copy the linklink copied!2. Austria’s policy vision and framework

This chapter assesses the extent to which clear political directives, policies and strategies shape Austria’s development co-operation and reflect its international commitments, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It starts by looking at the policy framework guiding development co-operation, assessing whether Austria has a clear policy vision that aligns with the 2030 Agenda and reflects its own strengths. It then considers whether Austria’s policy guidance sets out a clear and comprehensive approach, including to poverty and fragility. The final section focuses on the decision-making basis, i.e. whether Austria’s policy provides sufficient guidance for decisions about where and how to allocate its official development assistance.

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In Brief

The Federal Act on Development Cooperation (2002) sets high-level priorities for Austria’s official development assistance (ODA), and the Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy provides policy direction to government stakeholders. The three-year programme articulates the thematic and geographic focus for the bilateral activities of Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC), aligns with the 2030 Agenda and prioritises a number of themes. However, the fields of activity identified within these themes lack the focus and prioritisation necessary to guide a concerted effort by all ODA-contributing actors, and other federal institutions delivering ODA follow their own strategy documents. Stronger political directives tied to a clearer statement of what Austria wants to achieve at a whole-of-government level would help to focus the resources of Austrian actors and achieve greater impact.

Several actors contribute to Austria’s development co-operation efforts, each with their own strategy and guidance documents. While the Austrian Development Agency produces comprehensive guidance, including a recently strengthened approach to cross-cutting issues, this only applies to ADC. Other ODA-contributing ministries could also benefit from incorporating ADC guidance into their own. Both ADC and the Ministry of Finance are committed to supporting poverty reduction and leaving no one behind; however, being clearer about what this means in practice would support implementation.

Key policy documents state Austria’s commitment to the principles of effective development co-operation. Decisions on when to engage at country, regional or global levels are generally based on the various Austrian Government stakeholders’ priorities. Guidance to support a more coherent approach would be useful. Even when stakeholders are involved in the same ADC priority countries and territories, they lack a whole-of-government strategy to guide their activities. This adds to fragmentation. Capturing the breadth of Austrian activities in country strategies would contribute to a more coherent approach. Developing clear goals and an overarching strategy to guide Austria’s engagement with the multilateral system could also strengthen Austria’s impact and support.

copy the linklink copied!Framework

Austria would benefit from an overarching vision for development co-operation that is owned across government

While legislation and three-year programmes on development policy define priorities for Austria’s development co-operation, there is room for greater ownership of this vision across all federal actors providing ODA. Clearer policy directives that encompass the totality of Austria’s efforts would support this.

The Federal Act on Development Cooperation (2002, amended in 2003) outlines three high-level priorities for ADC: poverty reduction, peace and human security, and preserving the environment (Government of Austria, 2002[1]). It also commits the Federal Government to a set of principles for development co-operation, including partner-country ownership, gender equality and consideration of the needs of children and people with disabilities. While the act prioritises peace and human security, it does not link this to Austria’s humanitarian assistance (Chapter 7).

The Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy (MFA, 2019[2]) provided for by the act1 offers policy direction for all government stakeholders, and a clear focus for the bilateral activities of the Federal Ministry of Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA) – the two bodies jointly responsible for ADC. Recent efforts by the MFA to promote a more whole-of-government approach in partner countries and territories, such as by strengthening country strategies, and to develop the three-year programme through a broad, consultative process involving both government and civil society stakeholders are encouraging. This has helped to generate greater ownership of development policy across government.

ADA and the MFA are responsible for implementing, and demonstrate strong ownership of, the act and the three-year programme. However, together they contribute only a small share of Austria’s total ODA (Chapter 3). While other key actors, including the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Development Bank of Austria and the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, are aligning with the three-year programme, they are guided by specific laws and/or strategy documents (Government of Austria, 2017[3]) (MOF, 2015[4]). The Development Bank of Austria (OeEB, 2019[5]) is increasingly aiming to align its strategy with the three-year programme, however.

Work programmes published by each new government tend to provide some additional direction for ODA-contributing actors.2 However, in the absence of clear political directives, these statements do not generally drive a whole-of-government approach to development co-operation, which instead relies on the priorities of individual ministries.

