> Summary of the General Council meeting


Statement by the Director-General — Aid for Trade — Preparations for the Third Global Review

Let me begin my statement with this question: “Is Aid for Trade working?” This is the question which the Secretary-General of the OECD, Angel Gurria, and I have asked you in letters which have just been sent out to you and your Ministers.

Our intention is to make the question, and your answers to it, the focus of the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade in July 2011. The purpose of my statement before the General Council today is to set out:

  • how we propose to use the joint OECD-WTO monitoring and evaluation exercise to collect and present your answers; and

  • to sketch out how I see this process unfolding between now and the Third Global Review in July 2011.

Our last Global Review in 2009 took place against the backdrop of the unfolding global economic crisis. And yet four members, Japan, France, the Netherlands, and the UK, offered pledges of continued financial support for Aid for Trade. At the G-20 Toronto summit in June leaders committed themselves to maintain momentum for Aid for Trade. Furthermore, the Korean Chair of the G20 in Seoul next month has already indicated a strong interest in making sure the next G20 summit has a development focus, including on Aid for Trade.

On the demand side, there is growing awareness of the need to mainstream trade into national and regional development policies and progress towards achieving this goal. Of the 88 partner countries that responded to the self-assessment questionnaire circulated in advance of the Second Global Review, more than half reported that they had fully mainstreamed trade into their national development strategy. I fully expect to see this positive trend continue, not least among LDCs [least-developed countries] now that the enhancement of the Integrated Framework is complete.

There is no doubt that we have made very significant progress in implementing the recommendations of the Task Force which reported to the General Council in July 2006 on how to opererationalize Aid for Trade. Partners are prioritizing trade objectives in their national plans and donors are making additional funds available. Even more satisfying is that the trade and development communities seem to be communicating! We can say with certainty that the process is becoming better aligned and starting to work more efficiently.

But is it making a difference? Is Aid for Trade having the impact we desire on the ground? Is it living up to its promise? These questions have become urgent. The need for sustainability in finances is prompting extra scrutiny of public spending. Many donors are conducting comprehensive evaluations of their aid expenditure.

My view has always been that we should consider this growing “accountability culture” as an opportunity. Since you entrusted me with this mandate in 2005, I have consistently stated the need to focus our attention on evaluating the impact of Aid for Trade interventions in developing countries. For the Aid for Trade Initiative to maintain political support, we need to demonstrate clearly and convincingly that Aid for Trade is working on the ground. If the global crisis has made Aid for Trade imperative for developing countries, it has also made the need to show results essential in donor countries.

It is why I am also eager to see us implementing results-based management approaches to our own in-house Aid for Trade programmes, an area on which we have already started to work.

We have some promising elements. But much more needs to be done. This is where we need your inputs. The monitoring and evaluation framework which we have jointly put in place is based on three main elements:

  • Tracking of global Aid for Trade flows by the OECD;

  • Self-assessment questionnaires which are being sent to regional economic communities, partners, donors and south-south actors, and
  • Case stories outlining what works and what doesn't work

The letters which you should now have begun to receive include the self-assessment questionnaires and the call for case stories. The deadline for submission of this information is 31 January next year.

As Oscar Wilde remarked: “The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple”. That is why we are looking not just for your views on what works, but your experience of what hasn't gone so well and your views on what could work better. I think our conclusions will carry more weight if we are able to point to areas where Aid for Trade could work better.

Information which we will collect through the questionnaires and case stories will inform the next edition of our joint publication “Aid for Trade at a Glance”. The information will also be made available on the web.

Do I think we will have a definitive answer to the question “Is Aid for Trade Working” by next July? I hope so, but I think it is also realistic to point to the work which still needs to be done to establish the necessary baselines and benchmarks through which we will be able to measure progress over time. Work on indicators needs to progress further before we can fill the so-called “missing middle” between inputs and impacts. My expectation is that the body of evidence we will receive from members will point to positive associations, but that these will need to be further elaborated in our future work programme.

But I risk getting ahead of myself. Let's not count our chickens before the eggs have hatched. My intention today was to bring to your attention the call to participate in this new Aid for Trade monitoring and evaluation exercise, which will be the centrepiece of the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade.

As members regularly remind the Secretariat, the operationalization of Aid for Trade lies in the hands of developing countries, regional economic communities and their development partners. By extension, you are the best judge of what is, and what is not, working. Put simply, if the Third Global Review of Aid for Trade is to be a success, then we need your input. I look forward to receiving it.

Let me in closing thank Ambassador Erwidodo for his leadership in bringing this forward as chair of the CTD [Committee on Trade and Development].


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