DFID's Assistance to Zimbabwe - International Development Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers 40-49)


26 JANUARY 2010

  Q40  John Battle: I think it was Justin that mentioned that there are over a million orphans and vulnerable children. In your submission you ask DFID to carry out a Child Rights Situational Analysis. I want to ask a little bit about how effective you think that would be. I understand that many of the orphans go to stay with extended family. What is the support given to extended families with over one million children pushed out to relatives to cope with? What is your view on the orphan situation?

  Mr Byworth: We talked about it a little earlier. It is an enormous situation. Obviously family coping mechanisms are stretched beyond breaking point in many cases. World Vision's point on child rights is that in some respects DFID often uses a human rights framework to look at things and obviously that was relevant when they put together their strategy for Zimbabwe. We have certainly found as a child-focused organisation that using child rights as an entry point is a helpful one. It is less politicised and there are the wider human rights issues. Where we hear the voices of children saying things that are right, whether it is education and schools, as we talked about just now, or health services, we are able to amplify those voices of children to get them heard. It is an effective way in. We have talked about the vulnerability of children as a whole. Whether it is child rights in a framework that can be looked through or whether there is a greater understanding of the rights of children, that is certainly something we would encourage in DFID. The orphan situation needs continuing investment. It is the point I made earlier: if DFID could continue and extend either the programme of support through UNICEF or something else like that, that would be very much welcomed.

  Q41  Chairman: You have all been complimentary about DFID's basic programme in Zimbabwe but you have criticisms about some of the bureaucracy. In particular, World Vision have criticised DFID for "bureaucratic impediments" and we have heard from others of you that it requires a rather intensive application of people to monitor and keep up with the system. What would you want DFID to do? How do you think it would affect their programmes? Their starting point, presumably, is they are terribly worried about leakage but you are saying that complying with their requirements, by implication, is undermining delivery?

  Mr Byworth: Firstly, let me say from World Vision's perspective there is a wider issue about DFID instruments of aid and using intermediaries like GRM to move transaction costs out of DFID, the head count and all of those things, into a third party where the transaction costs are lower.

  Q42  Chairman: You are suggesting it is more to do with that bureaucratic pressure within DFID than it is to do specifically with the situation in Zimbabwe, or both?

  Mr Byworth: I am just saying there is a wider issue about DFID's aid instruments. I think GRM work well. We have been happy with them and they work effectively. The people and the way that they work has been good. The one major concern we have raised is we are very happy to have the highest level of compliance and monitoring in terms of standards to demonstrate impact and to demonstrate outcomes. That is not an issue for us but where you have multiple advisers on different thematic areas and you have compliance monitoring and all the frameworks that come with that, you can get three meetings in the same week from different people and they are not always very joined-up. In our case we are working out of Bulawayo and Matabeleland. If those meetings happen in Harare on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday you can imagine how much hassle it is?

  Q43  Chairman: Would it be better delivered if DFID appointed one person to deal with each NGO or each programme rather than dealing with it by sectors?

  Mr Byworth: We have good contact points within GRM on the programme. For good reason, they have set up an elaborate mechanism to get good technical advice and support. William mentioned the support they have given to NGOs, both international NGOs and local ones. That is welcome but they could do with being a bit more co-ordinated. Their internal systems tend toward silos. It is more about streamlining what is happening. Plus I think the point Rob made, a bit more access to DFID perhaps in terms of policy dimensions of things. If you subcontract a programme, the relationship should be subcontracted in terms of partners. If DFID had a bit more of a partnership arrangement with civil society in terms of dialoguing about bigger picture issues rather than project management issues, I think a combination of fewer silos in GRM and better co-ordination and streamlining with a bit more access and co-ordination more in the sense of policy would be helpful.

  Mr Rees: I have nothing really to add to what I said before about the specific example that my colleagues informed me about. They sometimes feel that it is difficult for them to get access directly to DFID to talk about the policy issues, to talk about the broader aspects of the programme because their relationship is constrained to dealing with the managing agent.