ADC’s geographic priorities are clear in the three-year programmes

ADC’s geographic focus is guided by a commitment to poverty reduction, historical continuity and Austria’s foreign policy focus on its immediate neighbourhood. Recent three-year programmes define a clear and consistent set of geographic priorities for ADC. The 11 priority countries and territories specified in the current 2019-21 programme are in line with those in the 2016-18 programme,3 albeit now grouped into the categories of least developed countries (LDCs), Southeast Europe/South Caucasus, and crisis regions and fragile states, with less emphasis on the regional aspects of ADC’s priorities. The Government’s commitment to link ODA to stemming migration to Austria – described in the most recent three-year programme – may affect the choice of ADC priority countries and territories in future.

Other actors are aligning with the three-year programme while also being guided by their own strategies. For example, the Development Bank of Austria is committed to expanding engagement in the poorest countries and in Africa, although according to its strategy it can and does undertake projects in any developing country (OeEB, 2019[5]). The soft loans programme of the Ministry of Finance adheres to the OECD Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits [OECD/LEGAL/5005]; as such, several ADC priority countries and territories are not eligible (OECD, 2019[6]). Bilateral activities of the ministries of Sustainability and Tourism, and of Education, Science and Research, are not bound by geographic priorities.

Austria’s engagement since the 1990s in Eastern Europe creates some focus across the system. For example, efforts by the Ministry of Education, Science and Research focus strongly on Central and Southeast Europe.4 Nevertheless, most Austrian ODA does not go to the priority countries and territories listed in the three-year programme (Chapter 3).

Prioritisation within thematic priorities would support greater focus

Five thematic priorities are defined in the current three-year programme – eradicating poverty; sustainable economic development; protecting and preserving the environment; commitment to peace and security; and building inclusive societies and promoting women. These five themes direct the work of ADC, and all Austrian development actors should align with them. Each theme is linked to the relevant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), outlining how Austria’s development co-operation contributes to the 2030 Agenda (Chapter 6). Nevertheless, while the five themes align well with Austria’s long-standing aims and strengths, each is accompanied by several sub-fields of activity, listed without prioritisation in a five-page annex, and without being linked to relevant actors or budget information. These function essentially as a long list of possible areas of work for actors beyond ADC. The lack of prioritisation means that the three-year programme fails to effectively direct or focus the efforts of other Austrian stakeholders.

The current programme also includes two “focus areas”: equal rights for women and promoting their development, and development co-operation and migration.5 However, it is not clear how the focus areas and thematic priorities interact.

If the three-year programme is to continue serving as the main strategic framework for Austria’s development assistance it will need to be strengthened to guide both development policy and implementation by all key ODA-contributing stakeholders. Greater thematic prioritisation would strengthen the programme’s usefulness in guiding decision making and ensuring support goes to agreed priorities that reflect Austria’s strengths. This would also help to ensure coherence among the various actors.

Returning to the practice in previous three-year programmes of linking key government stakeholders to proposed fields of activity (MFA, 2016[7]), and matching these activities to relevant budget lines, would also strengthen the programme as a framework for decision making. Alternatively, Austria could consider how to achieve greater consistency and coherence among the various stakeholders’ strategies.

copy the linklink copied!Principles and guidance

Cross-cutting guidance is stronger, but actors lack shared understanding for several of Austria’s priorities

Comprehensive guidance produced by ADA for delivering Austrian development co-operation recognises the social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development. Recent revisions to the Environmental, Gender and Social Impact Management manual (ADA, 2018[8]), originally launched in 2015, reflect a stronger approach to cross-cutting issues, in particular gender (Annex C). The manual is available to ADA staff as well as programme and project partners, and applies to all interventions funded or implemented by ADA. ADC has supported this stronger approach to gender with several initiatives, such as establishing a network of gender focal points and dedicated training for staff and partners. The recent introduction of quantitative targets for increasing the share of funding that has gender equality as the main objective (gender policy marker 2), may also support this approach (Chapter 3), however it will be important to match this ambition with the necessary expertise.

Other actors can draw on ADC guidance, though this is not obligatory; generally, each stakeholder sets their own policies for cross-cutting issues. OeEB, the development bank, uses the International Finance Corporation’s environmental and social risk assessment process. There is room to improve the bank’s approach to gender, which was included in the OeEB strategy for the first time in 2019 and could benefit from consideration of the approach taken by ADA (Chapter 4).

