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TUC Submission to DFID's Building Support for Development review

Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
TUC Submission to DFID's BSD Review Consultation

Gemma Freedman

October 2009

The TUC congratulates DFID for the work it has undertaken in the past ten years on BSD. The BSD strategy is to be applauded for its vision and commitment to invest in harnessing non-traditional groups with reach into British society to build support for development.

This consultation is taking place during a critical moment in the British public's continuing support for DFID's work. The global recession, its consequent impact on the public purse, unemployment and the Millennium Development Goals means that DFID and its partners, such as the TUC, have an urgent and crucial role to play in raising awareness about promoting the shared goals around international development targets, the interdependence of the world and the role that individuals can play.

This submission firstly sets out why the TUC is relevant to BSD, comments on each of the five BSD review documents before making concluding remarks and recommendations.

1. Why the TUC is relevant to BSD

The TUC is a democratic, membership based organisation of 59 affiliated trade unions with a combined total membership of over 6 million working people. Through its education, learning and training department unionlearn (, the TUC has offices, learning hubs and partnerships with Higher Education Colleges all over the country which in total train and/or educate around 250,000 adult learners each year. Combined with the TUC's Programme Partnership Arrangement with DFID, the TUC is very well placed to rise to the challenge of helping DFID meet its BSD strategy.

The benefits of building interest within trade unions on development are varied. As DFID acknowledges, trade unions are key influencers in the workplace and society as a whole. Development awareness also helps workers to make informed choices about how to use their purchasing power, the organisations they support on a voluntary basis or in directing their union about the type of international work they'd like it to do.

Crucially, it can also enable working people to have a direct impact on outcomes for international development through the jobs they do and/or how they interact with their employer. For example, workers can choose to work with their employers to get fair trade products sold within their workplaces, or to ensure that where possible, old equipment is restored and sent to developing countries. Workers can also work with their union to put development issues on their collective bargaining agenda for discussion with their employer. This could be in an area such as ethical procurement, where the rights of workers in the same multinational company operating in both the UK and developing countries are harmonised to UK standards; or for example, journalists can learn through their union about international development and become more informed in their reporting.

The TUC is the right vehicle for this work because while trade unions are not traditional specialist development NGOs, they have the potential to be produce good development outcomes. For most trade unions to realise their potential in this area, a deep level of knowledge and understanding about how trade unions operate, accompanied by an ability to analyse the issues of interest to individual trade unions which lead to that union finding its unique contribution to development awareness is necessary. The TUC has this knowledge and the relevant experience of capacity building its affiliates in this area.

2. Response to the Review

2.1 Response to the Synthesis Report

The TUC broadly agrees with the suggested strategy's point 5 (page 9). However, we suggest that bullet point two be altered to include reference to '...NGOs and trade unions'. Our experience has shown us that for trade unions to become serious strategic partners in development, then where relevant, this is more likely to happen if (as a non-traditional NGO development actor), there is explicit reference to trade unions. In this instance, media unions such as the National Union of Journalists, the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematographic and Theatre Union and the Musicians Union could be key partners in meeting DFID's objectives and for the BSDS to miss them out, would be a missed opportunity.

Related to this, the TUC broadly agrees with point 7 (page 2), regarding the media, but we would welcome DFID's explicit recognition that media unions have a valuable potential role to play. As a PPA partner, the TUC could assist its media affiliates in exploring and supporting their practical engagement with the strategy.

On point 6 (page 9) regarding formal education, any funding model chosen will also need to be able to accommodate projects carried out on a national scale. Funding at a regional level only could limit the ability to carry out national projects as a regional funder would concentrate on projects that are regionally focussed and even if they were enabled to fund national projects, these are, by their nature, generally more costly and could deplete resources, leaving minimal funding for other possible projects/providers. A regional structure would still require a mechanism for collating information at a national level. A regional model without an overarching national structure or a strong cross-sector communication mechanism, which provides information on initiatives from across the sector could result in similar work being carried out in several different regions, which is inefficient use of resources and time.

The TUC agrees with the suggested strategy's point 8 (page 10), that partnerships with civil society should focus on building relationships with key stakeholders from trade unions and that there should be a continuous mapping and analysis of those relationships.

