1 September 2008

Launch of UK progress report on aid effectiveness - Speech by Shahid Malik

On Monday 1 September, Permanent Under Secretary of State Shahid Malik spoke to an audience of UK non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and development practitioners at DFID’s London headquarters to launch the UK Progress Report on Aid Effectiveness. Coming a day before the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, he focussed on how the UK is delivering on its promises to make aid work harder for poor people. Here is the full text of the speech.

Shahid Malik

Thank you for coming here today. I’m delighted to be launching the UK’s Progress Report on Aid Effectiveness. The report is important because it shows how DFID is keeping its promises to make aid work harder for poor people.

In this speech I want to tell you about three key themes from the UK Progress report:

  • How DFID is keeping its promises to make aid work harder for poor people;
  • How this is improving the lives of poor people;
  • What DFID hopes to achieve this week at the Accra High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness and why Accra is important.

This report shows how DFID is meeting its promises to make aid work harder for poor people. What did we promise? At Gleneagles in 2005, rich countries promised not only more aid but better aid too. The EU agreed targets to give not only more aid but better aid too. And DFID made additional commitments to give not only more aid but better aid too. Many of you played a critical role in creating the political momentum that made those agreements possible.

What is better aid?

So, what do we mean by better aid? The good news is that the international community has agreed what we mean by better aid. Over 100 donors, partner governments and civil society organisations signed up to the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in 2005. We promised something radical – to put partner countries in charge. We use aid to support their priorities, spend through their systems and measure the results they want to achieve.

We know that this is what makes aid effective in reducing poverty. For example, in Nepal, the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has reduced by a quarter since 2001. This is because DFID and other donors have together helped fund Nepal’s national health policies.

We also know whether donors, including DFID, and partner governments are delivering on our promises. We agreed targets with numbers and a regular monitoring system. We’ve just had the second monitoring survey which tells us how we’re all doing in keeping our promises.

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Keeping our promises

DFID has already met seven out of 10 of the Paris targets, three years before they’re due. And we are on track to achieve the other three targets. That looks good on paper. But what does it mean on the ground?

When I visited Nepal in June this year, I announced a 27 million programme to help the Government unite all of rural Nepal through roads. New roads have helped reduce poverty across Nepal by 11% over the past 10 years. Roads are a top priority for poor people. DFID Nepal has forged an alliance with six other donors to ensure that all districts in Nepal get help to build the roads they need.

In Yemen, we have signed a 10-year development partnership arrangement to signal our commitment to the Government’s poverty reduction strategy. We have committed to improving the delivery of our aid, so the Government of Yemen can be more confident about how much aid they can expect and when it will arrive. And we will deliver aid to support the Government’s poverty priorities. For their part, the Government of Yemen has committed to reduce rural poverty, improve girls’ education and strengthen human rights. When I visited last year, the Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister described the relationship with the UK on development as a ‘success story’. He said the UK acts as a ‘model’ for other donors.

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The need to do more

So the Paris survey and feedback from our development partners show we’re doing well on aid effectiveness. But we recognise we need to do more. We need to do better on getting our aid recorded on partner governments’ budgets and providing more predictable aid, so partner governments know how much they will get in advance. We are committed to finding out what the bottlenecks are on these and improving our performance.

DFID is striving to be a model of good practice on aid effectiveness. That means we have to think beyond just DFID’s aid. DFID is playing an international leadership role on aid effectiveness. The UK pioneered the International Health Partnership launched by the Prime Minister in September 2007. This is helping to tackle slow progress against health MDGs, particularly maternal mortality. Donors and partner governments in 10 countries are now working together to implement partner country plans to strengthen the health system.

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Hopes for Accra

We need all aid to work harder for poor people if we are to achieve the MDGs. The Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness starts tomorrow in Accra. It is about better aid. It is about all donors keeping the promises they made in 2005. The latest monitoring survey shows that the Paris Declaration is making a difference on the ground in many countries. But progress is too slow to meet the 2010 targets. We have to go faster in improving the quality of all aid.

So what does DFID want to achieve in Accra this week? For us, Accra is a key opportunity to build an aid system where partner countries are in the lead.

Firstly, we’ll be asking donors to be more transparent about how they give aid. Donors and partner countries need to hold each other accountable for keeping their promises on better aid. People tend to keep their promises better if they know someone’s going to hold them to account. In Mozambique, the Government publishes an annual league table of donors according to how far they’ve met their commitments on aid effectiveness. Not surprisingly there’s been a clear trend in improved donor performance. I’m pleased to say DFID has been rated top for the past three years!

Secondly, we’ll be asking donors to give more long-term, predictable funding that partner countries can rely on. This is vital to help partner countries fund the health and education services that are so important for poor people. In Malawi, DFID’s long-term funding means the Government can double the number of nurses, triple the number of doctors and retain them through better pay and conditions. We would like a new Paris target to measure how predictable aid is in the medium-term.

We’ll be supporting EU efforts to get international agreement on how donors can divide labour better so they reduce the burden for partner countries of having to manage so many different donors. We’ll be asking donors to review their internal incentives so they promote aid effectiveness.

I mentioned at the start how important it is to have political momentum to make aid better. Putting partner countries in the lead is a political challenge, not a technical one. It’s a question of priorities. Too often, the quality of aid suffers because donor countries have many different priorities, not just poverty reduction. I’m proud that the UK has led the way in putting poverty reduction at the heart of its aid. I’m proud to launch this report showing how we’re making aid work harder for poor people. I’m proud that in Accra, the UK will be prioritising just one special interest group: the millions of poor people around the world who lives will be better if we deliver better aid.

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