Evolution of the International Development Assistance System in the UK (1997-2016)

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2018-62-4-35-44
O. Kul’kova (kulkova-olga@yandex.ru),
Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, 30/1, Spiridonovka Str., Moscow, 123001, Russian Federation



The article is devoted to the analysis of the evolution that the British system of international development assistance has undergone from 1997 to 2016 in the course of changing Labour and Conservative governments in power. Attention is paid to how the evaluation of aid effectiveness was conducted, how interdepartmental interaction was carried out in implementing the goals of promoting international development. The relevance of the article is based on the fact that it shows the historical evolution of the British governments’ approaches to strategic planning and implementation of the international development assistance policy, basing on the analysis of a wide range of documentary sources and scientific research. One of the most important conclusions is that since 1997, Britain has made the international development assistance sphere one of its major domestic and foreign policy priorities, and this persists despite the transfer of power from Labour to Coalition and then Conservative governments. In the current British strategy of aid for development, the emphasis is placed on linking this aid to ensuring security, overcoming conflicts, to the “securitization” agenda, and to the promotion of trade with developing countries. Under the government of Theresa May, the British system of international development assistance is awaiting a new round of reforming, as the country has entered a turbulence zone caused by the initiated process of its withdrawal from the EU. Most likely, the forms of cooperation between the Department for International Development and the EU agencies and organizations responsible for aid provision will be reviewed. It is also quite possible that DFID’s very existence can be placed under question in the future. The system of the UK aid to international development is facing many challenges presently. However, despite serious problems, the British aid policy has many strong assets and continues to develop. The UK has enshrined in law its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on aid every year, which made it the first G7 country to meet the UN’s 45-year-old aid spending target. This shows Britain’s commitment to keep its place among the major donors and, moreover, to influence the global development agenda. 

United Kingdom (UK), Department for International Development (DFID), international development assistance, official development assistance (ODA), development aid, reform of the British international development assistance system


1. Pacquement F. How Development Assistance from France and the United Kingdom Has Evolved: Fifty Years on from Decolonisation. International Development Policy, 2010, no. 1, pp. 51-75.

2. Burnell P. Britain’s New Government, New White Paper, New Aid? Eliminating World Poverty: a Challenge for the 21st Century. Third World Quarterly, 1998, vol. 19, no 4, pp. 787-802. DOI: 10.1080/01436599814244

3. Slater D., Bell M. Aid and the Geopolitics of the Post-Colonial: Critical Reflections on New Labour’s Overseas Development Strategy. Development and Change, 2002, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 335-360.

4. Department for International Development. What We Do. Available at: http://www.dfid.gov.uk/default.asp (accessed 20.11.2017).

5. Davis T.W.D. Foreign Aid in Australia’s Relationship with the South: Institutional Narratives. The Round Table, 2011, vol. 100, no. 415, pp. 389-406. DOI:10.1080/00358533.2011.595254

6. Keeping Our Promises on the MDGs: DFID’s Progress So Far. Aid, Trade, Growth & Global Partnership. The National Archives. Available at: http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20071104143829/; http://www.dfid.gov.uk/mdg/progress-07.asp (accessed 20.11.2017).

7. Statistics on International Development 2016. Department for International Development. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/572063/statistics-on-international-development-2016a.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

8. FCO and British Council Aid Responses to the Arab Spring. ICAI Report 24. June 2013. Available at: https://icai.independent.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/FCO-and-British-Council-Aid-Responses-to-the-Arab-Spring-Report.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

9. Our Common Interest. Report of the Commission for Africa. March 2005. Available at: http://www.commissionforafrica.info/wp-content/uploads/2005-report/11-03-05_cr_report.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

10. Denney L. The Militarisation of Foreign Aid. Contemporary Review, March 2012, pp. 31-32.

11. Klingebiel S., Mahn T., Negre M., eds. The Fragmentation of Aid: Concepts, Measurements and Implications for Development Cooperation. London, Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2016. 359 p. DOI:10.1057/978-1-137-55357-7

12. DFID Adopting New UK Aid Logo to Highlight Britain’s Work. The Telegraph, 06.07.2009. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5759544/DFID-adopting-new-UKaid-logo-to-highlight-Britains-work.html (accessed 20.11.2017).

13. Mungcal I. A New Look for UK Foreign Aid. DEVEX, 25.06.2012. Available at: https://www.devex.com/news/a-newlook-for-uk-foreign-aid-78529 (accessed 20.11.2017).

14. Stewart J. Stop Branding Aid. WhyDev, 29.10.2012. Available at: http://www.whydev.org/stop-branding-aid/?fb_comment_id=287992921317246_1237784#f24a9d9be585148 (accessed 20.11.2017).

15. Development Co-operation Report. 50th Anniversary Edition. OECD. 2011. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/dac/developmentco-operationreport2011.htm (accessed 20.11.2017).

16. Invitation to Join the Government of Britain. The Conservative Manifesto 2010. Available at: https://www.conservatives.com/~/media/Files/Manifesto2010 (accessed 20.11.2017).

17. Carghill T. More with Less: Trends in UK Diplomatic Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa. Africa Programme Paper: AFP PP 2011/03. Chatham House, May 2011. Available at: https://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/files/chathamhouse/19366_0511pp_cargill.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

18. Africa: DFID’s Aid Priorities and Africa. AllAfrica, 12.01.2012. Available at: http://allafrica.com/stories/201201120864.html (accessed 20.11.2017).

