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Stock photo of a lightbulb on a black background
August 10, 2020

The UK as an Effective Altruist

The prime minister’s most influential advisor, Dominic Cummings, is a champion of “effective altruism”—the use of evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to maximize the good with a given unit of resources. With the UK government in the midst of a major “Integrated Review” of its foreign, development, and defence policy—and the recent the formation of a merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirming it isn’t afraid of change—now’s a good time to consider whether the effective altruism movement can or should find great traction in UK aid programmes.

A hedgehog and a fox
August 5, 2020

The Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Hounds: How the FCDO Can Deliver Its Vision for Development

Being a force for good in the world is more than about branding, or even good intentions: it requires impact and an organisation capable of it. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s vision offers a good starting point for being a values-driven force for good in the world, but within that vision there are potential tensions that need to be managed, rather than left to seethe.

Image of the Front Cover of the What Works Paper
October 4, 2019

When Does “What Works” Work? And What Does that Mean for UK Aid R&D Spend?

The UK’s Secretary of State for International Development oversees an aid-financed R&D budget that is larger than that of the next 15 biggest donors combined. At the moment, a considerable proportion of that UK R&D spend goes towards solving global technological challenges related to neglected tropical diseases including malaria, and a considerable proportion again towards local evaluation of aid-financed development interventions. Much of the rest is somewhat opaquely distributed to British universities for research supposedly related to development.

Cover of Policy Paper 152
July 25, 2019

UK Research Aid: Tied, Opaque and Off-Topic?

The UK has considerably increased the amount of aid it spends on research in recent years. We suggest reporting reforms that will increase transparency and allow greater scrutiny of the way UK research aid is spent. We also call for the UK to live up to its reporting to the OECD that all British aid is untied. 

Cover of Policy Paper 140
April 17, 2019

The Quality of UK Aid Spending, 2011–2018: An Analysis of Evaluations by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact

This paper analyses the grades awarded in the 65 primary reviews undertaken by the UK Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) over its first eight years of operation, from 2011 to 2018. It finds that ICAI has directly evaluated £28bn of UK aid over the period. Around four-fifths of spend assessed was graded as “satisfactory” (amber/green) or “strong” (green). The findings from ICAI reviews, and this report, should inform the UK Government’s aid allocations between departments at the forthcoming spending review. 

Cover of Policy Paper 134
December 18, 2018

UK Aid Quality Indicators

This paper discusses the United Kingdom’s foreign aid quality based on an updated assessment of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) published by the Center for Global Development. We find UK aid quality has decreased from 2012 to 2016 and now ranks 15th out of the 27 countries assessed.

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