Simon Maxwell

The reviews are finished. Should DFID now publish a White Paper?

DFID has now published the Bilateral Aid Review (the BAR), the Multilateral Aid Review (the MAR) and the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (the HERR), the three reviews announced last year by Andrew Mitchell. I have commented in some detail on all three, first the BAR and the MAR, most recently the HERR (to which I contributed). If I understand correctly, the results of the BAR and the MAR have been announced as Government policy, under the rubric ‘Changing Lives, delivering results: our plans to help the world’s poorest people.’ The HERR, on the other hand, is an independent review, and will be opened to consultation. I learned today at the launch that Andrew Mitchell hopes to issue a Government response to the recommendation in the week beginning 9 May, or thereabouts.

Is that then it? Or is there more to do? There will be many implementation issues, of course, but are there also questions of strategy still pending? I would say there are, especially about the interface between the BAR, MAR and HERR – issues I discussed in my earlier pieces. What is the right balance between multilateral and bilateral aid, for example? There are also questions about how DFIDDepartment for International Development will take forward the non-aid agenda with which it has been charged since DFIDDepartment for International Development was formed in 1997.

Some have argued that the next step should be a White Paper – the first for this Government, but the second in two years and the fifth in the last 14 years. I’m not so sure, especially if a White Paper takes another six months to write. There are alternatives. An announcement. A parliamentary statement. One or more ministerial speeches. I’d be inclined to go for one of those, if it gets the job done expeditiously.

What do you think? And why? You can comment below, and vote here on whether or not a White Paper would be a good idea.

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