We agree with the sentiments behind the suggested management of the strategy in points 11, 12, 13 and 14 and 20 (pages 10 - 11). However, the review has not explained why the Outreach and Stakeholder Relations Team (OSRT) should lead on the TUC's engagement with DFID, whilst CSD lead on the funding relationship. Over the years, the TUC has been moved around various DFID teams and as alluded to in point 23 of the Executive Summary (page 6) and 4.8 (page 30) of the review that focuses on trade unions, we have had difficulties in gaining lasting, meaningful relationships with important parts of DFID, particularly policy and field offices. This has been particularly difficult as many development practitioners (inside and outside DFID), are still not aware of, nor fully understand the role of trade unions in international development. Splitting responsibility for the DFID/TUC relationship between two separate departments within DFID, unless done very carefully and with sustained commitment to making it work, could prove detrimental to the quality and speed of progress made in cementing the relationship. Similarly, there is no clarity as to whether all PPA stakeholder relations would move to ORST or just the TUC's. However, the TUC is open to discussion about how this might work before coming to a final conclusion.

The TUC would also disagree that 'all' support, as point 20 (page 11) suggests, should be provided through the TUC's PPA. The reasons for this are:

  • if at some time in the future the PPA was not renewed, this would leave trade unions without any DFID funding mechanisms on BSD;
  • some of the TUC's affiliates with existing expertise on international development do not need the support of the TUC to access funding from DFID, and might be better funded directly;
  • not all trade union organisations in the UK are TUC affiliates (for example, the TUC does not operate in Northern Ireland); and
  • trade unions should not become isolated and cut off from opportunities and initiatives offered to other civil society groups or in areas where unions play other roles than collective bargaining - for example, education unions and education initiatives, or the media unions and media initiatives. Instead, DFID, the TUC and DEA both have a key role to play in facilitating and encouraging relationships with and between all of their partners.
2.2 Response to the review of DFID's work to build support for development through work with Businesses and Trade Unions etc...

Trade Unions

As above, the TUC disagrees that 'all' support should be channelled through the TUC but believes there is ample scope for 'more' support to be channelled through the TUC.

Complementary to this, we also agree with the review's point 18 (page 4), that investment in the trade union movement, in relation to its size and potential, has been too modest. The TUC therefore believes that opportunities to raise awareness and support for development in the UK in the last 10 years have been missed. However, we are also aware that without the follow up SFPA project, the good work started by the SGA would not have been sustained.

Point 20 of the review (page 4) points out that the early flexibility and scope for engagement has declined. The TUC concurs and notes that this can lead to missed opportunities but also that strategic, adequate monitoring and assistance and sustained funding is essential to the success of such engagement.

On point 2.24 (page 12), it is important to note that it is the TUC's experience that the way in which the Development Awareness Working Group (DAWG) was set up was not based on best practice. The review states that there was a trade union representative on the Group, but this merely means there was someone with a trade union background on it, acting in a personal rather than representative capacity. This delayed the development of a meaningful relationship between the TUC and DFID.

Finally, in part due to the increased capacity that the TUC's agreements with DFID have given it, the nature of the TUC's interaction with the development community has dramatically changed for the better over this period. In the past, the trade union movement was mainly seen by development NGOs as a vehicle for reaching large numbers of workers and hence the quality of 'partnership' on joint initiatives did not capture or build on each others' unique strengths. As captured by the TUC's conference and subsequent report on 'Trade Unions and NGOs Working Together,' this has now changed and trade unions are frequently treated as equals in the design and implementation of joint initiatives with NGOs.


The TUC, through its links with businesses at the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the Decent Work and Labour Standards Forum (DW&LS) and through the work that its affiliates are doing - for example, the DAF funded Prospect programme - is well aware of the potential for business to play a positive role in international development awareness and support. The TUC, through its interaction with the CBI, is also very well aware of the challenge in harnessing this potential.

Professional Associations

The TUC acknowledges the points made in 3.51 (page 25) and recognises both the importance of the potential of professional associations, as well as the weaknesses of the approach DFID took to professional associations. Indeed many trade unions represent professionals and the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is a TUC affiliate which was awarded an SGA.

