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Back public services, ILO programmes and equality, TUC tells DFID

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Bilateral Aid Review

TUC submission to DFID

October 2010

The TUC has submitted evidence to the Department for International Development review of bilateral aid - the money DFID spends in developing countries - calling for support for public services and ILO Decent Work Country Programmes, consultation with trade unions and other civil society organisations about DFID country programmes, and measures to combat inequality, unemployment and fragile states.

Here is TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber's letter to DFID Minister Andrew Mitchell.

We welcome this opportunity to put forward our views to your Bilateral Aid Review. In view of the many countries and issues involved, our submission concentrates on some principles which, in our view, should underpin and guide the UK aid effort at country level.

We are pleased to note that the Government has pledged to stick to the rules laid down by the OECD, which we believe implies adherence to alignment of aid as defined in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. While agreeing with the broad thrust of developmental priorities identified by the Government, we reiterate the imperative need to take into consideration national development policies and priorities as determined by recipient governments in consultation with trade unions and other key stakeholders in the allocation of bilateral aid.

In this regard, the TUC urges DFID support for, and collaboration with, ILO Decent Work Country Programmes which have been incorporated into national development strategies in some DFID priority countries in Africa (Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, for instance) and Asia (Nepal, Bangladesh). These programmes, implemented in close collaboration with governments, workers and employers are designed to support people in their efforts to work out of poverty in full compliance with internationally agreed workers' rights and entitlements enshrined in ILO conventions.

The TUC agrees with the focus of UK ODA on low-income countries, notably those in Africa and Asia, and is aware that the preponderance of aid effort is increasingly concentrated on fewer countries than in the past with a view to optimising its impact and assisting the countries concerned in their efforts to achieve MDGs by 2015. The TUC and affiliates, too, are giving priority to low-income countries in our development cooperation initiatives which we undertake with trade union partners in the countries concerned. However, the presence of very large numbers of poor and vulnerable people in some lower-middle income countries should not be overlooked in the allocation of aid. There are, for instance, twice as many poor and vulnerable people in Pakistan than the total population of Zambia. It is, therefore, hoped that the Department will seek to strike a judicious balance between the evident need to devote more resources to low-income countries and the equally important task of addressing inequality in countries with large numbers of the poor and vulnerable, especially those in the rapidly growing informal sector.

The TUC is aware of the continuing need for budget support in various forms for a number of low-income countries such as Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania etc. We believe that a strong local presence by DFID can be a contributory factor in ensuring aid effectiveness.

We underline the need to make more resources available to vital public services such as education, health, water and sanitation on which large numbers of poor and vulnerable people in low-income countries are dependent. The TUC applauds the innovative approach adopted by the DFID in Malawi in the provision of support for higher wages for nurses and other health workers, to reduce the incentive to emigrate.

The TUC is an important member of the global trade union family, enjoys long-standing purposeful relations with national trade union centres throughout the world and continues to facilitate close collaboration between DFID offices and the trade union movement. In our view and experience, trade unions are in a unique position to contribute significantly to enhancing the impact of development interventions through their leadership and members. Union leaders often play a role in policy formulation and implementation at national level while their members play a dual role as service providers and consumers. The TUC and affiliated unions are keen to ensure that their counterparts in the countries where DFID operates are fully aware of, and extend their support and cooperation to, its development interventions. In this respect, we should be grateful if your Department would play a leading role in encouraging the donor community to work closely with trade unions and other prominent non-state actors.

The TUC notes that DFID pays particular attention to improving weak service delivery in fragile states in close collaboration with governments and civil society. Trade unions are often at the forefront in addressing the concerns, and defending the interests, of the poor and the vulnerable in many of the countries concerned such as Zimbabwe and are, in our view, worthy of DFID support and encouragement to continue their task.

In all conflict and post-conflict situations, notably in fragile states, it is often the most vulnerable sections of society that suffer most. DFID should pay particular attention to the needs of children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled, as they are often neglected in conflict and post-conflict situations. Special assistance should be provided to restore essential public services - schools, hospitals, and water and sanitation facilities - often destroyed or disrupted during conflict. Restoring such services can also create the jobs needed to draw people - particularly youth - away from conflict, and into productive and decent work.

The TUC would be happy to assist with any other aspect of the bilateral aid review, and we look forward to further discussions on this issue, and to seeing the results.