Green: On Aid, UK Officials Agree on Numbers but Differ on Definitions

U.K. government officials agree that the nation should pursue the target of 0.7 percent share official development assistance in its gross national income by 2013. However, they seem to part ways on defining aid and achieving a coherent development policy, Duncan Green said.

The new British government under David Cameron has shielded the development and health departments from “deep cuts.” Queen Elizabeth II, in a speech, also reiterated the government’s commitment to reach the 0.7 percent target, the Oxfam’s research chief said.

“The pressure on the new government, from inside and out, to break these promises will be intense. In particular, watch out for the 2011 Comprehensive Spending Review as a high risk moment.  At a time when many government departments could face cuts of 15 [percent] and above, the CSR will have to give [Department for International Development] roughly a 13 [percent] increase each year to reach 0.7 [percent]. That is going to test the resolve of the new government, to put it mildly,” Green wrote in a blog.

Redefining what counts as aid “is an obvious way to meet ambitious spending targets without actually spending any more money,” Green went on to argue.

The Tories, he said, have committed to follow the definitions of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on aid.

“But that still allows considerable wiggle room – e.g. refugees and student scholarships can be included (and constitute 17 [percent] of French aid), but are not currently counted as such by DFID,” Green said.  

The Tories have yet to clarify whether climate aid will be additional to aid, “leaving the door open to raiding the development budget to fund climate change work in poor countries,” Green argued.

U.K.’s development policy must also take into account issues other than aid such as trade, defense, foreign and environmental strategies, Green said, adding that the debate on U.K’s development policy will increasingly be associated to debates on conflict and security, climate change, and migration and trade.

Green said: “It seems likely that the UK’s international development ‘community’ may need to make these interdependency arguments more strongly in the future than it has in the past, in order to protect the aid budget and DFID’s independence.”

About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.