U.K. Secretary for International Development Justine Greening. Photo by: Melissa Bunni Elian / Transparency International / CC BY

As she prepares to celebrate her third year as the U.K. international development secretary in September, Justine Greening met with representatives of some of the U.K.’s leading civil society organizations and outlined the cooperation priorities of the new Conservative majority government.

During a speech last week in London, Greening announced a five-month review of the Department for International Development’s CSO partnerships, along with an extension of CSO funding via the Program Partnership Arrangement through the end of 2016. The Civil Society Partnership Review is expected to pave the way for a new CSO partnership framework. Details about the review are expected this week.

DfID’s CSO cooperation under review

DfID is launching a review of its partnerships with CSOs to determine what their cooperation will look like in future. Until a new scheme is in place, the U.K. aid agency will extend the funding under its current Program Partnership Arrangements through the end of 2016, Devex has learned.

And in that speech, Greening sent two kinds of messages to her CSO audience: one about operational methodology and another on her policy agenda.

With regard to process, the development secretary wants to move beyond aid to pursue a broader range of initiatives with a wider array of partners, including the private sector. She also re-emphasized her concern for “value for money” through increased efficiency.

Greening offered a three-pronged policy agenda as well: women and girls, economic development and job creation; and leadership in emergency assistance.

“It all adds up to a new model of development,” she told her audience of CSO leaders, who were generally positive about her speech.

“She put new energy into her existing agenda,” Owen Barder, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, told Devex. The “big news” meanwhile for Ben Jackson, chief executive of Bond, a network of U.K. development organizations, is the new, postelection emphasis on youth.

Economic development and job creation

Greening praised the CDC Group, the U.K.’s government-owned development finance institution, which recently announced that its investments helped create 1.3 million jobs in 2014. Yet that pales in comparison to a World Bank figure Greening cited: At least 600 million people will enter the job market in the next 15 years.

“There is an absolutely fundamental jobs challenge — in particular, jobs for young people,” she said. “Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history. In fact, it’s said we’re reaching ‘peak youth’ [and] peak youth needs to be able to equal peak growth.”

CSO leaders debate the emphasis on economic growth more than the other priorities, Jackson said. But “how do you do that in a way that will benefit the poorest people?” Watkins however thought Greening did a good job of making the case for economic growth “without losing sight of equity.” And there should be more clarity on this issue soon.

“There’s much more to come on this,” Greening promised. “I’ll shortly be setting out the next big step of our economic development strategy.”

Women and girls

“I’ve put girls and women at the heart of everything DfID is doing,” Greening said, pointing to critical issues DfID is addressing, such as female genital mutilation and child marriage. “This year we’ll be ramping up our work on girls and women in every area from education, to violence against women and girls, to economic empowerment.”

Greening called the Girl Summit DfID co-hosted with UNICEF in July 2014 as a watershed moment for the U.K. aid agency, and “is determined” to parlay the experience of involving young people in that event into other endeavors.

“There is a new emphasis on women and girls in everything DfID does,” Barder said. “It will be interesting to see what this means in practice.”

Humanitarian assistance

There is a need for emergency assistance to segue into lasting development.

The goal would seem, in part, to avoid what Watkins called the “reversal of development,” a phenomenon he said is taking place in Syria as the conflict there not only threatens lives in the short term but also drags down long-term prospects.

“[We should look] at how we can help children in school and [help] people to work and, crucially, rebuild their livelihood,” Greening said. “So what we’re doing is bringing together our humanitarian and economic development work.”

Beyond aid

“This is new wine in a new bottle,” Barder said. “I would like to be quoted as enthusiastically welcoming the focus on ‘beyond aid’ as an important part of the agenda.”

Indeed, Greening emphasized in her speech that aid, while “still necessary,” is not enough for the scale or the nature of the next development “leap.”

“There are more players on the development scene than ever before — the private sector, donors, philanthropists, professional organizations — all playing key roles,” she said. And because of the changing development landscape, and the growing role of the private sector, the U.K. development secretary expressed the need to create a stable and “pro-business environment” and “rule of law so that contracts can be enforced” and property rights respected.

“It requires global action on tackling corruption, illicit financial flows and tax evasion, as well as supporting free and fair trade,” she stressed.

Increased cooperation with other U.K. government agencies falls under this rubric. Greening cited the Ebola response that roped in the British armed forces and its National Health Service as an example.

“If you want to address global issues, you are not going to do it with the old north-south approach to development,” noted Kevin Watkins, executive director of London-based think tank Overseas Development Institute.

The CSO partnership review offers yet more evidence of Greening’s drive to make sure that “DfID is spending every pound as well as we can.” It follows a similar review of the department’s procurement policies, and will run parallel to an ongoing strategic development review and “new bilateral and multilateral aid reviews.”

Watkins noted that there is “a challenge to all of us to raise our game.”

For more U.K. news, views and analysis visit the Future of DfID series page, follow @devex on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #FutureofDfID.

About the author

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    Bill Hinchberger

    Bill Hinchberger is a global communications professional and educator. He studied at Berkeley and has taught at the Sorbonne. Based mostly in Paris, he spends quality time in Brazil and the United States, and works extensively in Africa and Latin America. He has served as an international correspondent for The Financial Times, Business Week, ARTnews, Variety, and others. One current focus of his work is content creation for foundations, NGOs and other organizations, especially those working on issues related to international affairs, the environment and development. He also runs training programs for professional journalists, notably in Africa, and is an associate of Rain Barrel Communications, a leading consultancy for social justice projects.