Too southern to be funded: Open letter to OECD DAC

22 Apr 2024

Languages available:   English Português


Sign the open letter to the OECD Development Assistance Committee (text below), adding your voice to the urgent call for an end to discriminatory funding against Global South civil society organizations (CSOs). 


Dear Members of the OECD DAC,

We the #ShiftThePower movement – a global network of people and civil society groups rooted in the Global South and North, including INGOs and allies within various places of the international aid system – write to you with a pressing concern.

For a long time, details governing the flow of resources from OECD DAC members to Global South CSOs have been “buried” in layers of paperwork and technical language in a manner that has been opaque and difficult to grasp. However, our analysis of DAC member aid flows reveals systemic imbalances in the distribution of Official Development Assistance (read the full report Too Southern To Be Funded or its summary). Despite rhetoric committing to support Southern leadership and civil society, a significant portion of aid remains unofficially “tied”, disproportionately benefiting CSOs within DAC member countries, while marginalizing civil society in the South. This practice not only discriminates against Global South civil society but also undermines the spirit of the DAC Recommendation on Untying Official Development Assistance  of 2001.

For example, we are aware of a little known clause in the Recommendation that allows Global North governments to consider funding to their own CSOs as untied if it is core support. We feel this loophole, while it breaks no laws, also undermines the spirit of commitments to support Global South civil society. Additionally, by restricting these funds to Northern CSOs only, the current funding practices are complicit in a system that undermines access to rights in regions experiencing a shrinking civic space in the Global South.

Furthermore, our analysis of the formal and informal practices that limit funding to Global South CSOs in favour of Northern organizations, including CSOs and private companies, reveals a series of disturbing assumptions the OECD DAC has made about Southern civil society. These assumptions and biases reflect a lack of nuance in understanding Southern CSOs and they include:

  1. Capacity: The assumption that Global South CSOs lack the capacity to effect change in their communities is flawed. We have spent decades building our capacity to understand and address local challenges, as well as navigating the complexities of global institutions. In any case, a lot of what the Global North considers capacity has little bearing on local realities.
  2. Trust: The relationship between the OECD DAC and Global South civil society has been marked by distrust. Southern civil society has not been trusted to take a lead on how to respond to local challenges. In continuing to maintain a system in which Southern CSOs must always look to Northern CSOs for funding, the OECD has enabled a system akin to the “indirect rule” found in the colonial histories of various countries.
  3. Assumption of guilt: OECD DAC members have continued to restrict funding to Southern CSOs in part because of an assumption of guilt and fraud laid on Southern CSOs who are assumed to be guilty until they prove themselves innocent.

We urge the OECD DAC and its members to immediately:

  1. Remove the legal and regulatory barriers: Allowing more direct funding to move from OECD DAC donors to Global South CSOs directly without procurement restrictions.
  2. Redefine Tied Aid Policies: Adopt a more inclusive definition of tied aid that acknowledges and addresses the implicit biases favouring DAC-based CSOs, moving away from defining as core support to only Northern CSOs as “untied aid.”
  3. Enhance Transparency: Implement mechanisms for greater transparency in funding. As it is now, there is no systematic transparency to track how much of the funds that go through Northern CSOs eventually make it to the South.
  4. Advocate for reforms: Prioritizing the voices of communities that are most affected by development interventions during decision-making.

The #ShiftThePower movement envisions a world where development assistance is rooted in the principles of equality, mutual respect and local agency. We are confident that the OECD DAC can play a pivotal role in making this vision a reality.

We look forward to a constructive dialogue and are available for further discussion on these critical issues.

#ShiftThePower Movement


See all signatories on the #ShiftThePower Treehouse

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments