January 20, 2006
When is an aid cut not an aid cut?
When it is made by the UK.
Earlier this week, the UK announced that it was cutting direct budget support to the Ethiopian government as a reaction to the handling of the post-election unrest. News agencies, newspapers and this site reported that the UK Government would instead re-channel its financial support through leading aid agencies.
Apparently, that is not quite what the UK government meant.
Hilary Benn sent a letter to The Times on Thursday (Jan 19) to clarify his position. As The Times apparently hasn't published that letter, here it is in full, taken off the website for the UK's Department for International Development (DFID).
Letter to the editor of The Times from Hilary Benn
In response to Richard Beeston's report on my visit to Ethiopia this week (Britain abandons aid deal over human rights abuses, 19 January), I have not decided to reduce the aid budget to Ethiopia, nor have I made a decision to reallocate funds to non-government aid agencies or the UN. I have made a decision not to give budget support which the Ethiopian Government can use for any purpose. This is because the provision of budget support is based upon shared commitments between partners, one of which is upholding human rights. Recent political events have led to a breach of trust on this. That's why all the donors who have been giving budget support have made the same decision.
I do, of course, remain committed to supporting the poor people in Ethiopia. The population of Ethiopia is one of the poorest in Africa, and it would be wrong to expect them to suffer as a result of recent political events. I therefore hope that we will be able to continue to support basic services for poor people such as education and health and water through a new mechanism. Our future assistance will, however, be designed with increased monitoring and accountability so that we can be sure that the aid is reaching the poor people who need it.
So, the UK has dropped direct budget support in favour of directly supporting the government's budgets for health, education and water - with added accountability attached. I hope everything is clear now.
Posted by aheavens at January 20, 2006 11:00 AM