When the Coalition came into power it set the Department of International Development (DFID) a target of allocating 30% of the UK’s bilateral official development assistance (the term devised by the OECD and its member countries to determine whether funding or other support counts as aid or not) by 2014-15.
In many ways this was hugely welcome. As the World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report highlighted no low-income country experiencing repeated violence, weak governance and instability has achieved a single Millennium Development Goal. Plus the roughly 1.5 billion people in fragile and conflict-affected countries are more than twice as likely to be undernourished as those in other developing countries, more than three times as likely to be unable to send to children to school, twice as likely to see their children die before the age of 5, and twice as likely to lack clean water.
So where are these fragile and conflict-affected states? Well, that is not so clear as there is no agreement what constitutes such a country. DFID, for example, has no definition for a fragile and conflict-affected country. DFID calculates whether one of its priority countries is fragile or conflict-affected by whether it scores 3.2 or less on the World Bank’s Country Policy and Institutional Assessment; are at an unpublished position or lower on the Fund for Peace’s Failed States Index; or are lower income counties that appear on the Uppsala Conflict data list of countries recently affected by conflict.
That seems both quite clear and quite technical. It is not. Firstly, in terms of clarity DFID uses a different way to determine fragility when constructing what it calls a needs-effectiveness index, which helped decide which countries are priorities for it. Thus, DFID not only has no definition for countries where 30% of its funding is going it has at least two different ways of deciding how to work out what one of those countries is.
Secondly, the seeming technicality is actually three external lists on governance capability, fragility and conflict that enable DFID to conceive of a very broad selection of its priority countries as fragile and conflict-affected. This, of course, makes it far easier to meet its 30% target whilst undermining the target in the first place. DFID believes 21 of its 28 priority countries are fragile and conflict-affected, however, only 18 and 12 are, respectively, if you use the OECD’s and World Bank’s method of calculating such states.
Why this breadth of understanding from DFID? To make the 30% target easier to achieve? To enable DFID to re-label countries it has long worked in as fragile and conflict-affected and thus ensuring funding to those countries continues regardless of the government’s commitment to fragile and conflict-affected countries? To enable DFID to consider the challenge of development in fragile and conflict-affected countries as the same as in normal developing countries all evidence to the contrary?
Perhaps all three and more. It is also not just, however, the OECD and the World Bank that disagree with DFID about what is a fragile and conflict-affected country. The rest of the government seem to think so too, if the fact that only two cross-government joint analyses of conflict and stability have been produced and there are only plans to create 13 with no noticeable deadline, which does not exactly add up to 21.
There is a real need in countries affected by recurrent conflict, war, weak institutions and poor governance. That need is not being reflected in DFID policy or programming at present.