Working Effectively in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States: DRC and Rwanda - International Development Committee Contents

3  Delivering aid in fragile states

Managing risks

37. Working in fragile states carries risks: that DFID's funds will be siphoned off or used for the wrong purpose, and that staff operating there will be the victims of violence. The latter is particularly acute in theatres of war, but is nevertheless a real threat in countries such as the DRC, which are recovering from conflict and where outbreaks of violence continue.

38. DFID recognises that choosing to operate in fragile and conflict-affected states is a risky strategy and that these risks need to be managed. DFID says:

Our increased focus on fragile and conflict affected states will be accompanied by a willingness to take well-judged and calculated risks and to innovate to allow us to deliver transformative results. Fragile and conflict-affected states present inherently risky environments for development assistance. However the risks of inaction in these contexts are also high. We need to find ways to engage that can deliver both short term results on the ground, and potentially transformative longer term results, but which do not cause harm or come at too high a cost. Our programmes therefore need to be accompanied by a robust approach to risk management.[61]

The Permanent Secretary told us recently that DFID's approach was "to look at proposed investment, to identify all the ways in which it could go wrong and then to design it in such a way that those things are mitigated away."[62]


39. The National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted risks from fraud and corruption to DFID's programmes in fragile states. It expressed concern that many of the fragile countries where DFID was increasing its funding achieved an extremely low score on the Transparency International Perception of Corruption Index. According to the NAO "all eleven countries where the Department intends to increase spending by more than 50% over the next four years have a score of lower than 3.0 in the Transparency International index."[63] The NAO further considered that DFID greatly underestimated the extent of fraud within its own programmes.[64] The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) has also found that DFID has a fragmented approach to managing corruption and has recommended that it develop an explicit anti-corruption strategy.[65]

40. DFID says it has a "zero tolerance" approach to corruption in its programmes.[66] We asked DFID how it could ensure its programmes were immune from the widespread corruption prevalent in some places, especially where DFID uses third parties to deliver its programmes. The Permanent Secretary said:

I accept that we need to get better at thinking forward and being proactive. I think that is especially true in the anti corruption work we do, which is not about safeguarding our own resources but is about overall corruption in the environment—strengthening accountability, media, parliaments, public accounts committees, auditors general. It is also about working with other donors in a more effective way. It is also about using capacity in the UK, as we have done with the Met Police and the City of London Police, to track down stolen resources and to go after the people who have stolen them. There is a whole load of things we can do that are more proactive and front foot. I completely accept we should do more of that and we intend to.[67]


41. One of the ways in which DFID manages risk is through careful choice of its delivery partners. In countries where "government legitimacy and commitment to poverty reduction is in question" DFID does not fund the government directly but instead seeks to "ensure shadow alignment with state systems and support for key reformers in government."[68] DFID also identifies NGOs and other non-state actors through which it can deliver services in particular sectors where government systems are too weak.

42. In the DRC we spent a day with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which received funding from DFID for increasing access to healthcare. Health care provision in the DRC is inadequate: one in seven children dies before their fifth birthday and 100 women per day die in childbirth.[69] DRC will not meet MDG 4 (reducing child mortality) or MDG 5 (improved maternal health). The project will be implemented in 20 zones across four provinces in the country. It is targeting 2.1 million people.[70] It will cost £60 million over a five year period from 2008 to 2013. One of the key benefits of the programme is the provision of free health care for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children under five.

43. IRC told us that as a result of the provision of free treatment there had been improved health outcomes: a 40% increase in the use of services and a 25% reduction in maternal mortality in the last six months. IRC also provided obstetric care, HIV/AIDS services focusing on reducing transmissions from mother to child; sexual assault services and family planning. It trained service providers and provided inputs.

44. IRC's work was closely aligned to government health services at provincial level. It helped to rehabilitate health facilities including providing essential medical and non-medical equipment, furniture and supplies. The Government did not pay salaries regularly so IRC had also started to provide incentive payments—based on performance—to encourage staff. These could amount to an extra $500 per month for a doctor and $150 per month for a nurse. 70% of this was linked to performance and 30% to improved health indicators. IRC also told us that one result of the programme was to build confidence in government systems: "the approach that has been taken has built the confidence a little bit more in the Government structures. [...]People just believe a little bit more in the system and working through the Ministry of Health."[71] We were impressed with the commitment and professionalism of many of DFID's NGO partners in the DRC.

