Select Committee on International Development Sixth Report


70. DFID's evolution since its establishment in 1997 is impressive. DFID is widely recognised as one of the leading development agencies. But, if DFID is to maximise its contribution to the attainment of the MDGs, there is no room for complacency. The Departmental Report provides a useful account of DFID's responsibilities , activities, and spending plans and—in a more limited manner—its internal organisation and contribution to international efforts to meet the MDGs. There is however, something of a gap, or as Howard White and David Booth have termed it, a "missing middle". This allegation was levelled initially at the first generation of DFID's Country Strategy Papers,[89] but it is also relevant to DFID's Departmental Report and the picture it paints of DFID's activities.

71. The Departmental Report fails to make DFID's strategy—the ways in which it integrates the cycle of development policy and practice, and the role it identifies for itself within the international system—sufficiently clear. The picture painted in the Departmental Report is, to paraphrase the forthcoming Development Effectiveness Report, one of an organisation which has lots of strategies, but is not a strategic organisation.[90] Processes of development are bewilderingly complex, but there must be—at least in DFID's organisational subconscious—a strategic framework which provides the basis for DFID's policy, planning and development interventions.

72. This is not a new criticism of DFID. Indeed DFID has made some improvements in this regard and actually does well in comparison with most donors, particularly with its Target Strategy Papers which seek to link the MDGs to DFID's activities. The new PSA, the sectoral advisory groups, and most especially the new Country Assistance Plans are intended to provide a clearer link between DFID's objectives and targets and its planned interventions. Developing countries' Poverty Reduction Strategies play an important role too in making this link. As the Departmental Report states: "Wherever possible, DFID is seeking to determine its priorities according to countries' nationally owned and led poverty reduction strategy papers".[91] We welcome these developments and expect that they will go some way to filling in the missing middle. We will be monitoring developments closely, hoping, with DFID, that such changes will make DFID an even more effective development agency. It is our belief that by setting out more clearly its strategy and distinctive role, DFID will become more accountable, and—by facilitating learning and improving its organisational performance—make itself a better partner and a more effective development agency.

73. The Departmental Report has an important role to play in setting out DFID's strategic framework, and showing how DFID integrates the cycle of development policy and practice. It should provide us, and other interested parties, with the information we need to keep track of DFID's progress. As such, we expect next year's Departmental Report to make further progress towards the goal of providing clear answers to the following questions:

·   What are DFID's objectives and how is the achievement of these objectives expected to contribute to the achievement of the MDGs?

·   What resources does DFID have to achieve its objectives, and how have these resources been allocated, both by objective and by country?

·   What is DFID's model of poverty and of the obstacles to achieving its poverty reduction objective, and how does this model inform DFID's policy, activities and spending?

·   What activities has DFID been engaged in in pursuit of its objectives, and where, and what have been the results of these activities?

·   How does DFID monitor and evaluate its activities and their contribution to achieving the MDGs, and test and develop its model of poverty and its overall strategy for the elimination of poverty?

89   "Using development goals to design country strategies", chapter 4 in Targeting development: Critical perspectives on the Millennium Development Goals and International Development Targets, edited by Richard Black and Howard White, Routledge, 2002. Back

90   How effective is DFID? An independent review of DFID's organisational and development effectiveness. DFID Evaluation Report, EV639. Final pre-publication draft. Back

91   DFID Departmental Report 2002, page 36. See footnote 1 for web-site. Back

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Prepared 14 November 2002