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What the future holds for international development

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A cold start to 2013. Picture: Neil Squires

I couldn’t resist posting this picture of the snow that is currently covering the UK, marking a cold start to what promises to be an exciting year.

2013 is the year in which the UK will achieve its commitment to spend 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income on development aid. There has been a huge amount of work going on in DFID over the last year, identifying areas where careful use of development aid can make the biggest difference to poor people’s lives. The discipline of developing business cases, which consider different options for spending and assess the relative value for money of these options, has driven much of this work. There is a huge commitment within DFID to ensure we get maximum value from UK aid. The work on gathering the evidence for effective investment and monitoring the impact of programmes will continue this year as we track progress and demonstrate how UK aid is translating into real results for poor people.

2013 is also a year in which there will be a major focus on what should follow on from the Millennium Development Goals, the targets that are set to reduce poverty by 2015. A High Level Panel will be assessing progress and discussing what comes next. I mentioned in a previous blog, some of the inputs that will inform these discussions, and other DFID bloggers have also posted on the ongoing process.

Clearly there will still be a need to continue to invest in many of the areas that were prioritised by the Millennium Development Goals. Poverty and gender inequity remain major challenges, people the world over want better education for their children and this needs to make sure that girls have the same access to an education as boys. Whilst there has been progress in reducing maternal death and improving child health, there is still an unacceptable toll of infant, child and maternal mortality, with continuing high levels of under nutrition contributing to the burden. Poor people in many countries still need better sanitation, improved hygiene and access to water and the threat of climate change and resulting severe climate events needs to be managed.

Some of the things I am hoping to focus on this year will feed into this agenda. My first big meeting this year will be to discuss the new funding mechanism of the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria. The large investments made through the Global Fund have had significant health impacts. One of the key challenges going forward will be to make sure that continued investment to combat these three diseases also helps to build more accessible health services that are better able to meet the health needs of all people, rather than just those with specific diseases. The article posted here, highlights some of the health system challenges of achieving the Millennium Development Goals around health.

I hope to be reviewing a number of UK aid programmes throughout 2013, and to be able to highlight some of the innovative work that is being supported by DFID Health Advisers around the world. I will also be meeting with a number of the researchers and research programmes that DFID has been supporting. The new knowledge being generated by this research and reviews can help make sure we invest in the right things. Systematic reviews of key areas of health policy have been helping to identify what the evidence base is for many of the investments we make, challenging existing practices as well as identifying key gaps in our knowledge and highlighting evidence which can inform new ways of working.

The snow will be gone in a few days, leaving just a memory of the additional struggles of getting into work. The Millennium Development Goals highlighted a long term challenge that will not disappear so readily. Our efforts and investment will need to be sustained to 2015 and beyond in support of some of the most hard pressed governments who are struggling in the face of limited resources and fragile or weak systems to improve the wellbeing of their populations. A key challenge that will extend beyond 2015 will be to make sure that the benefits of development and economic growth reach the poorest, and help narrow the health gap that exists in many countries between rich and poor.

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