Select Committee on Public Administration Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Department for International Development

  Thank you for your letter of 16 February seeking information on public participation in the work of my Department.

  In 1997, DFID published its White Paper on International Development following an extensive consultation exercise. This committed DFID, among other things, to more open and collaborative ways of developing policy. As part of this, a variety of consultation processes have been built into our strategy development process.

  Our Country Strategy Papers are all subject to widespread, structured, external consultation. This process has enabled us to benefit from the wealth of outside expertise available both in developing countries (eg governments, local NGOs, other donors, academics and the private sector) and in the UK (eg private sector, NGOs and the research community). Each Country Strategy Paper contains an annex outlining the nature and extent of consultation undertaken in its formulation.

  We have built on this experience in preparing a new series of Strategy Papers which detail the actions required to reach the main International Development Targets. Each of these papers is subject to a wide, but targeted, consultation over a period of about eight weeks. There is a different target audience for each paper, but all are circulated to a cross-section of people from all relevant interest groups (civil society, academia, developing countries, other donors, multilateral institutions, private sector, international development banks, etc). Comments (including by e-mail) are also solicited via a page within the DFID web-site; the page itself was advertised in "Developments" magazine, and features a discussion group. Other channels for feedback include seminars, face-to-face discussion and written correspondence.

  Two example Strategy Papers are enclosed.

  In addition to consultation around individual strategies we have sought wider engagement with the public more generally. The Development Policy Forum process was launched in 1998, and a second round is now well underway. Eleven events are taking place across the UK, organised in collaboration with regional steering committees. The aims are to share thinking and ideas on key current development issues and to raise awareness. Participants are invited from a range of sectors including development NGOs, business, trade unions, politicians, local government, different faiths, education, academia and the wider voluntary sector. Each Forum combines working groups with a panel discussion led by a member of DFID's Ministerial Team and attendance between 100-150. We have received positive feedback from the three events held to date. Participants have welcomed the chance to exchange views with senior officials and Ministers, and all have agreed that they have left with a deeper knowledge and understanding of the issues. The attached booklet sets out the process in more detail.

  Our overall assessment of the value of these processes is positive. However, it is important to be clear about (and communicate to participants) the purpose of consultation. The Policy Forum process in particular is much more about deepening understanding and raising awareness, than about specific policy change. Our evidence is that there is a demand for this sort of exercise, alongside the more targeted policy consultation processes.

  If you would like any further information, please contact me.

Rt Hon Clare Short MP

4 April 2000

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