New development finance measure should be TOSSD out the window

Photo © International AIDS Vaccine Initiative
A new measurement proposed by rich countries could mean a vast range of new activities, including health research, can be classed as 'development assistance'.

Last year the world embarked on a new set of Sustainable Development Goals that should guide international development efforts until 2030. In tandem, the OECD club of donors have been developing a new statistic to measure their contribution towards these goals.

Although still a work-in-progress, Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) endeavours to count all financial flows (public and private, concessional and non-concessional) from traditional and emerging donors aimed at supporting global public goods and sustainable development. TOSSD stretches the boundaries of its predecessor, Official Development Assistance (ODA), the long-standing statistical term for foreign aid.

The problem with the new measure is that, once again, it is being created without consulting the main beneficiaries in the process.

In fact, developing countries didn’t even ask for this new statistic. The concept of TOSSD originated and was driven by discussions within the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC). But at the third UN Conference on Financing for Development it crept into the text of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, when countries agreed ‘to hold open, inclusive and transparent discussions on the modernization of the ODA measurement and on the proposed measure of total official support for sustainable development.’

Unfortunately, the process has not been open, inclusive, or transparent.