Mr F. Korthals Altes
Chairman of the Advisory Council
on International Affairs (AIV)
P.O. Box 20061
2500 EB The Hague
Date … March 2012
Re Request for advice on complementarity of aid channels
Dear Mr Korthals Altes,
The Netherlands provides development aid through various channels: the bilateral and multilateral channels, civil society organisations and the business community. Each of these channels has specific advantages as well as specific limitations.
In its response to the report by the Advisory Council on Government Policy, ‘Less Pretension, More Ambition’, the AIV discusses the growing role of other actors besides government in international cooperation. It also distinguishes between bilateral and multilateral channels, urging closer examination of the division of roles among the various actors and channels with a view to combating fragmentation.
The AIV’s recommendations on this point relate mainly to individual actors and channels and not so much to the complementarity, synergy and coherence of aid efforts carried out by or through them.
The main feature of the government’s new development policy, set out in two letters to the House of Representatives, is a strong focus on four themes and on a limited number of partner countries. The policy has now been fleshed out in a series of multi-annual strategic plans (MASPs), programmes and projects by the Ministry’s policy theme, regional and multilateral departments and by the missions in partner countries.
In light of the above, I would request the AIV to produce an advisory report on the complementarity of the various aid channels deployed. Are there more opportunities for synergy at thematic level and at the level of individual partner countries? What limiting factors play a role? What are the limits of complementarity across the various channels? What are the implications of seeking greater complementarity for the management (central or otherwise) of policy implementation? Which experiences of other donors provide lessons for Dutch development cooperation?
To ensure a sound basis for the advisory report, I would request that you elaborate the concepts of ‘complementarity’ and ‘synergy’ in detail. I would also ask you to base the report in part on a literature study that considers how other donors have engaged with the development cooperation architecture in respect of the channels and choices available. How have others gone about it? Are there examples of efforts to identify either positive effects (e.g. greater efficiency and effectiveness) or complicating factors (e.g. increased bureaucracy)?
At this stage, an advisory report in the form of an exploratory study would be most useful, though I would like to retain the option of requesting a follow-up report at a later stage.
In accordance with the advice of the Advisory Council on Government Policy, current policy is aimed at increased goal-centredness and effectiveness, achieved by focusing clearly on four priority policy themes and by concentrating bilateral aid on 15 countries. The policy theme departments are responsible for fleshing out and then implementing policy in each of the priority areas. The missions’ task is to flesh out policy at partner-country level in their MASPs for 2012-2015.
One question in this connection is what opportunities or obstacles the AIV sees in regard to further strengthening theme-based management. Which channels have a potential role in achieving the intended results? What specific ‘typical’ added value can the various channels offer? What are their respective strengths and weaknesses? How do the channels complement each other in this respect? What synergies could we be striving for?
The answers to these questions should form the basis for recommendations on various policy issues:
- How does theme-based management square with the policy applicable to the various channels? For the multilateral channel, for example, policy decisions are determined in part by a global governance policy. And increased use of the business sector is currently a priority for all policy themes. The policy themes will differ according to the relevance and activities of each channel.
- To what extent could efforts to achieve complementarity and synergy between and within aid channels affect the delegation model employed by BZ and the desire of NGOs, multilateral fora and businesses to determine for themselves how (and where) they operate?
- Is it easier to define and achieve complementarity and synergy when they are viewed from the perspective of aid recipients (i.e. the partner countries) rather than donors (being somewhat constrained by considerations of harmonisation, etc.).
In closing, a request regarding time scales. In spring 2012 I opened discussions with civil society organisations on the future set-up of the civil society aid channel. I shall be briefing the House of Representatives on the outcome and recommendations resulting from that dialogue before the autumn. These findings will be an important input in the context of an advisory report on complementarity. It therefore seems sensible that the AIV wait until this information is available before drawing up the report.
The AIV has already been requested to produce two other advisory reports that seem relevant in the context of aid channel choices and architecture: ‘Poverty reduction and shifting patterns of poverty’ (no. 4, Work Programme 2012) and ‘International public goods in the area of the environment’ (no. 6, Work Programme 2012). Both requests for advice could serve as a basis for the AIV’s advisory report on complementarity of aid channels. The first centres on how, in a climate of shifting patterns of poverty, different aid channels can be used to ensure that the Netherlands’ contribution to poverty reduction is (or remains) effective. The second could offer an interesting perspective on the viability and employability of the various aid channels in efforts aimed at international public goods.
I therefore propose that the AIV base its advisory report on complementarity on the requests for advice on shifting patterns of poverty and on international public goods.
Finally, I would ask that you complete the report by December 2012.
Minister for European Affairs and International Cooperation