DFID's SGA with the NUJ did not make use of the TUC as a strategic partner. Had this happened, the TUC would have been in a better position to offer valuable assistance in sharing its experience to date of its SGA. In any event, after the NUJ SGA was signed, the TUC did all it could to support the NUJ in its SGA.

BME and Diaspora groups

It was almost inevitable that the creation of a BME group like Connections for Development, to represent all BME groups on international development awareness would not work. The BME community is too diverse and creating or favouring one organisation whilst ignoring existing sustainable structures, such as trade unions which have race equality committees and whose policy is democratically made, is a mistake too frequently made in the development world.

Effectiveness of BSDS Civil Society Interventions

The TUC agrees with point 3.69 that the DAF is inappropriate for new relationships where mutual understanding is essential and sustained engagement critical. The TUC's experience illustrates this. The TUC's DFID funded SFPA IDLF Access DAF has been popular amongst our affiliates. However, for some, it has also proved disappointing. For example, Unite the union has unsuccessfully submitted their IDLF DAF proposal to DFID. Not funding willing organisations that have huge potential to meet DFID's aims (Unite has over 1.5 million members - 5% of the UK's population), creates an important lost opportunity to build support for development amongst the UK tax paying public. We think DFID could take a partnership approach to building a relationship with significant unions and the TUC could assist.

Finally, the TUC supports 3.70 (page 28) of the review. It is our experience too that three years is generally not enough time for sustained activity to be embedded.

Impact, sustainability and lesson learning

As the review reports in 5.4 (page 32), DFID did not follow up the monitoring and evaluation of its partners as had originally been agreed. Indeed, despite money being set aside for an independent evaluation at the end of the TUC's SGA, DFID did not request the TUC to carrying out this exercise. However, the TUC considered it important and commissioned an independent evaluation.

The TUC also agrees with the last sentence in 5.5 (page 32) of the review. The TUC has often found DFID to be too worried that the hand it feeds might bite it. Rather than having the confidence to strategically enable such risk, it has sought - most notably through the SGA's and DAF - to prevent such risk from occurring. i.e. neither the DAF nor SGA allowed for any activities that might be viewed as 'campaigning or lobbying'. Given that the Charities Act has changed to enable Charities to undertake campaigning and lobbying around human rights issues, DFID risks being behind the times.

This last point is backed up by the bullet point 7 of the review under Lessons Learnt (page 33), that states 'strong civil society partners have their own policies, priorities and agendas. DFID's BSD strategy will be more effective if it seeks to find the overlaps and synergies rather than assuming it can always take the policy lead'. The TUC strongly agrees with this point.

Conclusions and Recommendations of the Review

The TUC welcomes the confidence the reviewers place in the TUC's ability and hence their recommendation in operational level recommendation number 5 (page 36) that all support to trade unions should be integrated through the PPA. Whilst the TUC does not feel that the reviewers' confidence is misplaced, it does not however, for the reasons mentioned above, agree with the recommendation.

2.3 Response to the review of Development Awareness Fund and the Mini Grants Programme

Executive summary

The TUC disagrees that the DAF should be abolished. This is because there should be more than one funding stream for trade unions to access funding for BSD activities.

The TUC welcomes statement 5 (page 1) that trade unions need support to reach their potential.

Target Groups

DFID has frequently expressed to the TUC its desire to receive more trade union applications to the DAF and the initial SFPA IDLF approach that the TUC developed was a direct attempt to initiate more applications. The IDLF approach has continued within the TUC's PPA with DFID. Each of the IDLF grant unions has submitted applications to the DAF and of the 3 that have done so, 2 (Prospect, NUT) have been successful and 1 (Unite) unsuccessful. It should also be noted that apart from Unite, the trade unions that have submitted DAF proposals, whether successful or not, are doing so for the first time and are unlikely to have done so without the IDLF. Therefore, without the 3 year SFPA (2006-2009), there could have been no trade union submissions to the DAF at all during this period.

As already stated, trade unions are not development NGOs and therefore, most unions are beginning their development awareness work from a very low international development strategy and activity base. Therefore, although very much worthwhile, DFID should not underestimate how much time and effort it takes to encourage, guide and support the TUC's affiliates to find their 'unique contribution' to international development. Most affiliates would not be able to undertake even the IDLF Access background work without the resources given to the including money to hire a project worker for the duration of the IDLF Access.

