The Future of UK Development Co-operation: Phase 2: Beyond Aid - International Development Committee Contents


The nature of international development is changing. The number of low income countries is falling. Within that group, most of the poorest countries—and overall, 22 out of DFID's portfolio of 28 countries—are fragile states, requiring multiple and complex interventions. At the same time, the importance of global issues—conflict, climate, migration, trade, tax, financial stability, youth unemployment, urbanisation economic development, and infectious disease—is rising. These changes will be reflected in the new framework of Sustainable Development Goals to be adopted in 2015.

Aid remains essential for the poorest countries, and for some purposes in middle-income countries (MICs). It is encouraging that the UK has reached the 0.7% target. However, overall, a new approach is required which reflects the changing situation.

First, as aid is no longer provided to some MICs, such as India, new forms of co-operation have to be developed which facilitate links with UK institutions in a wide range of areas, including health, education, culture, law, culture and science. This will be labour-intensive, requiring DFID to put more emphasis on working with small organisations.

Second, policy coherence for development (PCD) is at the heart of a new approach. This means working across Government in the UK, and with global partners in the multilateral system, to maximise the impact on development of all the UK's actions.

The UK has scored notable successes, for example on some aspects of trade, tax and global health. Its initiatives of women and girls, including FGM, attract widespread praise. At the same time, DFID's record is patchy. For example, there is more to do on security where we are concerned that DFID lacks influence; as a result too little weight is given to conflict prevention.

The UK faces challenges which will require a cross-Government approach on a large number of issues, including: security, in and originating from fragile states; climate change; and disease threats (illustrated by Ebola). The new SDG framework will require action on these and other issues.

The new approach raises questions about issues such as organisational structures, cross-Government working, competences, and reporting and accountability. We believe DFID's long-term future as a standalone ministry will be at risk unless stronger mechanisms to support cross-Government working on development are put in place. We recommend that

·  The UK maintains a free-standing and Cabinet-level Department for International Development which ensures that international development priorities are at the heart of government, and is appropriate for the UK.

·  Cross-Government working be improved. The security sector is a case in point. The National Security Council should take a broader view of threats to UK security, and ensure that development and conflict prevention be given the priority they deserve. There should be explicit strategies and policies, with clear responsibilities for delivery. Current experience with joint Ministers, joint units, cross-Government funds, and shared offices overseas, should be expanded.

·  DFID make policy coherence for development (PCD) a higher priority and make improvements to reporting and accountability. DFID needs to put PCD at the heart of its work, co-operating closely across Whitehall, and not treat it as an add-on. The National Audit Office and the Independent Commission on Aid Impact should give a higher priority to PCD. The National Security Council should be fully accountable to select committees, via the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, and individual select committees.

·  Both the International Development Act of 2002 and the International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act of 2006 be revised and updated to reflect the changes which are taking place. This should be done when the new SDG framework has been agreed.

·  DFID ensure that its staff have the right skills for the future. In recent years, as Departmental spending has grown, DFID staff have focused on programme management. In the future, other skills will become increasingly important. The Government must ensure that staff competences cover, in addition to programme management, the ability to influence partners in Whitehall, in international institutions and in developing countries; they must have the ability to facilitate new forms of development co-operation. Both DFID and the FCO will have to invest more in staff working in fragile states, with better language training and longer postings.

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Prepared 2 February 2015