Dynamics - December 2012

Making aid effective - Mark Lowcock

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We speak to Department for International Development (DFID) Permanent Secretary Mark Lowcock about the evolution of development in the UK, and his department’s agenda and priorities.

“It’s in our interests as a country…to promote prosperity in other places.” – Mark Lowcock, Permanent Secretary, DFID

Under the current spending settlement, the DFID’s funding will increase from £8.1b in 2011–12 to £10.5b in 2014–15. But the extra cash comes with its burdens. “You need to manage the costs and also focus on the value of the investment,” says Lowcock.

DFID is benefiting from a generous spending package, as other ministries are adapting to sweeping cutbacks. “This is something that all political parties at the last election were committed to,” Lowcock points out. “It’s also in our interests as a country, which is a relatively small open trading economy, to promote prosperity in other places.

This decade, according to Lowcock, saw development become closely aligned with macro-trends such as globalization. Today, his department is now focusing on 28 core countries — mainly in Africa and West and South Asia. 

DFID operates with a variety of partners, including:

  • Governments in emerging countries
  • Organizations like the World Bank
  • Private sector contractors and partners
  • NGOs

One of the DFID’s priorities is making development programs effective. Austerity has led to a stronger focus on ensuring that such assistance is achieving the desired impact. However, a repeatable formula remains elusive.

Lowcock believes this is partly because all countries are different. But there are also some fundamental issues that need to be addressed. “You need to establish a market economy, you need to create the rule of law and people need freedom to express themselves,” he says.

Over the next nine months, the Prime Minister will be working to advise the UN Secretary General and General Assembly on what should replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“I think it’s important there is discussion about the generic building blocks for development — open societies, open economies, property rights, rule of law and so on. I think we also need a framework that has the clarity and simplicity and focus of the MDGs,” he advises.

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