OECD praises government’s innovative aid and trade policy

Experts from the OECD, an organisation of developed countries, have delivered an overwhelmingly positive verdict on Dutch development cooperation policy. Combining aid with trade and investment has received particular praise. The OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Peer Review calls the Netherlands’ approach innovative, singling out its leading role in promoting corporate social responsibility, its support for enterprise in developing countries, and its effective response to the challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Lilianne Ploumen, was pleased with the report’s findings. ‘This is an endorsement of the policy we launched four and a half years ago,’ she said. ‘It’s gratifying that a prominent organisation like the OECD/DAC has commended our efforts.’

The Peer Review was presented this afternoon at a seminar on development cooperation at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague. DAC members submit to a Peer Review of their development policy every five years. The DAC praises a number of different Dutch policy programmes, such as efforts to amend tax treaties with – and improve tax collection in – developing countries, so that they are able to generate more revenue themselves. ‘New tax agreements have so far been made with 10 developing countries and, thanks in part to Dutch efforts, some 600 tax officials are being trained in 10 countries,’ explained Ms Ploumen.

Another initiative recognised by the DAC concerns efforts to make trade with developing countries – in products like textiles, cacao and palm oil – more sustainable. The Netherlands is concluding voluntary agreements with businesses and NGOs to improve the living and working conditions of millions of people in the sectors in question. Dutch innovation in the area of emergency aid has also received plaudits, e.g. the setting up of a Humanitarian Data Centre in The Hague, which will open its doors later this year. The Centre will bring together aid organisations, academia and the private sector in a partnership to ensure that, in a humanitarian emergency, people can get hold of accurate information about security and relief issues when they need it. It is partly because of initiatives like these that the Netherlands is seen as, in the OECD’s words, ‘a relatively small but influential member of the international community’.

Although the picture presented by the report is overwhelmingly positive, it does contain some criticisms. It expresses regret that the Netherlands has not met the United Nations target of spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on development assistance for a number of years. It also states that the Netherlands does not fulfil international agreements on all the relevant points, such as the aim of spending 0.2% of GNI on the 40 poorest countries. On this point, Ms Ploumen commented ‘We do actually meet the 0.2% target. But the OECD uses a narrower calculation method, so it does not count certain funding that does in fact benefit the poorest countries.’ The report also notes that staff at the ministry face a heavy workload.