Development finance standards

Frequently asked questions: official development assistance (ODA) and migration


 …/ DCD / _Styles / 00: T4 backOffice (TinyMCE) - 2019
 …/ DCD / _Styles / 02 : DCD documentType (DT) styles 2019

Why migration is a development issue and why new oda rules are needed

FAQ 1. How are migration and development linked?

Migration has always been considered as part of the development process. Nevertheless, in recent  years, the increasing importance of international migration in political and media debates in OECD DAC members, as well as the rise in the number of forcibly displaced people seeking refuge there, have heightened the pressure on funders of development co-operation to contribute actively to migration policies.

Development co-operation providers cite various reasons why they work on migration:

  • tackling the root causes of forced displacement or irregular migration;
  • protecting forcibly displaced persons and supporting durable solutions;
  • maximising the impact of migration and mobility on development;
  • preventing and reducing irregular migration and trafficking in human beings.

Their efforts are guided by international agreements. In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, for example, global leaders agree to “facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies” (SDG target 10.7).

FAQ 2. Why did the DAC develop principles and criteria for clarifying the ODA eligibility of migration related activities? And how was it counting migration-related costs previously?

To count an expenditure as official development assistance (ODA), funders need to show that its “main objective” is “the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries”. The challenge in the field of migration is that it is not always clear whether a programme primarily aims to promote development or address provider countries’ domestic concerns. Indeed, while many development co-operation programmes related to migration focus on development objectives, others appear to pursue both objectives at the same time. The new guidance helps assess the ODA eligibility in such cases.

Some aspects of ODA-eligibility of migration-related activities had already been defined in the context of elaborating the purpose code for “Facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility”, adopted in 2018.

FAQ 3. Will the new guidance have an impact on overall ODA figures? Will it lead to a decrease in funds available for other development projects?

The agreed principles and criteria do not change the ODA definition but provide for a clearer set of rules on migration-related spending with the goal of preserving the integrity of ODA. The rules will thus help development organisations:

  • ensure that ODA budgets remain focused on promoting development;
  • assess compliance of projects with the ODA definition, providing a more transparent basis for dialogue with partner governments and project partners; and
  • communicate clearly with stakeholders like parliaments, civil society and the media on the use of ODA in this area.

The rules also clarify the roles and responsibilities of different ministries and agencies in statistical
reporting and encourage countries to report data that can be compared across donors.

What issues have been clarified, how is oda integrity preserved

FAQ 4. With the new rules, will activities with the objective to limit migration from developing to developed countries count as ODA?

If the main objective of the activity is to limit migration to the provider country, then it should not be counted as ODA. The rules ensure that development co-operation is not used as a vehicle to promote the provider’s domestic migration agenda.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that aid projects in the field of migration often entail a dual purpose and mutual benefit for both the donor and the recipient. They can still count as ODA, as long as the main objective is to support the recipient.

FAQ 5. Some donors condition their aid to migration outcomes, e.g. provide aid to developing countries in exchange of readmission agreements. Will these funds count as ODA?

If the delivery of funds within an activity is subject to specific conditions on migration outcomes, the funds are not reportable as ODA, unless it can be demonstrated that the conditions imposed primarily contribute to the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries, and not primarily to the donor's domestic migration concerns. It is the obligation of members to describe the characteristics of their aid for these activities in their CRS reporting, including the conditions imposed, and share an ODA-eligibility assessment upon request by the Secretariat.

FAQ 6. Return and reintegration programmes are examples of projects pursuing development objectives and donors’ domestic concerns simultaneously. How do the rules ensure that donors do not use ODA as a way to further externalise their borders to developing countries?

The ODA rules include strong safeguards, such as the exclusion of costs for forced returns. In the case of reintegration support that exclusively targets returnees from the provider country, there is a requirement to demonstrate that it enables sustainable reintegration and does not primarily aim to address the donor's domestic migration concerns.

Scope of the new rules

FAQ 7. Do ODA figures on in-donor refugee costs include costs for hosting migrants?

Specific rules and restrictions apply to counting ODA expenditures by donors in their own countries. DAC has agreed rules and restrictions on in-donor refugee costs, which specify that costs relating to hosting migrants are not ODA-eligible. Therefore, to determine which costs incurred in their own countries can be counted in ODA, DAC members need to make a distinction between refugees and migrants. (By contrast, the distinction between refugees and migrants is not necessary when support is provided in developing countries - countries of origin or destination of migrants or refugees.)

Not all migrants are considered refugees, under the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Refugees are persons outside their countries of origin who are in need of international protection because of feared persecution, or a serious threat to their life, physical integrity or freedom in their country of origin as a result of persecution, armed conflict, violence or serious public disorder. Asylum-seekers are persons who have applied for refugee status or a complementary international protection status and have not yet received a final decision on their claim.

Migrants, including people in transit, are people who choose to move across international borders, not because of a direct threat of persecution, serious harm, or death, but exclusively for other reasons, such as to improve their conditions by pursuing work or education opportunities, or to reunite with family. Migrants, unlike refugees, continue in principle to enjoy the protection of their own government, even when they are abroad. If they return, they will continue to receive that

FAQ 8. Why do “migration-related activities” in the clarifications include a reference to refugees?

Refugees are also migrants, and principles and criteria to guide reporting on migration-related activities necessarily need to refer to both. Regarding ODA accounting, the critical distinction is whether donors incur costs to support refugees/migrants in their own countries or in developing countries, see FAQs on ODA and on in-donor refugee costs.

What is next and how the principles and criteria will be monitored

FAQ 9. How will the OECD monitor the implementation of the new rules?

The OECD Secretariat will review the data reported by donors in the CRS and flag any inaccuracies. Donors also need to follow the safeguards embedded in the new rules. The first reporting according to the new rules in the next 2 years should allow the Secretariat to identify any issues and work with donors to tackle them.

FAQ 10. Will a casebook be developed?

Yes, a casebook will be developed. It will usefully complement the principles and criteria and will illustrate the boundaries of ODA in the field of migration. Members have committed to include both ODA and non-ODA examples in the casebook.

If you don’t find the answer to your question above, feel free to write to us at


Related Documents