The Netherlands should overhaul the way it structures its development aid programme and focus specialist attention on 10 countries, according to a new report by the government's scientific council for government policy WWR.
In order to do this, the government could set up its own umbrella organisation of experts, as the US and Britain have done the WWR said. Aid should be focused on actual development, based on a country's specific situation.
The report, entitled Less Pretention, more Ambition, has been two years in the making.
The researchers say Dutch aid is currently too focused on countering poverty by improving living situations. But this does not automatically lead to a structural improvement. And, more attention should be paid to the downside of aid, such as the development of a dependency culture, the distortion of existing social structures and support for bad government.
In addition, the WWR says, the financing of development aid needs an overhaul. The Netherlands currently spends some 0.7% of GDP on aid, in line with UN recommendations but that figure can be relaxed, the council said.
Much of that money is distributed directly through charities. But by setting up an umbrella group, dubbed NLAID in the report, the government can better control where aid is going and how it is spent. Dutch diplomatic missions would no longer be directly involved in aid spending, the report said.
Aid minister Bert Koender said in an initial reaction that he is not yet convinced of the need for a government aid umbrella group because it could lead to more bureaucracy.
But he told news agency ANP the report is a 'constructive contribution to the debate about development aid'.
But he said he does not agree with the proposal that the Netherlands focus on just 10 countries. The country has already reduced its focus from 100 to 40 countries and Koenders is planning further reductions. But the 10-country limit is 'extremely arbitrary', he said.