copy the linklink copied!Executive summary

Ireland has been a member of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) since 1985 and was last reviewed in 2014. This report reviews progress since then, highlights recent successes and challenges, and provides key recommendations for going forward. Ireland has partially implemented 71% of the recommendations made in 2014, and fully implemented 29%.

This review – containing both the main findings and recommendations of the DAC and the analytical report of the Secretariat – was prepared with reviewers from Australia and Slovenia for the DAC Peer Review of Ireland and adopted at the OECD on 2 April 2020. In conducting the review, the team consulted key institutions and partners in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland and in the field in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September and October 2019. The drafting of the peer review including its main findings and recommendations preceded the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global development efforts. Ireland shows leadership in global policy debates and national development education and can build on its progress in making its policies coherent with sustainable development abroad. As a successful influencer of global policies, Ireland has co-facilitated the adoption of important global frameworks and advocates effectively on priorities such as women, peace and security. Ireland is making serious efforts to address policy coherence issues such as taxation and health worker migration, while domestic action against climate change remains an important challenge. Ireland should move towards more systematically addressing coherence challenges. Ireland has a strong approach to development education. Further investments could help to deepen and sustain the very solid support within the Irish population. Ireland’s new narrative on international development is an opportunity to strengthen its communications.

Policy vision and framework. Ireland has put forward an engaging new vision for its development co-operation, and now needs to update its policy framework and operational guidance. Building on broad consultations, the 2019 policy for international development, A Better World, sets as Ireland’s prime ambition reaching the furthest behind first, prioritising such issues as gender equality and humanitarian need. Ireland focuses on least developed and fragile contexts as well as sectors that correspond to its strengths. It plans to update and develop operational guidance, which will be critically important for the implementation of A Better World by staff and partners. Driven by the ambition to expand its global footprint, Ireland needs to manage the risk of not spreading itself too thin. Ireland’s approach to partnerships reflects the strong support for civil society and dedication to multilateralism that are hallmarks of its development co-operation. Ireland considers its membership of the European Union (EU) as essential to its relations with the rest of the world, and intends to contribute even more actively to shaping European external engagement. Despite an expansion of activities, Ireland still needs to clearly articulate a strategic approach for its private sector engagement that builds on its niche in the agri-food sector.

Financing for development. Ireland focuses ODA on its priorities, such as least developed countries, but it needs to increase overall financing to meet its ambition and commitment. Ireland has a strong political commitment to reach 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) as ODA, but growth in ODA volume has not translated into progress towards this target during the recovery from the impact of the 2008 financial crisis. Ireland therefore requires a clear plan for when and how to increase spending and to invest in necessary capacities. Bilateral ODA focuses on Ireland’s geographic and thematic priorities, almost meeting the commitment of allocating 0.15% of GNI to least developed countries. Multilateral ODA is of high quality, with significant voluntary core funding and the use of multi-donor pooled funds. Growing the ODA budget is an opportunity for Ireland to increase its financial weight in priority countries and organisations in line with its policy influence. While Ireland’s financial instruments to mobilise private finance are still limited, it advocates for improving the development relevance of private finance, including with the EU, and has launched a whole of government approach for domestic revenue mobilisation in partner countries.

Structure and systems. Ireland has clear structures and systems in place but needs to address human resources challenges and anticipate needs from a growing budget. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) leads Irish development co-operation. Ireland wants to further improve collaboration across government, building on existing good practices. A Standard Approach to Grant Management has clarified decision-making. Risk management processes are clear and controls effective. Ireland is also taking steps to respond to the new DAC recommendation on preventing sexual exploitation and abuse. Growth in the ODA budget will require further reflection on co-ordination, which partially relies on informal contacts at present, and on effective quality assurance as well as investment in information technology and e-based processes. Implementation of the DFAT human resources strategic action plan is an opportunity to address important human resources challenges. Low levels of staffing and high levels of turnover affect the level and quality of engagement. Ireland also needs to clarify how it wants to match skills and jobs and mobilise expertise for the priorities of A Better World.

