation impacts on the ground:

  • Look at issues and the results we are looking for in developing countries when discussing at the DAC 
  • Bring information about how financing is being managed at the country level or vision on the private sector 
  • Managing diversity: link with policies and instruments of the World Bank (affecting developing countries governments) and the one at the DAC 


Synthesis of Thematic working group breakouts


Migration and refugees


Main issue: DAC rules authorizing the ODA-eligibility of IDRC (legitimation of the rationale for counting IDRC as ODA for ‘humanitarian reasons’)

Advocacy priorities:

  • Continue to call out donors to gradually phasing IDRC out of their ODA budget
  • Continue using real ODA figures instead of DAC numbers when communicating (excluding IDRC, student costs, debt cancellation), as a way of contesting the inclusion of IDRC as ODA
  • Enhance the scrutiny of how donors are reporting IDRC: 
    • Push for each donor to publish their own calculations models 
    • Push for the DAC to publish more granular data in the CRS
    • Identify and document cases with problematic spending (e.g. voluntary returns of migrants)
  • Link the work with TOSSD




Main issue: enhanced linkage between ODA and migration agenda = donors using ODA as a tool to limit the number of migrants arriving at donors’ border (supporting more restrictive border controls in countries of transit and of origin, conditioning of aid to certain countries to agreement on the readmission of migrants)


Advocacy priorities:

  • Refine/further define our rationale on how the group approaches the issue: 
    • Continue to unpack the narrative around the root causes of migration (migration as a natural phenomenon)
    • Clarify what we think should clearly stay out of ODA (e.g. border management to contain migration) VS what we think are good migration-related activities (e.g. reduction of the risk of forced displacement in the first place, protection and improvement of labour rights and conditions in partner countries)
  • Enhance monitoring on donors’ reporting of ODA in support of migration-related activities (data to come next year): 
    • Push for the Secretariat to conduct an eligibility review of activities reported under this code in 2020
    • Collect evidence-based information focusing on the impact of identified projects on people’s lives and livelihoods on the ground (e.g. cross-border pastoralism) 
  • Not the timing to push for a policy dialogue at the DAC on ODA in support of migration-related activities given the political context
  • Connect with the OECD’s work to develop monitoring indicators of UN Global Compact on Refugees on donor support to refugee hosting in developing countries
  • Link with other TWG: TOSSD, peace and security 

Peace and Security


Two issues raised:

  • Integrity of ODA used for Peace and Security efforts (securitization of aid)
  • Nexus recommendation implementation: country ownership, regional context


Advocacy priorities: 

  • Develop case studies to identify the impacts of the peace and security activities/securitization of aid on the regions: to be linked to the nexus and migration
  • Monitoring of Nexus recommendation through INCAF:
    • Continue knowledge-sharing with INCAF
    • Influence the INCAF: state of fragility report and roadmap on monitoring to come up next year 
  • Links to IFIs on Nexus 


Private sector


Advocacy priorities:

  • Keep the discussion opened and the issue in the DAC agenda
  • Keep in mind the risks associated with a review of the temporary arrangement in 2021 (PSI agreement)
  • Strengthen the role of the Group’s members (southern CSOs at the country level, DAC-based CSOs at the DAC level)
  • Evidence-based research
  • Influence the private sustainability week


Key momentum: 

  • Release of 2018 PSI data in December 2020 or January 2021
  • Private finance for sustainable development week: CSO team to make a proposal to the DAC for a CSO side-event (Oxfam, ONE, ROA, Eurodad)
  • Workshops around blended finance and guidelines in March/April/May
  • Community of practices on private finance (no agreement reached yet)
  • DAC-CSO dialogue in the first quarter of 2020
  • HLM in November
  • Webinar with Simon Scott (to be planned): modernization reform, PSI etc 
  • Other opportunities at the national level 


Development effectiveness


Main issue: DAC’s commitment to fulfil the DE principles, reflected in the GPEDC monitoring

Advocacy priorities:

  • Shrinking civic space
  • Stronger CSOs engagement in DAC Peer Review Process: push for stronger outcomes, capacity building of southern CSOs
  • Advance the DE agenda: promotion of a human rights-based and gender equality approach
  • Stronger engagement on tied aid/private finance (uphold the Kampala principles on accountability)
  • Stronger engagement in the GPEDC process (transparency)


Key moments:

  • GPEDC monitoring round
  • DAC Peer Reviews 
  • EU engagement 


DAC reform


Main issue: uphold the standardized engagement ‘DAC-CSO dialogue framework’


Advocacy priorities: 

  • Develop a  standard of engagement for the Group: 
    • Write a formal response to the framework (how do we think the partnership/CSOs’ engagement should be)
    • Prepare a mapping of engaging actors 
    • Prepare a mapping of the community of practices of subsidiary bodies to be linked to the TWG: to identify concrete pressure points/to know where to request a CSO observatory seat
  • Be strategic when requesting a CSO observatory seat: ask a CSO seat for anything VS make sure CSO observers deliver
  • Maximize the effectiveness of our engagement: 
    • Have a dedicated focal point investing for a long time
    • Consider the Secretariat as a potential ally to uphold the integrity of ODA
    • Demonstrate our value-added beyond topic
    • Use some member-states as champions 
  • Guarantee CSOs’ access to information: 
    • Have a structural systematic way to ask for information (TWG to keep pressure to get info)
    • Increase CSOs voices from the South (strategic alliance between North and South)
  • Support other TWG in their engagement: development of best practices




Main issue: TOSSD is an evolving measure (metrics, relationship between the DAC and the UN community)


Key moments:

  • Dissemination of the findings from the pilot on Peace and Security and in Burkina Faso in the next months
  • 10th meeting of the TOSSD Task force in February 2020 (CSO observatory seat)
  • Release of broader samples of data from the 2019 survey in the first quarter of 2020
  • Next country pilot in Bangladesh in March
  • TOSSD in the UNFFD in April 
  • TOSSSD in the UNDCF in May


Advocacy priorities: no endorsement but CSOs’ engagement and influence in the process

  • Stronger mandate for CSOs’ engagement:
    • Formalize ways of working: development of a TOR on working together
    • Actively involve in conversation with the TOSSD task force: nominate the CSO observer at the TOSSD Task force  
  • Access data and ask for more disaggregation
  • Monitor the new streamwork on the inclusion of TOSSD as an additional indicator in the SDGs framework
  • Connect with the peace and security TWG 
  • Have a cautious influencing approach (UN, New issues) to keep the space open for discussion with CSOs


Key advocacy moments in 2020


3 levels of moments to engage:

  • Moments to engage with the DAC Chair: peer reviews’ presentations, DAC Chair tour in DAC countries  
  • Moments to engage the DAC as a committee: DAC-CSO dialogue in February/March, HLM in November  
  • Moments to engage on technical/thematic discussions: Beijing +25, EVALNET, INCAF implementation of the recommendation
  • Others: HLPF workshop early December 


🡪 How to engage on the three levels? Compilation of prepared materials from the Group  


Ways of working - Governance and coordination mechanisms


  • Ensure the DAC-CSO RG’s governance and coordination mechanisms are fit for purpose to take the DAC-CSO dialogue framework forward 
  • Ensure that the structure and processes reflect the Group’s mission ‘engaging with DAC to have impacts at national levels and achieve SDGs’, by taking into account the Group’s thematic expertise: turn members’ engagement (effective in achieving the results) in the structure


Reminder existing structure: Secretariat + Core Group + working thematic groups

General comments:

  • Participants overall happy with current structure but also recognize that some adjustments are needed to i) reflect the evolution towards a more formal and bigger platform, ii) be able to face the opportunities and challenges at the DAC. 
  • Suggestion to improve the current structure rather than to completely transform it (‘build on what works’), clarifying roles and mandates of each existing structure, and in particular accountability and decision-making processes.
  • Acknowledgment that there are inconsistencies between the TOR and the reality, and that current TOR lack precision.
  • Mention of insufficient sharing of responsibility in the current structure (few people playing different roles in the Secretariat, core group and TWG), need for better division of labour



  • TOR states that this is the responsibility of ROA, however in practice secretariat function is still shared by 3 facilitators (ROA, Eurodad and Oxfam). While some welcomed this way of functioning, others highlighted this created confusion both internally and externally. 
  • General recognition of ROA’s relevance to ensure Secretariat support, as a network of both south and north CSOs, and of its particular role for southern outreach and support. However, issue raised that for a fully functional secretariat, physical proximity to the DAC in Paris is also important. 
  • Proposal of a dual Secretariat with a clear division of labour: ROA for Southern outreach and capacity building + an organization in or close to Paris for proximity to the DAC 


Core Group

  • Absence of a clear mandate: existence and role not formalized in the TOR
  • Principle: openness to all members providing they agree to commit time or resources. Aim for the core group’s composition to continue to reflect a north/south balance (including regional variety), while also ensuring key thematic experts from TWG are included.
  • Current responsibilities: budget, selection criteria for participants/political representation, agenda for meetings, quick-decision making
  • Improvements needed: formalize its mandate in the TOR,  better transparency and accountability of the core group to the broader group, clearer decision-making process 


Thematic Working Groups:

  • Valued as key strength of the DAC-CSO RG – this is where policy work happens and members engagement 
  • Current responsibilities: decisions on strategy and policy positions
  • Suggested improvements: creation of a 7 TWG on climate finance, integration of gender in all TWGs


Inclusivity, Outreach and capacity building:

  • Create a more inclusive space to improve outreach for greater North-South balance and capacity building 
  • Ensure good representation from different regions, different sectors, different DAC-based national platforms 
  • Maintain an ‘affirmative action’ approach for southern engagement
  • Underscore the need to have stronger voices by building greater evidence and impacts in the regions and at the national level
  • Create impacts at the national level through satellites, by fetch from the TWG to the decision-making group, and from the national level to the DAC
  • Lack of participation: language, capacity building, power relations between big structures that can easily come to Paris and smaller ones, gender issues 


Session Chair’s summary – principles, main recommendations, proposed way forward:


  • Light and flexible structure
  • North-South balance
  • Decision-making on consensus
  • Affirmative actions: support to southern colleagues and other organizations (gender, migration)
  • Accountability and transparency 
  • Inclusiveness in the content development and the ways we engage

Main recommendations:

  • Formalize the current structure and processes: acknowledge and give mandate to the current groups (transparency on its members) 
  • Clarify roles and responsibilities of the groups based on the current structure: preparation of a new TOR
  • Assign core areas of engagement to the current groups: policy decisions, management decisions, outreach and capacity building 
    • Secretariat: light structure serving the purpose, recognition of different responsibilities (outreach and capacity building, policy liaison and advocacy), proposal to have two units – one for policy and advocacy close to Paris/one for outreach and capacity building in the South 
    • Core group: light structure, proposal to have ROA/Eurodad/Oxfam in charge of decision-making in the absence of consensus in the core group

Way forward: participants agree to task the core group to develop all the above recommendations (including TOR), and to come back to the whole Group with a proposal

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