Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Visualization breaking down where most aid goes

Focusing UK Research Aid Where It Matters

The UK’s development agency, DFID, has stated that it views research as the best way to spend aid and that it intends to place high quality research central to its aid strategy. In a new paper, we find significant problems with the way that UK aid is being used to back research: a huge ramp-up in support has largely gone to fund opaque, unfocused research in UK universities. There are better approaches.

Flowchart showing an overview of the policy cycle, and where ICAI fits in and can influence decisions.

Results vs. Claims: Strengthening the UK’s Aid Watchdog

ICAI has just entered its third four-year phase. ICAI is a major asset in ensuring aid is well-spent. Having reviewed ICAI’s prior work, we think ICAI could should focus more on “results claims”—that is, whether the estimates of expected benefits that underpin decision-making by Ministers are well-evidenced.

The UK Needs a New Formula for ODA-Funded Research

The UK government has recently ramped up the amount of aid that is directed towards research and development. While this can be positive in ensuring a sound research base for UK aid funds, this should not be seen as an opportunity to plug UK university funding deficits, or to "tie aid" to the UK economy.

ICAI grades for spending directly evaluated (Depts reviewed and >1% UK aid)

How Effective Is UK Aid? Assessing the Last 8 Years of Spending

In our new policy paper, we take advantage of the fact that the impact of UK aid is independently assessed by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI). Looking back over 8 years and 65 graded assessments, even with a focus on riskier projects, we find that almost 80 percent of UK aid assessed was well spent. With a spending review on the horizon, HM Treasury will be looking closely at departmental performance and should use ICAI’s findings to shape their allocations. 

UK aid supplies on pallets

How Should UK Development Finance Count as Aid?

The UK Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt spoke powerfully last week about the opportunities for expanding investment in developing countries, including through CDC, the UK’s development finance institution. But a new proposal to count the reinvestment of returns on development finance towards the aid target would contradict the principle underpinning the rules on measuring aid, reduce the UK’s aid effort, and create volatility for other aid (and HM Treasury).

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