45. In contrast, in countries where government systems have greater capacity, DFID aims to work through the state. In Rwanda, DFID has greater confidence in the Government's ability to deliver services and has consequently put a significant portion of its funding as general and sector budget support. Budget support is likely to represent 65% of the UK's total programme in Rwanda with 45% provided through general budget support and 20% through sector budget support.[72] DFID says:

The UK has been providing budget support (both sector and general) in Rwanda for over a decade. Budget support has proven to be both effective and good value for money. It strengthens governance and public financial management systems and builds capacity through ownership while reducing transaction costs. And it has allowed us to build a strong relationship with the Government of Rwanda and other budget support providers. In 2010-2011[...]we are providing £35.75 million in budget support.[73]

The Secretary of State told us: "If you can trust Governments, there is no doubt at all that budget support is the best way of doing development because it ensures that the ownership of systems rests with the country itself."[74]

46. It should be noted that budget support is only one, often controversial, method of delivering assistance to governments. DFID often has a number of programmes which feed into government systems but which may not be classed as budget support per se. In Ethiopia it has a social protection programme—the Protection of Basic Services—which is administered by an independent government organisation and which supports about 7.5 million people.[75] The programme uses aspects of local government, but it does not go through the central government in Addis Ababa and it relies on regional implementation to deliver it.[76] This method of delivery was adopted in response to specific actions by the Government of Ethiopia in 2005. The Secretary of State explained "when the Meles Government shot a number of students who were demonstrating on the street. Everyone was clearly horrified by that and quite rightly people said that some action must be taken."[77] He explained that it was important to be able to continue to help poor people in Ethiopia by finding new ways of delivering aid.


47. The UK recognises that no single donor or multilateral organisation can adequately address conflict and fragility on its own. DFID makes choices in each country about whether to spend its aid through multilateral organisations such as the World Bank or UN agencies, bilaterally or jointly with other bilateral donors. It may work with the other donors to carry out joint conflict needs assessments or agree national strategies such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.

48. Additionally, Multi Donor Trust Funds, where donors pool development assistance are often used in fragile and conflict-affected states to provide a higher level of reliability for donors and reduced fragmentation of aid for developing country governments. DFID is supportive of these as:

an effective way of improving coordination, reducing transaction costs and making funding more predictable particularly in conditions where other development instruments cannot come online yet, or when budget support is a limited option. They can promote alignment by creating a joint forum between government and donors for decision-making and policy dialogue and provide a means for disbursing straight into the national budget on a reimbursement basis, even in very weak fiduciary environments. "[78]

49. It not clear how DFID makes choices about whether to use multilateral or bilateral channels. DFID says that its 2010 Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) placed an emphasis on multilaterals' performance in fragile and conflict-affected countries and found that, outside the humanitarian system and the European Commission, "many of the multilaterals would benefit from considerable strengthening of their work in fragile contexts."[79] Nevertheless DFID spent 29% of its budget in DRC and 49% in Rwanda through multilateral organisations.[80]

50. DFID informed us that 17 donors collectively participated in the DRC Country Assistance Framework, which is the main instrument for donor coordination.[81] In Burundi, DFID has been delivering a programme on behalf of the Swedish development agency, and has persuaded other bilateral and multilateral donors to take over some of its programmes when DFID closes its bilateral aid programme there. In the three countries we visited, DFID demonstrated a commitment to working with other donors. Where effective, this can add value for the developing country, by reducing the costs of managing multiple and competing aid programmes, and decrease risks for the donor. However, as we note in chapter four, coordination between donors in security sector reform in the DRC, which is the responsibility of the UN peacekeeping force, has been poor.

51. DFID has a range of options to choose from in terms of how it delivers aid in fragile and conflict-affected states and whether it does this in cooperation with other donors or not. This helps DFID to opt for ways of delivering assistance which are context specific, which we support. However, DFID should be clearer about how it makes these choices. In relation to budget support for Ethiopia, we agree that poor people should not suffer as a result of the actions of their government. DFID should set out specific governance conditions under which it will provide budget support, and any under which it will be withdrawn. It should also, as a matter of course, set out clearly how its aid budget for each country is distributed between multilateral and bilateral spending and the reasons for this pattern and distribution.


