Cash-on-delivery ‘could hurt UK aid’

By Alex Stevenson

The coalition government’s new approach to international aid could undermine its effectiveness, Chatham House has warned.

The leading global affairs thinktank has published a report warning against international development secretary Andrew Mitchell’s ‘cash-on-delivery’ approach.

The Department for International Development’s (DfID) budget has been ringfenced from impending spending cuts. Mr Mitchell’s cash-on-delivery approach is seeking to persuade voters that the money is being well-spent.

But today’s report from Chatham House argues that in places like Tanzania, where UK aid has helped four million more children in school by financing the construction of 4,000 primary schools, the emphasis has been on the development of national systems and capacity rather than rewarding outputs.

“Looking to the future, the global environment in which Britain’s international development strategy will evolve is marked by threats and opportunities,” report author Kevin Watkins says.

“Slow progress towards the millennium development goals (MDGs), the effects of the financial crisis, climate change and the wider crisis threatening food systems pose daunting challenges.”

The report calls for caution when it comes to diverting resources from investment in recruiting more health workers, teachers, essential medicines and classrooms.

A major UN summit on the MDGs, whose final deadline is 2015, will take place next month.