Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Michael Hubbard, University of Birmingham

  1.  The organisation of British development aid has taken strides forward since 1997. It has achieved greater focus, greater collaboration with other donors, a clearer voice and clearer commitment to the interests of aid recipients—by undertaking to untie aid, raise it as a proportion of UK GDP, and to increase the proportion spent in developing countries.

  2.  Perhaps it is in light of the progress that has been achieved that the new White Paper disappoints. It is a set of wishes for the world with ideas for what needs to be done. This should be exciting. But it's difficult to find much exciting or new in it. Perhaps because it's a distillation of a consensus, repeating—sometimes well, sometimes less well—what has already been said by World Bank, UNDP, ILO, UNICEF and others.

  3.  Mutual repetition of development mantras may be important for maintaining consensus among international agencies. But a White Paper should be aimed above all at the UK public. It should candidly and informatively indicate achievements, failings and learnings by the agency, and on the basis of these set out medium term objectives and a broad indication of how it will allocate its resources to achieve them. The White Paper does set out broad goals for DFID ("Key Policy Commitments for DFID") but chasing each through the recently published strategy papers doesn't produce further detail. Nowhere is there an attempt to prioritise DFID's resource use against these goals, or to review DFID's achievements relative to the 1997 White Paper's objectives. Ironically this White Paper is likely to be remembered for containing a policy commitment to raise the proportion of UK aid spent in developing countries and to untie UK aid—a political decision which did not require this volume for its launch.

  4.  Suggestions:

    —  There is a lot of overlap and repetition in the published output of development agencies. More collaboration (eg joint publications) could generate greater depth and breadth of coverage. DFID could take a lead through its increasing involvement with multilateral agencies to encourage such collaboration

    —  The balance in future White Papers on development should swing away from overall discussion of development challenges towards a more substantial analysis of DFID's performance and role.

Michael Hubbard

January 2001

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