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DFID's Economic Development Strategy: poorest must not lose out

The Department for International Development’s Economic Development Strategy fails to focus sufficiently on reducing poverty to help the poorest and most marginalised, with the risk that an economic boost for UK trade could lead to developing countries becoming the ‘losers’ warn MPs.

Poorest losing out

The Secretary of State for International Development, Penny Mordaunt MP, has pledged a ‘bold Brexit-ready’ plan to boost trade with developing countries to provide a clear ‘win-win’ for both Britain and the world’s poorest.

In a Report published yesterday, DFID’S Economic Development Strategy, the Committee accepts the aim for UK wins in trade and investment but says that, in the least developed countries, it must come with guarantee that the most marginalised and vulnerable in those countries do not lose out. Similar concerns have been raised by the Committee in its recent report Definition and Administration of ODA (Official Development Assistance).

There is a need for a tailored country-by-country approach in the Economic Development Strategy to avoid it becoming either a set of bland aspirations or a straightjacket, says the Report, with ‘careful calibration’ needed to meet the demands and priorities of individual programmes in those countries.

In all of the opportunities for trade and investment, including those arising from the exiting the EU, the Committee recommends that DFID seeks the best and fairest solutions for the poorest people in the world.

Chair's comments

Stephen Twigg MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“DFID believes that more economic growth leads to fewer people in poverty. While it’s acceptable for UK companies and the Government to score ‘wins’ in trade and investment in the world’s least developed countries, this is not a trade-off. It’s not just profit margins that count.

We welcome the fact that the Department lists the reduction of poverty as a key ideal in economic development, but evidence to our inquiry suggested that a strategy heavily weighted towards trade alone can actively disadvantage the most marginalised groups. Girls and women, disabled and young people will lose out unless DFID undertakes to protect them. The upcoming Global Disability Summit presents an opportunity to focus strategy on how to reach people with disabilities.

There are positive signs that the Department is looking to individual diagnostic tools to better inform country plans. But we’re still missing evidence that the agencies are working together for maximum impact.  We will continue to scrutinise the Department’s work, particularly about cross-Government funds.”

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