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Bilateral Aid Review

Volume 768: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2016


Asked by

My Lords, we expect to publish the outcome of the bilateral aid review by the spring. The BAR-MAR and DfID’s other reviews aim to build the most effective foundation on which to deliver the new UK aid strategy and respond to the new global goals. Together, they will ensure that we allocate our budget in the right places in the right way and deliver the best possible value for money.

My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. If we are to achieve the global goals or make progress towards them by 2030, surely we need to invest in the capacity of national institutions to deliver services and to raise revenue domestically in the developing world. Will these bilateral aid programmes include significant investment by the United Kingdom in capacity-building and institution-building in the developing world, rather than simply in the provision of services by us and other donors?

My Lords, the noble Lord raises some really important questions. That is why we are looking at all our programmes and the programmes we do with the multilaterals to make sure that ultimately, we capacity-build in those countries where the need is greatest. While we are undertaking these reviews, it would not be prudent of me to comment further.

My Lords, in the light of the current unrest in Burundi, do the Government think it was right to close the UK’s bilateral programme in the last bilateral review? In the light of the Government’s commitment to spend 50% of DfID’s budget on fragile states and the intervention of the African Union as a peacekeeping force, is it not time that the Government reopened our bilateral programme in Burundi?

My Lords, of course we are extremely concerned about the ongoing political unrest in Burundi and its humanitarian consequences. The UK is the second largest bilateral donor to the regional appeal, after the USA. We are monitoring the situation closely, and we may consider additional funding for the region. As I said to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, we are reviewing everything we are doing to see whether we are best placed as we currently are or whether we need to increase or decrease in certain places.

My Lords, with DfID increasingly working in fragile and conflict-affected states requiring complex programmes, the department is likely to rely increasingly on contractors and local partners. Is the Minister satisfied that the department has the capacity to manage such projects? The danger is that we will end up with consultants managing contractors, thereby risking vital lines of accountability.

My Lords, the noble Lord is of course aware that most of the work is delivered through DfID staff and DfID programmes on the ground in the countries concerned. Of course, we also work with multilaterals where they have a specialism that enables them to deliver better as a multilateral force rather than individually, on bilateral terms. However, where we do need specialist advice or information, we reach out to consultants, and that is right and proper. But it would be discourteous to say to all DfID members of staff that they did not have the right capacities. We of course need to build on those, but we should not be discourteous about their actual strengths.

My Lords, do the Government recognise that many of the poorest people in the world are in some of the fragile lower-middle income countries? They, too—especially if they are going to stay where they are—need to have hope and help.

Yes, my Lords, and the noble Baroness is absolutely right to say that, when we are working in places where there is conflict—and they are incredibly fragile places—we should work to ensure that people living in those circumstances are seeing signs of hope. That is why we took the decision to work very closely in the region when we were dealing with the Syrian crises. I am really pleased that the Syrian conference is coming up on 4 February, where countries such as Kuwait and the UK are coming together to make sure that we actually address the needs of the people, particularly in the region.

My Lords, I was not suggesting for one moment that DfID staff do not have the capability: my question related to capacity. Clearly, given the reviews that have been undertaken, the number of DfID staff is being substantially reduced. My question relates to the capacity to deliver management to these programmes, particularly in difficult states. That is what I want the Minister to address.

My Lords, the noble Lord is assuming that he knows the outcomes of the reviews. Those outcomes have not yet taken place.