Takeaways from an Evening with Minister Andrew Mitchell

On Wednesday March 8, the Center for Global Development hosted an event with Andrew Mitchell, Minister of State for Development and Africa of the United Kingdom, as part of our series of conversations and work on the future of development. The Minister spoke about the role the UK is playing today, the future of the international system, and what role he sees for the future of UK development cooperation.  

Reform of the multilateral development banks  

The question on everyone's minds: Reforming the international financial architecture for development to close the ever-growing financing gap that is sharply diminishing the ability of many developing countries to respond to shocks, invest in recovery and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals .. In his speech, the Minister emphasized the importance of the Bridgetown Initiative to leverage additional resources for the poorest regions, with milestones along the way, including the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and the IMF and the Summit for a New Financial Pact led by French President Emmanuel Macron.. He highlighted the rechannelling of SDRs and the deployment of risk-sharing tools as avenues for the UK to shift more funding towards development and climate. 

CGD is at the forefront of this agenda through a large research initiative on MDB reform lin practice – and the best way to approach it. We will soon be launching a partnership with a number of Africa, Asian, and Latin American think tanks to ensure that the expertise and concerns of low- and middle-income countries are not left out of the discussions. 

On the role for the UK in development cooperation 

Following the merger of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, the Minister reasserted his commitment to make the most of the reorganization, including through better cooperation between foreign and development teams on common geographies and themes.  

One of these themes will be gender: on Wednesday, ahead of the Minister’s speech, the UK published its new International Women and Girls Strategy The policy sets out an ambitious plan for UK’s focus on girls’ education, women and girls’ empowerment, health and rights as well as the fight against gender-based violence, despite the recent cuts to UK support for sexual and reproductive health. Our work shows that while we have made huge progress in the level of education girls across the world are able to access, this is not translating into economic equality for women. What’s more, levels of violence against children are unacceptably high. So, while tackling the learning crisis is crucial, as is closing the gap between girls and boys, our efforts to get more girls in school and learning will be worth little if we are not able to ensure that they have a safe place to learn.  

Climate finance also came into focus. The Minister reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to provide funding for climate mitigation and adaption following its leadership at COP26 in Glasgow and the need to simplify access to climate finance for the most vulnerable countries. However, while climate finance amounts to almost USD80 billion a year, publicly financed climate programs are still relatively new and face serious challenges around effectiveness. Our research shows that there is almost no high-quality evidence on its impact, that it suffers from small and shrinking project sizes in low-income countries and that recipients are having to deal with a growing number of official providers, more than in the health or education sectors.  

On effectiveness, Andrew Mitchell spoke about the quality of the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the need for reform and tighter controls over spending, as well as the constraints any effort would face. There is no doubt that the pressure on UK ODA is squeezing it from supporting development outcomes in developing countries. Our research has highlighted that an increasing share of the UK’s ODA is being spent at home at the expense of the UK’s longstanding focus on poverty reduction.

With less than two years before a new government comes into office, the window for restoring the UK’s credibility as a heavyweight in development is narrowing. And there are tough choices and trade-offs to be made. The fundamental question, however, remains: how will the UK tackle global challenges and crises in a way that maximizes the benefits for advancing the sustainable development agenda? 


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.