Korea’s Enhanced Global Standing as a Middle-power Donor Country
Since its accession to the OECD DAC, Korea has been making proactive efforts to integrate development into the agenda of key global fora and to play a bridging role between developed and developing countries.
Setting a milestone for international development cooperation
At the 2010 G20 Seoul Summit, Korea exercised an active role in the presidency of the G20 based on its successful development experience and added development to the G20 agenda for the first time, leading to the adoption of the Seoul Development Consensus for Shared Growth as well as the Multi-Year Action Plan on Development. Through this occasion, Korea laid a solid foundation for continued discussion of the development agenda at the G20—the most high-profile meeting for international economic cooperation. This is a prime example in which Korea served a bridging role between developed and developing countries.
Moreover, in 2011, the Korean government hosted the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (HLF-4) in Busan. As the host country, Korea took leadership in bringing about a paradigm shift from ‘aid effectiveness’ to ‘development effectiveness’ and the signing of the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, which set forth a new framework for a global development partnership embracing a diverse set of development actors. Particularly, the Korean government brought together powerful emerging donors—e.g. China, India, and Brazil—and performed a leading role in launching the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC). Since 2014, Korea has been organizing the Global Partnership Forum on an annual basis, with the objective of contributing to the achievement of development effectiveness and to the institutionalization of the GPEDC.
In 2015, Korea took up the chairmanship of the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN), which is the only network of donor countries that assesses the effectiveness of multilateral organizations. Given that donor countries are using the assessment findings as an important source of input for decision-making on multilateral assistance, the Korean government’s assumption of MOPAN’s chairmanship was an opportunity to expand Korea’s influence on multilateral development organizations while playing a responsible and fair role in global development cooperation, and to raise Korea’s standing on the global stage.
Globally recognized for its proactive contribution as a donor country, Korea was elected to the presidency of the Executive Board of the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in 2019. As the president of the Board, Korea built a cooperative relationship with civil society and the private sector, and broadened participation in a wide variety of development issues, with a view to bringing about the systematic changes of these three organizations that perform a pivotal role in development cooperation. In the same year, Korea was also elected as vice chair of the OECD DAC. These occasions demonstrate the international community's appreciation of Korea as a model of development and expectation for Korea's decisive role in future development cooperation.
While already assuming a leading role in climate change response through the launch of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) and the establishment of the permanent secretariat of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Korea was elected in 2019 as vice chair of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). At the SBI, which oversees the overall implementation of the Convention, the Korean government is performing a vital role in supporting the international implementation of the UNFCCC objectives.
Contributing to Global Development Efforts
Increasing the volume of ODA
Even before its accession to the OECD DAC, Korea was continuously scaling up its ODA volume and number of ODA projects. Most notably, the year 2018 saw the ODA budget exceeding KRW 3 trillion for the first time, a 2.4-fold increase from the year 2010 when Korea joined the DAC.
Since becoming a member of the DAC, Korea has raised its volume of ODA disbursements at a phenomenal rate. From 2010 to 2019, Korea’s ODA grew from USD 1.17 billion to USD 2.42 billion, increasing by approximately 106%. During the same period, Korea’s average annual growth rate of ODA disbursements stood at 13.5%, the highest among DAC members (the DAC average was 2.6%). These figures indicate the Korean government’s commitment to make substantive contributions to global development cooperation efforts by increasing its ODA volume.
Embracing efforts to achieve SDGs
The Korean government has contributed to the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its active participation in the intergovernmental negotiation process, and declared its commitment to meeting the SDGs at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015. Also, in the Framework Act on International Development Cooperation and the Second Mid-Term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2016-2020), the government set the contribution toward global implementation of the SDGs as one of its priority policy objectives. Throughout this process, the Korean government solidified its commitment to supporting the implementation of SDGs by developing countries.
While continuing active engagement in the discussions of the annual UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF)—the central platform for follow-up and review of the SDGs’ implementation—Korea participated in the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) in 2016 and shared its progress toward the SDGs with the international society. Particularly, in line with the government’s vision of "Inclusive Korea," the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Korea to the UN took the initiative and chaired the Group of Friends of SDG 10 (“Reduce inequality within and among countries”). With a view to reducing inequality and increasing inclusiveness, Korea is taking part in the relevant international discussions.
