UK aid: allocation of resources: interim report Contents


61.The new UK aid strategy is a welcome restatement of the UK’s strong commitment to international development. Its focus on fragile states and regions shows the Government’s willingness to work in the difficult environments where levels of extreme poverty are highest. The associated increase in cross-Government working presents an opportunity for the Government to build international development into much of what it does and to build capacity. Furthermore, the strategy puts forward a compelling argument for how achieving the 0.7% target also benefits the UK’s national interest.

62.We have some concerns, however, about how the aid strategy was developed and how it will be taken forward. Poverty reduction has been, and should always be, the first priority of UK aid. The strategy’s status as a Treasury-led document with little explicit focus on poverty reduction risks creating an impression that the objectives regarding the UK’s national interest, and therefore security and prosperity, were drawn up first, with DFID left to connect the dots with poverty reduction. That “tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable” is listed as the fourth of four strategic objectives compounds this impression and risks damaging the reputation of UK aid abroad.

63.The most important principle of allocating UK aid should always be that it is allocated where it can most effectively be used to reduce poverty. This has many dimensions, with both the security and prosperity agenda and increased cross-Government working being worthwhile and meaningful ways of achieving poverty reduction. It is important that the thinking flows from poverty reduction to these agendas, rather than the other way round, and that allocation decisions are made in line with this. It is further important that, as other government departments become more heavily involved in UK aid, the Government is alive to the risk that the focus on poverty reduction may be weakened.

64.The Government also needs to properly recognise the specific challenges associated with working in fragile states and regions and increasingly across Government, and respond appropriately. DFID’s focus must be how to achieve long-term transformative impact in fragile states and regions. Other government departments will require a great deal of capacity building and assistance from DFID to ensure effective aid delivery. Finally, transparency and accountability must remain as core principles of UK aid, with effective parliamentary scrutiny of all areas of ODA spend.

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 17 March 2016