The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) has today released its final report as part of its ‘UK Aid: Allocation of resources’ inquiry, following the interim report released March 2016. CLICK HERE to read in full.
The Scotland Malawi Partnership welcomes this IDC report and actively supports all its key findings, most especially that: DFID is effective in its work; that the UK Government should continue to commit 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) to official development assistance (ODA); that UK Aid should continue to be driven primarily by poverty alleviation rather than benefit to the UK.
Representing our members, the Scotland Malawi Partnership’s own submission to this IDC inquiry in January 2016 raised all of these points. The SMP is specifically quoted in both the IDC’s interim report and its final report, highlighting two points made by the SMP:
- Lack of clarity as to Parliamentary oversight of ODA not delivered through DFID.
- Risk that a focus on aid for reasons of UK benefit could become a form of implicit tied aid.
The Scotland Malawi Partnership joins the International Development Committee in warmly welcoming DFID’s commitment in its Civil Society Partnership Review to engage wider civic society and DFID’s recent announcement of its Small Charities Challenge Fund. We encourage our members to actively engage these innovative new programmes.
Releasing the report, Chair of the IDC, Stephen Twigg MP, said:
“The great need for development assistance globally and the life changing opportunities it provides, including in a number of ongoing abject humanitarian crises, has not changed. We reiterate that tackling poverty reduction must be the primary purpose of any aid spending... The Department [for International Development] needs to publicise its good work to a wider audience.”
David Hope-Jones, Scotland Malawi Partnership Chief Executive, said:
“The Scotland Malawi Partnership is rightly proud of the official development assistance undertaken by both the UK and the Scottish Governments. We welcome this report which recognises the many successes of this work. We offer the full support of our network to UK and Scottish ODA, which is helping transform a great many lives in countries like Malawi.”
Our Summary: Ten Key Points in the Report:
The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee…
- Strongly supports the UK Government’s commitment of 0.7% of GNI to overseas development assistance, noting: “we have no doubt that there is sufficient need in the world for it to be necessary”.
- Finds DFID to be effective in it’s spending, rejecting the idea that poor or wasteful spending within DFID makes up a considerable proportion of the whole. The IDC notes this is: “no more of a problem for DFID than any other government department or other international donor”. In this regard the International Development Committee directly challenges the UK Government’s own Secretary of State for International Development, who has previously made repeated assertions as to waste and poor spending in DFID, with little evidence to support these claims. The Committee uses the report to: “Challenge the Secretary of State to lead the Department in a way which displays the value for money and great impact of good UK aid spending”.
- Supports the Secretary of State’s commitment to maintaining DFID as an independent department and questions the capacity and capability of departments other than DFID to deliver aid effectively.
- Believes DFID works best when it works flexibly. That strict rules and targets (including around budget support, ‘non-fiscal’ spending and Payment by Results), can be damaging to effective development and can lead to perverse outcomes.
- Recognises that while the media has, at times, helped offer effective scrutiny of useful UK aid spend, some sections of the media have taken an intentionally misleading stance in their reporting of the nature of UK aid spend. The Committee highlights that the media has a responsibility to be accurate and contextual given its role in influencing public understanding and opinion.
- Expresses concern at DFID’s management of reputational risk, noting DFID has been quick to cancel programmes as a result of negative media headlines, even where all evidence suggests these programmes are entirely effective. The Committee urges DFID to improve its communications and be more proactive in publicising its good work.
- Notes that the development reviews [Bilateral Aid Review, Multilateral Development Review, Civil Society Partnership Review (CSPR) and the Research Review] were a year delayed and still lack detail, and fears this could affect the quality of programming. Notes that: “some of the statements in the CSPR, especially around supporting smaller CSOs and CSOs based in developing countries, are welcome but need to be turned into practical detailed proposals.” Further, the Committee actively welcomes DFID’s Small Charities Challenge Fundbut expresses concern that the CSPR makes no reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The Committee states: “It is important for DFID to take the CSPR forward into its day-to-day relationship with civil society and avoid allowing that relationship to become one of consumer and suppliers”.
- Expresses concern that the UK aid strategy relegates poverty reduction to the last of four priorities, focusing far more on domestic benefit and the UK national interest. The Committee “strongly reiterates” its recommendation that poverty reduction should always be the primary purpose of all UK aid spending. The Committee specifically quotes from the Scotland Malawi Partnership’s submission in which we raised concern that the prevailing focus on what the UK gets out of its aid work could, in time, lead to a form of implicit tied aid. The Committee states “it is important that UK aid continues to be completely untied, whether explicitly or implicitly”.
- Cautions that DFID’s administrative capacity has fallen below what is required to manage its increased budget, meaning DFID is increasingly reliant on larger external organisations, suggesting: “DFID would be more effective it if rebalanced its budget more towards administration”.
- Questions whether there is coherent strategy informing decisions to spend ODA through UK government departments other than DFID. This is something the IDC will look further into in its ‘UK aid: other government departments’ inquiry.