Charities write to Conservatives with concerns about manifesto pledge

31 May 2017 News

Representatives from leading international aid organisations have written a letter to the Conservative Party about its proposed changes to aid spending, which they say could heighten the risk of misuse of aid.

The letter, which was published in the Financial Times yesterday, is signed by 23 academics and senior figures from leading aid organisations including the chief executives of Bond, World Vision, WaterAid, Save the Children, and the acting chief executive of Oxfam GB.

It has been written in response to the Conservative Party’s manifesto pledge to review the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rules on aid spending. The OECD decides what type of spending can count as aid.

The letter says that the OECD-governed rules on aid spending are “neither perfect nor frozen in time”, but that they do “provide a robust framework for ensuring that development assistance puts people living in poverty first”.

The academics and aid organisations said that they are “very concerned about the suggestion that this country should apply new aid rules unilaterally if agreement is not reached on any proposed changes”.

They say that this step could “weaken the vital independent scrutiny and standard setting role played by the OECD, and heighten the risk of misuse of aid”


The Conservative Party's manifesto says that the party does not believe that “international definitions of development assistance always help in determining how money should be spent, on whom and for what purpose”.

It says it will work with “like-minded countries to change the rules so that they are updated and better reflect the breadth of our assistance around the world”.

If that does not work, the party said it will change the law to allow it to “use a better definition of development spending, while continuing to meet our 0.7 per cent target”.

The letter was signed by the following individuals:

Amy Agnew, Europe Director, Global Citizen

Christine Allen, Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Christian Aid

Chris Bain, Director, CAFOD

Tanya Barron, CEO, Plan International UK

Tamsyn Barton, CEO, Bond

Rose Caldwell, Executive Director, Concern Worldwide UK

Nigel Harris, Chief Executive, Tearfund

Professor David Hulme, President of the Development Studies Association 

Professor Sir Richard Jolly, Research Associate, Institute of Development Studies

Lord Judd, former Director of Oxfam

Penny Lawrence, Acting Chief Executive, Oxfam GB

Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies

Adrian Lovett, Europe Executive Director, The ONE Campaign

Girish Menon, Chief Executive, ActionAid

Diana Mitlin, Managing Director, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester

Paul Murphy, CEO, Saferworld

Mike Penrose, Executive Director, Unicef UK

Ann Pettifor, Director, Policy Research in Macroeconomics (PRIME)

Tim Pilkington, CEO, World Vision UK

Alex Thier, Executive Director, ODI 

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid

Jane Waterman, Executive Director, IRC UK

Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children

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