Over the years some unions, like Prospect, have reacted very positively to this initial injection of support and have been able to either retain the project worker, or to move an existing staff member permanently into an international role. And both PCS and ATL are also currently considering doing this - as a direct result of their IDLF projects. However this is rare as unions must first win the support from their subscription paying members for a 'diversion' of precious staff time from their domestic interests to more altruistic international interests. In most cases, this would not happen without there first being a significant development awareness project that resonated with and had good reach into that membership.

Conclusions and Recommendations of the review

For the above reasons, the TUC agrees with 6.3 (page 35) of the review on applying for and developing DAF and MGS projects.

2.4 Review of DFID's work to Build Support for Development through the Education System

Teaching unions have a unique role to play in BSD. They increase awareness amongst children and they help to empower and mobilise teachers - their members - who in turn empower children. After years of being involved in development campaigning around the Global Campaign for Education, the TUC's education unions are increasingly taking the BSD agenda very seriously. For example the NUT has a DAF funded project around Continuing Professional Development and the ATL recently submitted a DAF Concept Note. They will be submitting separately to this consultation and the TUC supports their submissions.

2.5 Review of DFID's work to Build Support for Development through the Media

The TUC broadly agrees with this review. However there are a few key areas that seem to be missing that would provide more coherence to this area of DFID's work and mission in general.

This review misses out a key sector of the media - print journalism, which is still a very influential part of the British media. DFID should ensure it has a strategy for dealing with reporting in this area and should consult with potential partners, such as the National Union of Journalists, who have progressed in their thinking and expertise, following their SGA.

Media broadcasts are 'resources' in the same way as any other development awareness materials are. Other materials are held on various publicly available databases for use by development awareness practitioners, however media broadcasts are often not. As far as possible the DFID funded broadcast programmes should be held on a database for use by DFID's strategic and other relevant partners in their development awareness raising endeavours.

Finally, as pointed out in the review, many NGOs are highly effective at raising awareness of their work in development. However, most of DFID's new partners, such as trade unions, are not yet recognised by the media broadcast as development actors and those organisations these new partners who have important stories to tell don't have the capacity to change that.

3. TUC conclusions and recommendations

Building support for development is a vital area of the work of a development department like DFID. It helps to explain and justify the sums of taxpayers' money committed to development, and encourages additional activity by individuals and corporations.

The TUC welcomes the DFID vision of investing in non-traditional groups with reach into British society and urges DFID to continue to improve and expand this area of work.

Trade unions cover a multiplicity of sectors and professions and are therefore relevant and can bring members, experience and expertise to all four sections of the BSD strategy. This includes teaching unions, media unions and others.

Investment in BSD through trade unions, when compared to their size and potential, has been woefully inadequate. There is ample scope for more support to be channelled through the TUC to trade unions.

However, the TUC does not believe that all BSD support for trade unions should go through the TUC. We are concerned that funding for trade unions is not cordoned off but that instead, there is more than one way unions can access BSD funds and that the focus is on longer term, more flexible strategic partnership building.

Similarly, the DAF is a useful tool for BSD, however, the fact that is open for proposals just once a year is unhelpful. Once a concept note or proposal has been turned down, it is very hard for the TUC's affiliates to maintain the momentum and capacity built up during the design and writing stage. In some cases this leads to affiliates not resubmitting and to huge missed opportunities to reach into key sections of society.

The TUC therefore believes that its role in BSD could and should be enhanced. As the review does not make detailed recommendations about how this might happen we would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we might develop our PPA to include an enhanced development awareness role.

The TUC is not convinced that the OSRT should lead on the TUC's engagement with DFID, particularly as we have many overseas projects and an important policy function. DFID teams have too high turnover and DFID does not enough harness enough of their partners' expertise, including for example how to engage with groups such as BME communities, businesses or professional associations.

Trade unions and NGOs have come a long way in their working relationship since 2003 when the SGA was signed and now generally work in a constructive and complementary way.