Delivery and partnerships. Quality partnerships with civil society and multilaterals are essential drivers of Ireland’s development co-operation, while its strong engagement at country level could benefit from some adjustments. Ireland’s partnerships with civil society are particularly strong and characterised by quality funding and regular, open dialogue. Ireland is also much appreciated for its constructive engagement in multilateral organisations. Building on good funding practices, including multi-year allocations, Ireland seeks to intensify strategic dialogue with its multilateral partners. Ireland also wants to strengthen research partnerships and intensify dialogue with private sector actors. At country level, Ireland takes a proactive role in donor co-ordination and political dialogue. It uses joint approaches and continues to champion development effectiveness. Informed by 2018 data on development effectiveness, Ireland could promote ownership, alignment, the use of country systems and medium-term predictability to further improve.

Results, evaluation and learning. Ireland is strongly committed to results-based management and evaluation and would benefit from investments in knowledge management. Ireland uses results information to adapt programme design and implementation and is now planning to develop a new results-based management approach to inform strategic decision making and learning. The independent Evaluation and Audit Unit identifies strategic evaluation topics, disseminates evaluation findings and tracks the implementation of recommendations. A recent staff increase and a new evaluation policy will allow it to expand its engagement. However, learning often stays within the team that generated it. Building on its own good practices, Ireland could further invest in knowledge management, in particular as the ODA budget grows.

Fragility, crises and humanitarian aid. Ireland is an excellent humanitarian partner and has a unique approach to fragility. A Better World has a strong focus on fragility and reducing humanitarian need, in line with the push by Ireland to reach the furthest behind first. Allocations follow intentions, with a large share of ODA going to fragile contexts. A good range of tools – diplomatic, development and humanitarian – ensure that Ireland, also drawing on its own history, can design an appropriate response to individual fragile contexts. Its very flexible funding models, especially for humanitarian assistance, could provide useful inspiration for other DAC donors. There are good efforts to align internal funding streams to support the humanitarian-development-peace nexus. The model for Ireland’s humanitarian programme is built on its influencing power and Ireland will need to take care that it invests in the needed staffing capacities.

copy the linklink copied!The DAC’s recommendations to Ireland

  1. 1. Ireland should further develop mechanisms for analysing the impact of its domestic policies on developing countries, identify potential inconsistencies, discuss action to address these with all stakeholders, and ensure that progress is monitored.

  2. 2. Ireland should further improve the alignment to and use of country-owned results frameworks as well as its medium-term predictability and transparency in government-to-government partnerships.

  3. 3. Ireland should finalise a private sector engagement strategy that builds on its niche and focuses on development impact, in particular for the benefit of marginalised populations.

  4. 4. Ireland should assess its quality assurance mechanisms to ensure priorities, evidence, and cross-cutting and safeguarding issues are adequately reflected across all grant management phases.

  5. 5. Ireland should invest in knowledge management and, in particular:

    1. a. systematically capture and disseminate lessons from programming and findings of all evaluations

    2. b. expand knowledge sharing mechanisms to strengthen thematic expertise.

  6. 6. Ireland should develop operational guidance on both reaching the furthest behind first and its top priorities, and it should implement a plan to roll out this guidance to staff and partners.

  7. 7. Ireland should advance its approach to results-based management by:

    1. a. promoting a results and learning culture, and strengthening capacities to manage for results across the system

    2. b. adopting results frameworks that spell out the expected results chain, using SDG targets and indicators, and enable a clear focus on those furthest behind.

  8. 8. To increase its ODA budget and meet its international commitment of 0.7% of GNI by 2030, Ireland should develop and implement a comprehensive plan that identifies how to grow spending, and communicate the value of international development to the parliament and public.

  9. 9. Ireland should undertake strategic workforce planning to ensure it has the appropriate skills, expertise and capabilities to deliver on its expanding development co-operation objectives.

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Figure 0.1. Ireland’s aid at a glance
Figure 0.1. Ireland’s aid at a glance

Source: (OECD, 2019[1]), Creditor Reporting System (database),


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