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Photo: Capturing the Human Heart, Unsplash

Our 4 asks for Rory Stewart

14 May 2019

Rory Stewart has important and urgent work to do on his return to the Department for International Development (DFID).  

With just over a decade to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we’re calling on DFID to place tackling the global challenges of poverty and inequality, instability and crises, and climate change and environmental breakdown at the heart of its agenda. DFID also needs to continue its important work driving up safeguarding standards in partnership with the development sector.

We’re looking forward to working with the new secretary of state to take on the major challenges of our time. Here are four priorities we have for him as he gets stuck into his new role.

Advocate for greater action to achieve the SDGs by 2030

The UK government played a central role in developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and committed to their delivery by 2030.

The SDGs cannot be achieved by 2030 without local ownership, so we hope to see DFID supporting other countries and communities to deliver the goals in their own contexts. It also requires DFID leadership to help ensure coherence between international and domestic policies, and the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the SDGs.

The UK is due to provide its first Voluntary National Review of its progress this July, but so far consultation with civil society and other stakeholders has not been sufficiently meaningful or inclusive. There are also critical gaps in the UK’s policy, programming and political commitments. For example, the government is not doing enough to put its international commitment to leave no one behind into practice. 

Bond and its members are able to share their perspectives and policy proposals, developed from our own analysis of our influence and impact and through diverse experiences of working with civil society partners from around the world. We would welcome the opportunity to work with the new secretary of state on this.

Ensure that UK aid always works for the world’s poorest people

DFID has a reputation for being one of the most effective development agencies in the world, and whether it’s helping to educate millions of children, tackling world hunger, or providing vaccines against some of the world’s most deadly diseases, the department remains a clear example of Britain’s strong standing on the global stage.

We are proud of the UK’s record on aid but have concerns that Official Development Assistance (ODA) is not always being spent with the intention of meeting the UK’s own promises and standards, including reducing poverty and inequalities, and promoting sustainable development. 

ODA can help save lives, provide the tools that can help people escape poverty, and strengthen the infrastructure necessary for sustainable change. But currently ODA-spending government departments, particularly outside of DFID, are not adequately demonstrating that reducing poverty and inequality is at the heart of their programmes and projects.

We want the UK to lead by example in meeting its own objectives for international development, and sticking to internationally-agreed principles, such as the Development Assistance Committee’s rules on aid, and globally agreed principles on development and aid effectiveness. 

We hope to see these commitments strongly reflected in DFID’s future directions strategy and the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review. All UK departments should be able to demonstrate their commitment if they are given the responsibility of spending the valuable resource of aid. 

Give UK civil society a voice on Brexit negotiations and beyond

We welcome DFID’s recent efforts to engage with civil society on Brexit, following the government’s commitment to provide financial assurance to UK NGOs for EU contracts in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It is important to ensure that the world’s poorest people are not damaged by any impact of Brexit. 

However, much still needs to be decided in terms of the future relationship of UK-EU development cooperation. UK civil society includes some of the most experienced and innovative development organisations in the world, and we have a critical role to play in contributing to policy-making on any future relationship with the EU.

We will continue to call for the UK government to ensure that the world’s poorest are better off – or at least no worse off – once the UK leaves the EU. 

Ensure the same safeguarding standards apply to all development actors

Since media stories first emerged of sexual abuse and exploitation in the aid sector a year ago, Bond and our members have made significant progress in driving up safeguarding standards, and we thank DFID for the leadership it has shown on this agenda.

This progress includes the sector’s commitment to change document, supporting the sector on improved safeguarding practice across key areas, such as leadership and culture, reporting and complaints mechanisms and good governance practice, and working across the NGO sector to develop common approaches to recruitment and referencing.

However, civil society alone can’t make some of the bigger legal, systemic, global changes required. These need to be led by DFID in coordination with other relevant government departments, civil society, multilaterals and the private sector. We need to work collectively to achieve long-term, sustainable change that puts the victims and survivors of sexual abuse and exploitation at the core of our efforts.