Department for International Development

Department for International Development
Department for International Development
DFID logo.png
Logo of the Department for International Development
Department overview
Formed 1997
Preceding Department Overseas Development Administration
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Headquarters London, England and Glasgow, Scotland
Minister responsible Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development
United Kingdom
Coat of Arms of the UK Government

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The Department For International Development (DFID) is a United Kingdom government department with a Cabinet Minister in charge. It was separated from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1997. The goal of the department is "to promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty". The current Secretary of State for International Development is Andrew Mitchell. A 2010 report [1] by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) identified DFID as 'an international development leader in times of global crisis'.

DFID's main programme areas of work are Education, Health, Social Services, Water Supply and Sanitation, Government and Civil Society, Economic Sector (including Infrastructure, Production Sectors and Developing Planning), Environment Protection, Research, and Humanitarian Assistance.

In 2009/10 DFID’s Gross Public Expenditure on Development was £6.65bn. Of this £3.96bn was spent on Bilateral Aid (including debt relief, humanitarian assistance and project funding) and £2.46bn was spent on Multilateral Aid (including support to the EU, World Bank, UN and other related agencies).[2] Although the Department for International Development’s foreign aid budget was not affected by the cuts outlined by the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2010 spending review, DFID will see their administration budgets slashed by approximately 19 percent over the next four years. This would mean a reduction in back-office costs to account for only 2 percent of their total spend by 2015.[3]

The National Audit Office (NAO) 2009 Performance Management review [4] looks at how DFID has restructured its performance management arrangements over the last 6 years. The report responded to a request from DFID’s Accounting Officer to re-visit the topic periodically, which the Comptroller and Auditor General agreed would be valuable. The study found that DFID had improved in its general scrutiny of progress in reducing poverty and of progress towards divisional goals, however noted that there was still clear scope for further improvement.



The DFID Ministers are as follows: [5]

Minister Rank Portfolio (by geographic region)
The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP Secretary of State Overall responsibility

(includes Afghanistan & Pakistan and the Middle East peace process)

The Rt Hon Alan Duncan MP Minister of State Asia, Middle East, Caribbean and British Overseas Territories
Stephen O'Brien MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Africa, European Union
Key Conservative
Liberal Democrat

The Permanent Secretary from 2008 until the end of March 2011 at DFID was Nemat (Minouche) Shafik.[6] The current Permanent Secretary is Mark Lowcock.[7][8]


The Department has its origins in the Ministry of Overseas Development (ODM) created during the Labour government of 1964–70, which combined the functions of the Department of Technical Cooperation and the overseas aid policy functions of the Foreign, Commonwealth Relations, and Colonial Offices and of other government departments.

After the election of a Conservative government in October 1970, the Ministry of Overseas Development was incorporated into the Foreign Office and renamed the Overseas Development Administration (ODA). The ODA was overseen by a minister of state in the Foreign Office who was accountable to the Foreign Secretary. Though it became a section of the Foreign Office, the ODA was relatively self-contained with its own minister, and the policies, procedures, and staff remained largely intact.

When it was returned to office in 1974, the Labour government announced that there would once again be a separate Ministry of Overseas Development with its own minister. From June 1975 the powers of the minister for overseas development were formally transferred to the foreign secretary.

In 1977, partly to shore up its difficult relations with U.K. business, the government introduced the Aid and Trade Provision. This enabled aid to be linked to nonconcessionary export credits, with both aid and export credits tied to procurement of British goods and services. Pressure for this provision from U.K. businesses and the Department of Trade and Industry arose in part because of the introduction of French mixed credit programs, which had begun to offer French government support from aid funds for exports, including for projects in countries to which France had not previously given substantial aid.

After the election of the Conservatives under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, the ministry was transferred back to the Foreign Office, as a functional wing again named the Overseas Development Administration. The ODA continued to be represented in the cabinet by the foreign secretary while the minister for overseas development, who had day-to-day responsibility for development matters, held the rank of minister of state within the Foreign Office.

In the 1980s part of the agency's operations were relocated to East Kilbride, with a view to creating jobs in an area subject to long-term industrial decline.


Over its history the department for international development and its predecessors have been independent departments or part of the foreign office.[9] In 1997 Labour separated the Department for International Development from the Foreign Office. They also reduced the amount of aid tied to purchasing British goods and services which often led to aid being spent ineffectually.[10]

Along with the Nordic countries DfID has generally avoided setting up its own programs as that can create unnecessary bureaucracy.[11] To achieve this DfID currently distributes most of its money to governments and other international organisations that have already developed suitable programmes and lets them distribute the money as efficiently as possible.[11]

In Cabinet Outside Cabinet
Separate Government Department 1964-67
Answerable to the FCO 1975-76 1970-74

In 2010 DfID were criticised for spending around £15 million a year in the UK, although this only accounts for 0.25% of their total budget.[12] £1.85 million was given to the Foreign Office to fund the Papal visit of Pope Benedict in September 2010, although a department spokesman said that "The contribution recognised the Catholic Church's role as a major provider of health and education services in developing countries".[13] There has also been criticism of some spending by international organisations with UNESCO and the FAO being particularly weak.[14] The government were also criticised for increasing the aid budget at a time where other departments were being cut. The head of the conservative pressure group Taxpayers Alliance said that "The department should at least get the same treatment other high priority areas like science did – a cash freeze would save billions.".[15]