Finally DFID is not bold enough in allowing and enabling civil society to express their views around BSD in a sensible and constructive manner.

TUC recommendations

DFID should map all the potential areas of the BSD strategy in which trade unions bring expertise and membership and then base its support to trade unions around that and experience to date in working with them.

In particular, DFID should ensure it explicitly identifies teaching unions as key stakeholders in its BSD strategy and activities and include them as stakeholders in its relationship with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

DFID should give serious consideration to increasing the amount of money the TUC receives through its PPA with the explicit purpose of BSD. With more money:

  • the TUC would be better able meet its affiliates needs; and
  • the TUC could engage with its race equality structures and tap into BME and Diaspora groups.

DFID should also form strategic partnerships with those unions who have a track record in BSD.

The DAF should remain and should be improved by being opened to proposals twice a year.

DFID should set up an advisory group on BSD and consult on the best format that such a group could take. Appointments to any such group should be representative and transparent.

The TUC recommends that DFID look at initiatives where businesses are already engaged in BSD and what can be learned from them. To do this, DFID should consult widely, including with the TUC, CBI, the International Labour Organisation, the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Decent Work & Labour Standards Forum.

In order that policy makers understand the intended target groups behind words such as 'civil society' and 'NGOs', DFID should spell out the target groups i.e. NGOs, trade unions, BME communities.

DFID should abandon the prohibition on civil society using its funding for lobbying and campaigning - encouraging action by individuals in this way is often the most effective way to build support for development

Finally, DFID should prescribe to its media partners that they meet with, understand and share skills with newer BSD partner groups who lack media profile on development, so they are able to build capacity in this area.


Correcting inaccuracies within the synthesis and review

There are inaccuracies within both the synthesis report and the review that focused on trade unions. For the record, these are corrected below.

The synthesis report

3.12 of the synthesis report. It suggests that SGA work with trade unions was only targeted through the TUC. However, the National Union of Journalists which is a TUC affiliate was also given an SGA. The TUC was not used as a strategic partner for this relationship and had it been so, it would have been able to assist the NUJ better than it was subsequently able to.

4.18 of the synthesis, makes it sound as if the TUC went from having an SGA to a PPA in one step. In fact, as detailed further below, it took more than 2 three year projects, lots of learning and over seven years for the TUC to develop its expertise as describe in the Synthesis. Only after that hard work and period of time, did DFID believe the TUC merited becoming a PPA partner.

The review

3.32 and 3.33 of the review should also be corrected, as this may provide useful, not only for the record but also for OSRT when deliberating over what models might work for future partners.

The TUC, through extra DFID funding half way through the SGA, developed a vehicle for two small grants to individual unions. These came in the form of the Mini Grants (from the original SGA funds) and also an International Development Fund which provided up to £20,000 seed funding each for ten union projects. The TUC played a crucial role in developing, advising and monitoring these projects. These were vital in sparking interest, experience and learning in international development and were at an accessible enough level to attract unions with no structured development awareness experience.

Following the success of the SGA, the TUC negotiated with DFID a three year Strategic Framework Partnership Arrangement (SFPA) which ended in June 2009. It was this agreement that enabled the TUC to develop its model of development awareness (as well as international partnerships) support to its affiliates by creating an International Development Learning Fund (IDLF) and this gave the SFPA the important capacity building component mentioned in 3.33 of the review.

Finally, the TUC's successful 2008 proposal to the DAF on the Olympics built on a 'Play Fair' Campaign with Oxfam and Labour Behind the Label (not Christian Aid as stated in the report) in 2004 (this was before Make Poverty History (MPH)) and which benefited from the additional capacity that the DFID funded SGA Officer was able to offer to the TUC. It was that work and the continued support of the SGA Officer working with TUC core staff, which helped the TUC to gain a seat on the MPH coordination team. Since 2006, the TUC has been accepted within the NGO development community as a 'development network' in its own right - and formally meets with other development networks at BOND's Network of Networks. Finally, it is this engagement which in 2009 led to the TUC taking a leading role in the Put People First coalition, an important development awareness tool in itself, which for the first time ever, has development, climate change and workers rights groups working together to influence Government on a common policy platform around Jobs, Justice and Climate.

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