Sector Coding Guide for Global Affairs Canada Partners

Version 2

August 16, 2011

General Introduction

Purpose of Guideline

This coding guideline was developed to provide Global Affairs Canada's partners with a standard set of instructions necessary for choosing suitable sector codes for their investments.

Why is Sector Coding Important to Global Affairs Canada?

Coding investments allows Global Affairs Canada to generate data for analytical purposes, make informed policy decisions, develop accurate and reliable corporate reports, and, to meet its reporting obligations to Canadians, Parliament and various external stakeholders such as the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Coded information does not only stay at Global Affairs Canada. It is extracted from the Agency's information system on a daily basis and used for a variety of tasks!

Example of tasks:

Reporting to Canadians on the Agency's development results

  • Official Development Assistance  (ODA) Summary Report
  • Departmental Performance Report (DPR)
  • Development for Results Report
  • Statistical Report
  • Project Browser and Country Web Pages
  • Country Report Cards
  • Evaluations
  • Public inquiries
  • ATIP requests

Other uses

  • Memoranda/Briefing Notes
  • Audits
  • Decision-making
  • Measuring performance against goals/targets for the purpose of strategic planning
  • Quantifying the Agency's different activities
  • Sector/theme analyses

Introduction to DAC Sector Coding

What are DAC Sector Codes?

DAC sector codes are 5 digit codes developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). They are defined, standardised and organised into tables according to sectors such as Education, Health, Government and civil society, etc. There are specific criteria on how DAC sector codes should be selected.

Overall, Global Affairs Canada uses just under 200 DAC sector codes. They are also known as Creditor Reporting System (CRS) codes, DAC codes, purpose codes, 5-digit codes or sector codes.

DAC sector codes are regularly reviewed and updated by the OECD-DAC to reflect new and emerging realities of aid. Updates to DAC sector codes are reflected in the DAC Sector Table as soon as they are implemented in the Agency's information system.

What do DAC Sector Codes Capture?

DAC sector codes do not refer to the type of goods or services provided by the donor. A contribution's sector is determined by answering the question: "which specific area of the recipient's economic or social structure is the transfer intended to foster?" The chosen DAC sector code(s) should relate to the sector targeted by the contribution, and not to the means used to deliver the aid. For example, agricultural education activities should be coded under agriculture, and not under education.

Understanding the DAC Sector Table

DAC sector blocks are broken down into either two or three levels (secondary level absent for some smaller DAC sectors). At Global Affairs Canada, sector coding can only occur at the tertiary level.

Figure 1: DAC Sector Table: Primary, secondary and tertiary level

(Primary level)
(Secondary level)
 Education, level unspecified
(Tertiary level)
Education policy and administrative management
(Tertiary level)
Education facilities and training

(Primary level)
 Population policies/programmes and reproductive health
(Tertiary level)
Population policy and administrative management
(Niveau tertiaire)
Reproductive health care

Primary levelSecondary LevelTertiary Level
No DAC sector coding is possible on this levelNo DAC sector coding is possible on this levelDAC sector coding is only possible on this level
The primary level is found in the first column of the DAC sector coding table. This level illustrates the DAC sector block (DAC5 code), which is the general category that the investment falls under, such as "120 — Health" or "311 — Agriculture".In some cases, a secondary level is found beneath the primary level code in the first column of the DAC sector coding table. This level subdivides the sector block into sub-sectors. For example, sector block "120 — Health" contains sub-sectors "121 — Health, general" and "122 — Basic health". Secondary levels are not found in every DAC sector block.The tertiary level, found in the second column of the DAC sector coding table is the lowest level of a DAC sector code. DAC sector codes are standardised on the tertiary level according to similar functions. The tertiary level code is always composed of the first three digits of the primary or secondary level code (if applicable) and the function it is supposed to serve (last two digits).

DAC Sector Codes at the Tertiary Level

The first three digits of the code refer to the corresponding sector block. Each DAC sector code belongs to one and only one sector block. The last two digits of the DAC sector code are sequential and not hierarchical i.e., each code stands for itself and can be selected individually or grouped to create sub-sectors. The sequential numbers have, however, been standardised for codes with similar functions as follows:

Ending in…Description
  • General codes, always listed first.
  • Include policy, planning and programmes; administration, institution capacity building and advice; combinations of activities
  • This code is defined to include activities falling outside other code headings. When using this code, give as much detail possible in the written description.
20,30,40, and 50Main codes
61-79Detailed codes
81-89Sector-specific education, training and research codes
91-99Sector-specific service codes

Proportionate Coding

Proportionate coding helps Global Affairs Canada capture the multi-sector nature of its investments. As such, more than one DAC sector code can be selected per investment.

A percentage has to be attributed to each chosen DAC sector code. The percentage is calculated based on the actual cost (or best estimate thereof) for achieving a particular output.

The percentage allocation of a given investment must always add up to 100 percent.

You should never allocate an equal percentage to your outputs because they are all equally valuable and important in the context of your investment or because they all equally contribute to the achievement of the investment's desired results. While this may be the case, you will not capture the actual cost (or best estimate thereof) i.e. how much Global Affairs Canada is actually spending on a given output, but your perception of its non-monetary value.

