Researching the politics of development



UK to meet 0.7% aid, but what about effectiveness?

20 March 2014
Yesterday George Osborne’s budget speech restated Britain’s commitment to meet the target of 0.7% of national income contributed as foreign assistance. As a matter of fact,  given the economic growth forecasts for the country the target may have already been reached. However, while it certainly represent a laudable goal in terms of international solidarity, the 0.7% target is silent on the question of effectiveness: whether the additional aid contributed by UK taxpayers will in fact improve the lives of the poor around the world.
The Washington-based Center for Global Development compiles every year a Commitment to Development Index, which includes a foreign aid component penalizing donors for channeling assistance to corrupt governments or overburdening recipients with small projects. In the current Index Britain ranks 7th out of 27 donors: not a bad position, but still behind the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Ireland.
A deeper question of Britain’s aid effectiveness relates to ESID’s core mandate and approach: most reforms that lead to sustainable poverty-reduction -like social protection or public sector reform- have powerful political implications. Ongoing research by our Political Economy Analysis team finds that the UK’s Department For International Development may be ahead of the curve in terms of exploring the governance implications of aid; however, much remains to be done in terms of actually internalizing those implications and adjusting policy accordingly.
o.7% is just the beginning: enhancing effectiveness and engaging politically (whether in terms of goals or methods) remain the are the true challenges of international solidarity.
Here’s a sample of other reactions to the speech from around the web:

  • The organisation Development Initiatives, both a charity and research consultancy, noted that the UK was on track to being the first country to reach a target of 0.7% of gross national income on aid.
  • A columnist in the British newspaper, The Independent, wrote that the Department for International Development would be the only department celebrating the new budget as it was benefiting as the economy grows. Oliver Wright went on to say that “Western aid and interventionism has become counterproductive and in some cases harmful” and cited Uganda’s homophobic laws as an example.
  • International children’s charity UNICEF UK said that while it was proud of the UK Government’s continuing commitment to the world’s poorest children, the Government should now look to enshrine this promise in law in order to encourage other countries to meet their commitments and reach agreed international aid targets.
  • Writing in the Daily Mail, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said the £13billion being designated to foreign aid too was, “in the current financial climate and with living standards still falling for many Britons… decadence of a very high order.”
  • Addressing poverty in the UK the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “This is a Budget for the people who already have, not for the people who need to benefit most from the return to growth. It is a lost opportunity for the 13 million people in poverty who need active intervention to tackle the structural barriers that keep them in poverty.”
  • This sentiment was echoed by Oxfam UK, adding that “although the rhetoric is all about resilience, the poorest and most vulnerable in the UK have once again been left behind.”

By: Pablo Yanguas and Rowena Harding.