Cross-ministerial strategic guidelines, approved by the Council of Ministers, exist for environment and development (MFA, 2009[9]), and security and development (MFA, 2011[10]) – both longstanding priorities for the Austrian Government.6 Key development strategies, including recent three-year programmes and country strategies, frequently cite these guidelines. However, evaluations found that they are not widely known outside the lead ministries – namely the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ADA, the Federal Ministry of Defence and the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism7 – and have failed to create a shared understanding of key priorities among even the main ODA-contributing actors (Boss and Dittli, 2017[11]) (Ledant et al., 2016[12]).8 As a result, while providing useful and relevant guidance, they have had little impact on other policies. Following evaluations in 2016 and 2017, both strategic guidelines are currently being revised.

To support staff in implementing development policy priorities, ADA has also developed several focus papers covering issues such as combatting corruption (2010), development co-operation in fragile states and regions (2014), and most recently, migration and development (2016). While several of the papers are dated, they usefully define core concepts and help to situate ADA’s position on key issues (for fragility see Chapter 7). Refreshing these papers would be useful.9 Other ODA-contributing actors could also benefit from the guidance that ADA has developed.

Clearer articulation of poverty reduction and leaving no-one behind would support implementation

Poverty reduction and meeting the needs of disadvantaged groups are identified as high-level priorities for Austria in the Federal Development Cooperation Act and three-year programmes. Poverty reduction is part of Austrian Development Cooperation’s rationale for focusing on rural development and its decentralised approach in several of its partner countries and territories (e.g. Kosovo and Mozambique). Austria’s support for the international financial institutions is also intended to target LDCs and to tackle poverty (MOF, 2015[4]). However, being clearer about what Austria means by leaving no one behind would support decision making at the programming level and for implementing partners. Similarly, while a rights-based approach and support for people with disabilities are priorities in both the act and three-year programme, there is limited guidance for staff on these issues.

Guidance on operating in fragile contexts is dated but remains mostly valid

Six of Austria’s 11 priority countries and territories are considered fragile or in crisis (MFA, 2019[2]) and several policy documents help to guide Austria’s approach to fragility (Chapter 7). In addition to the strategic guidelines discussed above, which help to define Austria’s approach to security and development (MFA, 2011[13]), ADA previously developed guidelines on peacebuilding and conflict prevention (ADC, 2006[14]) which are complemented by the more recent focus paper on development co-operation in fragile states and regions (ADC, 2014[15]). While the strategic guidelines do not discuss forced displacement and migration, a separate focus paper on migration acknowledges the linkages between migration, development and fragility (ADA, 2016[16]).

copy the linklink copied!Basis for decision-making

Country strategies have been strengthened but should be more widely used across the government

Austria’s geographic focus is guided by its historical engagements, and has not substantially changed over recent years (OECD, 2015[17]). This helps to create stability and continuity in its engagement in partner countries. The current three-year programme provides a list of instruments or modalities for each of the three categories guiding its geographic priorities – LDCs, South-east Europe/South Caucasus, and crisis regions and fragile states. This approach is also being reflected in the recently strengthened country strategies, which provide a clear rationale for where and how to engage at the country level, e.g. for Uganda and Mozambique. However, there is no clear policy guidance for country-level decisions on channels and engagements by other actors, and how these relate to the activities of ADC. Outlining more clearly what Austria aims to achieve overall in its priority countries and territories would facilitate effectiveness and provide it with more leverage when seeking policy change (Annex C).

Country strategies are developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the support of ADA and in consultation with relevant Austrian and partner country stakeholders. They apply to ADC’s activities. Most country strategies explicitly refer to the aid and development effectiveness principles, or else to the commitments in the act (Government of Austria, 2002[1]) and three-year programmes (MFA, 2019[2]).10 The inclusion of results matrices in the most recent round of country strategies – linking support for projects, the partner country’s development objectives, and the 2030 Agenda – is a positive step (Chapter 6). While country strategies frequently recognise the importance of a whole-of-government approach, specifying the activities of each Austrian stakeholder engaged in the partner country would help to identify areas of convergence and support greater coherence. Including Austria’s multilateral efforts at the country level would also increase the effectiveness of Austria’s ODA efforts.

