One of the key roles of UK development NGOs is to hold the UK government to account for the effectiveness and impact of UK aid. We have a unique perspective on how aid can be spent most effectively, informed by our programme experience, research and analysis, and networks with civil society and others in the global South.
The UK Aid Network (UKAN) was formed in 2004 as part of the Make Poverty History campaign to coordinate policy analysis, campaigning and advocacy for more and better aid.
UKAN has a small, efficient secretariat which influences decision-makers, maintains key relationships and provides clear analysis at key moments. But UKAN is much bigger than the secretariat. UKAN is most effective when it is working with and coordinating campaigning by the wide network of UK development NGOs.
In 2015, after almost a decade of campaigning, Parliament enshrined in law the commitment to spend 0.7 percent GNI on aid. The law had strong cross-party support and resources are committed until at least 2020. The UK commitment refocused international attention on 0.7 and prompted a re-commitment to the target at EU level in 2015.
UKAN played a crucial role in helping us get to 0.7 percent and in holding the UK government to account on aid.
- UKAN provided timely and focused briefings during Parliamentary debates on the 0.7 Bill, as well as coordinating campaigning by UK development NGOs over the past decade. This ensured that the sector was speaking with a strong, unified voice and was drawing from a credible and robust evidence base.
- UKAN ensures that civil society perspectives – from the UK and from the global South – are front and centre in international negotiations on aid.
- During a recent High Level Meeting on aid effectiveness in Mexico, UKAN ensured that a civil society representative from the global South spoke during the opening plenary. Southern civil society was not represented on any other panels.
- During the 2015 negotiations on Financing for Development, UKAN ensured that UK development NGOs had a level of access to intelligence and decision-makers that was only possible because of the strong network of relationships that UKAN maintains on a day to day basis.
- UKAN has established itself as a go-to expert voice on aid, holding strong relationships of trust with decision-makers.
- When the new government was elected in 2015, UKAN was invited to provide advice on the new work-plans of Parliament’s International Development Committee and of the Independent Committee on Aid Effectiveness. The National Audit Office asked UKAN to sit on their expert panel to review their report on crises. This unusual level of access amplifies the sector’s expertise on aid issues in key forums.
- UKAN is regularly invited to engage in and often to lead key debates by actors outside the UK like the European Commission, the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), and the Global Partnership on Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).
A changing context
While the law on 0.7 was a huge victory, challenges remain.
- The commitment to 0.7 percent remains under threat by the rise of anti-aid political parties like UKIP and continued pressure from sceptical members of other political parties.
- The 2015 UK aid strategy and the recent redefinition of what counts as aid by the OECD DAC undermines the poverty focus of UK aid: more and more of 0.7 is likely to be spent in the national interest, to achieve prosperity and security, and to meet other objectives like supporting refugees. Aid is increasingly being used to leverage private investment, without evidence that this is effective or that it will contribute to poverty reduction.
- The consensus around country ownership and aid effectiveness is weakening. This trend may be exacerbated by the fact that 30 percent of UK aid will be spent outside DFID.
- Donors have yet to reflect the key principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their aid strategies, for example leave no-one behind and environmental sustainability.
- In UK development NGOs, there is significantly less capacity to campaign and lobby on aid issues than there was ten years ago, making the role of UKAN even more crucial.
Aid is a precious resource which can achieve things that no other source of finance can. While aid is dwarfed by other sources of revenue, like loans and tax, it remains a crucial and unique form of finance for many of the poorest countries and for conflict-affected and fragile states. There is still much to do to ensure that UK aid has the maximum possible impact for the poorest people.
A new strategy for UKAN
UKAN will continue to play a pivotal role in getting more and better UK aid, influencing the UK government at home and in international forums. By the end of the current Parliament:
- The government will maintain and improve the quality and effectiveness of UK aid, providing clear independent evidence of poverty and sustainability impacts from all UK Aid programmes;
- Parliament and the government will maintain cross-party commitment to and will deliver 0.7 percent of GNI as UK Aid, making high-level political commitments and transparently allocating resources to activities that genuinely contribute to poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability; and
- Civil society and statutory oversight bodies will carry out more effective scrutiny of UK aid spending and trends, leading to changes in government practice based on independent analysis.
UKAN will contribute to these outcomes in the following ways:
- UKAN will be propositional, drawing on the experience and expertise of the UK development sector to showcase the approaches, policies and practices that are working on the ground;
- UKAN will be a go-to network for information and analysis on aid and development effectiveness, providing high quality research and briefings both to influence decision-making and to inform the campaigning and advocacy undertaken by UK development NGOs;
- UKAN will develop and maintain relationships with key UK and international decision-makers and oversight bodies, using these relationships both to influence policy change and to provide intelligence and access to allow UK development NGOs to hold the UK to account;
- UKAN will represent the UK development sector in the global aid movement and in international effectiveness fora, such as the EU, OECD and UN.
- Producing research, analysis and policy in response to or to influence important aid and development effectiveness moments through:
- Ad hoc briefings and support for members on aid and development effectiveness policy and information
- Consolidating evidence from member organisations of successful development experiences, programmes and policies from different countries
- Coordinating and producing joint policy positions on key aid issues from the UK NGO sector
- Producing and promoting short case studies
- Maintain and facilitate existing relationships with, decision-makers (UK, EU and international) and oversight bodies on aid effectiveness issues through:
- Working closely with the IDC and ICAI to help hold DFID and other government departments to account for effectiveness commitments
- Maintaining relationships with key staff in DFID, wider UK government and global bodies
- Coordinating with Bond for joint sectoral approaches
- Represent UK civil society in the global aid movement and relevant international fora through:
- Engaging with European and global CSO networks on aid and development effectiveness
- Engaging with the relevant global processes such as UN Financing for Development (FFD), UN Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) and OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC)
Strategic International Objectives
- Support AidWatch in the production of their annual report and other relevant work for EU level lobbying and policy development.
- Support AidWatch advocacy at the EU level and translate to the national level where appropriate.
CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE)
- Support and engage with the CPDE on development effectiveness specifically as relates to the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC).
Other networks and organisations
UKAN works with a broad range of other organisations including: