BRITISH aid is biased in favour of large international NGOs and must be reformed to be “more relevant and justfiable to British taxpayers”, a report by the TaxPayers Alliance says.
The report, First Aid: Fixing international development, has been condemned by NGOs, who have accused it of “missing the point”, and warned that an “anti-aid agenda is now becoming brazen within parts of Parliament”.
The report, published last month, acknowledges that the Alliance has “long opposed” the fixed spending target of 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income spent on aid, but says that “fresh thinking” is required in the mean time.
One of the recommendations is that the target should be met in the financial rather than the calendar year, to make the budget easier to manage. It also argues that the money could be spent on tackling piracy and drugs, and on private-sector investment, and warns that the rules are “biased in favour of giant international NGOs at the expense of smaller charities”. Less money should go to multilaterals, currently recipients of 39 per cent of the budget, it says.
“By defining success by the number of pounds spent, less consideration is actually given to effect than before, when civil servants were pressed to deliver maximum value,” it argues.
The director of CAFOD, Christine Allen, said that the report “misses the point of the UK’s aid budget, and shows they don’t understand development. . . The UK public is rightly proud of our international aid record, which is respected for its focus on the poorest countries and for high standards of accountability. Those politicians seeking to use the aid budget solely for British interests, rather than tackling poverty, should understand that our focus on the world’s poorest people gives us standing in the world, but also that it’s the right thing to do.”
The chief executive of World Vision UK, Tim Pilkington, said: “An anti-aid agenda is now becoming brazen within parts of Parliament. It is unacceptable for the world’s poorest to be used as a football in a Brexit-fed political power struggle. . .
“We cannot stand by and let a narrative take root that it is better to spend UK aid on boosting Britain rather than eradicating global poverty.”
Many of the points in the report echo earlier analysis by government bodies.
In 2017, the National Audit Office said that government departments had risked “undermining value for money” in a dash to meet the target (News, 18 July 2017); and, in 2015, the Development Select Committee expressed concern that “the scale of the increase in spending in the time of restrictions on administrative costs has led DfID to overuse multilaterals and large suppliers at the expense of smaller specialists”. Two years ago, DfID launched a the Small Charities Challenge Fund (News, 24 March 2017).
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has also raised concerns. In 2014 it reported “very little evidence that the work DfID is doing to combat corruption is successfully addressing the impact of corruption as experienced by the poor” (News, 7 November 2014); and, last year, it accused the department of exaggerating the success of its maternal-health work.