Aid to fragile states must be tied to reforms, say MPs

6 Mar 12
MPs have backed the government’s plan to increase aid to conflict-affected countries, but want funding to be dependent on transparency and accountability

By Richard Johnstone | 6 January 2012

MPs have backed the government’s plan to increase aid to conflict-affected countries, but want funding to be dependent on transparency and accountability.

Under the Department for International Development’s spending plans, funding to fragile states will rise to more than £3.4bn by 2014/15, compared with £1.8bn in 2010/11.

In a report published yesterday, the Commons’ international development select committee said ministers were right to increase the focus on countries such as Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But they called for aid to be tied to agreements to improve governance.

Such steps were necessary because many of the countries have low scores on the Corruption Perceptions Indexproduced by the Transparency International organisation, the MPs said.

It was ‘not convincing’ to argue that the department’s programmes were unaffected by this, the report added.

MPs urged the department to specify governance conditions for providing direct budget support and apply these consistently, withdrawing aid if they are not met.

The report, , also recommended that the department invest in more local initiatives that give communities more confidence to hold their governments to account.

Highlighting the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the committee called for UK ministers to set out clearly what is expected in terms of transparency and accountability in the nation’s mineral sector. The department should be prepared to withdraw its financial assistance, which is set to almost double by 2014/15, if these standards are not met. Wealth produced by this natural resource has been used to fund and perpetuate conflict and criminality, the report stated.

Committee chair Malcolm Bruce, said that there are ‘obvious benefits of providing aid to fragile states’.

He added: ‘Nevertheless, there are considerable risks in spending aid money in conflict-scarred states and the government must be frank and open about this if it wants to convince the public that its approach is the right one, both morally and politically.’

Responding to the report, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said the government had made it ‘absolutely clear to countries that transparency and good governance are vital’, and was prepared to withhold funding when standards are not met. It had already done so with aid to Malawi, he said.

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