Evaluation of the Implementation of the Paris Declaration

Bernard Wood, Julia Betts, Florence Etta, Julian Gayfer, Dorte Kabell, Naomi Ngwira, Francisco Sagasti, Mallika Samaranayake
Danish Institute for International Studies
Year of publication: 

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness is a landmark international agreement and programme of reform – the culmination of several decades of attempts to improve the quality of aid and its impacts on development. This report is an independent global evaluation of these efforts to improve the effectiveness of international aid, especially since 2005.

The Paris Declaration has proved relevant to many different countries and donors/agencies. All were already engaged in aid reforms before 2005, but to differing degrees.  The Declaration has pulled together and focused global attention on ambitious, experience-based measures to improve development cooperation and aid. It addresses a range of problems that were 50 years in the making, and holds out a vision of much better conditions for aid and ultimately for development without aid. While recognising that the challenges could not all be rapidly resolved, it has focused on a very short, five-year time frame for measurable or visible improvements. Not all of these targets were realistic, or even reliably measurable, but the Evaluation finds that its principles and commitments have been applied, if gradually and unevenly, among partner countries and more unevenly among donors and agencies.

The Declaration campaign has made several specific differences, for example by:

  • clarifying and strengthening good practice in aid relationships and thus legitimising and reinforcing higher mutual expectations;
  • contributing to movement, although sometimes slow and modest, towards most of the 11 outcomes set out in 2005, and in the process making some contributions to better development results;
  • playing a role, probably in combination with the awareness-raising effects of the Millennium Development Goals, in supporting rising aid volumes; and
  • improving the quality of a number of aid partnerships, based on strengthening levels of transparency, trust and partner country ownership.

For partner countries, the changes expected have been more demanding than those expected of donors/agencies. Despite this, most partner countries evaluated have now embedded many of these change processes, not just to manage aid better but because they serve the countries’ national needs. The complex, long-term challenges of capacity development are the most important constraints for most countries, and these do not allow for ‘quick fixes’ or bureaucratically engineered solutions. However, partner countries can do more to identify priorities for strengthening capacities in targeted areas. Donors and agencies in turn can do more to support those priorities in coordinated ways, to strengthen country systems by using them and to reduce donor practices that undermine the development of sustainable capacity.

For donors and agencies. With a number of striking exceptions, donors and agencies have so far demonstrated less commitment than partner countries to making the necessary changes in their own systems. Some have been too uncoordinated and risk averse to play their expected proactive part in the relationship. Most have set high levels of partner country compliance as preconditions for their own reforms rather than moving together reciprocally and managing and sharing risks realistically. Peer pressure and collective donor action are not yet embedded in many donor country systems, so that they are left vulnerable to uninformed policy changes, for example when governments or ministers change.

The Evaluation concludes that the changes made by the Declaration have not yet reduced the overall burdens of aid management as hoped. However, they have contributed to a better quality of aid, to more transparent and effective partnerships, and to supporting rising volumes of aid. Those cases identified where management burdens have been increased by introducing Declaration-style aid such as multi-donor funds do not outweigh these wider benefits.

The above text is a brief extract from the executive summary of this independent evaluation of the Paris Declaration.  Please see the OECD web site for the executive summary and complete report.