Simon Maxwell

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Putting flesh on the bones of the new UK Aid Strategy

This is where to find my summary and review of the four DFIDDepartment for International Development policy statements published between October and December 2016: the Research Review, the Civil Society Partnership Review, the Bilateral Development Review, and the Multilateral Development Review. Together, these ‘put flesh on the bones’ of the UK Aid Strategy published in November 2015.

I have written a long paper, too long to post – partly because I have summarised the four policy statements. However, the paper is available here as a pdf. Do have a look. The review part, rather than the summary part, begins on Pg 12.

In the meantime, and to whet your appetite, here is the Introduction.

'DFID has finally published four separate strategy reviews which put flesh on the bones of the UK Aid Strategy published in November 2015. The four reviews are: the DFID Research Review, published in October; the Civil Society Partnership Review, published in November; and the Bilateral and Multilateral Reviews, both published in December.

Can we agree straight away: one integrated publication would have been better than four, and would have stopped in our tracks all those of us who will say a White Paper is now needed to pull all the policy together?

Oh, well. We are where we are. We can also agree two other points. First, that these are serious pieces of analysis, which reflect serious thinking within DFIDDepartment for International Development about how to respond to new challenges. Second, that in a rational world, the documents should lay to rest a pernicious debate about the importance and impact of UK aid: the documents are replete with powerful examples of aid used well, whether in agriculture, health, nutrition, or the diffusion of mobile technology.

The Reviews need unpacking, however, individually and collectively, and all in the context of the overall aid strategy. When we do so, 3 conclusions stand out:

First, there is a strategic consistency running from the aid strategy to the four supplementary reviews: the framing of development cooperation as being about both self-interest and altruism; the rising profile of work in fragile states, especially those in the Middle East and Africa; an emphasis on growth and the private sector; the commitment to 0.7; retaining DFID; the reiteration of manifesto commitments; and a commitment to transparency, accountability and value-for-money.

Second, there are important innovations in the reviews which repay closer attention. I focus on five of these:

  1. ‘The arc of instability’ and the redefinition of ‘fragile states’;
  2. Resource allocation and the concept of ‘person poverty years’;
  3. The expansion of performance-based funding, especially vis-à-vis multilaterals;
  4. The issue of development capital; and, last but not least,
  5. The rejigging of NGONon-governmental organisation funding.

Third, there are next steps to think about. Seven are worth emphasising:

  1. Drawing lines backwards;
  2. Building a new DFIDDepartment for International Development results framework;
  3. More detail on numbers;
  4. Clarity about the choice between bilateral and multilateral channels;
  5. The meaning of partnership;
  6. DFID as a global leader; and
  7. Complete and unified reporting and accountability.

There are many topics I have not explored in these notes. For example, the analysis of the changing environment and future threats/opportunities deserves more study, including the future of globalisation, climate action and the role of the private sector. The implications of Brexit are rather little discussed. More could be said about the interface between diplomacy, development and defence, and in general about policy coherence and Beyond Aid issues. However, the overall conclusion is that DFID’s reviews are serious, repay further study, demand discussion – and imply a future work programme.

Don’t forget. The full review can be accessed here.

I look forward to comments.

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