Is DfID’s Andrew Mitchell A Visionary or a Villain?
British NGOs are up in arms again. The “again” in that sentence, is probably a tautology. NGOs are always up in arms. So, to be more precise, let’s say British NGOs are even more outraged than usual these days.
On Sunday, DfID internal memos were leaked to The Observer. They revealed that Andrew Mitchell, the new International Development Secretary, plans to renege on some 90 international aid commitments made by Labour.
On the surface, this would appear to contradict previous Tory commitments to “ring-fence” DfID spending in the midst of massive overall budget cuts to every other government department save one.
But a recent interview given by Mitchell in The New Statesman may reveal the possible logic behind these cuts. He states:
“The ring-fencing imposes on all of us a double duty to make sure that for every pound that is spent on the development budget from hard-pressed taxpayers, we really get 100 pence of value.”
Blogger “Roving Bandit” proposes the following hypothesis:
“DFID is looking into dropping Labour’s commitments on inputs so that it can refocus its monitoring and targets onto outputs, within the context of a ring-fenced total aid budget.”
So far, I’ve seen no hard evidence that these cuts to previous commitments are, in fact, a reprioritization of DfID’s aid goals. However, as I’ve noted before Mitchell does seem to be saying all the right things, specifically that British aid spending should “have a proven impact on the ground”. If he is demanding that goals be determined by impact, and not by disbursements, then this is the hallmark of a major shift and one that needs to be celebrated. It’s possible that one of the global leaders in aid is beginning to move away from the mantra of “Spend More!” which dominated the last twenty years, and is moving towards the idea of “Spend better.”
As bad journalists like to say “only time will tell”. But for now, we continue to be fond of Andrew Mitchell.