Pergau Dam

When it was the Overseas Development Association, a scandal erupted concerning the UK funding of a hydroelectric dam on the Pergau River in Malaysia, near the Thai border. Building work began in 1991 with money from the UK foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around £1 billion worth of arms from the UK. The suggested linkage of arms deals to aid became the subject of a UK government inquiry from March 1994. In November 1994, after an application for judicial review (R v Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Ex p The World Development Movement) brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court held that the then-Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd had acted ultra vires (outside of his power and therefore illegally) by allocating £234 million towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people.[16]


The main piece of legislation governing DFID's work is the International Development Act, which came into force on 17 June 2002, replacing the Overseas Development and Co-operation Act (1980). The Act makes poverty reduction the focus of DFID's work, and effectively outlaws tied aid.[17]

As well as responding to disasters and emergencies, DFID works to support the United Nations' eight "Millennium Development Goals", namely to:

  • halve the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger
  • ensure that all children receive primary education
  • promote sexual equality and give women a stronger voice
  • reduce child death rates
  • improve the health of mothers
  • combat HIV & AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • make sure the environment is protected
  • build a global partnership for those working in development.

all with a 2015 deadline.

The reality may well be that none of these goals will be achieved so long as the trade gap between Africa and richer countries continues to widen. Former Secretary of State Hilary Benn has indicated that on current trends, we will not achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.[18] Although by 2010, mainly thanks to high growth in India and China who had 62% of the world's poor in 1990 there has been significant global progress towards meeting the millennium goals.[19]

In 2010 the incoming coalition government promised to reduce back-office costs to only 2% of the budget and to improve transparency by publishing more on their website.[14]

DFID research

DFID is the largest bilateral donor of development-focused research. New science, technologies and ideas are crucial for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, but global research investments are insufficient to match needs and do not focus on the priorities of the poor. Many technological and policy innovations require an international scale of research effort. For example, DFID was a major donor to the International LUBILOSA Programme: which developed a biological pesticide for locust control in support of small-holder farmers in the Sahel.

DFID Research commissions research to help fill this gap, aiming to ensure tangible outcomes on the livelihoods of the poor worldwide. They also seek to influence the international and UK research agendas, putting poverty reduction and the needs of the poor at the forefront of global research efforts.

DFID Research manages long-term research initiatives that cut across individual countries or regions, and only funds activities if there are clear opportunities and mechanisms for the research to have a significant impact on poverty.

Research is funded through a range of mechanisms, including Research Programme Consortia (RPCs), jointly with other funders of development research, with UK Research Councils and with multilateral agencies (such as the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation, World Health Organisation).[20] Information on both DFID current research programmes and completed research can be found on the Research4Development (R4D) portal.

DFID launched its first Research Strategy in April 2008.[21] This emphasises DFID's commitment to funding high quality research that aims to find solutions and ways of reducing global poverty. The new strategy identifies six priorities:

  • Growth [22]
  • Health [23]
  • Sustainable Agriculture [24]
  • Climate Change [25]
  • Governance in Challenging Environments [26]
  • Future Challenges and Opportunities [27]

The strategy also highlights three important cross-cutting areas, where DFID will invest more funding:

  • Capacity Building [28]
  • Research Communication and Uptake [29]
  • Stimulating Demand for Research [30]

DFID has recently reviewed progress on its Research Strategy [1]

UKaid Rebranding

Logo of UKAiD.

As of July 2009, DFID embarked on a rebranding effort in the developing world in order to make clear that its contributions are coming from the United Kingdom.[31] While the decision was met with some controversy among aid workers, Commons International Development Select Committee Chairman Malcolm Bruce justified the rebranding, claiming that "the name DfID does not reflect the fact that this is a British organisation; it could be anything. The Americans have USAID, Canada has got CIDA."[32]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Cabinet Office List of Government Departments and Ministers: Department for International Development
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Reforming Development Assistance: Lessons from the U.K. Experience". Brookings Institution. 2006. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  10. ^ "Development: Clare Short’s clean sheet". The Economist. 6 November 1997. Retrieved 16 January 2010. 
  11. ^ a b Elizabeth Pisani (2008). Wisdom of the Whores. Penguin. pp. 289, 293. 
  12. ^ Mendick, Robert (13 February 2010). "£50m of Government's international aid budget spent in the UK". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "MPs query £1.85m overseas aid spent on Pope visit". BBC. 3 February 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "More is more?". The Economist. 10 June 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011.  (subscription required)
  15. ^ Copping, Jasper (15 January 2011). "Where our overseas aid goes: salsa in Cambridge, coffee in Yorkshire". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 January 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Global targets, local ingenuity". The Economist. 23 September 2010. Retrieved 3 January 2011. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Britain's Help to the third World to be rebranded UKAid July 4, 2009 article from The Independent

External links

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Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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