‘Official Development Assistance’ (ODA) is dying. Not that it really ever existed, at least in the neat form of a global fight against poverty with consensual objectives and means. Nor that international solidarity is decreasing: it isn’t less but more money that is being poured each year into what can be called ‘international public policies’. But what we are witnessing is the dilution of an outdated concept – one based on long gone illusions about the unity, the clarity and the purity of the ‘international community’s’ goals – into a new complex breed of public policies that attempt to confront the challenges of a globalized world. A triple revolution of objectives, players and instruments is reshuffling the cards, dynamiting old practices and habits. The bustling creativity of development finance is precipitating a change of era: a new phoenix is rising from the ashes of a half-century old policy.
This sudden metamorphosis of the world of international development assistance leads to a problematic question. Do global standards such as the famous objective of allocating 0.7% of donor countries’ GDP to international development remain relevant? We will show that the fact that what this benchmark measures is senseless may give us a clue as to why it is not reached. As to why it cannot be reached. Time has come to change the thermometer – and speak the truth. For behind seemingly technical questions of measurement lay complex policy issues made even more abstruse by the absence of clear benchmarks: the world is treading a perilous mountain path blindfolded.
This paper walks us through the ever-expanding range of global concerns that the international community has come to deal with. It describes the rising tide of stakeholders active in the emerging field of global policy tasked with confronting these challenges. It then illustrates the amazing change in methods and instruments that are being used to do so. Changes that are commonly – and improperly – referred to as ‘financial innovation for development’. It shows how, as a consequence of this triple revolution in goals, stakeholders and instruments, the current understanding of ‘ODA’ is becoming increasingly irrelevant as a tool for action. This analysis leads us to suggest a few elements of common sense on how to make progress in measuring what counts. Because measurement matters.