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Select Committee on International Development Sixth Report



1. The Department for International Development's (DFID) aim is the elimination of world poverty.[1] DFID's activities cover all stages of the cycle of development policy and practice, from people's experiences of poverty ("the grassroots"), through statistics and other data, to development models and theories, through policies and objectives, to—with the addition of resources—actions or interventions, and back to people's experience of poverty (see figure 1). The injection of resources is somewhat outside the cycle of development policy and practice, in part as it is subject to the demands of competing interests—money for education, health, defence and tax-cuts in the UK for instance. Nevertheless, it is influenced by models and theories of development.

Figure 1: The Cycle of Development Policy and Practice

2. All development agencies, including DFID, are part of this cycle of development policy and practice. DFID contributes to, and learns from, the international donor community's collective understanding of development. The cycle is not peculiar to DFID, but the ways in which the stages are practised and linked together do vary between different donor agencies. An effective and strategic development agency must integrate this cycle of development policy and practice, learn from its mistakes, and use evidence carefully to build models and theories which inform development actions and interventions. As the Public Accounts Committee put it in their recent report about DFID: "Knowing what is effective in reducing poverty; understanding the conditions which help aid to succeed; setting appropriate targets which motivate those involved in development; and being able to identify progress or the lack of it are therefore important factors in the fight against poverty".[2]

3. In pursuit of its goal, DFID aims to act in partnership with a range of organisations including other bilateral and multilateral donors, governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and local communities.[3] DFID's actions link the global, regional, national and local grassroots levels, encouraging the local ownership of, and responsibility for, development strategies, whilst seeking to ensure that the wider policy-environment is appropriate and supportive. This approach of working in partnership to support locally-owned development strategies limits the control which development agencies in general, and any single development agency in particular, can have over development outcomes.

4. DFID is a small but important cog in an extremely complex system of international development. This—along with the impossibility of identifying DFID's specific contribution to poverty reduction, as opposed to that of the international development community as a whole—makes it difficult for DFID to be accountable for its actions. Nevertheless, an effective and sustainable development agency must make itself accountable to external stakeholders, demonstrating to them the extent to which it has successfully integrated the cycle of policy and practice, and is pursuing a coherent strategy as part of the collective international effort. The Departmental Report is an opportunity for DFID to demonstrate how it integrates the cycle of development policy and practice, and to account for its spending in pursuit of its aims and objectives. As DFID puts it, the Departmental Report "is intended to provide Parliament, members of the public, our development partners and others interested in development issues with a comprehensive account of how we have been spending, and plan to spend, public funds".[4]

5. The 2002 Departmental Report differs significantly from the Department's previous annual Reports. Over the course of the last Parliament the Departmental Report had grown in size and, in addition to containing information which was available elsewhere, it offered an explanation of policy and future plans as well as listing DFID's achievements. Along with other Government departments, the 2002 Report has reverted to the core purpose of setting out what DFID has achieved. Some information which was provided in previous Departmental Reports has been omitted. For example the Main Estimates for all Government Departments are now presented to Parliament in a single document, which also contains some of the more technical tables which formerly appeared in the analysis of Departmental plans in the annual Departmental Report.

6. The new-style Report provides a comprehensive account of DFID's responsibilities, the ways in which it works, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), DFID's spending, and its organisation. Though concise, it gives the reader an overview of the work of the Department and its development priorities. In particular, we welcome the analysis of the DFID's achievements and progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals.


7. Our report examines DFID's Departmental Report for 2002, commenting on the picture it paints of DFID's activities, and suggesting ways in which it—and the activities which it reports on—might be improved in subsequent years. We cannot possibly discuss the whole cycle of development policy and practice in this report, but the cycle does provide a useful framework for the issues which we do discuss. Taking its lead from DFID's Departmental Report, we focus on DFID's translation of policy into action through the injection and allocation of resources. We begin in chapter two by considering DFID's use of the MDGs, and the role of the Public Service Agreement (PSA) in organising and orientating DFID, its activities and relationships. In chapter three we examine DFID's resource allocation processes, and the potential tension which exists as a result of DFID having primarily sectoral targets and primarily geographically-structured processes for resource allocation. In chapter four we look in some detail at DFID's new PSA and the new mechanism for country-based planning, Country Assistance Plans. In chapter five we consider DFID's portfolio of countries, including the ways in which DFID decides which countries to be involved in, and the nature of DFID involvement. In particular, we consider the increasing emphasis given to the provision of direct budget support. In chapter six we examine the monitoring of progress towards the MDGs, and the ways in which DFID's activities are evaluated. In conclusion we urge DFID to make its strategy—the ways in which it integrates the cycle of development policy and practice, and the role it sees itself as playing as part of the collective international effort—more explicit. We believe that in doing this, DFID will make itself more accountable, and, by facilitating learning and improving organisational performance, become a more effective development agency. Future Departmental Reports must make further progress in this direction.

1   DFID Departmental Report 2002, page 9. See- Back

2   Forty-Eighth Report from the Public Accounts Committee, Session 2001-2002, Department for International Development: Performance management-helping to reduce world poverty, HC793, paragraph 1.

See- Back

3   DFID Departmental Report 2002, chapter 2. See footnote 1 for web-site. Back

4   DFID Departmental Report 2002, page 6. See footnote 1 for web-site. Back

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Prepared 14 November 2002