The Democratic Republic of Congo ranks lowest in the 2011 Human Development Index. An estimated 60 percent of the 68 million Congolese live on less than $1.25 per day and only 61 percent of children aged six to 11 regularly attend primary school. Basic social services remain scarce: 70 percent of the population in rural areas does not have access to drinking water and almost 30 percent of children under the age of 5 are malnourished.
Public sector corruption and political and security tensions continue to hamper DRC’s export-driven and mineral-rich economy. The DRC has suffered from a protracted violent conflict that has spilled over the country’s borders, sparking tension with neighboring states Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. The country currently hosts the world’s second-largest U.N.-funded peacekeeping mission. Sexual and gender-based violence is prevalent, making DRC one of the world’s most dangerous places for women.
For the past seven years, the United Kingdom has been the third-largest bilateral donor to DRC. The Department for International Development’s aid volume is scheduled to rise by 94 percent from 2010 to 2015 — the fourth-largest increase of U.K. aid globally. DfID’s engagement combines long-term and short-term interventions by supporting humanitarian relief in response to the country’s ongoing conflict, and simultaneously investing in business and trade facilitation, reproductive health, and democratic accountability.
In 2012, DRC was the eighth-largest bilateral recipient of U.K. aid, with DfID assistance to the country reaching 165 million pounds ($267.3 million) that year from 131.4 million pounds ($212.9 million) in fiscal 2010-11. For fiscal years 2010-11 to 2014-15, DRC is set to receive 921.4 million pounds ($1.5 billion). The agency’s annual spending averages 184.3 million pounds ($298.6 million).
Value for money and transparency remain key goals for DfID aid delivery, but the achievement of these goals will be hampered by the country’s challenging security environment. DfID will likely continue to deliver aid through multilateral donor partners, namely the World Bank and U.N. agencies. International nongovernmental organizations receive approximately one-third of DfID funding for DRC. While DfID provides budget support to many African countries, corruption and overall weak public financial management has inhibited the agency from doing so in DRC.
DfID’s engagement, which is a combination of long-term and short-term approaches, is closely aligned with the DRC government’s priorities and targets eight key areas: (1) wealth creation, (2) governance and security, (3) education, (4) reproductive and other health-related services, (5) water and sanitation, (6) vulnerability, (7) humanitarian aid, and (8) support to achieving other Millennium Development Goals.
The two largest funded operational projects of DfID in DRC are the Access to Health Care in the Democratic Republic of Congo (170 million pounds or $275.4 million) and the Humanitarian responses to the Democratic Republic of Congo (130.5 million pounds or $211.4 million).
DRC is widely recognized as one of the world’s most challenging environments for aid delivery. The relief operations of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, ActionAid and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been partially disrupted when the rebel group March 23 Movement strained its relations with the government and seized control of most towns in North and South Kivu provinces in November 2012.
A sizeable amount of U.K. aid increase to DRC is therefore principally driven by the objective of stabilizing the domestic security situation and harmonizing interstate relations in Central Africa. Initiatives aimed at easing tensions in the eastern and northeastern parts of the country are intended to complement investments in health, public sector reform and economic growth, all for the overall goal of turning the world’s fifth worse country in ease of doing business into a regional trading hub, according to the World Bank.
However, widespread corruption in DRC’s public sector continues to hamper development efforts. U.K.-based civil society organizations have expressed concerns over corruption levels, and a lack of transparency, particularly regarding the mining sector’s revenues. Their concerns were echoed in the December 2012 decision of the London-listed mining firm Eurasian Natural Resources Company to cease its business engagement in DRC.
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