Mixed reactions to DFID White Paper

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Dfid_frontcover After an impressive consultation period, DFID released a White Paper with the UK Government’s five-year plan to reduce world poverty. The White Paper, called “Eliminating world poverty, making governance work for the poor”, is loaded with beautiful photographs and emphasizes: increasing aid (to 0.7% GNI by 2013), prioritizing governance, delivering basic public services, addressing climate change, and reforming the international system (UN, World Bank, EU aid).

Response to the White Paper is mixed, predictably. ActionAid broadly welcomes the document but notes "we would have liked to see more about making British companies accountable for their actions overseas." The director of the International Policy Network calls it "a victory for ignorance over evidence and of hope over logic". Julius Court from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) praises DFID for its boldness. From Court:

The course set out in the White Paper is the right one. Governance is an area where DFID has a comparative advantage.

A summary of the consultation process reads like a finger on the pulse of the development community. The document points out that 35% of respondents mentioned the delivery of basic services, like water and infrastructure, to the poor:

There was much disagreement about the role of the private sector in delivering services. Some of you thought that it should never have a role. Some thought that public private partnerships can work if the right models are used. Others thought that the private sector could and should have a key role in service delivery.

Private sector involvement in service delivery didn’t make it into the white paper, except for a few glancing references to public-private partnerships in health research and infrastructure investment.

Update: The Observer summarizes a long report from British MPs on DFID, private sector development and poverty reduction.

In the UK, Members of Parliament accuse DFID "of failing to understand how business works, despite claiming to put the private sector at the heart of its anti-poverty strategy...Committee chairman Malcolm Bruce, said he was concerned that DfID was taking a 'scatter-gun approach' to its new strategy of private sector development."

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