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Making sure British generosity reaches the world’s most needy

Submitted by on 23 Nov 2010 – 11:14

Andrew MItchell with a young flood survivor in Pakistan. Photo: DFID.

By Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development

The Pakistan floods have all too tragically shown just why aid really does matter.  I am extremely proud that the UK led the world in its response to this tragedy, sending thousands of tents, shelter kits, water containers and blankets to address immediate needs. I am proud, too, that the British public has yet again demonstrated its capacity for generosity.  Meanwhile, the RAF has played its part, taking to the skies to deliver essential food and equipment, and proving that Britain is the staunchest of allies to those in need.

Humanitarian support, however, is only part, albeit the most visible part, of what the Department for International Development does. Our remit is far wider, and it is a remit about which this Government cares passionately.

When the Coalition Government took office in May, we wasted no time in committing 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income to Overseas Development Assistance from 2013 and promising to enshrine this commitment in legislation. We said that we would stick to the internationally-agreed definitions of aid and keep aid untied from commercial interests.

In July, we published our Structural Reform Plan which laid down a marker of our clear intent to drive improvements in value for money, efficiency and poverty-focus throughout the international system. We made it clear that the emphasis will, in future, be about outcomes – about what has been achieved on the ground.

I am acutely conscious that in these difficult economic times we will only maintain public support if we can demonstrate to taxpayers that we are getting value for money. As soon as I took office I launched full-scale reviews of where that money was going and how it was being spent.

These reviews will give us an evidence base that will allow us to make informed decisions about where funding should go in future. It also means that we can base our decision-making on a bottom-up approach rather than a more bureaucratic top-down model. In each of these reviews we will be consulting partners and actively seeking the views of as wide a range of respondents as possible, including NGOs, academics and the general public.

Alongside this emphasis on results, I am determined that DFID will become more transparent. I want the British public and people in developing countries to be able to see where money has gone as well as what it has achieved. As part of our UK Aid Transparency Guarantee we will be publishing details of all projects over £500 on our website from next January so that people can judge for themselves whether we are making good use of their hard-earned money. At the same time, a new independent aid evaluation body will review just how effective individual projects have been so that we can be clear that we are achieving the sort of outcomes we want in the most cost-effective and efficient way possible. This new body will report directly to Parliament rather than to DFID Ministers. Looking to the future, we will also be building evaluation processes into new projects from day one.

We will be equally open about our policy development. We have been running two open consultations on malaria and maternal, reproductive and new-born health, allowing the public to feed in ideas on how their money should be spent in these areas.

This is a vital year for international development. We are still massively off track on the majority of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – eight crucial poverty targets agreed by world leaders in 2000 with a deadline of 2015. Over the next five years, the world has to step up a gear, to reinvigorate its efforts and to refocus its determination to meet these goals.

We have been burning the candle at both ends since May, working hard to make sure British aid is spent effectively in helping the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of poverty. I firmly believe that in years to come future generations will look back at the fact that 25,000 children die every day from easily preventable diseases in the same way that we look back at the slave trade today – with a mixture of incomprehension and amazement.