Calls by the Taxpayers’ Alliance for the UK to reduce its aid spending through multilateral institutions fail to recognise the importance, effectiveness and value of international cooperation in tackling the world’s most pressing global challenges – whether that’s bringing an end to disease outbreaks such as Ebola or supporting developing countries to increase tax revenues and reduce their reliance on overseas development assistance.
The value and positive impact of UK aid spending and development cooperation through multilateral channels should not be underestimated. For example, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) currently provides funding to Tax Inspectors Without Borders (TIWB), a joint OECD and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiative to support developing countries in building tax audit capacity. In 2018 TIWB reported that it had helped bring in an estimated $414 million, with revenues raised equivalent to 100 times the programme’s cost.
UK overseas aid spending through DFID is already recognised as highly transparent by the International Aid Transparency Index. Of course the UK must continually seek to ensure that its aid spend, including that spent through multilateral channels and by other UK government departments, remains focused on improving the lives of the poorest as well as representing value for money to UK taxpayers. Mechanisms such as UK Government-led Multilateral Aid Reviews and Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) Reviews already do this, with ICAI recognising ‘DFID’s influence within the multilateral system and its success in increasing its partners’ focus on results and value for money’ in 2017.
IDS Director Professor Melissa Leach CBE said:
“Plastics pollution, pandemics, mass displacement of people through conflict – today’s global challenges affect people everywhere, including in the UK, and they require responses that draw on the experience and expertise of partners across disciplines, sectors and countries.
For the UK to retreat from these international partnerships, particularly at a time when it is seeking to strengthen its position on the world stage post-Brexit, seems remarkably short-sighted. Not only could it undermine our reputation as a development leader and erode our soft power base, but it could also set us even further off course from meeting the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, leaving the world’s poorest people even worse off and more marginalised. This cannot be ‘Global Britain’s’ legacy.”