Domestically, the Korean government introduced the framework for monitoring the nationwide progress made for the implementation of SDGs (“K-SDGs”) in 2018, which reflects the unique conditions and circumstances of Korea.
Enhancing humanitarian assistance
The Korean government has been stepping up efforts to contribute to resolving humanitarian crises around the world, actively participating in the global humanitarian response to large-scale conflicts (e.g. in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq), refugee crises, and peace-building and reconstruction challenges.
At the national level, the government has been establishing and consolidating the domestic legal and institutional framework for humanitarian assistance; in accordance with the Overseas Emergency Relief Act (enacted in March 2007), the government instituted Basic Overseas Emergency Relief Measures (revised in January 2020), and introduced the Humanitarian Assistance Strategy (revised in July 2019) for effective delivery of humanitarian assistance. In February 2020, Korea joined the Grand Bargain—an agreement between donors and humanitarian aid agencies on shared goals and commitments to strengthen the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian aid—to take part in international efforts to enhance humanitarian assistance.
In addition to consolidating the domestic institutional framework for humanitarian assistance, the Korean government has continued to scale up its humanitarian aid budget since 2011. The latest figures indicate that the 2019 budget amounted to KRW 143.2 billion, a sevenfold increase since 2011. Moreover, the share of humanitarian aid budget in the total ODA budget has been on the rise since 2013.
The Korean government is also dispatching emergency relief teams to large-scale overseas emergencies, proactively undertaking relief efforts in hard-hit regions. Past examples include the 2013 Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 2015 Nepal earthquake, and the 2018 Laos dam collapse.
Establishing the Korean ODA model and sharing Korea's development knowledge
Capitalizing on its own development experience and on its internationally recognized strengths in ICT and public administration, the Korean government has endeavored to provide development assistance that is differentiated from traditional ODA. The 2012 OECD DAC peer review assessed that Korea’s comparative advantage as a donor is possessing the Korean model of ODA drawn from its actual development experience. Indeed, Korea has been supporting various development projects in a broad range of areas, offering policy consultations on development experience and consulting programs—e.g. the Knowledge Sharing Program (KSP) and the Development Experience Exchange Program (DEEP)—based on its successful experience in development, while the government is undertaking efforts to link these activities to actual ODA projects. Korea is also leveraging its comparative advantages in ICT and public administration, and expanding the scope of development assistance by linking them with other sectors such as education and health.
Establishment of the Institutional Foundation for Integrated and Strategic ODA
Another key achievement of Korea since its accession to the DAC is establishing an integrated ODA system with the Committee for International Development Cooperation (CIDC) at its core, to address the absence of a legal framework and coordination mechanism encompassing the government’s overall ODA policies. Consequently, this newly established system served as a foothold for Korea to become a middle-power donor country.
Setting up the Integrated ODA System Centered Around the CIDC
Building a robust integrated ODA system
Since providing its first foreign assistance in 1963, Korea implemented its ODA in the absence of legal framework and coordination mechanism for a considerable period of time. However, through the enactment of the Framework Act on International Development Cooperation in 2010, the Korean government established its basic principles, goals, and implementation structure of ODA, and accorded a formal legal status to the CIDC, creating a stable policy and project coordination basis for Korea’s ODA. Since then, the CIDC has served as the top decision-making body for ODA policies as well as project implementation and evaluation.
Consolidating the framework for grants
Given that a plethora of different implementation agencies are carrying out grant projects, the Korean government is operating the Council on Grants (led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and its subcommittees, with the aim of preventing the duplication of projects and ultimately enhancing the efficiency of budget execution and the effectiveness of grants projects. To this end, the Council and its subcommittees review the feasibility of different projects and coordinate them. The government is also hosting the Workshop on ODA Capacity Building of Local Governments, designed to advance the understanding of ODA by local government institutions and to encourage their participation in ODA. The government’s overarching objective is to deliver systematic, efficient, and integrated development assistance.
Formulating Comprehensive Policies and Strategies
Formulating comprehensive ODA policies and strategies at a national level, on the basis of an integrated ODA system, is another major achievement made by Korea thus far.
Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation
In October 2010, the Korean government established the Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation, which put forth a vision, future direction, and three major improvement strategies for Korea’s ODA. In line with the Strategic Plan, the government established the ODA Scaling-up Plan, set a target ratio of bilateral to multilateral aid as well as that of loans to grants, designated priority partner countries for an integrated provision of loans and grants, and drew up the integrated Country Partnership Strategy (CPS).
Third Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation
In January 2021, the Third Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2021-2025) was formulated. It was formulated on the bottom line of the Second Mid-term Strategy’s Evaluation, which incorporated the evaluation of the implementation of the First Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2011-2015). The First Mid-term Strategy was formulated in accordance with the Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation (December 2010), and the Second Mid-term Strategy reflected the domestic and international changes in the development landscape, such as the adoption of the 2030 SDGs. The Third Mid-term Strategy set out the basic direction for Korea’s ODA from 2021 to 2025, ODA volume target and financial operation plans, and measures to enhance Korea’s ODA.
Second Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation
In November 2015, the Second Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2016-2020) was formulated. It incorporated the evaluation of the implementation of the First Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation (2011-2015)—which was formulated in accordance with the Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation (December 2010)—and reflected the domestic and international changes in the development landscape, such as the adoption of the 2030 SDGs. The Second Mid-term Strategy set out the basic direction for Korea’s ODA from 2016 to 2020, ODA volume target and financial operation plans, and measures to enhance Korea’s ODA.
Other key strategies
In line with the rolling five-year Mid-term Strategy, the Korean government establishes the Annual ODA Implementation Plan and step-by-step bilateral cooperation assistance strategies, including the Consolidation Strategy for Loans and Grants (2011, 2016). The government’s aim is to ensure the systematic and integrated delivery of ODA and to facilitate cooperation and coordination in ODA activities involving multifarious organizations in a way that Korea’s own development experience and strengths in concessional loans/grants projects can be fully exploited. Also in 2016, the Multilateral Aid Strategy was launched in order to cooperate more effectively with international organizations and to complement bilateral cooperation.
|Strategic Plan for International Development Cooperation||Oct. 2010||Creation of Korea’s ODA vision, medium- and long-term goals, and development of the Korean ODA model by pulling together expertise and resources across government (with specifications of Korea’s ODA volume, ratio of bilateral to multilateral aid, ratio of loans to grants, and ratio of untied aid)|
|First Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation
|Dec. 2010||Formulation of the implementation plan for loans and
grants by sector
Establishment of multilateral assistance plan (involving international financial institutions and UN agencies)
|First Country Partnership Strategy (CPS)||2011-2013||Launch of Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for 26 priority partner countries|
|Second Mid-term Strategy for Development Cooperation
|Nov. 2015||ODA budget and operational plan; reinforcement of the
Consolidation Strategy for Loans and Grants
Greater ODA transparency; closer cooperation with civil society and the private sector
|Second Country Partnership Strategy (CPS)||2015-2016||Revision of the number of priority partner countries (26→24); readjustment of country-specific focus sectors|
|Multilateral Aid Strategy||2016||Designation of priority partner organizations for multilateral cooperation; launch of performance management|
|Plan for Integrated ODA Evaluation System||2018||Revision of plan for systemic evaluation; improvement of the evaluation system and process, larger function of the Expert Committee for Evaluation in Meta-evaluation|
|Revision on the Framework Act||2020||Complete revision on the Framework Act; establishment of the provision for constitution of the Secretariat of CIDC and its operation and role|
|The Third Midterm Strategy for Development Cooperation||Dec. 2020||Suggestion on the vision in response to a global change in development and for contribution to global values; extension of strategies and principles in accordance with 5P (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace, and Partnership) in SDGs|
Effective ODA Implementation
The Korean government is improving the effectiveness of ODA by fostering greater linkages between ODA projects and by conducting transparent evaluations. In 2013, the government introduced the ‘N-2 Preliminary Review’ process to ensure that ODA projects are aligned with the national policy direction and strategies, and that projects of various different organizations are connected to one another. Currently, government agencies share a list of candidate projects and discuss how to arrange a substantive linkage among separate projects from the early stage of project planning. In 2020, the Integrated ODA Reporting System was instituted to facilitate project information sharing among different organizations. Also, with a view to improving ODA evaluation and accountability, the Korean government is enhancing the ODA feedback mechanism by mandating independent evaluations for large-scale ODA projects and a review of past project evaluation results during the project appraisal process.
