Fours years on from its adoption by the Boards of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) approach is becoming more embedded. The PRS principles of country ownership, results-orientation, comprehensiveness, partnership and a long-term perspective are now widely recognised as crucial steps towards improved performance in poverty reduction, and as key tools for galvanising the international aid effort around the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Department for International Development’s (DFID) corporate commitment to the PRS approach is expressed in two White Papers and through attempts to align its own country programmes with PRSs and to influence other donors to do the same. Country Assistance Plans set out how DFID will work in support of the objectives laid down in national PRSs. A new policy division has been created at DFID headquarters, one of the aims of which is assisting country offices in supporting PRS implementation. DFID was also one of the players behind the Monterrey consensus and, along with African heads of government at the Rome meeting in February, has continued to press for improved international support for the PRS approach.
However, there are challenges. DFID has yet to articulate a coherent corporate approach to supporting PRSs. The international architecture, drivers of change and links between development aid and global security might all benefit from the pushing forward of policy debates on the case for aid, fiscal sustainability and aid absorption. The unfolding war on terrorism, the prospect of the UK chairing the G8 and the EU in 2005 and pending deadlines for realising the Millennium Development Goals all make a case for doing this sooner rather than later.
This second Engagement Survey provides a snapshot of (i) how PRS processes are progressing at country level; and, (ii) how DFID is engaging with them and with other development partners at country level. It does not cover DFID’s engagement with the PRS approach in the international arena through relations with the World Bank, UN, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Strategic Partnership for Africa (SPA), the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and other agencies.
In terms of the wider PRS process, the survey presents a picture of steady and incremental progress, neither the ‘silver bullet’ nor the ‘more of the same’ envisaged by many when the PRS approach was first adopted by the Boards of the World Bank and IMF. In terms of DFID engagement, the survey shows some key changes in the type and scale of engagement as the PRS process unfolds.