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Methods and standardsconcluded

Development of an Instrument for Country Portfolio Reviews

In the future, the Federal Government’s bilateral development cooperation is to become more geared towards country-specific overall strategies. DEval has developed an instrument that can be used to investigate whether German development cooperation is still on the right track with its activities in the respective partner country. The evaluation was completed in 2019.

Bilateral development cooperation is subject to repeated criticism regarding its limited effectiveness. To achieve improvements here, donors need to adapt their strategies to the requirements of international agreements, including those of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For example, they should tailor development cooperation to the priorities of the partner countries and take particular account of poor and disadvantaged population groups. At the same time, greater attention should be paid to correlations between the social, environmental and economic dimensions of development than has been the case up to now. Last but not least, it is necessary to ensure that the development policy activities of the various actors in a partner country are coordinated with one another.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), too, has instigated changes in its international cooperation. In doing so, it has turned its focus to integrated overall strategies for the individual partner countries. Country strategies should prescribe the general framework on which the individual programmes and projects are based.

Results and Recommendations

The instrument of the country portfolio review should be firmly anchored in the control system of bilateral development cooperation.

The analyses should be performed as comprehensively and regularly as possible in all partner countries so that the information can be fed into the development of the respective country strategy in good time.

Country portfolio reviews must be able to provide independent and systematic information as the basis for drawing up the country strategy.

This can be ensured by creating an independent unit that is responsible for the country portfolio reviews. This unit should not be located in the ministry itself, but rather in an external organisation.

Country portfolio reviews do not replace evaluations at country, priority area and programme level.

These evaluations can serve as the information basis for the country portfolio reviews and can thus also be used for drawing up country strategies.


The evaluation was completed in 2019. This is a summary of the results and recommendations; you can find the complete results and recommendations in the report.

Objectives of the Instrument

The aim of a Country Portfolio Review (CPR) is to establish the analytical view “from outside” of the relevance of an existing country portfolio (“are we (still) doing the right thing in the specific national context?”), taking account of the perspectives of the Federal Government, partners, implementing organisations and important development actors. The country portfolio review is intended to strengthen the actions of decision-makers at the level of the overall portfolio and draw interim conclusions. For example, critical reflection on the portfolio should pinpoint potential and challenges, thus enabling BMZ to make well-founded decisions with regard to adapting or realigning the portfolio.


Based on the three cornerstones of country strategy, programmes and modules, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) strives to support structural change processes in the partner countries with a view to achieving sustainable development. Especially when it comes to implementing the 2030 Agenda and supporting the partner countries in achieving the SDGs, country strategies play a key role in steering bilateral development cooperation.

The OECD Development Co-operation Peer Review on Germany’s development cooperation in 2015 also calls for the introduction of country portfolio reviews with the aim of making the strategic orientation of country strategies more evidence-based than has been the case up to now, while ensuring the competitiveness and legitimacy of German development cooperation in the long term. In view of the strategic importance of country portfolio reviews for evidence-based development policy, DEval already incorporated the proposal for a comprehensive analysis at country level into its evaluation programme back in 2016. Between 2017 and 2018, the institute then worked in close cooperation with BMZ to develop an instrument for country portfolio reviews and generate proposals for procedures.

The development of the country portfolio review instrument was tackled as an explorative process in which DEval continually coordinated its activities with BMZ. Not only questions, survey methods and analysis methods, but also implementation processes were developed, verified and adapted during the process. This drew on previous German and international experience and also explored new ideas. The report was published in the second quarter of 2019.


The process of developing the country portfolio review instrument was supported by various methods and data sources:

Literature and document analysis: An ongoing analysis of various documents was part of the process. In particular, a structured analysis of existing BMZ approaches and the practical experience of other important donors regarding portfolio reviews was performed.

Expert interviews: For the process of instrument development, DEval has established a reference group. The expert appraisals of this reference group and the perspectives of other knowledge holders on various topics and at various times were recorded, for example, by means of (semi-structured) individual and group interviews as well as workshops.

Case studies: The core element of the development process entailed implementing two explorative case studies in which procedures for the country portfolio review were tested and adapted. Kenya was chosen for the first case study and Mongolia for the second.

Analysis workshops: At different points in the process, analysis workshops were held with representatives from BMZ and other stakeholders. These workshops served the purpose of reflecting together and further developing the instrument and procedure based on the lessons learned up to then.


Portrait von Dr. Stefan Leiderer
© DEval

Dr Stefan Leiderer

Head of Department: Governance, Bi- and Multilateral Development Cooperation

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-940

E-mail: stefan.leiderer@DEval.org

Christoph Hartmann

Senior Evaluator - Team Leader

Phone: +49 (0)228 336907-953

E-mail: christoph.hartmann@DEval.org

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