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Reforming Development Assistance: Lessons from the UK Experience


  • Owen Barder



The establishment of the UK Department for International Development in 1997, and the evolution of the UK’s foreign aid policies, has provoked international interest as a possible model for other countries to follow. The UK now combines in a single government department not only the delivery of all overseas aid, but also responsibility for analyzing the impact on developing countries of other government policies, such as trade, environment and prevention of conflict. The department is led by a Cabinet-level minister. It has a remit to articulate the UK’s long-term security, economic and political interests in helping to build a more stable and prosperous world, and to ensure that this long-term goal is considered alongside the more immediately pressing concerns of political, security and commercial interests. It has benefited from a sharp focus on its long-term mission to reduce poverty overseas. Within a few years, the new Department has established a reputation for itself, and for the UK Government, as a leader in development thinking and practice. This paper describes the institutional changes in more detail, and considers how they came about. It also considers the steps that will be needed to consolidate its early success.

Suggested Citation

  • Owen Barder, 2005. "Reforming Development Assistance: Lessons from the UK Experience," Working Papers 70, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:70

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    Cited by:

    1. Gulrajani, Nilima, 2010. "Re-imagining Canadian development cooperation: a comparative examination of Norway and the UK," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 30036, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

    More about this item


    development; foreign aid; UK; poverty reduction; Department for International Development;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • F35 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - Foreign Aid

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