DfID contractors face tough questions, and the UN asks for $22 billion: This week in development news

Stephen O'Brien, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and co-chair of the informal ministerial-level meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Photo by: Laura Jarriel / U.N.

The European Commission wants to explore connections between development and national security, a major U.K. aid contractor faces serious questions, and the United Nations issues its largest-ever humanitarian funding appeal. This week in development news.

The United Nations issued its largest-ever appeal for funding — $22.2 billion to spend on humanitarian relief in 2017 — in recognition of the unprecedented need posed by crises in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, and elsewhere. "More than 80 percent of the needs stem from man-made conflicts, many of which are now protracted and push up demand for relief year after year," Stephen O'Brien, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters in Geneva, according to the AP. The 2017 appeal is 10 percent higher than the 2016 appeal, which is still only 52 percent funded. With governments in Europe and the United States looking increasingly inward — and more skeptically at multilateral cooperation — the outlook for a fully funded 2017 appeal does not look good. In the past 10 years the highest level of international community support for the U.N.’s funding appeal was 72 percent in 2009. As needs have grown dramatically in recent years, so has the funding gap.

British aid contractors are under fire after press reports raised questions about how much they are charging the U.K. Department for International Development for various services. An investigation by the Times — which examined 70,000 financial transactions and pointed to some that seemed unusually high — has reportedly prompted DfID chief Priti Patel to say she will review all foreign aid contracts. In another report, the conservative Daily Mail newspaper published excerpts from a series of leaked internal emails, which appear to show that aid contractor Adam Smith International tried to pass off self-reported testimonials about their work overseas as independent submissions from senior foreign politicians and officials. The report prompted International Development Committee Chair Stephen Twigg to say he would recommend an investigation. The outlet also reported that an ASI employee who formerly worked for DfID shared confidential documents with his new employer in hopes they might help the firm win contracts. A DfID spokesperson told the Daily Mail the allegations were “incredibly serious and would constitute a clear breach of the high standards and integrity expected of all our contractors.”

The European Commission’s development chief defended a proposal to strengthen the links between development and national security, saying that the plans will maintain a “clear, red line” between the two spheres. Civil society groups have raised concerns about the proposal for a new European Consensus on International Development, charging that it could divert funding from development toward security, or even military, programs. Neven Mimica, European commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, defended the link, pointing to the Sustainable Development Goals’ acknowledgement of the need to boost national institutions that can prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime. “Our development and peace and security engagement must be more visible,” Mimica said at a press breakfast in Brussels on Tuesday.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon apologized for the United Nations’ role in Haiti’s cholera outbreak and offered more details about the $400 million cholera response plan for the island nation. “On behalf of the United Nations, I want to say very clearly: we apologize to the Haitian people. We simply did not do enough with regard to the cholera outbreak and its spread in Haiti. We are profoundly sorry for our role,” Ban said. “This has cast a shadow upon the relationship between the United Nations and the people of Haiti. It is a blemish on the reputation of U.N. peacekeeping and the organization worldwide.” The first part of the U.N.’s response plan focused on decreasing transmission of cholera and boosting clean water, sanitation and health care systems. The second — and still less certain — part will support the varied needs of Haitian communities impacted by cholera, Devex’s Amy Lieberman reported.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.