UK aid in Burma
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What does the new aid effectiveness report mean for UK aid?

The Centre for Global Development (CGD) has released its latest assessment of the Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA), which measures against agreed principles of aid effectiveness by donor and recipient countries.

We have highlighted the main findings from the report for the UK and its performance on indicators of aid effectiveness.

What does the report assess?

The CGD’s QuODA methodology attempts to answer the question “How are donors doing on the commitments that they have made to improving aid quality?”. It is important to remember that although these figures can be indicative of larger trends, QuODA is not a direct assessment of how effective aid has been, but instead represents a measure of donors’ performance against certain internationally-agreed aid effectiveness metrics.

QuODA consists of 24 different measures, which can be grouped under four themes: maximising efficiency, fostering institutions, reducing the burden on recipient countries, and transparency and learning.

Headlines show UK falling behind

Overall the data shows that the UK has a relatively high quantity of aid, but relatively low quality of aid when covering both bilateral and multilateral spending. The quality of aid has been measured by how far the UK government have gone in meeting its own commitments to improve aid effectiveness, and has been judged by the measures which are in the donors’ control.

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Despite maintaining a commitment to give 0.7% of the national GNI, the UK has still fallen over 10 places in the index, to land at number 15 out of 27.

The reports shows that on a range of indicators the UK is below average, and in particular scores poorly on bilateral aid due to underperformance on fostering institutions within UK bilateral aid, suffering a drop of 12 places over a four-year period from 2012–2016.

For its multilateral aid quality, the UK ranks seventh, driven in part by its contributions to the International Development Association (part of the World Bank), which scores well among multilateral agencies.

The UK remains top ranked for a commitment to untied aid, while on transparency and learning the UK’s performance is in the top half of countries overall but does fall below average on making development funding information publicly accessible.

Where is the UK focusing aid?

The report finds that the UK still spends most aid in poor countries, with “just over half of ODA in 2016 allocated to least developed and low-income countries while the rest went to low- and upper-middle-income countries”. However, it also highlights that between 2012 and 2016, the proportion of UK aid spent in least developed countries “decreased by 6 percentage points” and the proportion spent in upper middle-income countries “increased by 9 percentage points”.

It is important to highlight that not all the indicators and measures collected in the QuODA data reflect the difficulties of investing aid and carrying out development programming in 2018, such as working in complex fragile states or providing humanitarian aid. In particular, some of the UK’s weaker scores relate to its commitment to supporting fragile states or a shift towards spending ODA through other government departments beyond the Department for International Development.

Implications for UK aid

The report suggests that the UK’s commitment on ensuring aid quality is coming under strain. Though it analyses data which shows how well the UK is performing against its own commitments to improve aid quality, and not the aid that is actually delivered, it does reinforce fears that the UK isn’t meeting its own commitments to best practice. This needs to be addressed, otherwise the UK risks falling behind other countries at a time when we need to show global leadership and make those the furthest behind a priority.