9 January 2013

Africa: Dfid - Nothing Overdue or Due for Abolition?


The Mid Term Review (a self review) of the UK Coalition was published this week. The last page in the report (see this link on p. 48) was on International Development.

In terms of pledges, DFID was given a "Nothing Overdue" assessment (unlike several other Departments). The Mid Term Review (MTR) for International Development was very deliberately couched in language that made it easier for the media, should it choose to do so, to make the case for why the ring-fenced 0.7% makes sense for the UK.

But will the ring-fence hold? Should it? Writing in The Spectator (a weekly British conservative magazine) J.M. Shaw urges the Secretary of State to "ditch the spending target" because it is at odds with tighter control and scrutiny. (It is true that the more spending channels that are cut off due to corruption and nonperformance, the harder it is to spend increasing amounts sensibly, but the number of channels cut off in this way will be small, so the effect is likely to be small.)

And the foreign correspondent, Jonathan Foreman in a book published by Civitas, goes even further, calling for DFID to be abolished and its money channelled through the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the BBC World Service.

It seems to me that (1) the abolition of DFID would mean that our ODA would have less of an explicit focus on poverty, hence (2) increasing the chances of the funding not generating positive development outcomes.

And the abolition of the 0.7 pledge would not be a disaster for international development, but it would fuel the "return of the nasty party" narrative.

The accomplishments of DFID after 2.5 years under the Coalition? The achievements listed are substantial (and there's only so much stuff you can get into one page), are targeted to a wider audience and have very consistent messaging. Nevertheless--and I can't quite put my finger on it--I found the text rather uninspiring.

No doubt the calls for getting rid of 0.7 will intensify as we move through 2013. Those of us who believe in international development will have to get better at communicating results. That is long overdue.

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