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TUC response to DFID cut to ILO funding

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date

Rt. Hon. Andrew Mitchell MP
Secretary of State
Department for International Development
1 Palace Street
London
SW1E 5HE

Dear Andrew

TUC response to DFID Multilateral Aid Review and the ILO

Thank you for your letter of 21 March. We have now considered (and broadly support) the ILO's detailed response to the outcome of the Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) and DFID's evaluation itself in more detail. I would welcome your response to our continuing concerns.

The TUC remains fully committed to working with DFID both to further the Decent Work Agenda as a whole, and to support the building of stronger contacts between DFID policy staff, country office staff and relevant ILO officials. We welcome your commitment to consider DFID funding for joint work with the ILO at a country level.

The MAR has highlighted a number of areas where the ILO does indeed need to make improvements, including its IT systems, human resources function and field structure. However, these issues are being addressed and in addition a major exercise is currently underway to reform the ILO's governing body and review the working of the annual International Labour Conference, both of which came in for criticism in the MAR.

Frustratingly the MAR (and in more detail the independent DFID evaluation of the 2006-9 PFA) shows that DFID financial support was making a substantial contribution to improving many of these areas. As an organisation represented on the governing body of the ILO the TUC is wholly committed to ensuring that the ILO continues to reform and update its working methods to meet the changing needs of its constituents in both developing and developed countries. The continued support of DFID in this regard would have been most welcome.

Our central concern with the MAR process, which is covered in detail in the ILO response, is that the MAR methodology did not adequately take into account the actual nature and mandate of the ILO as a multilateral organisation covering 183 member countries at various levels of economic and social development. The ILO has never hidden the fact that it is not primarily a development agency or an aid giving organisation. As it clearly sets out in the programme and budget for 2012-13 'the ILO is primarily a policy and standard-setting institution, not a development cooperation agency.'

However it is involved in a wide range of important development work including technical cooperation and project work which is of great value in developing countries and fits well with DFID priorities. Programmes like the International Programme for the Eradication of Child Labour (IPEC) and Better Work are delivering concrete and measurable outcomes whilst the move to coordinated Decent Work Country Programmes has greatly enhanced the ILO's coherence at a national level.

The ILO response to the MAR provides many detailed examples of its development impact, especially captured in the voices of numerous beneficiaries. In addition I would also draw your attention to the findings of the DFID-commissioned independent evaluation of the 2006-9 PFA. This report found that DFID funding had greatly strengthened the ILO's Results Based Management Systems and had accelerated the transition to a Decent Work Country Programme approach. DFID support has also facilitated a greater ILO contribution to more effectively coordinated UN work at country level, including the 'delivering as one' agenda and to ensuring that gender issues are fully addressed in all aspects of ILO work.

Support provided to the ILO's Africa budget via DFID's contribution to the ILO's regular budget supplement has funded a series of projects that fit directly with DFID current priorities. These include projects on youth employment, women's entrepreneurship and the provision of labour market information in Africa to aid policy development.

The effectiveness of specific projects that DFID has funded over the 2006-9 period such as those developing Cooperatives in east Africa and enhancing social security provision in Tanzania and Zambia have been clearly demonstrated recently, by the response of regional governments and social partners since funding was ended and by the DFID regional office deciding to continue funding at a local level, respectively.

However important as this technical cooperation and project work is, even more crucial to securing the level of progress and systemic change needed to lift millions out of poverty is the normative and standards setting role of the ILO. As the ILO response to the MAR makes clear this rights based approach to international development is at the heart of its mandate. During the MAR the TUC consistently asked how the standard setting aspects of ILO (and other UN agencies) work was going to be assessed. We were assured that it would be factored in however we struggle to see how this was actually done in practice and would like more information in this regard.

We would highlight just two recent examples of the continued importance of this standard setting function: the recommendation on 'HIV-AIDS and the world of work', negotiated over the last two years; and the new convention on domestic workers which will be completed at this year's International Labour Conference. The former will help hundreds of thousands of workers in developing countries remain in productive employment, whilst the Domestic Workers convention and recommendation currently under negotiation has the potential to assist development on a large scale, in part by securing a more equitable distribution of income and greatly enhancing the flow of remittances.

