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DFID should work more effectively with private foundations

Originally published


Private philanthropy is improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, but the Department for International Development (DFID) must do more to engage private foundations in coordinated global efforts to improve the effectiveness of aid.

While private foundations make a huge contribution, concerns have been raised about the transparency and accountability, according to a new report by MPs on the International Development Committee. Foundations should sign up to International Aid Transparency Initiative guidelines and be brought into global structures to ensure that they coordinate their work with other donors.

Malcolm Bruce MP, Chairman of the International Development Committee:

“The world’s largest aid giving foundation – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – has shown that risk-taking and innovation can produce outstanding results.”

“Incredibly Bill & Melinda Gates now spend more on health programmes than the UN World Health Organisation.”

“Their foundation has made significant progress in reducing the impact of Malaria on developing countries and may yet succeed in eradicating the disease.”

“While their efforts are to be welcomed, there is a danger that private foundations can by-pass civil society groups in developing countries and skew aid programmes in favour of big hi-tech single issue interventions.”

“DFID should work with foundations to maximise their contribution and help them play a bigger part in global efforts to end poverty.”

DFID currently engages with foundations on an ad-hoc basis and the report recommends a more systematic approach to the department’s relationship with private philanthropic organisations. The Committee recognises that DFID officials cannot meet all small foundations one-to-one, but it believes that the department should make more efforts to engage with them. A designated contact official for foundations should be established and a DFID Minister should hold an annual meeting with groups of smaller foundations. The department should produce a publication indicating what DFID funding foundations might apply for, and how to apply.

DFID should include foundations as fully as possible in future development events and processes, including the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness; the forthcoming Rio + 20 UN conference on Sustainable Development; and discussions of a post-2015 Millennium Development Goal Framework.