So, let us evaluate DfID

As I recall, without exception the interactions were useful and the willingness to listen and to and act on the messages on tax justice that we were there to deliver was high. Staff at DfIID simply got, based on their on the ground experience, the fact that tax havens were unambiguously harming development, promoted corruption and stripped any profits arising from activities that were created straight out of the countries that the UK was trying to support.

They also funded research into these issues (although I never received such support, directly or indirectly) and were very willing to promote findings.

DfID agreed with Snippa. Anyone got any better reason to close it down ‘cuz I sure can’t think of one.

13 thoughts on “So, let us evaluate DfID”

  1. So the mere existence of tax havens harms development ?

    And where else are the African dictators supposed to keep thei embezzled money. Under the bed ?

  2. Governments have the job of doing things collectively that we cannot do individually. We can all donate as much aid to Shitholia as we feel like, so government should not be doing it.

  3. “Willing to listen to ……… the messages we were there to deliver on tax justice”.

    Better than actually doing any work then.

  4. The DFiD story I’ve heard came from early days in Afghanistan, where a town in Helmand (might have been Sangin in 2006, but this is pull-up-a-sandbag territory) was not yet overtly hostile and reconstruction and civil development was being attempted.

    DFiD had declared an aid project would being carried out in a town hospital. This required significant security and overhead: a largeish team (about half a dozen or so) people were flying in from the UK, requiring protection, accommodation, escort, communications et cetera – a significant additional problem for an infantry company that was undermanned and overworked.

    The small convoy of new 4x4s and a van is escorted in, the DFiD team disembark and demand to know where their office space is, and to be able to videoconference with London to provide updates. There is much dismay to discover their “office space” is a spare room and communications are limited to Synergy Red telephone lines and BOWMAN (don’t think that unit had FALCON). Even worse is the standard of accommodation and food on offer – completely unacceptable, apparently, though the lack of alternatives compels grudging and protesting acceptance.

    The next day, the DFiD team are escorted down to the hospital, where the troops – pretty much the entire company – are basically pushing a perimeter out several hundred metres to try to prevent opportunistic attacks on this baby media circus. Somewhat confused Afghan medical staff – who had been told this was coming, but considered they had much higher priorities like trying to treat the sick with their minimal resources – are being dragged out to the front of the hospital to be filmed and photographed taking delivery of a hospital-grade industrial washing machine, which will greatly aid in patient hygiene and transform their delivery of medical care, before the DFiD team pile back into their vehicles, shake the dust of the town from their feet, and leave basking in the rose-tinted haze of success.

    The industrial washing machine needed a decent supply of clean mains water at a predictable pressure, a large-capacity grey-water drain, reliable electricity and a steady supply of the correct detergents – none of which were to hand. A few months later it hadn’t even been unwrapped. It was too big to stealand too specialist to sell, and it may still be in its delivery wrapping in a corner of some storeroom of that hospital.

    Folk who had the misfortune to encounter DFiD on operations tended to find them at best naively well-meaning, at worst entitled and arrogant (convinced that their righteous mission meant they could do no wrong), and frequently dismissive of, or hostile to, the military they were depending on to secure and protect their activity.

    From limited contact with DFiD when I was in Iraq, there was rarely any effort to liaise with J9 (civil-military co-operation) staff to find out what was needed, or what was possible, or what had been tried and failed before; and the fact that fly-in-fly-out DFiD media operations like the one above were expensive, seemed almost to be a virtue (we must be very good and generous people! See how much money we are spending!)

    For another story – this one a little better sourced (second-hand from the then-chief operational analyst at HQ ARRC) in 1999, Claire Short as head of the recently-formed DFiD had turned up to the NATO HQ in Albania, where troops were preparing to move into Kosovo, and launched into a vituperative attack on General Mike Jackson (commanding the British element) for the way NATO was bombing civilians while standing by and allowing Serbian genocide. Jackson apparently took her aside for a private conversation; Short emerged shaken and silent, and disturbed the military no more; Jackson said nothing of the matter subsequently.

    That may have something to do with Jackson’s comments about DFiD in his autobiography…

    “The British Army may be able to get the odd power station working again, but it cannot build new ones. Such work requires highly skilled construction companies. I have to say that once again that we found that the DfID less than wholehearted about helping us in the reconstruction effort. Not for the first time , one had the impression that some of their people see soldiers as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. When the British Government has such a huge amount at stake, politically, economically and militarily, it does seem extraordinary that a key Government department should be dragging its heels”.

  5. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ Jackson apparently took her aside for a private conversation; Short emerged shaken and silent, and disturbed the military no more; Jackson said nothing of the matter subsequently.”

    I’d pay good money to be a fly on that wall.

  6. ‘Controversial decision to close Dfid ‘not discussed’ within Cabinet, Matt Hancock says’

    ‘The move has been condemned by three previous prime ministers, including David Cameron, who warned the UK’s international reputation will suffer.’

    OMFG. Your international reputation is going to suffuh!

  7. While Blair has complained about the decision it’s interesting that in 2010 he noted it was acting like a NGO and causing problems.
    It does seem as they were rather full of themselves and with their guaranteed funding didn’t feel they were answerable to anyone

  8. Thanks for the info too, Jason. Unfortunately Boris can’t sack the lot, so merging them with the Foreign Office was probably the best bet.

    I did like the FT saying that Boris’s move to align overseas aid more closely with foreign policy objectives was branded a mistake. I have always felt that foreign aid should be re-labelled bribes and, in Oz, put under the control of the Australian Wheat Board. They were abolished for being the only people I’ve ever known to actually gain us some benefit from foreign aid.

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