52. DFID has acknowledged that it is more costly to deliver aid in fragile states. These increased costs relate to increased security for staff as well as the need to have more staff on the ground to deliver and monitor programmes. The Secretary of State argued:

"if we look at the cost of getting a girl into school and take two of the states that you visited—Rwanda and the DRC—the cost of educating a girl in the DRC may be three times higher than it is in Rwanda because the DRC is so dysfunctional, but it may actually be better value for money because it is so much more difficult to educate children in the DRC. So it is much more difficult and, of course, the risks are greater."[82]

DFID sets out some of the reasons why costs may be higher in the DRC than other comparable countries in its operational plan, for example due to poor transport linkages.[83] It is nevertheless difficult to ascertain whether these increased costs are justified, or whether they could be lower, if DFID chose different partners or relied less on national systems and more on community-led initiatives.

53. DFID assured us it placed a high value on monitoring its programmes. It said it was now "buying results rather than delivering budgets".[84] In the DRC DFID had "dedicated the equivalent of one full time person to results, increased measuring and evaluation capacity in programme teams and allocates up to 10% of the programme budget to measuring and evaluation."[85] DFID was confident that its structures were such that it could "follow the money".[86] Saferworld expressed some concerns:

It is important to ensure the way DFID measures impact is realistic and avoids falling between the twin traps of the "unattributable" and the limited realm of the easily quantifiable (counting the number of workshops held or training programmes delivered). Policies and programmes aimed at promoting changes in institutional and individual policies, attitudes and behaviour are often difficult to quantify meaningfully and require qualitative indicators to accurately assess, as much as quantitative ones.

Developing ways of assessing impact is widely and rightly recognised as challenging. Saferworld believes that a key part of such evaluation could be the measuring of public perceptions of safety and security in fragile and conflict-affected states, undertaken through a range of activities such as surveys, interviews and in-depth assessments at a local level.[87] The World Development Report 2011 also recommended more use of opinion polls and surveys on whether welfare is increasing as an indicator to demonstrate progress in the aftermath of conflict.[88]

54. It is more risky and more costly to deliver programmes in fragile and conflict-affected states. DFID must be open about these risks and open about the costs. However, we want to see evidence that DFID is working to bring down the cost of delivery of its programmes in these states.

55. DFID's focus on monitoring results is welcome, and can be used to demonstrate that DFID is achieving beneficial impacts from its expenditure. However, we caution that achieving results in fragile and conflict-affected states is more complicated than in stable or peaceful countries and there is always the risk that they will not be achieved because of the lack of security, and because fragile and conflict-affected states are often also places where fraud and corruption can thrive. We do not accept that in a context where fraud and corruption are rife that DFID can always mitigate against this adequately, especially where it sub-contracts delivery of these programmes to third parties. This means it may not be able to guarantee value for money for every pound it spends. DFID should be open about this so that expectations of results are realistic, without being under-ambitious.

61   Ev 55 Back

62   International Development Committee, Departmental Annual Report, Oral Evidence taken on 2 November 2011, Q 34 [not printed] Back

63   The range of possible scores is from 0 to 10 with 0 being highly corrupt and 10 being highly clean Back

64   NAO, Briefing for the International Development Committee, October 2011  Back

65   ICAI, DFID's Approach to Anti-corruption, Report 2, November 2011 Back

66   Q 143 Back

67   International Development Committee, Oral evidence taken on 2 November 2011, Q 35 [not printed] Back

68   Ev 53 Back

69   DFID, DRC visit briefing, 2011 Back

70   DFID, DRC visit briefing, 2011 Back

71   Q 6 Back

72   DFID, Rwanda visit briefing 2011 Back

73   Ev 53 Back

74   Q 128 Back

75   International Development Committee, Sixth report of session 2006-07, Sanitation and Water, HC 126-1 Back

76   BBC2, Andrew Mitchell on Newsnight, 22 October 2011 Back

77   Q 127 Back

78   Ev 53 Back

79   Ev 65 Back

80   Ev 110 Back

81   Ev 64 Back

82   Q 106 Back

83   DFID, Operational Plan 2011-2015: DFID Democratic Republic of Congo, May 2011 Back

84   Q 107 Back

85   Ev 54 Back

86   Q 107 Back

87   Ev w 34 Back

88   World Bank, Conflict, Security and Development, World Development Report 2011, World Bank: Washington DC Back

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Prepared 5 January 2012