DfID's aid reviews and World AIDS Day 2016: This week in development news

Agnes Safina, an HIV testing counsellor, says electronic medical records have improved client management at the Kisima Model Health Center in Samburu, Kenya. Photo by: Eric Onyiego / USAID Kenya

The U.K. aid agency released its long-awaited multilateral and bilateral development reviews, and Colombia’s post-peace deal plans look to get back on track. This week in development news.

The U.K. Department for International Development released its first Multilateral Aid Review and Bilateral Development Review since 2011 on Thursday, after a year-long delay. The MAR issued some stinging critiques for organizations like UNESCO, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Caribbean Development Bank, but also chastised the multilateral development community as a whole for poor accountability, redundancy and, in the case of the U.N. system in particular, failure to play well together. DfID, the £13 billion government agency, which delivers about 40 percent of its aid through multilateral institutions, also outlined a new results-based payment strategy for its multilateral partners in which up to 30 percent of funding will be determined by performance and paid out only after a project demonstrates results.

The Bilateral Development Review offered less intrigue, but consolidated many of DfID’s recent aid priority shifts. It brought together its pledge to spend 30 percent of aid in fragile states, end general budget support in bilateral spending in favor of earmarked contributions, and budget shifts to follow through on its pledge from April’s Syria Donor Conference to spend an additional £1.2 billion in the region. Devex will report later this week on DfID’s proposal to increase the budget of its development finance institution, the CDC, by more than £4 billion, a 75 percent boost.

On World AIDS Day the international community looks back at three decades spent battling HIV/AIDS — and ahead to the hard road to achieving an AIDS-free generation by 2030. “Only 18 million out of the 37 million people living with HIV worldwide are currently on treatment, and thousands of people cannot access proper care because they suffer the indignity of stigmatization and isolation,” said U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Gayle Smith in a statement Friday. The U.S. government has contributed approximately $60 billion to the global fight against HIV, mostly through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, created by President George W. Bush 13 years ago. The dynamics of HIV treatment and prevention are shifting. Today, vulnerable populations in low- and middle-income countries bear the brunt of the disease, while politics, stigmatization, and gender inequality complicate HIV interventions. As Devex reported, the funding base for HIV/AIDS programs is strained and uncertain — while innovation brings new technology to health professionals fighting to end the 30-year epidemic.

Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, died Nov. 25 at the age of 90. In his final years, Castro, who built his political identity on opposition to the United States, witnessed an historic — though still only partial — thaw in relations between the two countries, with increased health and development cooperation likely to be one of its pillars. Past efforts by U.S. foreign assistance organizations to enhance democratic freedom in the communist country have not gone over so well. A USAID effort to build a social media platform in the island nation — dubbed “Cuban Twitter” — came under fierce criticism when press reports suggested it was a covert, pro-democracy ploy; and a USAID contractor, Alan Gross, spent five years in prison after the Cuban government arrested him for setting up wifi hotspots in the country. In response to Castro’s death Gross said on Twitter, "History will never absolve him. But perhaps now the voices of Cuba will be heard. Speak up, Cuba."

Colombia’s congress approved a revised peace deal with the FARC rebel group Wednesday, after the previous deal failed to win enough votes in a national plebiscite in October. The approval will likely kickstart a renewed planning and implementation effort, to turn the ambitious rural development plans included in the deal into reality for communities most affected by the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running war. As Devex has reported, the government will look to balance its long-term aspirations for comprehensive land reform and rural economic development with a series of quick wins to gain support from previously isolated populations. These activities will likely require significant international investment — and implementation by development organizations. Some experts worry the end of the war will compel international donors to shift their attention away from Colombia at a critical time, and they caution that a peace deal with the FARC does not mean the end to humanitarian and human rights concerns.

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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.