At a BOND/UKAN event last Wednesday (28th September), we had a brief Q & A session with the Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell.
Amy Pollard: “In your speech at an Oxfam event last June, Secretary of State, you described how a core part of your commitment for UK aid was ensuring it works to empower poor citizens in developing countries, and support them in holding decision-makers to account. Can you reaffirm that this commitment to empowerment and accountability remains at the heart of your vision for DFID?”
Andrew Mitchell: “The commitment to spend up to 5% of budget support on helping civil society and others hold their elected representatives to account is very important and is certainly at the heart of the work we are doing to guarantee that UK aid is being well spent.” *
Not exactly the response I was looking for (although not the worst case scenario either). As a colleague noted to me later, there is a radical reduction in levels of budget support pending – so affirming the commitment to spend up to 5% of budget support on accountability is not a brilliant reassurance that this is at the heart of DFID’s strategy. And in any case, what happens to the ’empowerment’ side of the equation?
For me, Mitchell’s pledge last year on empowerment and accountability was one of the high points of his time in office – and is key to mitigating the risks around other aspects of UKaid reform. Fingers crossed that he hasn’t forgotten about one of his best ideas.
* This exchange is reconstructed from notes, and is not verbatim.