We hope that DFID is not opting to move away from a rights based approach to development, or to focus solely on 'easier' to measure project specific outcomes such as 'bed nets delivered' or the number of children removed from child labour by a particular project. However if this is the case it should be transparent and acknowledge that this is part of the reason for removing support from the ILO.

If this is the direction that DFID is moving in we would of course point out the limitations of focusing solely on short term results at the cost of delivering sustainable long term outcomes. To use child labour as an example, DFID could choose to fund an individual project to reduce child labour in a particular area of India which would be welcome and is easily measurable by assessing the number of children helped. However support for the ILO in its work with the Indian government to ratify and then effectively implement ILO Convention 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour has the potential to lift literally hundreds of thousands out of child labour across the whole country. We would like more clarification on how the MAR addressed the need for this sort of balance in deciding where financial support should be allocated.

The scoring of the ILO as 'weak' in relation to its 'Contribution to UK development objectives' is even harder to understand. DFID has consistently acknowledged the centrality of access to work in order to secure a route out of poverty and achieve sustainable poverty reduction. Indeed we are pleased to note that you have personally reiterated your support for the wider Decent Work Agenda on a number of occasions.

Many agencies in the UN system and development organisations regularly highlight the importance of Decent Work to meeting all of the MDGs and not just MDG1b, with its specific target, 'to make the goals of full productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people, a central objective of our relevant national and international policies.' The ILO is the key UN agency responsible for the world of work and to withdraw funding allocated for this area and transfer it to other agencies risks exactly the sort of duplication which DFID and other government departments are on record as opposing. We simply do not agree with the MAR when it states 'the ILO's contribution to UK aid objectives is limited by its narrow remit, lack of criticality and delivery constraints.' We would welcome further clarification on how this conclusion was reached.

Unfortunately a number of the other points contained in the MAR appear to be unsubstantiated value judgements. Statements such as 'the ILO has an inefficient governing body,' the 'tripartite structure can impede progress in important areas of reform' and 'the focus on Trade Union members can serve to exclude those working in the informal sector' fall into this category and raise particular concerns. The last statement is so wide of the reality on the ground in relation to the work of ILO and displays such ignorance of the role that trade unions are playing in organising workers in the informal economy that it calls into question much of the rest of the analysis.

As the ILO's response makes clear it is the tripartite nature of the organisation that is one of its key strengths. Within the international multilateral system it is the only body that brings together the key actors in the real economy and which provides a platform from which to deliver meaningful systemic change to deliver more equitable job rich growth, both at a national level and through interaction with groupings like the G20.

We have a range of other concerns, including:

why the ILO was not scored on climate change and environmental sustainability given the importance of its work on green jobs and just transition as part of policies to tackle climate change

why in relation to the questions on level of focus on the 'poorest countries' no attempt was made to disaggregate data from a number of very different multilateral agencies

why there was so little consultation with social partners during in country visits

and why so much of the actual evaluation process was conducted by non-DFID officials without a development background.

However we recognise that the government has now acted on the basis of the MAR findings. Our preferred option would have been for DFID to maintain a commitment to direct funding whilst seeking to engage with the ILO in relation to the shortcomings identified in the MAR, as has happened with a number of other organisations covered by the MAR process. We would be interested to know why this option was not pursued in relation to the ILO?

We feel that the lack of direct interaction between DFID and ILO policy staff over a number of years has contributed to a lack of understanding on both sides of how DFID and ILO priorities actually match in many areas. We therefore welcome DFID's proposal to organise a meeting of policy staff from both organisations as a first stage to building these links.

We have on a number of occasions made clear that we feel that the involvement of the UK social partners in assessing how and where DFID money should be allocated with regard to ILO programmes would have been useful. Given our (and the CBI's) key role on the ILO governing body, engaging with us at an earlier stage would have enabled us to help address DFID's concerns. This is especially important in areas where we already have shared priorities such as securing further improvements in 'strategic and performance management' and 'cost value and consciousness' at the ILO.

The TUC will of course continue to press for Decent Work to be at the heart of international development work. We acknowledge and welcome the possible continuation of DFID country level funding for specific ILO programmes and the commitment of DFID officials to engage with their ILO counterparts, but we will also continue to advocate that the ILO, as the key multilateral agency tasked with delivering the Decent Work Agenda, should continue to receive direct support from DFID.

I look forward to your response to the points raised in this letter.

Yours sincerely

Brendan Barber

General Secretary