DFID STAFF CUTS MAY JEOPARDISE AID EFFECTIVENESS
The UK budget for international development is increasing but DFID staff cuts may prevent this increased funding being spent effectively, says the International Development Select Committee in its report, published today, on the Department for International Development Annual Report 2007.
The Committee has welcomed the Comprehensive Spending Review Settlement for 2008-11, which increases DFID's budget and continues the trend of increasing the trend towards the target of 0.7% of Gross National Income to be allocated to Official Development Assistance by 2013. But DFID faces a significant challenge in using this funding effectively when it is also required to reduce its administrative costs, and therefore its staff numbers.
Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce, says "We accept that DFID cannot be exempt from Government efficiency targets. But DFID has already significantly reduced its headcount. Further staff cuts are coming at a time when the Department is increasingly focusing on the poorest countries, which are often fragile states. These are countries where development assistance is needed most and where the potential for poverty reduction is greatest. But work in such environments is much more resource-intensive, in terms of both money and people, and therefore expensive. DFID will therefore need to make some difficult decisions about where its priorities lie."
Elsewhere in the report the Committee has welcomed some of the measures intended to increase the Department's effectiveness. DFID's new Public Service Agreement Delivery Agreement and the establishment of the Independent Advisory Committee on Development Impact should make it easier to identify whether DFID's expenditure is effective in reducing poverty in developing countries.
The Committee has also taken the opportunity to examine in more detail a number of significant policy areas where it believes DFID is not yet matching actions to its words. In particular, the Committee expresses concern that DFID does not have in place adequate measures to achieve its aim of promoting gender equality across its programmes.
Chairman of the Committee, Malcolm Bruce says, "Women throughout the developing world continue to have less power, money and land than men. They are more vulnerable to violence and have less access to healthcare and education. DFID needs to up its game on gender equality as the Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved without progress in this area."
The Committee acknowledges DFID's leadership in highlighting the likely early impact of climate change on the poorest people in the poorest countries. However the Committee is concerned that the necessary changes have not yet been made at DFID country office level to enable appropriate assistance with adaptation and mitigation strategies to be provided in developing countries.
The report points out that promotion of agricultural development is an essential factor in reducing rural poverty: 75% of the world's poor live in rural areas. DFID has shifted its focus away from agriculture in recent years and the Committee believes its programmes need to be rebalanced in this respect.
Committee Membership is as follows: Malcolm Bruce MP (Chairman, Lib Dem), John Battle MP (Lab), Hugh Bayley MP (Lab), John Bercow MP (Con), Richard Burden MP (Lab), Mr Stephen Crabb (Con) Mr Quentin Davies MP (Lab), James Duddridge MP (Con), Ann McKechin MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh (Lab), Sir Robert Smith MP (Lib Dem).
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