Using data to hold government to account for policies beyond aid

25 August 2017
Author: Justin Moore

NGOs have an important role to play in monitoring the UK’s interactions with developing countries and in holding the UK government to account for its policies beyond aid spending, particularly in areas like trade, migration, finance, environment and security. 

Policy makers need an incentive to improve these policies, so policy outcomes need to be monitored. For example, the level of remittances from migrants or the level of imports from developing countries. If NGOs have a better understanding of non-aid financial flows, they could also find new ways to work with different countries.

Some key questions you should be asking:

  • Is trade between the UK and low income countries increasing or decreasing, and by how much?
  • What are the biggest financial flows between the UK and the specific countries you are working with?
  • Which Least Developed Countries are the biggest recipients of remittances from the UK?

Some notable trends

We have developed an initiative called Development Monitor to help organisations find out about trade and financial interactions between the UK and developing countries. For example, our data dashboard already shows us that: 

  • UK imports from Ethiopia more than doubled between 2010 and 2015 from £61m to £147m, while the UK’s total imports from other low income countries fell slightly.
  • Remittances from the UK to Nigeria were (according to World Bank estimates) nearly ten times more than UK bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Nigeria in 2015 (£2.5bn versus £263m).
  • Recorded UK imports from Sierra Leone have dropped to almost nothing since 2013. During 2011-2013 the value of UK exports to Sierra Leone matched or exceeded our bilateral ODA there.
  • Remittances to Pakistan dropped by over £300m in 2013 (according to World Bank estimates), which was about twice the increase in UK bilateral ODA to Pakistan that year.
  • Nigeria was the biggest developing country recipient of UK Foreign Direct Investment in 2015 (according to data available from ONS), receiving over £3bn in new investment.

Nonetheless, for some interactions with developing countries better data is needed so that policy outcomes can be effectively monitored. For example, while the UK has made commitments on recovering criminal assets stolen in Nigeria, this is not yet matched by systematic reporting on asset recovery. One opportunity to identify gaps in reporting and press for improvements is the development of the next Open Government National Action Plan. 

Shining a light on these financial flows is just a first step. Development Monitor’s overall aim is to promote a wider view of UK interactions with developing countries and we are looking at including more data, such as on natural resource payments and arms exports, in future updates. To help us be as effective as possible in monitoring interactions with developing countries, we need your feedback so please get in contact if you find the data useful or have suggestions for improvements.

About the author

Justin Moore

Justin is founder of Development Monitor. He has over 15 years experience as a policy analyst and has spent most of his career developing evidenced-based policy at regulatory bodies. He has also worked as a volunteer researcher with Global Witness.