UK Aid must be targetted at helping world's poorest, say MPs

Posted on: Friday, 8th June, 2018
Palace of Westminster, London

CBM welcomes this week’s report by MPs urging the Government not to widen the definition of Official Development Assistance, but to maintain focus on using UK Aid to help the world’s poorest and most excluded people.

The Commons International Development Committee (IDC) has published a report on its inquiry on Official Development Assistance (ODA), the money provided by official agencies such as the Government for the economic development and welfare of developing countries. The UK Government had proposed redefining ODA to include money sent to high-income countries, and for a broader (currently undefined) range of reasons. In addition, the Government is seeking to enable a greater proportion of ODA to be spent by departments other than the Department for International Development (DfID).

CBM UK submitted a response to the inquiry objecting to the redefinition of ODA on grounds that it risks diminishing the focus on poverty reduction and helping people who are most left behind, such as people with disabilities. We also raised concerns that whilst other government departments have a broad range of technical expertise that can benefit aid and development interventions, diluting DfID’s leadership on ODA risks losing the gains made for disability-inclusive development in recent years.

The IDC shares CBM’s concerns and is unequivocal in its rejection of the Government’s proposals:

“We believe unilateral action by the UK to develop and use its own ODA definition would be an own goal…. The UK’s reputation as a leading development actor stems from it expertise and professionalism, its commitment to multilateralism and the international system and its commitment to, and delivery against, the 0.7% target. All three of these assets would be damaged by trying to manipulate the shared understanding of what aid is.”

The Committee warns against sidetracking ODA spend from providing aid to protecting the national interest, in particular through the Prosperity Fund and the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), and highlights particular concerns on spending in China on projects to develop the Chinese film industry, museum infrastructure and credit bond rating system.

The Committee also calls for DfID leadership and oversight of all ODA spend, to ensure coherence, transparency, high standards and the commitment to ending poverty.

There is little to suggest that the Government’s proposals intend to enhance UK aid and development assistance. Rather, it suggests the Government is casting around for pots of money, one of which (ring-fenced to boot), by a stretch of definition, offers glimmers of advancing the UK’s place on the international stage. In the words of the IDC: “ODA must be directed primarily at reducing poverty, helping the very poorest and most vulnerable rather than being used as a slush fund to pay for developing the UK’s diplomatic, trade or national security interests.”

Read the full IDC report

Read CBM UK's submission to the enquiry (PDF)  

Image: ktanaka, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=54092320

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