Britain’s help to the Third World to be rebranded ‘UKAid’

Author: By Kim Sengupta and Jerome Starkey in Kabul

Operations by the Department for International Development (DfID) in the
developing world will be known as “UKAid” in an attempt to make
clear that the contributions are coming from Britain.

The move is due to be unveiled in a DfID White Paper on Monday which will also
lay out a swathe of measures including how the Government intends to support
countries affected by climate change.

The White Paper is expected to state that years of development aid could be
wiped out if the issue of climate change is not addressed urgently. Studies
would take place to ascertain how money could be allocated to tackle the
problem without endangering other funds for alleviating poverty.

Under the rebranding plan, aid arriving in the developing world will be marked
with the label “UKAid” and DfID staff will be asked to “identify”
with the new image which, they have been told, is essential to raise the
profile of the ministry.

It is not known how much it will cost to carry out the makeover which is due
to affect a range of items from stationery and packaging to legal documents.

Some aid workers criticised the move as unnecessary and a waste of resources
and claimed that cosmetic changes were no substitute for substantive reform.

However it had the backing of others in the field who said a change was long
overdue. A recent report by the Commons International Development Select
Committee stated that DfID needed a more distinctive name to build awareness
of the work it carries out.

The committee’s chairman, Malcolm Bruce, told The Independent: “The
problem is that 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 [Canada International Development Agency].”

Mr Bruce maintained that the UK’s contribution to international development is
often overlooked, giving the case of shelters funded by DfID following
earthquakes in Pakistan. The tents were erected by the Norwegian Refugee
Council and stamped with Norwegian flags. British MPs visiting the site were
asked by local people to pass on their thanks to the Norwegian government;
they were unaware that DfID had contributed 55 per cent of the budget of the
project.

“For example people say that in Afghanistan the British are only giving
aid to Helmand because our forces are there,” said Mr Bruce. “We
are, in fact, giving aid to other parts as well. But because it is done
through the Afghan Government no one knows about it.”

However, aid specialists in Afghanistan, where the British government spends
£126m in aid each year, remained sceptical. Ashley Jackson, a policy and
advocacy analyst with Oxfam, said: “DfID should be concentrating on
delivering aid to the Afghans who need it most, and ensuring that they are
delivering that aid effectively, transparently and efficiently.”

Matt Waldman, an independent development consultant who has written numerous
reports on aid effectiveness in Afghanistan, said: “In light of recent
evaluation it’s clear there are some substantial and substantive changes
that are required. A name change isn’t one of them.”

He added: “Some of DfID’s work in Afghanistan is a really high standard,
but efforts to win hearts and minds with immediate assistance projects have
been largely futile. DfID has been subjected to too much pressure from
politicians in Whitehall and the military for quick, visible results, which
aren’t necessarily best for development.

“They don’t win the support of local people, and a name change won’t
change that.”

Even members of staff at the British Embassy in Kabul said they were perplexed
by the change and expressed concern that the similarity of “UKAid”
to USAID would pander to critics who claim British foreign policy is too
heavily influenced by Washington.

One diplomat said: ” DfID has tried really hard to channel its money
through the Afghan Government, to build up the Government’s capacity, and
now all of a sudden they want to put a new name over everything and claim
credit for Britain? It doesn’t make sense.”

The Conservative international development spokesman Andrew Mitchell said: “It’s
important that Britain’s aid effort throughout the world is effective and
useful.

“I am in favour of recognition being given to Britain for important work
in the field of development.”

DfID What the department does

*The budget of the Department for International Development (DfID) for
2010-11 is £9.1bn, up from £4.9bn in 2007 and £6.8bn in 2008.

*Originally created as the Ministry of Overseas Development during the
Labour government of 1964-70, the agency lost its ministerial status
following the Conservative victory in 1979. Its successor, the Overseas
Development Agency (ODA) came under the bailiwick of the Foreign Secretary
and its primary role became the promotion of British exports to the
developing world ? “aid through aid”.

*The policy was blamed for the Pergau Dam scandal in which Britain funded
the project at the same time as the Malaysian government bought £1bn worth
of arms. In 1994, after an application for judicial review brought by the
World Development Movement, the High Court ruled that the foreign secretary
at the time, Douglas Hurd, had acted illegally in allocating £234m to the
dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to
the Malaysian people.

*DfID, set up by the Labour Government in 1997, is governed by the
International Development Act which effectively outlawed aid tied to trade.
It was also removed from the control of the Foreign Secretary.

*However, under its first Secretary of State, Clare Short, the department
was kept on a low profile ? a legacy, many felt, of the Pergau Dam scandal,
despite the fact it had taken place under a Tory government.

*David Cameron has pledged not to cut DfID’s budget if the Tories win the
next general election, despite coming under pressure from the right wing of
the Conservative Party.

Kim Sengupta

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