United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's Development Co-operation: Challenges for a Leading Donor


17/10/2001 - British authorities have succeeded in putting development issues high on the political agenda, both at home and abroad. Poverty reduction is central to the United Kingdom's development co-operation, as expressed in its commitment to the International Development Targets and Millennium Development Goals. The United Kingdom has taken a leading role in promoting a partnership approach to development, as articulated in Shaping the 21st Century: The Contribution of Development Co-operation, the policy statement released by the OECD's Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 1996.

The United Kingdom's Official Development Assistance (ODA) rose to USD 4.5 billion in 2000, the fourth largest programme among Member countries of the DAC, and is now integrated in the overall effort to support international development. More coherence in policies affecting developing countries is a government-wide priority and is also being pursued internationally, especially with other Member States within European Union (EU) institutions. New directions for Britain's development co-operation were outlined in Eliminating World Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor, the government White Paper published in 2000. This document addresses the opportunities and risks for development arising from increased globalisation, given that the poorest countries could become more marginalised unless greater attention is paid to international economic linkages. It also recognises that no country can eliminate world poverty alone, and so the Department for International Development (DFID) is fostering international efforts by "engaging with and influencing" others in support of developing countries' own effort to overcome poverty.

The British government is committed to reversing the decline in its ODA and will raise DFID's departmental expenditure limit to GBP 3.6 billion (approximately USD 5.2 billion) in the 2003/04 financial year, its highest level. The United Kingdom's ratio of ODA to gross national income (GNI) was 0.32% in 2000, above the DAC (weighted) average of 0.22% but below the DAC average country effort (unweighted average) of 0.39%. The United Kingdom has pledged to increase its ODA/GNI ratio to 0.33% by 2003/04 and reiterated its commitment to the United Nations' ODA/GNI target of 0.7%.

The DAC reviewed the United Kingdom's development co-operation policies and programmes on 16 October 2001 and welcomed the substantial changes which have been made to the British aid programme since the last DAC Peer Review in 1997. These changes include: the poverty reduction objective being consolidated in legislation governing the aid programme; a more comprehensive approach being adopted to promote policy coherence; the untying of development aid to the procurement of British goods and services; a closer involvement with selected multilateral agencies; and a broader and more strategic approach to working with civil society. These ambitious objectives raise a number of challenges. The DAC Chairman, Mr. Jean-Claude Faure, summarised the Committee's recommendations to the United Kingdom to address these challenges:

a) Increase the rate of growth in ODA, based on recent achievements, and consider setting an ambitious intermediate ODA/GNI target on the way to achieving the United Nations' target of 0.7% of GNI.

b) In line with recent trends, maintain a strong focus of bilateral ODA on the poorest countries, particularly those with good policy environments, while remaining engaged through appropriate instruments elsewhere.

c) Continue to seek and develop effective ways of promoting policy coherence, in such areas as trade, environment and conflict reduction, across the United Kingdom government and at European and international levels.

d) Continue to support partner countries in the development of their own poverty reduction strategies and use these as the basis for future Country Strategy Papers.

e) Promote opportunities to deepen DFID's collaboration with other donors when preparing Country and Institutional Strategy Papers and in programme implementation.

f) Maintain an active dialogue with parliamentarians, civil society, the media and the public on the aims and evolving instruments and risks associated with delivering a high-impact aid programme, particularly in view of the ambitious nature of Britain's development co-operation.

g) Give further consideration to the need to develop operational guidance, particularly for field offices, on implementation of DFID's policies and partnership agenda, relevant to the range of policy environments found in developing countries.

h) Focus the next generation of bilateral country programmes on addressing the challenges of greater sector focus, the appropriate mix of aid instruments and how best to pursue sustainable capacity building in partner countries.

i) Given the degree of delegated financial authority to offices in main partner countries, consider how DFID can further enhance information flows between field offices and headquarters and ensure that decisions on the appropriate number and mix of advisory resources take account of other donors' capacities already available in each country.

j) Reinforce DFID's monitoring, evaluation and knowledge management systems by taking steps to promote staff's use of existing systems and by enhancing capacities to assess performance and provide useful action-oriented information; and consider reviewing the degree of institutional independence of ex post evaluations.

During the review, the United Kingdom delegation was led by Sir John Vereker, Permanent Secretary, Department for International Development. The examiners were Australia and the European Community.

The Main Findings and Recommendations arising from the DAC review will be available as from next week on the DAC/OECD internet site at A full record of the review will be published in the DAC Journal.

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