A little-known, but rather impressive, feature of the international development system is process of peer review by which each OECD country submits its development cooperation program to independent scrutiny once every 4 years. The study, which is led by two other countries, is published.
The United Kingdom has just be subject to such a review, and the Main Findings and Recommendations have now been published
This coherent and well organised approach to development co-operation has permitted the UK to make good progress against the DAC recommendations of the 2001 Peer Review, including substantial movement towards an ODA/GNI target of 0.7%, a sharper focus on poverty, a stronger framework for efforts of government-wide policy coherence, a proactive collaboration with other donors and improved operational guidelines (the Blue Book), headquarters-field relationships, and systems of monitoring and evaluation. DFID has gone through a “golden age” of growth and achievement since 1997, and certainly since the last Peer Review in 2001. It must now consolidate those achievements and prepare for the next growth phase, when performance scrutiny will intensify, both domestically and internationally.
In short, this is a remarkably positive report about the work of DFID and the UK Government's contribution to the fight against global poverty. Of course, criticisms in DAC peer reviews are often embedded in the careful language of international diplomacy and may be hard to spot by the casual reader; but this summary is almost uniformly glowing. In the 9 years since the Department for International Development was established it has achieved an enviable international reputation as probably the world's best bilateral development agency, and this peer review is a testament to that.
Whatever you think generally about international aid, and whatever your view of the effectiveness of government agencies, DFID has been a remarkable success which reflects well on Britain internationally. This is something we can be proud of.
(Disclosure: I am on a leave of absence from the UK Department for International Development).