New UK Government aid strategy must focus on the poorest and most vulnerable

The UK Government has published its new aid strategy, UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest. The strategy, which was announced yesterday by the Chancellor and Secretary of State for International Development, sets out a new cross-government approach to official development assistance (ODA) spending.

We are pleased that the government has identified the need to strengthen resilience and response to crises and has maintained a strong headline objective to tackle extreme poverty and help the world’s most vulnerable people. The decision to establish a new £500 million ODA crisis fund is most encouraging as it has the potential to result in more effective responses to emerging crises. We also welcome the ambition to improve transparency of aid spending across all government departments. Ensuring that all implementing partners of UK aid, including private contractors, meet global transparency standards will be an essential step to improving the effectiveness of UK aid.

Greater detail is required on several of the other initiatives announced to establish the impact of these investments on the poorest and most vulnerable people. For example, the Department for International Development (DFID) will remain the primary channel for aid, but the strategy makes clear that more aid will be administered by other government departments. These departments are not covered by the International Development Act 2002, which clarified the purpose of aid spending as poverty reduction. Additional information on the proportion of ODA and non-ODA funding to cross-government funds (in particular the role and objectives of the National Security Council-led Prosperity Fund) will be essential to establish the overall impact of the strategy.

The commitment to allocate 50% of DFID’s budget to fragile states in every year of this Parliament also requires further scrutiny – in terms of where reprioritisation will occur to ensure both sustained investment for long-term peacebuilding and stability and needs-based allocation of humanitarian assistance in line with the UK’s commitments to Good Humanitarian Donorship. It also remains to be seen, in the context of a reduced DFID budget, what impact this commitment will have on actual levels of spending in fragile states.

Development Initiatives will continue to provide further analysis over the coming weeks as further information becomes available.