ICAI highlights emerging development challenges

7 Jan 16

Increased conflict, new security threats and climate change are rapidly changing the global development landscape, the British aid watchdog has said.


The UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact today issued a report considering global development trends and how they impact aid agencies such as the UK’s Department for International Development.

It warned that conflicts are increasing and changing in nature, and addressing new security threats will require new forms of international cooperation.

Protracted crises, where recurring and unpredictable emergency needs exist alongside severe, long-term development deficits, are the “new normal”, ICAI said. It highlighted “considerable uncertainty” around how to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development assistance as a major challenge.

As conflict and fragility increase they have resurged as key drivers of poverty, ICAI said. Elsewhere, climate change threatens any gains already made in poverty reduction.

While the Millennium Development Goals brought about some significant progress, this has been uneven. Even in middle-income countries, which have benefited from rapid economic growth, certain groups remain excluded from these benefits.

Disparities in global progress also mean poverty is increasingly concentrated in certain regions, namely sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. As the population in such areas booms, ICAI said poverty will have an increasingly “youthful face” and “urban profile”.

New players – including countries like China who has an increasingly prominent role and smaller, specialist institutions that are more flexible and adaptive - and forms of finance are creating increasingly complex international aid architecture and changing the traditional role of aid.

In the UK specifically, a new aid strategy announced in October has also made some big changes to the way the country delivers its aid.

ICAI said some of the key challenges for DFID will be to engage and work with the private sector, tackle youth unemployment, adapt to the challenges of urban development and find ways to continue to work with countries after they graduate to middle-income status.

Operationally, DFID will need a more flexible and adaptive programming model, a more active approach to risk management and stronger regional engagement.

ICAI itself will also be undergoing changes, including introducing more variety into its review mechanisms.

It will shift from a standard assessment framework of performance reviews to also undertaking impact and learning reviews, which will involve focused assessment on DFID’s results claims and how well DFID shares knowledge, tackles new challenges and uptakes lessons. 

  • Emma Rumney

    Emma is a reporter at Otsubo7 International. She also writes for in the UK.

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