Friday, January 15, 2010

Ugly Specter of International Development Funding

So after the Conservative’s pop at DfID and my previous post on the subject comes the news that the Department for International (note that international) Development has approved a £2.4 million grant to the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which is obviously based here in the UK.

The money has been awarded under a Partnership Programme Arrangement, or PPA, which is a system of funding existing charities that have a track record in International development.

The main funding is not tied purely to international development though with one of the aims being to carry out “activities to build support for development in the United Kingdom that are likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty in other countries.”

It appears that their memorandum of understanding is purposefully vague and in true DFID style requires no deliverables. So the activities are “likely” to contribute to a reduction in poverty, not “will” contribute.

Other objectives include raising the capacity of foreign trade unions to enforce workers’ rights (no complaint there) and “Great British trade union membership, understanding of a commitment to sustainable development” and “strengthened UK and developing country trade union international development policy”. The last two of which should obviously be read as spending the aid budget on our friends in the UK.

A report by the International Policy Network which examines the TUC’s relatinship with DfID, A closer Union, has also pointed out that the TUC has to date receieved a total of £3.6 million with earlier payments being intended to raise awareness within teh British union movement for International Development issues. now £3.6 million is a lot of money in international development. In fact it is nearly enough money to provide half of the population of Gambia with a free malaria bed net.

The IPN’s report has raised an ugly specter in the international aid market, that few people know about. Mainly that international aid from organisations like DfID and USAID is supposed to be spent at home not abroad. DfID prefers to use UK based consultants and organisations as opposed to locally based ones in order to ensure that UK tax payers money is spent in the UK and I have been told that USAID actually stipulates that all contractors and consultants should be from the US.

The problem here is that the TUC (well its members) is obviously an enormous contributor to the Labour party, and that although DfID funds almost certainly didn’t end up going into Labour party coffers directly they would have indirectly. How? Well any budget for a specific project such as those mentioned above will have an element of overall running costs built into it, the cost of office space, heating, lighting, IT, admin etc, that obviously actually contributes to the running of the whole organisation. So as a result of this “free money” the TUC ultimately can afford to give more to the Labour Party.

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