Example - Education project (education level unspecified) - Budget $1,000,000

OutputsCostDAC sector codeRight %Wrong %
New school constructed in region X$600,00011120   Education facilities and training60%33%
School teachers trained in region X$300,00011130   Teacher training30%33%
Curriculum based on student's needs developed$100,00011110   Education policy and  administrative   management10%34%

Anything 1 percent and under should never be coded. One general rule of thumb is that the smaller the investment's budget is, the bigger the sector allocation should be. For example, a $5,000 investment should not have outputs worth 1 percent, 5 percent, etc. It is important to keep in mind that it is neither necessary nor desired to code every detail of an investment.

General Guidelines for Sector Coding

Reflect what is — Sector coding must be based on the outputs in your logic model. Your outcome statements are a good reference regarding the sectors.

Since the Results-Based Management Policy Statement of 2008, Global Affairs Canada defines outputs as direct products or services stemming from the activities of an organization, policy, program, or initiative. They are not to be confused with the short-term change produced by (or for the benefit of) project/program delivery partners or intermediate groups , which is how an output was defined in the Agency's 1996 RBM policy.

Results-Based Management Policy Statement 2008

Focus on what is really important — You may find that DAC sector codes are not detailed enough or do not adequately describe the nature of your activity in a given sector. To successfully code your investment, first, focus on determining the best available sector (primary level). Second, narrow down your sector according to sub-sector (secondary level). Thirdly, choose the most suitable DAC sector code (tertiary level). It is very likely you will code several outputs to the same DAC sector, especially those that are under the same immediate outcome.

How to Narrow Down DAC Sector Codes

 ProcessExample: Training basic health care professionals to improve rural health care
Primary LevelNarrow down your DAC sector by asking yourself: "which specific area of the recipient's economic or social structure is the transfer intended to foster"?This investment targets the health sector.
120       Health
Secondary LevelFurther narrow down your chosen sector by choosing a sub-sector. Note: some sectors do not have sub-sectors.This investment targets basic health care .
112       Basic health care
Tertiary LevelChoose the most suitable code.

This investment is in training and targets health staff .
12281 Health personnel development

DAC sector code 12181 Medical education/training is not suitable in this case, because a more specific code is available, in the sub-sector the investment is targeting. If a sub-sector is available and you determine that your investment is targeting this sub-sector, you should not choose a code outside of it.

How to Code an Investment Sectorally

Step 1 Get Organised

Before you start, make sure you have read and understood the Introduction to DAC Sector Coding .

You will need your investment's logic model and the DAC Sector Table

Step 2 Narrow Down DAC Sectors

  1. Read your output and ask yourself "which specific area of the recipient's economic or social structure is the transfer intended to foster"?
    • In the logic model, outputs should be phrased in the past tense and include information on what was delivered or rendered in what subject/area to who . DAC sector coding captures the " what subject/area " part of the output.
  2. Narrow down the sector block, the sub-sector (if applicable) and choose the best fitting DAC sector code for the output being coded.
  3. Give a percentage to the chosen DAC sector code, based on the actual cost (or best estimate thereof) for achieving the output. See Proportionate Coding
  4. Repeat for each additional output.


  • It is quite likely you will code several outputs to the same DAC sector code, especially those under the same immediate outcome. If this is the case, simply sum up all the individual allocated percentages.
  • The most important aspect of sector coding is choosing the most adequate sector for your investment. If you do not find a code that captures nuances of your output statement, you may code your investment to the most general code in your chosen sector block (ending in -10).



1. Wells built in community X, in consultation with local stakeholders including members of vulnerable and marginalised groups, including women.

Existing wells rehabilitated in community X

2. Awareness material, including material appropriate for a non-literate audience, developed in consultation with male and female community members

Awareness campaigns conducted on the importance and proper usage of safe drinking water for women, men, girls and boys in community X

Primary Level
Both outputs target the Water and Sanitation sector (sector block 140).

Secondary Level
The Water and Sanitation sector does not have sub-sectors.

Tertiary Level
DAC sector code 14031 Basic drinking water supply is the appropriate choice for both outputs.

In this case, there was no appropriate DAC sector code for awareness campaigns in the water and sanitation sector for the beneficiaries receiving the service (women, men, girls and boys). Therefore, the most appropriate code is 14031 Basic drinking water supply. Had the awareness raising campaigns been for sector professionals and service providers, DAC sector code 14081 Education and training in water supply and sanitation could have been used.

Step 3 Verify your Choice of Sector Codes

Ensure that the codes you have chosen are consistent with the overarching sectors which the investment is intended to support. The chosen sectors of focus should be representative of the sectors you are targeting at the intermediate outcome level. Therefore, you must ensure that your chosen DAC sector codes are not all associated to different sectors of focus. This may be an indication that you have not correctly chosen your codes. Your codes should not be associated to more than 2 (max. 3) sectors of focus, as it remains logically difficult to explain how an investment can yield results in such a broad number of sectors of focus.

