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Development Cooperation to Ensure that none be Left Behind

José Antonio Alonso


The development cooperation system is undergoing a dramatic process of change. New actors are on stage, new instruments (beyond ODA) are being used, and the fields of work have been clearly widened. The enlargement of the development cooperation system is in line with the ambitious and comprehensive 2030 Agenda. However, those changes also imply massive tensions and challenges to the current development cooperation system in terms of its objectives, procedures and narrative. This paper presents some of these challenges in light of the “leaving no-one behind” mandate. The paper discusses, firstly, how the development cooperation system can be brought up to date, taking into account massive changes in the international landscape; secondly, it argues why development cooperation may be still useful and effective in supporting an Agenda that goes beyond ODA; and finally, it discusses some dilemmas around the way in which resources should be allocated in order to preserve the distributive purpose of development cooperation.

Annex 1: Clarification of definitions

A.1. ODA

Originally, official development assistance was defined as flows from OECD countries to countries and territories that appear on the DAC List of ODA Recipients, and to multilateral development institutions, this assistance being: (i) provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and (ii) each transaction of which: (a) is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and (b) is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25 percent (calculated at a rate of discount of 10 percent). After 2018, concessional loans will be registered as ODA only through their grant equivalent (not through their facial values), using thresholds of concessionality and discount rates adapted to countries’ levels of income.

A.2. Development cooperation

As Alonso and Glennie (2015) suggest, development cooperation can be defined as those international interventions and activities (public and private) that: (i) specifically intend to support development; (ii) operate through actions that would not be promoted (or at least not in the same way) by the market alone; (iii) differentiate in favor of developing countries, particularly the poorest, in order to widen their opportunities for progress; and (iv) are based on cooperative relationships that try to enhance developing country ownership. Development cooperation includes flows of ODA, but goes further, embracing non-concessional funds and other in-kind activities oriented to development. Additionally, it considers not only official funds but also private resources provided under non-for-profit purposes (such as those channeled by foundations, NGOs and companies within their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, for example)


TOSSD is a new measure, wider and complementary to ODA, proposed by the OECD. It includes all officially supported resource flows to promote sustainable development in developing countries and to support development enablers or to address global challenges at regional or global levels. Regarding ODA, TOSSD is a wider concept because it includes all official flows, concessional or non-concessional, as well as private resources mobilized with official support (probably including export credits), while ODA only registers official funds that are concessional in character. At the same time, TOSSD is different from the concept of development cooperation, because the former includes private resources at market conditions if mobilized by official funds while the latter considers only those private resources (whether supported or not by official funds) outside the market (i.e. private grants from foundations, or CSR programmes). Even though the process of defining TOSSD is still open, some of the initial criteria on which the concept was based have been subject to criticism (Alonso 2016a; Griffin 2016).


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Published Online: 2019-06-11

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