Austria is taking a considered approach to adapting its engagement in ADC priority partner countries and territories. For instance, Bhutan will graduate from least developed country status in 2023 and Austria’s withdrawal is guided by a transition strategy covering the period 2019 to 2023. This was developed in agreement with the Government of Bhutan (ADC, 2019[18]). Mid-term evaluations of ADC strategies also support adaptation, as seen in Kosovo (Annex C). According to the current three-year programme, Austria is considering whether to continue its engagement in Mozambique after 2021, where it currently focuses on water and agriculture with a geographical focus on Sofala province (ADC, 2019[19]). If Austria decides by 2021 to transition out of Mozambique, a similarly considered and structured approach to exiting will be important.

In addition to country strategies, ADC has developed several regional strategies, for example, for the Danube region, and a strategy for sub-Saharan Africa is being finalised. However, the implementation of these strategies, their links with country strategies, and the extent to which they are used by other stakeholders undertaking ODA-related activities in these regions is ad hoc and does not reflect a systematic approach.

ADC has a clear rationale for partnerships

Austrian stakeholders contributing to ODA tend to partner with distinct actors (Chapter 5), and each has its own general rationale for engagement. Austrian Development Cooperation has a clear rationale for partnerships with civil society (ADA, 2019[20]) and private sector organisations, as well as with the multilateral organisations with which it engages at country and territory level, as seen in Kosovo (Annex C). This enables ADC to identify complementarities within its own projects, e.g. among private sector development partners. ADC has also strengthened its approach to engaging in civil society partnerships in Vienna, for example, through introducing framework programmes and strategic partnerships (Chapter 5). However, Austria lacks a coherent rationale for engaging with these actors across its system, particularly where other ODA-contributing stakeholders apply their own strategies and have different objectives for country level engagement.

Austria prioritises its multilateral engagement

As a small donor, Austria uses the multilateral system as its main delivery channel. Partners consider Austria to be a constructive and reliable contributor to the multilateral system. Austria contributes both core and assessed contributions, and earmarked funding, to a range of multilateral organisations (Chapter 3), but places particular emphasis on its engagement with multilateral development banks, which it sees as being aligned with Austrian economic interests and having a crucial role in achieving the 2030 Agenda.11 The Federal Ministry of Finance has made use of Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) assessments as well as self-assessments by the multilateral development banks to gather information on the performance of organisations that it funds. With the unilateral decision by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to withdraw from MOPAN membership, however, it is not clear how Austria is working with other Development Assistance Committee members, or across its own system, to contribute to performance assessments of multilateral institutions to inform funding decisions.

While a strategy exists to oversee the Ministry of Finance’s contributions to international financial institutions (MOF, 2015[4]), it does not capture the whole spectrum of Austria’s engagement with and contributions to the multilateral system. For example, it does not include all bilateral funding that is channelled via multilateral organisations, and earmarked to specific thematic or regional priorities (Chapter 3). The division of labour between different parts of the system is relatively effective, in that just one ministry contributes to each organisation. However, given the importance Austria places on its support to the multilateral system and the significant share of total ODA that these contributions comprise (Chapter 3), summarising its efforts in a single strategy would help Austria to develop a more coherent picture of its multilateral contributions. As Austria is a relatively small contributor to most of the organisations that it prioritises, being clearer about what it wants to achieve would also help it to identify, co-ordinate and leverage opportunities for influence.


[20] ADA (2019), Strategic Partnerships with Austrian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) Funding Guideline, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 23 May 2019).

[8] ADA (2018), Manual: Environmental, Gender and Social Impact Management, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 27 August 2019).

[16] ADA (2016), Focus Paper on Migration and Development, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 18 July 2019).

[18] ADC (2019), Bhutan Country Strategy: Transition 2019-2023, Austrian Development Cooperation, (accessed on 2 April 2019).

[19] ADC (2019), Mozambique Country Strategy 2019-2024, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 7 August 2019).

[15] ADC (2014), Focus: Development cooperation in fragile states and regions, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[14] ADC (2006), Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, Austrian Development Cooperation, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[11] Boss, M. and R. Dittli (2017), Evaluation. Review of the Strategic Guideline for Security and Development and its Implementation between 2011–2016. Executive Summary, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 8 February 2019).

[23] Federal Chancellery (2013), Austrian Security Strategy - Security in a new decade-Shaping security, (accessed on 12 July 2019).

