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ILO Comments on UK Department for International Development Multilateral Aid Review

News | 02 March 2011

The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) issued a Multilateral Aid Review on 1st March which effectively terminated its partnership agreement with the ILO.

The ILO fully appreciates the commitment of the Government of the UK to maximize the impact of the development cooperation work of multilateral organizations especially in the current economic climate, and understands its aims of ensuring the fullest possible transparency in the use of development assistance. These are objectives which we share, particularly the need to ensure value for money.

The ILO will study in detail the outcome of the DFID Multilateral Aid Review and will present a comprehensive analysis in the coming days

At this stage four comments are warranted.

First: the ILO is surprised by the conclusions; They differ significantly from the external evaluation that DFID issued less than 12 months ago covering its partnership with the ILO over the Partnership Framework Agreement (PFA) period 2006 to 2009. That evaluation concluded that the partnership with the ILO should continue. It says in terms of its relevance that “ILO’s role and core mandate of promoting Decent Work is increasingly important. The Partnership Framework Agreement 2006-09 established an ambitious agenda. While the internal reforms have moved more slowly, overall there has been considerable success in the last three years. ILO has largely met most of the PFA commitments and is receiving increasing demand for its contribution to global development.”

It went on to say “that based on the PFA 2006-09 performance and common interests in international development, DFID should consider funding support to the ILO in the post PFA period”, that is from 2010 onwards.

Second: The ILO is proud of what it has helped its constituents to achieve by providing timely advice, training and support. The priorities of governments, employers and workers are reflected in Decent Work Country Programmes to ensure the relevance of our work. The resources made available - some £5 million per year in the case of DFID – are used for strategic low cost interventions in a number of countries, not for large-scale development programmes. We believe that they should not be judged on size and volume but in terms of their value for money in key areas of policy making on labour market issues, standard setting, enterprise development and institution building of priority to our constituents.

Third: The review is based on an examination of 10 countries: Out of some 800 active projects in 100 countries worldwide the ILO was assessed on 33 projects in four countries of which only three projects are funded by DFID. It is not clear how many of these projects were actually examined. The review is hence clearly limited in its sample size. Its findings are not necessarily accurate worldwide nor can they serve to generalise on ILO’s overall performance as has been done in the press presentation of the review.

Finally, the ILO values the United Kingdom highly as a historical founding Member and major lifelong supporter of the Organization. To discontinue the Partnership would be to break with a long history of UK-ILO development cooperation, which over the past few decades has included the ILO’s most successful field programmes, including the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC), which has rescued one-and-a-half million children from labour and placed them in education, and the Employment-intensive Investment Programme (EIIP), which has provided work for millions in building much needed infrastructure, not to mention the ILO’s continuing campaign against forced labour and human rights abuses in Myanmar, and its historic role in helping bring about major political change in South Africa and Poland. Today, it can weaken our capacity to respond to the demands coming from many Arab countries for workers rights and decent work so much at the heart of the popular movement behind this historical turning point.

Taking the above into account, the ILO would therefore invite DFID, other relevant Departments of the UK Government, and the UK Workers’ and Employers’ organizations – the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry – to engage in discussion with the ILO on what we can learn from the MAR, how the ILO and the UK Government can continue to work together to improve the performance of the ILO as we have done in the past, and how our Partnership to promote decent work can be continued.