British aid, priorities and practice

Trade Aid and Development

The following report, written by Sarah Webster, is from an event at the UNA LASER Summer Council which discussed UK foreign aid, priorities and practice.

We were reminded by the Chair of the UK commitment to the 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) to Aid. In 2015 this commitment was enshrined in Law. In 2015 the UK foreign aid budget was 12,138 million. Of that budget bilateral aid made up 63% and multilateral aid 37%.The major part of that money goes to Africa and Asia. The countries receiving the largest part of bilateral aid are Pakistan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Syria.

The categories for which aid is given are disaster, health, humanitarian, government and civil society, economic and infrastructure.

DFID spending is very heavily scrutinised. The official conclusion is that it is no more wasteful than other government departments. The ODI has raised the question that there is no explicit reference or link to Sustainable Development Goals.

There has also been a reduction of staff at DFID in particular the technical staff on the ground. To achieve this more money has recently been channelled through other bodies giving them greater responsibility for monitoring and reporting. One noticeable area of decline is in spending on education.

The IFS Institute for Fiscal Studies has raised concern that increasingly aid money is being spent outside DFID by other Departments.

It was felt that it was disappointing that DFID stopped good projects in response to press attacks instead of defending themselves and the particular project.

Our next speaker Miski Mohammad is a volunteer speaker with Save the Children. She is part of their ‘Speaking out programme’. She came to Germany at the age of 5 as a refugee from the Somali region of Ethiopia. She described how every three months her parents had to visit the German Authorities. It was only when she was 9 she found out that their visit could result in her family having to return to Ethiopia. As a young child this caused her a lot of anxiety.

Save the Children work to have political influence with governments to influence that law makers to ensure they follow through by enacting the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child they signed up to.

The work of Save the Children also includes disaster relief. They receive money from individuals, grants and money from companies. In their work they work with institutional partners such as UNICEF,

UKAID and DFID. DFID is the largest donor and holds Save the Children accountable. If DFID particularly likes a project then they will work on it themselves with Save the Children or other partners. Equally Save the Children have highlighted with DFID that they were failing with their commitments to spending on child health.

At present Save the Children are having a special focus on supporting young mothers both before and after the birth of their child.

Miski stated the importance of coordination between everyone at this time especially in relation to East Africa. It is vital to exchange technical expertise.

Save the Children also works in the UK. They are working with children who have been left behind in their education resulting in them leaving school unable to read and write. They see the need to reverse this to reduce poverty. To this end they have set up the ‘Buddy-up scheme’ which is a long term project. Adults meet up once or twice a week with the child to listen to the child read.

Another aspect of their work is to improve children’s food and nutrition.

Charities have an important role in distributing money as their charity workers know the local traditions and speak the language.

Our second speaker, Blen Diribi, led discussions where the question was raised regarding human rights in countries receiving aid. It was unclear whether the UK should finance police and security forces. Should they do more to bolster the protection of human rights combined with ensuring that Aid goes to all a countries population groups. The question was raised was there a role for UNA to raise these issues with the Government?
The UK has a strong relationship with African States. African States receive 55% of UK aid. In return UK gets influence globally as a result of their being one of the largest per capita donors. Their actions also influence other Donors. The UK’s emphasis is on poverty reduction.

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