The Department for International Development (DFID) is a United Kingdom government department responsible for administering overseas aid. The goal of the department is “to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty”. The Secretary of State for International Development is Justine Greening. In a 2010 report by theDevelopment Assistance Committee (DAC), DFID was described as “an international development leader in times of global crisis”. The UK aid logo is often used to publicly acknowledge DFID’s development programmes are funded by UK taxpayers.
DFID’s main programme areas of work are Education, Health, Social Services, Water Supply and Sanitation, Government and Civil Society, Economic Sector (including Infrastructure, Production Sectors and Developing Planning), Environment Protection, Research, and Humanitarian Assistance.
In 2009/10 DFID’s Gross Public Expenditure on Development was £6.65bn. Of this £3.96bn was spent on Bilateral Aid (including debt relief, humanitarian assistance and project funding) and £2.46bn was spent on Multilateral Aid (including support to the EU, World Bank, UN and other related agencies). Although the Department for International Development’s foreign aid budget was not affected by the cuts outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2010 spending review, DFID will see their administration budgets slashed by approximately 19 percent over the next four years. This would mean a reduction in back-office costs to account for only 2 percent of their total spend by 2015.
In June 2013 as part of the 2013 Spending Round outcomes it was announced that DFID’s total programme budget would increase to £10.3bn in 2014/15 and £11.1bn in 2015/16 to help meet the UK government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) on ODA (Official Development Assistance). DFID is responsible for the majority of UK ODA; projected to total £11.7bn in 2014/15 and £12.2bn in 2015/16.[needs update?]
The National Audit Office (NAO) 2009 Performance Management review looks at how DFID has restructured its performance management arrangements over the last 6 years. The report responded to a request from DFID’s Accounting Officer to re-visit the topic periodically, which the Comptroller and Auditor General agreed would be valuable. The study found that DFID had improved in its general scrutiny of progress in reducing poverty and of progress towards divisional goals, however noted that there was still clear scope for further improvement.
The Department has its origins in the Ministry of Overseas Development (ODM) created during the Labour government of 1964–70, which combined the functions of the Department of Technical Cooperation and the overseas aid policy functions of the Foreign, Commonwealth Relations, and Colonial Offices and of other government departments.
After the election of a Conservative government in October 1970, the Ministry of Overseas Development was incorporated into the Foreign Office and renamed the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). The ODA was overseen by a minister of state in the Foreign Office who was accountable to the Foreign Secretary. Though it became a section of the Foreign Office, the ODA was relatively self-contained with its own minister, and the policies, procedures, and staff remained largely intact.
When a Labour government was returned to office in 1974, it announced that there would once again be a separate Ministry of Overseas Development with its own minister. From June 1975 the powers of the minister for overseas development were formally transferred to the Foreign Secretary.
In 1977, partly to shore up its difficult relations with U.K. business, the government introduced the Aid and Trade Provision. This enabled aid to be linked to nonconcessionary export credits, with both aid and export credits tied to procurement of British goods and services. Pressure for this provision from U.K. businesses and the Department of Trade and Industry arose in part because of the introduction of French mixed credit programmes, which had begun to offer French government support from aid funds for exports, including for projects in countries to which France had not previously given substantial aid.
After the election of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the ministry was transferred back to the Foreign Office, as a functional wing again named the Overseas Development Administration. The ODA continued to be represented in the cabinet by the foreign secretary while the minister for overseas development, who had day-to-day responsibility for development matters, held the rank of minister of state within the Foreign Office.
In the 1980s part of the agency’s operations were relocated to East Kilbride, with a view to creating jobs in an area subject to long-term industrial decline.
The department was separated from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1997.
In July 2009 DFID rebranded all its aid programmes with the UK aid logo, to make clear the contributions are coming from the people of the United Kingdom. While the decision met with some controversy among aid workers at the time, Commons International Development Select Committee Chairman Malcolm Bruce explained the rebranding saying “the name DfID does not reflect the fact that this is a British organisation; it could be anything. The Americans have USAID, Canada has got CIDA.”
Over a four-year period to 2014, the DfID provided £30M to £54M annually to the Sudanese government, whose domestic budget is yearly on the order of £140M.
Over its history the department for international development and its predecessors have been independent departments or part of the foreign office. In 1997 Labour separated the Department for International Development from the Foreign Office. They also reduced the amount of aid tied to purchasing British goods and services which often led to aid being spent ineffectually.
