Britain's help to the Third World to be rebranded 'UKAid'

Attempt to raise ministry's profile criticised as waste of money and unnecessary
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The Independent Online

Britain's development ministry is to change the name of its key aid distribution arm in a major rebranding exercise.

Operations by the Department for International Development (DfID) in the developing world will be known as "UKAid" in an attempt to make clear that the contributions are coming from Britain.

The move is due to be unveiled in a DfID White Paper on Monday which will also lay out a swathe of measures including how the Government intends to support countries affected by climate change.

The White Paper is expected to state that years of development aid could be wiped out if the issue of climate change is not addressed urgently. Studies would take place to ascertain how money could be allocated to tackle the problem without endangering other funds for alleviating poverty.

Under the rebranding plan, aid arriving in the developing world will be marked with the label "UKAid" and DfID staff will be asked to "identify" with the new image which, they have been told, is essential to raise the profile of the ministry.

It is not known how much it will cost to carry out the makeover which is due to affect a range of items from stationery and packaging to legal documents.

Some aid workers criticised the move as unnecessary and a waste of resources and claimed that cosmetic changes were no substitute for substantive reform.

However it had the backing of others in the field who said a change was long overdue. A recent report by the Commons International Development Select Committee stated that DfID needed a more distinctive name to build awareness of the work it carries out.

The committee's chairman, Malcolm Bruce, told The Independent: "The problem is that the name DfID does not reflect the fact that this is a British organisation; it could be anything. The Americans have USAID, Canada has got CIDA [Canada International Development Agency]."

Mr Bruce maintained that the UK's contribution to international development is often overlooked, giving the case of shelters funded by DfID following earthquakes in Pakistan. The tents were erected by the Norwegian Refugee Council and stamped with Norwegian flags. British MPs visiting the site were asked by local people to pass on their thanks to the Norwegian government; they were unaware that DfID had contributed 55 per cent of the budget of the project.

"For example people say that in Afghanistan the British are only giving aid to Helmand because our forces are there," said Mr Bruce. "We are, in fact, giving aid to other parts as well. But because it is done through the Afghan Government no one knows about it."

However, aid specialists in Afghanistan, where the British government spends £126m in aid each year, remained sceptical. Ashley Jackson, a policy and advocacy analyst with Oxfam, said: "DfID should be concentrating on delivering aid to the Afghans who need it most, and ensuring that they are delivering that aid effectively, transparently and efficiently."

Matt Waldman, an independent development consultant who has written numerous reports on aid effectiveness in Afghanistan, said: "In light of recent evaluation it's clear there are some substantial and substantive changes that are required. A name change isn't one of them."

He added: "Some of DfID's work in Afghanistan is a really high standard, but efforts to win hearts and minds with immediate assistance projects have been largely futile. DfID has been subjected to too much pressure from politicians in Whitehall and the military for quick, visible results, which aren't necessarily best for development.

"They don't win the support of local people, and a name change won't change that."

Even members of staff at the British Embassy in Kabul said they were perplexed by the change and expressed concern that the similarity of "UKAid" to USAID would pander to critics who claim British foreign policy is too heavily influenced by Washington.

One diplomat said: " DfID has tried really hard to channel its money through the Afghan Government, to build up the Government's capacity, and now all of a sudden they want to put a new name over everything and claim credit for Britain? It doesn't make sense."

The Conservative international development spokesman Andrew Mitchell said: "It's important that Britain's aid effort throughout the world is effective and useful.

"I am in favour of recognition being given to Britain for important work in the field of development."

DfID What the department does

*The budget of the Department for International Development (DfID) for 2010-11 is £9.1bn, up from £4.9bn in 2007 and £6.8bn in 2008.

*Originally created as the Ministry of Overseas Development during the Labour government of 1964-70, the agency lost its ministerial status following the Conservative victory in 1979. Its successor, the Overseas Development Agency (ODA) came under the bailiwick of the Foreign Secretary and its primary role became the promotion of British exports to the developing world – "aid through aid".

*The policy was blamed for the Pergau Dam scandal in which Britain funded the project at the same time as the Malaysian government bought £1bn worth of arms. In 1994, after an application for judicial review brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court ruled that the foreign secretary at the time, Douglas Hurd, had acted illegally in allocating £234m to the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people.

*DfID, set up by the Labour Government in 1997, is governed by the International Development Act which effectively outlawed aid tied to trade. It was also removed from the control of the Foreign Secretary.

*However, under its first Secretary of State, Clare Short, the department was kept on a low profile – a legacy, many felt, of the Pergau Dam scandal, despite the fact it had taken place under a Tory government.

*David Cameron has pledged not to cut DfID's budget if the Tories win the next general election, despite coming under pressure from the right wing of the Conservative Party.

Kim Sengupta