New UK Government Outlines Aid Reform Plans

U.K Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, right. Photo by: Office of Nick Clegg

The full details of the agreement between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the U.K. are out, with plans on how the new coalition government intends to boost international development.

“The Government believes that even in these difficult economic times, the UK has a moral responsibility to help the poorest people in the world,” the agreement says. “We will honour our aid commitments, but at the same time will ensure much greater transparency and scrutiny of aid spending to deliver value for money for British taxpayers and to maximise the impact of our aid budget.”

As reported by Devex, the first directive by U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell was to freeze funding for the Global Development Engagement Fund and so-called awareness projects such as the “Global Gardens Schools Network” and training for education tutors in Britain on development. The move, according to Mitchell, would save around DfID USD10 million.

The two parties are not only pledging to bring aid spending to 0.7 percent of the gross national income, but to “enshrine this commitment in law.”

Details on all U.K. aid spending will also be published online.

The government led by Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also intends to develop new mechanisms to give the British public a direct say on aid budget spending and form a stabilization and reconstruction force that will “bridge the gap between the military and the reconstruction effort” in post-conflict reconstruction involving British military.

Aid from the U.K. will remain untied, and DfID will remain an independent agency.

Likewise, the coalition administration pledged to “stick to the rules” by the Organization for Economic Cooperation Development on what counts as aid. OECD defines official aid as grants or loans on concessional basis to promote economic development and welfare in developing countries or territories. Technical assistance is considered aid, while military assistance is excluded.

The Cameron-Clegg administration also plans to:

-          Support actions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, with priority spending on programs to ensure universal access to clean water, sanitation, health care and education, curb maternal and infant mortality, and check the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

-          Recognize the vital role of women in development, and promote gender equality and the rights of women, children and disabled people to access services.

-          Encourage other countries to fulfill their aid commitments.

-          Use the aid budget to help develop local democratic institutions, civil society groups, the media and enterprise, and support anti-corruption efforts.

-          Work to speed up the process of relieving the debt of heavily indebted poor countries.

-          Back the creation of an international arms trade treaty to restrict arms sales to dangerous regimes.

-          Support pro-development trade deals such as the proposed Pan-African Free Trade Area.

-          Support innovative and effective smaller British non-governmental organizations working to reduce poverty.

-          Find ways to allow world’s poorest nations participate in international climate change talks.

-          Ensure that the U.K. Trade and Investment and the Export Credits Guarantee Department champion British firms that develop and export innovative green technologies around the world, rather than supporting investment in fossil fuel energy production.

-          Explore actions to be taken against “vulture funds.”

-          Back reform of international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to enhance the involvement of developing nations. 

About the author

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.