International Development Committee Announcement



A report released today by the International Development Committee warns that levels of development assistance must be maintained, despite the current financial crisis. The needs of people in developing countries become more, not less, urgent at a time when growth of their own national economies may be slowed or even halted and when millions more people may be pushed back into poverty.

The Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce MP, said:

We agree that DFID's focus should continue to be on achievement of the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals with the overall aim of poverty reduction. However, on current trends most of the Goals will not be met by the 2015 deadline. We are concerned that the global economic downturn may increase the risk of failure if development assistance levels are not maintained and donor commitments on aid are allowed to lapse.

The Committee welcomes the UK Government's renewed commitment to increasing financial support for development. It points out, however, that in difficult economic circumstances it is vital that every pound spent achieves the maximum impact. It is not convinced that DFID is able to make an accurate assessment of what its funding is achieving. It recommends that processes for evaluating what works in development and what doesn't are improved. The entire Department will need to be involved in this process.

The Chairman said:

DFID has a budget which is rising each year. We welcome this but we are worried that, despite this increased funding, the Department's ability to meet its objective of reducing poverty in the poorest countries in the world is beginning to be affected by the requirement imposed across Government departments to reduce the number of staff employed. We believe it would be perverse if the administrative savings achieved by staff reductions started to make DFID less effective. The Government should carefully examine whether staff reductions have reached a tipping point where effectiveness is threatened by the pursuit of administrative efficiency.

The Committee supports the UK Government's efforts to reinvigorate momentum towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. However, progress on many of the Goals is worrying slow. The Committee warns that the prospects are bleak for achieving the Goal of all children completing a full course of universal primary education by 2015. If all children are to complete primary education by 2015, the necessary schools will need to be built and teachers trained and in place by 2010. Progress to date makes this seem unlikely unless new interim targets are set, tied to tight timescales.

The Committee believes that DFID's policy of spending 90% of its bilateral funding in low-income countries and only 10% in middle-income countries (MICs) remains valid. It points out, however, that MICs are critical to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and stresses that the 10% allocation must be used to maximum effect. The Committee regrets that DFID has not yet published a strategy for its future engagement with middle-income countries to replace the one which expired in 2008. It believes that this shows a lack of clarity in DFID's approach which needs to be addressed quickly.

The Committee also points to a regrettable failure to make progress on gender equality. The Chairman said:

The Millennium Development Goals, including universal access to primary education, will not be achieved unless tackling gender inequality is given the necessary political priority and leadership. Violence and denial of basic rights, such as access to land, affect millions of women across the world and must be tackled. The UK Government should take every opportunity to press international partners, including developing countries themselves, to put a high priority on breaking down the barriers which prevent women achieving equality.


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 MP (Con), Mr Mark Hendrick MP (Lab/Co-op), Daniel Kawczynski MP (Con), Jim Sheridan MP (Lab), Mr Marsha Singh MP (Lab), Andrew Stunell MP (Lib Dem).

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