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Who We Are

My professional background is mainly in intergovernmental organisations.

Following earlier careers as an insurance underwriter and reinsurance broker in the City of London and a Fast Stream Civil Servant in the UK’s Export Credits Guarantee Department (now UK Export Finance), I joined the OECD Secretariat in 1996 and quickly became Deputy Head of the Export Credits Division.

In 2004, after a few years heading the office of a Deputy Secretary-General (our oversight responsibilities included the DAC Secretariat) I was appointed Chef-de-Cabinet/Chief of Staff and the chief adviser to the Secretary-General of the time, Donald Johnston.

 

After leaving the OECD in 2007, I served at the Commonwealth Secretariat for 5 years before being appointed as Assistant Secretary-General for Central Support Services at the United Nations Secretariat.

 

In recent years, I have led an international education charity promoting improvements in foundational literacy and numeracy in some of the poorest remote villages in India; been serving as a trustee on a number of not-for-profit boards; and have been working as a senior management consultant, focusing on helping organisations to refine their strategy, appraise their structures, redefine their goals and nurture a healthy organisational structure.

 

I first became involved in the ODA accounting issue more than 20 years ago, back in 2002, when I drew attention to the shortcomings of the old "capital flow" method of scoring ODA on concessional loans and proposed changing to a grant equivalent methodology -- though using sensible discount rates, differentiated by currency, reflecting prevailing borrowing costs.

 

Hence, it was (initially) a pleasant surprise to learn that DAC members decided, at their 2014 High-Level Meeting, to reform the ODA scoring of loans by moving to a grant equivalent approach. However, I quickly saw the deliberate design flaws the DAC had introduced to exaggerate the generosity of donors and how this was deceiving taxpayers, reducing the amount of “real aid” provided to the “Global South” and disincentivising grant-giving in favour of extending barely concessional loans. Recognising the serious implications of this (see Why This Matters section) I felt motivated to campaign for change.

I reached out to many people in the international development community and realised that others had also seen some of the major statistical incoherencies that I had identified, and a few had even published on the subject.  Some senior officials in national and international agencies were also aware of the problems though they were understandably reluctant to speak publicly.  However, I was fortunate to come across two early retirees who were willing to collaborate with me on this project.  Hedwig Riegler had been Austria's DAC statistical reporter for many years, and had served as both chair and vice-chair of the DAC’s statistical working party.  Simon Scott had worked on DAC statistics in both Australia and Canada, and at the OECD where he headed the DAC statistics division for eight years.  Hedi and Simon have worked with me to develop this site, making it a real team effort, and they will also be contributing papers to it in their own right.  I would also like to express my gratitude to David Harper of Curious Fish who has helped me greatly with all the technical aspects of setting it up.

Stephen Cutts

Stephen Cutts

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