Since the Results-Based Management Policy Statement of 2008, Global Affairs Canada defines intermediate outcomes as a change that is expected to logically occur once one or more immediate outcomes have been achieved. In terms of time frame and level, these are medium-term outcomes, which are usually achieved by the end of a project/program and usually when there is a change of behaviour or practice level among beneficiaries .

Results-Based Management Policy Statement 2008


Contact your Global Affairs Canada liaison to get additional help or ask questions you may have regarding investment coding.

Summary Table: Identifying DAC Sector Codes

This summary table provides helpful pointers for some types of investments.

InvestmentSuitable DAC Sector CodeCommon Mistake
Construction of housing for experts working on an agricultural development project31120   Agricultural development16030   Housing policy and administrative management
Construction of apartments in three cities16030   Housing policy and administrative management32310   Construction policy and administrative management
Privatisation of the National Energy Agency23010   Energy policy and administrative management25020   Privatisation
Rail equipment delivery21030   Rail transport 
Rail equipment production32172   Transport equipment industry 
Fertiliser delivery31150   Agricultural inputs53040   Import support (commodities)
Import of general goods and services53040   Import support (commodities) 
Food distribution program52010   Food aid/Food security programmes72040   Emergency food aid
Emergency food distribution in crisis situation72040   Emergency food aid72010   Material relief assistance and services
Campaign to increase participation of civilians in local politics15150   Democratic participation and civil society 

Public policy vs. sector policy

InvestmentSuitable DAC Sector CodeCommon Mistake
Assistance to Ministry of Education to prepare an education sector programme11110   Education policy and administrative management15110   Public sector policy and administrative management
Support to build a government's environmental and natural resource management capacities41010   Environmental policy and administrative management15110   Public sector policy and administrative management
State enterprise restructuring programme25020   Privatisation15110   Public sector policy and administrative management
Program support to an organisation that specialises in government accountability15150   Democratic participation and civil society 
Support for a local financial cooperative24030   Formal sector financial intermediaries15150   Democratic participation and civil society

Within each DAC sector, care should be taken to allocate supplies, equipment and infrastructure to the most specific code available. Examples include:

InvestmentSuitable DAC Sector CodeCommon Mistake
Construction of a tuberculosis clinic12250   Infectious disease  control12230   Basic health infrastructure
District hospital rehabilitation programme12230   Basic health infrastructure 
Primary school books delivery11220   Primary education11120   Education facilities and  training
Paper supply for printing school books11120   Education facilities and training 

Sector-specific education activities are to be included in the respective sectors, either in a specific education code (if available - ending in 81-89) or in a general code (ending in 10).

InvestmentSuitable DAC Sector CodeCommon Mistake
Training nurses12181   Medical education/training11330   Vocational training
11420   Higher education
or any other codes in the 110 DAC sector block "Education"
Upgrading of an agricultural training centre31181   Agricultural education/training 
Environmental training course for the mineral resource department32210   Mineral/mining policy and administrative management41081   Environmental education/training
11430   Advanced technical and managerial training
Training of government officers in project preparation15110   Public sector policy and administrative management11430   Advanced technical & managerial training
HIV/AIDS trainer-of-trainers program13040   STD control including HIV/AIDS11130   Teacher training

Sector Coding Hotspots

Government vs Governance

Not all support to civil society organisations (CSOs) should be coded to DAC sector code "15150 Democratic participation and civil society" In other words, not all investment that involve CSOs as partners/recipients/beneficiaries are about democratic participation.

There are three types of support to civil society organisations. Only one should be coded using sector code "15150 Democratic participation and civil society", as demonstrated by the following examples.

Example 1— Correct

Support to an organisation that specialises in governance is the only type of CSO support that should be coded using sector "15150 Democratic Participation and Civil Society".

  • Support to anti-corruption in the public service advocacy campaigns should be coded under sector "15150 Democratic Participation and Civil Society".

Example 2— Incorrect

Support to a CSO to achieve results in another sector should be coded according to the sector in which the CSO ties to achieve these results.

  • Support for an organisation to implement a "Gun Free World" project should be coded under sector code "15240 Reintegration and SALW control".

Example 3

Overhead costs/capacity building, policy formation costs/unearmarked funds for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) should be coded to DAC sector codes ending in -10 (most general codes) in the respective sectors in which the recipient civil society organisation is supporting, or, more specific codes (if available).

Education, training, and research

A very common mistake is to code sector-specific education, training, or research to codes in sector block "110 Education" instead of sector block(s) targeted by the investment.

In most DAC sector blocks, there is a sector code for sector-specific education, training, or research (codes ending in 81-89 are sector-specific education, training and research codes).

If no sector-specific education, training, or research code exists in your chosen sector, use the general code (ending in 10).


  • An investment that funds training for workers in transport storage should be coded under DAC sector code "21081 Education and training in transport storage" instead of DAC sector codes in sector block "110 Education".
  • An investment that funds the upgrade of an agricultural training centre should be coded under DAC sector code "31181 Agricultural education/training" instead of "11120 Education facilities and training".