19. Elliott L. Does the Aid Bill Really Show the UK’s Commitment to Development? The Guardian, 07.12.2014. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/economics-blog/2014/dec/07/aid-bill-uk-commitment-development-gordon-brown (accessed 18.04.2018).

20. The Strategic Defence and Security Review “Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty”. HM Government. October 2010. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-strategic-defence-and-security-review-securing-britain-in-an-age-of-uncertainty (accessed 18.04.2018).

21. UK Aid: Tackling Global Challenges in the National Interest. HM Treasury, Department for International Development. November 2015. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/478834/ODA_strategy_final_web_0905.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

22. National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 “A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom”. HM Government. November 2015. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/555607/2015_Strategic_Defence_and_Security_Review.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

23. UK Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. 2016. First Report of Session 2016–17. House of Commons International Development Committee. Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmintdev/103/103.pdf (accessed 20.11.2017).

24. Kharitonova E.M. Programmy sodeistviya mezhdunarodnomu razvitiyu I natsional’naya bezopasnost’: opyt Velikobritanii [Programmes of International Development Assistance and National Security: Experience of Great Britain]. Puti k miru i bezopasnosti, 2015, no. 2(49), pp. 29-43.

25. About Us. Independent Commission for Aid Impact. Available at: http://icai.independent.gov.uk/about-us/ (accessed 20.11.2017).

26. Development Co-operation Report 2015. Making Partnerships Effective Coalitions for Action. Available at: http://www.oecd.org/dac/developmentco-operationreport2015makingpartnershipseffectivecoalitionsforaction.htm (accessed 20.11.2017).

27. Tempest M. UK Aid Minister Promises to Keep 0.7% Target Post-Brexit. Euraktiv, 19.08.2016. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/news/uk-aid-minister-promises-to-keep-0-7-target-post-brexit/ (accessed 20.11.2017).

28. More than 25% of UK Aid Budget Will Be Spent by Other Ministries by 2020. Euraktiv, 26.09.2016. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/news/more-than-25-of-uk-aid-budget-will-be-spent-by-other-ministries-by-2020/ (accessed 18.04.2018).

29. New UK Development Minister Plans Aid Review Based on ‘Conservative Values’. Euraktiv, 14.09.2016. Available at: https://www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/news/new-uk-development-minister-plans-aid-review-based-onconservative-values/ (accessed 20.11.2017).


Registered in system SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Kulkova O. Evolution of the International Development Assistance System in the UK (1997-2016). Mirovaya ekonomika i mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya, 2018, vol. 62, No 4, pp. 35-44. https://doi.org/10.20542/0131-2227-2018-62-4-35-44

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment

Current Issue
2020, vol. 64, No. 11

Topical Themes of the Issue:

  • • Comparative Analyses of Terrorist Threats under Conditions of COVID 19
  • • Competitive Education in the Third Millenium: Quo Vadis?
  • • Models of Regional Leadership in Eurasia: to the New Research Agenda
  • • Russia: “Late-Take off Society” in the Whirlwind of World Politics
  • • Development of a National School of Political Science in China
View This Issue (2020, vol. 64, No. 11)
Submit an Article

Dear readers!
Please note that free access to full-text issues of the Journal is being opened at our WEB-site after 6 months of the date of publications.The work on deepening the open archive of full-text issues will be continued.

Dear colleagues, authors and readers!
We kindly request you to turn to editor-in-chief and executive secretary directly concerning reviewing scientific publications in our journal. Only editor-in-chief takes decision on order and publication the reviews!

Dear readers!
This is to inform the researchers of the Institute of World Economy and International Relations that electronic versions of the I, II, III issues of 2020 of French magazine Politique étrangère are now available. Those who are interested, please personally address to the editorial staff of MEMO Journal (room 18-17) with an electronic media.

In response to the challenges of our time the Editorial board continues to open new thematic rubrics:

“World Energy Sector after Pandemic”. We plan to publish articles presenting in-depth analysis of influence of Pandemic on the global energy sector and forecasts of further developments in its various branches.

“Civilization processes of modern development” is a new rubric opened by MEMO Journal in 2020. It will be devoted to the analysis of the influence of civilizational factors and inter-civilizational interactions on the political and socio-economic development of the world at whole, regions and countries.

“Africa today and tomorrow”The rubric devoted to contemporary issues of Africa which is attracting growing interest of the world's leading actors. We plan to publish the articles analyzing the status of statehood, socio-economic and political development of the countries of Black continent, as well as the integration processes between them.


"World Eonomy and International Relations" announces a contest for the best joint academic publications of domestic and foreign researchers and experts in topical issues of the world economy and international relations. The winners will be selected according to the results of peer reviewing and discussion at the Editorial Board. The articles will be published in priority order.


The print version of “World Economy and International Relations” journal is distributed by advance subscription only, and is not offered for retail sale. To subscribe please address to any post office in Russia by referring to the Federal Postal Service Union Catalogue, section “ARSMI”, the journal index is 70542. The subscription may be made for the whole subscription period or starting from any nearest available month for desired number of issues.

To purchase the full-text electronic version of the journal’s issue/article please address to the WEB portal of Scientific electronic library eLIBRARY.ru or URL: https://press.gaugn.ru/.

In journal
2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 |

The author’s opinions may not coincide with the position of editorial