corporAID: You have been leading the OECD's Development Assistance Committee for a little over a year now - what were the biggest questions you dealt with?
Moorehead: I focused on two topics. On the one hand, it was the link between development, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. By 2030, 80 percent of the poorest people will live in conflict-affected areas. It is therefore absolutely crucial that we do more to prevent these conflicts, but moreover that humanitarian aid measures are better interlinked with long-term development cooperation. A second issue - and Austria was instrumental in this - concerned the prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in development cooperation and humanitarian aid. The Development Assistance Committee passed a legally binding recommendation here in record time: all members have agreed to be mutually accountable and to ensure that our own authorities and the organizations that work for us have robust policies and safeguards in place to protect them To prevent grievances.
How has the role and work of the OECD DAC changed in recent years?
Moorehead: The donor landscape is changing increasingly. In order for the DAC to remain relevant and useful for its members, it must also adapt. For example, we are now much more focused on how we can work with the private sector than we were ten years ago. And we spend a lot of time cooperating with other donors outside the DAC. Our goal is to raise additional funds for our development efforts. We know that the cost of achieving SDG's global sustainable development goals is in the trillions, but ODA is only $ 150 billion a year. Given this funding gap, it is essential to start a conversation between development actors and the private sector. And to see how we can work together more effectively and promote more private investment not only in middle-income countries but also in the poorest countries.
Sure, companies have very different priorities and motivations here, but we're trying to find a common foundation to encourage private investment while increasing its development impact. We are working on a number of instruments that bundle public and private funds. I will be honest: we are still in the early stages, and the biggest challenge is that most of these tools have not yet been used in the poorest countries. Is that feasible? I think we should definitely try it! There are more and more companies and shareholders who are rethinking risk and wanting a broader impact from their investments. And that offers enormous opportunities.
Besides financing, what are the biggest challenges in achieving the SDG?
Moorehead: We often focus too much on how far we are off course. There is some tremendous progress and examples of success that we should build on. Our top priority this year is how we can better link the climate change debate with the development agenda. Probably the biggest stumbling block for achieving the SDG will be that we take measures in the area of climate protection that particularly prevent poor countries from continuing their economic and social development. We do not yet know what the ideal transition to low-emission growth can look like. However, we know that this will look very different in a densely populated Asian country than in a small, sparsely populated African country. The fact that the cost of renewable energy is falling so quickly offers enormous opportunities, particularly in countries where millions of people still do not have access to electricity.
In addition, we must not forget that these are universal goals. As part of the SDG, the international community has committed to not leaving anyone behind. If we don't take our gender equality commitment sooner, we won't be able to achieve many of the other 16 goals. Allowing girls and women to receive training and a greater say in society ultimately benefits everyone.
How has Austria's development cooperation developed since your last peer review in 2015?
Moorehead: The peer review should not be an examination, but a learning process. Austria has made progress in some areas. The Austrian Development Agency, for example, has increased its capacity and there is a three-year government program. There is some very positive feedback from the partner countries that Austria is a strong, flexible, predictable partner. But there is still a lot to do in other areas. The most important thing: As a DAC member, Austria has committed to a target of 0,7 percent of GNI, the current trend is not in this direction. I would like Austria to do more if possible. And I know that this is currently being discussed and there is a commitment to it.
But it's not just about the quantity, it's also about the quality of development cooperation. There are many different public bodies involved in Austria, which is a good thing in a way. Because it means that development cooperation is not just concentrated in a small corner of the administration and everyone else thinks this has nothing to do with them. But the downside is fragmentation. In view of the limited budget, I think a comprehensive strategy is essential so that everyone can see what role and what contribution he has to make. It would also be good if a larger share of Austrian bilateral aid would actually leave Austria. 45 percent of bilateral aid currently remains in Austria. ADA has positioned itself better since the last peer review, so its capacities should be used more!
How can Austria better focus its development cooperation efforts?
Moorehead: Ultimately, these are political decisions. One approach for Austria would be to use its comparative advantage. The country has a great deal of expertise and experience in the energy sector, particularly in the area of renewable energy. So I really want to encourage Austria to participate in the debate about how we can combine climate protection with development cooperation. Because I think Austria can make a significant contribution here. Austria also has a good track record in the area of conflict prevention if you think of its neighboring region, where Austria provided early support in stabilization and reconstruction.
What can Austria learn from other countries?
Moorehead: Peer review is a great way to shed some light on what works and what doesn't. But the real work begins now. First of all, something like a management response is needed. All actors will sit down, look at the peer review and determine what they can and want to change and how. In a way, that's the most important part of the process. Instead of saying that there is a role model that Austria should use as a guide, I would rather use a kind of à la carte approach, depending on which aspect you want to deal with first. The OECD Secretariat in Paris and also the member countries are very keen to help with reform efforts. I think this peer-to-peer process is very important. Because I don't think there is anything in the peer review recommendations that has not been recommended to another country before. So in most cases there is a peer who has already gone through these types of reforms and changes. And that's the essence of the OECD DAC: it's a group of like-minded, value-driven donors whose greatest strengths are peer support, accountability and mutual learning.
Vielen Dank für das Gespräch!
Susanna Moorehead has been chairwoman of the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD since February 2019 and is therefore responsible for development cooperation in the OECD countries. Moorehead has worked in the diplomatic service and development cooperation for 30 years, most recently as the British ambassador to Ethiopia.