[22] Government of Austria (2018), Austrian Climate and Energy Strategy, Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism, Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, (accessed on 19 July 2019).

[3] Government of Austria (2017), IFI-Beitragsgesetz 2017, Government of Austria, Vienna, (accessed on 26 August 2019).

[21] Government of Austria (2017), Zusammen. Für unser Österreich. Regierungsprogramm 2017–2022, (accessed on 2 May 2019).

[1] Government of Austria (2002), Bundesgesetz über die Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (Entwicklungszusammenarbeitsgesetz, EZA-G), (accessed on 22 July 2019).

[12] Ledant, J. et al. (2016), Evaluation of the Environment Policy of the Austrian Development Cooperation and its implementation by the main ODA Actors 2007-2014, Austrian Development Agency, Vienna, (accessed on 3 September 2019).

[2] MFA (2019), Working together. For our world. Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2019-2021, (accessed on 25 June 2019).

[7] MFA (2016), Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy 2016-2018, (accessed on 1 April 2019).

[10] MFA (2011), Security and Development in Austrian development policy Strategic Guideline, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[13] MFA (2011), Security and Development in Austrian development policy Strategic Guideline, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, (accessed on 25 July 2019).

[9] MFA (2009), Strategic Guideline on Environment and Development in Austrian Development Policy, Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, Vienna, (accessed on 2 August 2019).

[4] MOF (2015), Strategic Guidelines of the Federal Ministry of Finance for International Financial Institutions, Federal Ministry of Finance, Vienna, (accessed on 6 May 2019).

[6] OECD (2019), Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits (January 2019), OECD, Paris, (accessed on 13 August 2019).

[17] OECD (2015), OECD Development Co-operation Peer Reviews: Austria 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[5] OeEB (2019), Strategy of the Development Bank of Austria 2019-2023. Financing our Shared Future, Oesterreichische Entwicklungsbank Ag, Vienna,


← 1. The current Three-Year Programme on Austrian Development Policy is intended to serve as Austria’s “whole-of-government strategy” for development co-operation (MFA, 2019[2]). The act requires the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs to draw up the programme, with the consent of the Federal Minister of Finance and in consultation with ADA and the Advisory Board of the Minister, and submit the programme annually to the Federal Government as well as Parliament. It is also intended to define the countries and regions in which Austria’s development co-operation applies (Government of Austria, 2002[1]).

← 2. The most recent programme covering the period 2017 to 2022 reiterated Austria’s commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on development assistance, while linking the provision of official development assistance with the willingness of partner countries and territories to co-operate in the return of rejected asylum seekers (Government of Austria, 2017[21]).

← 3. The 2016-18 three-year programme listed a set of 11 priority countries and territories, as well as several priority regions. These were the Danube/Western Balkans region: Albania and Kosovo; the Black Sea/South Caucasus region: Armenia, Georgia and Moldova; West Bank and Gaza Strip; the West Africa and Sahel region: Burkina Faso; the East Africa and Horn of Africa region: Ethiopia and Uganda; the Southern Africa region: Mozambique; and the Caribbean region. Ukraine, which was not among the priority countries/territories, was also included as a special programme – “to make a major contribution to peace, stability and reforms in Austria’s extended neighbourhood the Black Sea/South Caucasus region.” While the 11 priority countries and territories remain the same in the 2019-21 programme, Ukraine was not included in the 2019-21 three-year programme as either a priority country or special programme.

← 4. Bilaterale und regionale Bildungskooperationen (Bilateral and Regional Education Cooperation), Ministry of Education, Science and Research: (in German).

← 5. While gender equality has been a consistent cross-cutting theme, the Austrian Government recently noted that development co-operation and migration was a political priority.

← 6. As core priorities, several related strategy documents have been developed by other ministries, including the recent Austrian Climate and Energy Strategy (Government of Austria, 2018[22]) and Austria’s security strategy (Federal Chancellery, 2013[23]).

← 7. Formerly the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management.

← 8. For example, a recent evaluation (Ledant et al., 2016[12]) found that there is no overall strategic vision for environmental mainstreaming.

← 9. For all focus papers, see:

← 10. The three-year programme outlines the importance of partnerships with developing countries and territories being “based on ownership, mutual accountability and inclusion” and refers to the other principles of effective development co-operation.

← 11. See the Ministry of Finance website:

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