Could UK Government do more to monitor international aid organisations

25 July 2013

The report, published today by the International Development Committee, raises concerns about the Government’s capacity to monitor multilateral organisations in countries where the Government has no bilateral aid programmes of its own. During the Government’s first Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) in 2011, the staff conducting the review only visited two of these countries; for the next MAR, the report recommends that more of these visits be conducted.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chair of the Committee, said:

“In countries where the UK has no bilateral aid programmes of its own, monitoring multilateral organisations is a key challenge for the Government. This is an extremely important issue, and we will return to it in our ongoing inquiry into the Future of UK Development Cooperation.

With regard to the Government’s first Multilateral Aid Review, the review team visited just two countries in which the UK had no bilateral aid programmes.

We accept that country visits are not the only way of gathering evidence. For a number of multilateral organisations, the UK has a seat on the Board, which obviously provides us with some oversight. Nevertheless, we feel strongly that for the next Multilateral Aid Review, the team should undertake more visits to countries in which the UK has no bilateral programmes.”

The MPs also argue that the Government should compare multilateral organisations with the value for money of the UK’s own bilateral aid programmes. Following the first MAR in 2011, the Government drew up funding plans for 39 international organisations: such funding accounted for 42% of the entire budget of the UK’s aid agency, the Department for International Development (DFID), in 2012. Yet for 35 organisations out of 39, the Government failed to draw any comparisons with the value for money of the UK’s own, bilateral aid programmes, making it difficult to know whether bilateral aid or multilateral aid represented better value for money. The MPs recommend that these comparisons be an ‘integral part’ of the next MAR.

In addition, the MPs recommend that the Government conduct regular reviews of its own, bilateral aid programmes. The UK’s bilateral programmes were reviewed in 2011, at the same time as the original MAR, but the Government has not yet announced whether it intends to repeat the exercise.

Sir Malcolm Bruce said:

“It is in everybody’s interests for the Government to make informed decisions about aid spending. When the UK provides funding to an international organisation, we need to have some assurance that this is better value for money than the alternative.

Comparing international organisations’ work with our own, bilateral aid programmes is imperative.”

The MPs support the Government’s policy of conducting regular Multilateral Aid Reviews, particularly to assess how well aligned multilaterals are with UK development objectives. But they argue the Government should work more closely with other countries to assess the effectiveness of multilateral organisations.

Sir Malcolm Bruce said:

“International aid organisations receive funds from a number of different countries. Clearly organisations need to be evaluated, but it would be foolish to have various different donors conducting identical evaluations.

That is not to say that the UK should stop conducting its own Multilateral Aid Reviews. The Multilateral Aid Reviews allow the Government to assess whether these organisations contribute to our own objectives, which is of course tremendously important.

But there are other areas where it makes sense to work with other countries. Through the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network, the UK is able to work with 16 other countries to produce joint evaluations. This is more efficient for everybody – and it reduces the burden on the organisations being assessed. We hope that MOPAN will scale up its work, and we would encourage our own Government to place more reliance on MOPAN where it can.”

The MPs also say that the Government’s methodology for assessing international organisations leaves room for improvement. They argue that the first MAR failed to adequately distinguish between the different mandates of the international organisations being assessed. In addition, the report recommends that the next MAR specifically assess multilaterals’ commitment to tackling violence against women and girls.

Sir Malcolm Bruce said:

"It is impossible to achieve effective development without tackling violence against women and girls. We recently conducted an inquiry on the subject, and we feel strongly that the next MAR should assess multilaterals’ commitment to the issue.

As for the question of comparing organisations with different mandates, we accept that DFID didn’t intend the first MAR to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, but the fact remains that it was perceived as such in some quarters. For the next MAR, DFID needs to address this."


  • DFID published a Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) in March 2011, which assessed the value for money (VFM) of DFID’s core funding to 43 multilateral organisations. The assessment considered both the multilaterals’ contribution to UK development objectives and their organisational strengths. 
  • Following the MAR, DFID wrote to the organisations whose performance it had assessed, setting out specific reform priorities. DFID is currently conducting a MAR update, focusing principally on these  reform priorities. DFID plans to conduct another full-scale MAR in 2015.

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