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Newly published report indicates whether there is a trade to be made for international aid?

While the full details of the impact of Brexit on international development is not yet clear, it is obvious there will be changes coming for both how the UK and the EU spend overseas development assistance (ODA). Having concluded several recent studies for UK Government, ICF shares its insight for what this could mean in an emerging aid landscape as the country makes its transition towards Brexit.

The UK is currently a major donor to the EU, contributing around £930millon in 2015 through DFID and non-DFID attribution1 . Some estimates suggest that the EU could lower ODA by as much as 15% through loss of UK contributions2 . The UK has continued to keep its commitment to spending 0.7% of Gross National Income on ODA each year, a move enshrined in law in 2013.

The UK position…

The UK is refocusing its ODA priorities. In January 2017, the government published its Economic Development Strategy: prosperity, poverty and meeting global challenges. There is an emphasis on encouraging trade and furthering national interests while encouraging economic growth in developing countries, which in turn will lower poverty while simultaneously opening up markets for UK companies to work in and with. The Government has already announced a continuation of its policy for tariff free trade with developing countries post-Brexit. Examples of what this will mean in practice can be understood from a scoping study ICF conducted recently as part of the FCO’s Global Cities Programmes to better understand future urban planning investments and opportunities in Turkey, South Africa and Nigeria.

Another issue which the UK is already putting more focus into is conflict and stabilization. The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF), of which ICF is part of a supplier consortium , has a budget of over £1billion annually to address the root causes of conflict, insecurity and instability globally 3. This multifaceted fund covers a range of projects and programmes. At its launch in 2015, it was described as a ‘more ambitious approach’4 in tackling conflict. This aligns with more recent moves by the Government to take a leading approach internationally as well as advocating for British interests through ODA spending. Indeed, the 2017 DFID Economic Development Strategy outlines the goal of bringing economic opportunities to the most fragile states. Going forward, funding on these topics is likely to continue at high levels as demonstrated by some of the top recipients of UK bilateral funding including Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Syria and the DRC.

The EU position…

As for the EU, adjustments will need to be made in accordance with lower budgets, but its priorities are unlikely to shift vastly. The Sustainable Development Goals, are likely to remain the key infrastructure behind ODA spend via the EU. Much like the UK’s CSSF, the EU has an Emergency Trust Fund to assist a group of countries across Africa that are among the most fragile and affected by migration and draw the greatest benefit from this form of EU financial assistance. ICF’s evaluation is already well equipped to provide the evaluation services needed by the Emergency Trust and the EU’s other funding instruments having conducted evaluations of its nutrition programmes across the Sahel region and through undertaking the monitoring and evaluation of the EU’s development cooperation portfolio in Iraq.

Observations on the changing focus of international aid

Despite all the variables in any change, one thing is clear. Aid will need to work harder to prove its worth.

Aid will need to act as a stimulus for change. Contractors will need to demonstrate interventions which create legacy – for social benefit and economic prosperity. Interventions which complement and leverage other initiatives to achieve more for less. Interventions which are adaptive whilst offering greater transparency, leadership and differentiation. Interventions which achieve a return on investment, a return on objectives and which meet political aspirations.


1. http://qna.files.parliament.uk/qna-attachments/670278/original/statistics-on-international-development-2016a.pdf pp41
2. https://www.cgdev.org/blog/beyond-brexit-how-will-eu-overseas-development-assistance-be-affected
3. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtnatsec/208/208.pdf
4. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt201617/jtselect/jtnatsec/208/208.pdf