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Post-merger development governance in the UK: a preliminary cross-national investigation of Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors

Working papers

Written by Nilima Gulrajani

Hero image description: Merge Image credit:John Griffiths Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2018, ODI published a briefing note detailing the rationale and evidence for reorganising ministerial arrangements to better integrate overseas development and foreign affairs. With the announcement that the Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be merged by September 2020, several decisions on the future of British development governance will need to be made over the next 60 days.

This document provides a rapid review of cross-national data relating to development governance across Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members in order to assist those now considering government reforms to accommodate what UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dubbed the new ‘Whitehall super-Department for international affairs’. It provides a preliminary analysis of institutional issues and, as such, should be considered a work in progress.

Key messages

  • While political vision and priorities ultimately drive donor performance, the domestic governance of development remains an important variable associated with certain trends and outcomes.
  • The top five donors in terms of gross official development assistance (ODA) volume (United States, Germany, Japan, France and Sweden) institutionally separate development policy-making from its operational implementation.
  • Deeply integrating development within a foreign ministry, and giving ministers responsibilities for development alongside other portfolios, is associated with lower scores on commitment to development and principled national interest metrics, administrative efficiency, aid quantity and soft power.
  • With the notable exception of Germany, the development portfolio is represented on national security bodies by ministers of foreign affairs.
  • Parliamentary scrutiny of development across Development Assistance Committee (DAC) members remains limited, though there are some models for a revamped UK parliamentary committee on development, which could be explored.
Image credit:John Griffiths ~ Image license:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Nilima Gulrajani