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.
The Commitment to Development Index ranks 40 countries on their development policies. How did your country do this year?
On 30th April, Ian Mitchell submitted written evidence on aid effectiveness to the UK's International Development Select Committee.
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.
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.
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.
The Commitment to Development Index ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries on policies that affect more than five billion people living in poorer nations. How did your country do this year?
The Report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers shows why giving aid directly in the form of cash is often a highly effective way to reduce suffering and to make limited humanitarian aid budgets go further. We urge the humanitarian community to give more aid as cash, and to make cash central to future emergency response planning.
When Sir Tim Lankester defends the aid programme against charges that it can sometimes be misused for other things, he knows what he is talking about. He was the most senior civil servant in Britain’s aid ministry (then called ODA, now known as DFID), and in 1991 he bravely blew the whistle on a project to finance a dam in Malaysia because it was not a good use of development money (and indeed turned out to be connected to agreements to buy British arms).