Implementation of ODA with Public Support
Laying the Foundation for Integrated ODA Public Relations and Rallying Public Support for ODA
With a view to building public consensus and support for ODA, the Korean government laid the foundation for integrated ODA public relations. After establishing the Task Force for Integrated ODA Public Relations in January 2010 and setting up the integrated, pan-governmental framework for ODA public relations in November 2011 and has since been utilizing them. In January 2012, the government launched the “ODA Korea” website (www.odakorea.go.kr) in order to render ODA information easily accessible to the general public and to communicate with diverse stakeholders. Also, the government published the ODA White Paper specifying the vision, policies, and achievements of Korea’s ODA in 2014, 2017 and 2020. Through these efforts, public awareness of ODA rose from 47.2% in 2016 to over 60% since 2017. Efforts will continue to be made to build public awareness and support for ODA.
Furthermore, the government has been making sustained efforts to raise public awareness of ODA through various channels, including the release of short films on Korea’s ODA and the implementation of Global Citizenship Education (GCED)*. Opinion surveys indicate that public support for development assistance in Korea is higher than in other donor countries**, with 84% of respondents holding a view that overseas aid contributes to the economic development and poverty eradication in developing countries.
*As one of the SDG targets, Global Citizenship Education (GCED)
instills in learners necessary knowledge, skills, values, and attitude
to forge a more just, peaceful, and inclusive world. In partnership
with local government agencies, the Korean government is broadening
the participation in GCED—creating more programs for tertiary school
students in addition to conducting programs for primary and secondary
school students—with the aim of offering education programs
well-tailored to the general public.
**Sweden 71%, UK 70%, Germany 67%, France 65%, US 65%, etc.
Building Public Trust Through Greater Transparency and Accountability
Opening up aid information in a transparent manner is of particular importance, as it enhances public trust toward ODA. In 2009, the international society launched the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) to improve the transparency and accountability of ODA. In response to such international efforts, Korea became the first Asian country to join the IATI in December 2015 and has since been sharing aid information using IATI’s data standard. By publishing open and reliable aid information in accordance to the IATI standard, it is expected that the transparency and accountability of Korea’s ODA implementation is enhanced and that the public’s right to know is satisfied.
Reinforcing Cooperation with Civil Society and Business
The Korean government is developing various channels of Public-Private Partnership, which include 1) cooperation with civil society, 2) cooperation with Business, and 3) participation of civil society and the private sector actors in project review and monitoring of ODA projects.
Cooperation with civil society
In 2019, the Korean government and civil society jointly instituted the Policy Framework for Government-Civil Society Partnership in International Development Cooperation. Setting out common goals for the government and civil society to achieve, along with the principles of mutual cooperation and implementation modalities to realize these goals, the Policy Framework is both a normative guidance and a policy document at the same time. The launch of the Policy Framework was also the first instance in which a document collectively prepared by the government and civil society was submitted to and approved by the CIDC. This was a particularly noteworthy occasion at which the government broadened the horizon of Korea’s development cooperation, by recognizing civil society as an independent development actor (and not a mere recipient of government assistance) and by declaring its commitment to cooperate with civil society.
Cooperation with Business
With declining ODA commitments from traditional donor countries, there has been a growing perception in the international society that the business sector is a crucial actor and source of financing for promoting the sustainable growth and development of developing countries. Against this backdrop, the Korean government identified “collaborative ODA” as one of the three key pillars of Korea’s development cooperation in the 2016-2020 Mid-term Strategy. Subsequently, the government has been implementing a variety of initiatives while trying to address 1) diversification of partnerships with the private sector, 2) promotion of inclusive business models by leveraging and linking Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Creating Shared Value (CSV) projects, and 3) increased mobilization of private sector financing.
Over the past five years, the volume of government funding for public-private partnership projects—i.e. ODA projects in which civil society and/or the private sector actors are engaged as partners—has been growing. With the specific implementation modalities of the Policy Framework for Government-Civil Society Partnership in International Development Cooperation due to be released this year (2020), it is expected that Korea’s public-private partnership projects will continue to increase.