Along with the Nordic countries DFID has generally avoided setting up its own programmes as that can create unnecessary bureaucracy. To achieve this DFID distributes most of its money to governments and other international organisations that have already developed suitable programmes and lets them distribute the money as efficiently as possible.
|In Cabinet||Outside Cabinet|
|Separate Government Department||1964–67
|Answerable to the FCO||1975–76||1970–74
In 2010 DFID were criticised for spending around £15 million a year in the UK, although this only accounts for 0.25% of their total budget. £1.85 million was given to the Foreign Office to fund the Papal visit of Pope Benedict in September 2010, although a department spokesman said that “The contribution recognised the Catholic Church’s role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries”. There has also been criticism of some spending by international organisations with UNESCO and the FAO being particularly weak. The government were also criticised for increasing the aid budget at a time where other departments were being cut. The head of the conservative pressure groupTaxpayers Alliance said that “The department should at least get the same treatment other high priority areas like science did – a cash freeze would save billions.”. In November 2015, DFID released a new policy document titled “UK aid: tackling global challenges in the national interest”. In 2010 the incoming coalition government promised to reduce back-office costs to only 2% of the budget and to improve transparency by publishing more on their website.
The budget for 2011-12 was £6.7 billion including £1.4 billion of capital.
The main piece of legislation governing DFID’s work is the International Development Act, which came into force on 17 June 2002, replacing the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act (1980). The Act makes poverty reduction the focus of DFID’s work, and effectively outlaws tied aid.
- halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger
- ensure that all children receive primary education
- promote sexual equality and give women a stronger voice
- reduce child death rates
- improve the health of mothers
- combat HIV & AIDS, malaria and other diseases
- make sure the environment is protected
- build a global partnership for those working in development.
all with a 2015 deadline.
The reality may well be that none of these goals will be achieved so long as the trade gap between Africa and richer countries continues to widen. Former Secretary of State Hilary Benn has indicated that on current trends, we will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Although by 2010, mainly thanks to high growth in India and China who had 62% of the world’s poor in 1990 there has been significant global progress towards meeting the millennium goals.
DFID is the largest bilateral donor of development-focused research. New science, technologies and ideas are crucial for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, but global research investments are insufficient to match needs and do not focus on the priorities of the poor. Many technological and policy innovations require an international scale of research effort. For example, DFID was a major donor to the International LUBILOSA Programme: which developed abiological pesticide for locust control in support of small-holder farmers in the Sahel.
DFID Research commissions research to help fill this gap, aiming to ensure tangible outcomes on the livelihoods of the poor worldwide. They also seek to influence the international and UK research agendas, putting poverty reduction and the needs of the poor at the forefront of global research efforts.
DFID Research manages long-term research initiatives that cut across individual countries or regions, and only funds activities if there are clear opportunities and mechanisms for the research to have a significant impact on poverty.
Research is funded through a range of mechanisms, including Research Programme Consortia (RPCs), jointly with other funders of development research, with UK Research Councils and with multilateral agencies (such as the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation). Information on both DFID current research programmes and completed research can be found on the Research4Development (R4D) portal. From November 2012 all new DFID-funded research will be subject to its Open and Enhanced Access Policy. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell declared that this will ensure “that these findings get into the hands of those in the developing world who stand to gain most from putting them into practical use”.
DFID launched its first Research Strategy in April 2008. This emphasises DFID’s commitment to funding high quality research that aims to find solutions and ways of reducing global poverty. The new strategy identifies six priorities:
- Sustainable Agriculture
- Climate Change
- Governance in Challenging Environments
- Future Challenges and Opportunities
The strategy also highlights three important cross-cutting areas, where DFID will invest more funding:
- Capacity Building
- Research Communication and Uptake
- Stimulating Demand for Research
DFID has recently reviewed progress on its Research Strategy
When it was the Overseas Development Administration, a scandal erupted concerning the UK funding of a hydroelectric dam on the Pergau River in Malaysia, near the Thai border. Building work began in 1991 with money from the UK foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around £1 billion worth of arms from the UK. The suggested linkage of arms deals to aid became the subject of a UK government inquiry from March 1994. In November 1994, after an application for judicial review (R v Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ex p The World Development Movement) brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court held that the then-Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd had acted ultra vires (outside of his power and therefore illegally) by allocating £234 million towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people.