  Q44  Chairman: Is that because there are not enough people and they are too busy or do you think it is because they have created a mechanism where it just does not happen?

  Mr Rees: They seem to have created this mechanism but what the real thinking is behind that, whether it is because of pressure of work and people are too busy or whether it is just a policy to simplify the management from their point of view, I am not sure.

  Q45  Chairman: We can explore that obviously but do you have anything to add, William?

  Mr Anderson: Just to stress my earlier point that it would be nice to see greater accountability of the UN in the same way that NGOs are held to account.

  Chairman: We can all shout "hallelujah" to that. Okay, thank you for that. John Battle?

  Q46  John Battle: I think you mentioned, William, that the World Food Programme perhaps needs more accountability but perhaps its operations as well. DFID gives them £9 million and will probably give more. Should we be pursuing other approaches to the World Food Programme? How could we change it to make it more effective as well as just tracking the money?

  Mr Anderson: That is a very big question. In a drive for efficiency and effectiveness, the UN perhaps is not the best mechanism at the moment but it is the only mechanism we have, so DFID has to put in place some more accountability measures that hold the UN to account for that.

  Mr Byworth: One of the things that World Vision does where we partner with the World Food Programme in terms of delivering food to vulnerable populations, we have established in many of our agencies work on areas of humanitarian accountability to give the people who receive the food a voice. In every place where we are doing food distribution we have a complaints mechanism and a helpdesk. I have sat there and looked at the logs of people who were meant to be receiving food complaining if someone in their family was not registered properly or if they were not happy with the rations or type of food. Building in mechanisms where the beneficiaries themselves have a voice and that is heard needs to happen more across the board, both in Zimbabwe and in many other places, but certainly the UN agencies could benefit from more of that.

  Mr Anderson: Just thinking back to 2008, the UN set up the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) against the Government's wishes in 2005 after Murambatsvina. In 2008 the head of OCHA was rather a block to NGOs trying to ensure that the operational ban did not happen or to respond effectively to what the needs were on the ground. We complained as NGOs to the donors, particularly DFID, quite a lot about this and eventually we wrote a letter to the UN in New York and the head of OCHA was actually removed. We also complained about the Resident Representative there and there is now a different Res Rep. It was Augustine Zacharias and there were certain question marks over him as to how effective he wanted the UN to be in terms of standing up to ZANU-PF. Again, perhaps we felt as NGOs that our voices when they were raised with DFID were heard but we were not quite sure what happened after that.

  Q47  Chairman: Obviously there is a whole substructure there about the relationship with international organisations. Just one particular point about the WFP. We did a report on them 18 months ago at the height of the food price crisis, as it turned out, but they were keen of course not just to respond to emergencies but actually to anticipate them, not just with emergency back-up but with actual planting programmes. Are they doing any of that kind of work in Zimbabwe or is it just food relief? Of course in that context DFID maybe is not terribly interested in supporting that aspect of the WFP and they want to just see it as a food relief agency.

  Mr Anderson: I think it is pretty much business as usual, it is pretty much food relief. I know they were talking about possibly distributing some seeds and fertiliser almost with the FAO[6] or in co-ordination with them, but, to be honest, I do not know.

  Q48  Chairman: That is fair enough. We can obviously ask about that because I think we are looking at some of the basic agricultural support programmes that DFID is supporting and I just wondered whether WFP and DFID are in competition or at odds with each other on that.

  Mr Byworth: I believe they have done some maize seed distributions but it has not been a massive change of strategy. Certainly World Vision, together with WFP inputs and other support, have done quite a lot of agricultural inputs. I am not sure to what extent they have shifted. As you said, it is business as usual.

  Q49  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We appreciate the informal evidence you have given us but it is nice to have a bit of information on record which is helpful to our inquiry and the production of our report at the end of the day, so can I thank you all three of you very much indeed for coming in.

  Mr Byworth: Have a very good trip for those of you who are going.

6   Food and Agriculture Organisation Back

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