Earlier this afternoon, secretary of state for International Development Andrew Mitchell announced the results of DFID’s multilateral and bilateral aid reviews, which outlined the future of UK aid spending and emphasised the Coalition’s commitment to spend 0.7% of UK Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas development.
There is much to be proud of in light of the current economic climate that has forced drastic cuts in all but health and development. As Mitchell said, the Coalition’s promise to ring-fence development aid underscores its commendable pledge not to ‘balance the books’ on the backs of the poorest people on the planet.
We commend the Coalitiion’s commitment to maintaining 0.7% of GNI towards overseas development and turn our attention to where this will be spent.
Below are key summary points of key themes and outcomes of the reviews. Many of these focus on ensuring value for money and an increased focus on reducing poverty in many conflict affected states. When reviewing these for yourself, we encourage you to ask the question: does the Coalition’s approach deliver real results not just for the British public, but the poorest of the poor?
Value for Money
In line with the Coalition’s stated desire to deliver more tangible results to the UK taxpayer:
- The UK is ending development aid to 16 countries: Angola, Bosnia, Burundi, Cameroon, Cambodia, China, Gambia, Indonesia, Iraq, Kosovo, Lesotho, Moldova, Niger, Russia, Serbia and Vietnam
- Countries receiving substantial increases in bilateral aid include: Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Aid to India is frozen and assistance is being channelled only to its 3 poorest states
- Bilateral Aid will remain in the following 27 countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Occupied Palestinian Territories, Pakistan, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe
- 4 multilateral agencies are losing DFID funding and 4 more are being warned to increase their accountability and prove their performance
Mitchell argued that aid can be used to enhance UK security: “It’s very much in our national interest to tackle these effects of dysfunctionality and poverty, such as piracy, migration, terrorism and disease in Somalia. Tackling the causes of poverty upstream is much less expensive than sending in troops.”
In light of Mitchell’s September 2010 speech “Development in an Uncertain World,” the Strategic Defence and Security Review “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty” released in October 2010, and today’s speech to the House of Commons, there is widespread concern about UK aid being prioritised for enhanced UK security.
Mitchell has also emphasised that conflict is intimately linked with extreme poverty, as evidenced by the daily struggles of millions just to get by in the world’s most fragile states, such as the DRC and Afghanistan. As he stressed in his statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, the 27 countries that will continue to have bilateral UK aid programs account for ¾ of global maternal mortality, ¾ of malaria deaths, and almost 2/3 of children out of school. Unsurprisingly, these countries are a long way off track to achieve the MDGs.
DFID is trying to kill the two birds of poverty and insecurity with the one stone of aid with its prominent focus on conflict affected and fragile states. However, the Department must demonstrate that while UK development aid does have a natural relationship with peace-building and state building, it should not be subservient to military and security objectives. DFID must also prove to the UK public that its aid programmes are concerned with structural prevention of poverty and conflict, or aid that addresses the underlying causes and conditions that allow conflict to emerge.
DFID’s mission is to “manage Britain’s aid to poor countries and work to get rid of extreme poverty.” Therefore, the Coalition should, in the words of shadow secretary of state for International Development Harriet Harman, “ensure that countries which may not be beset by conflict but which are beset by poverty do not lose out.” For example, DFID's bilateral aid programs to Niger and Burundi, home to some of the world's poorest people, are being completely eliminated under the new plan.
We urge DFID to maintain its focus as a development agency that focuses on improving the lives of the world’s poorest people, and not become a tool for diplomatic means. For that we have the FCO.
We urge the public to join with the Global Poverty Project in holding politicians and the media to account when they misrepresent the myriad challenges facing the lives of those living in conflicted affected and fragile states. In keeping with the review’s emphasis on delivering 100pence of value on the ground for every 1 pound of taxpayer’s money, in the course of evaluation we should constantly keep in mind that aid to conflict affected and fragile states is often slow, difficult to measure, and potentially unquantifiable.
We must also remember that aid is not about charity, but justice. Justice for every family who is afflicted with HIV, for every child who is severely malnourished, and for every girl who is unable to receive an adequate education. It is about fulfilling the UK’s responsibilities to be at the forefront of the struggle for a fairer and more equal world. This is real value for money.
For more details see:
ODI's Guide to the Aid Reviews
Full DFID Multilateral Aid Review
Full DFID Bilateral Aid Review