Benefits of monitoring interactions with developing countries

Accountability: Stronger incentives for coherent policies

When the UK says it will tackle issues that are important for developing countries – such as recovering their stolen assets – the results need to be monitored and scrutinised. Monitoring will recognise progress and encourage commitments to be fulfilled.

For example the UK has championed the benefits of trade and investment for developing countries. Carefully tracking trade and investment will help show much it is benefiting these countries. This will be particularly important as the UK defines new trading relationships.

Transparency: Support the UK’s stated ambitions

The government says it aims to be the most transparent in the world. It has committed to transparency for aid spending and publishes data to support this. But there is a gap in official information about the UK’s wider impact on developing countries, and the UK allows secrecy in its Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies. For example, there is no comprehensive information on the resources flowing to the UK out of the countries we help with aid.

In contrast, official reporting on domestic issues goes far beyond what we spend and how well we spend it. Information on healthcare services is complemented by information on  smoking levels, obesity and air quality – all factors that impact people’s health. Official statistics on these factors helps hold policy makers to account for their performance on health policy.

Value: More focus on the most important financial flows

The best value options to support development do not always involve aid spending. Relatively small changes to large financial flows, such as remittances or illicit funds, could bring big benefits for developing countries without additional spending. Better reporting will make these opportunities more obvious by showing the relative size of different flows.

For example,  remittances from the UK to Nigeria are estimated by the World Bank to be nearly ten times the UK’s bilateral official development assistance to Nigeria ($3.74bn versus $0.39bn in 2014). So even proportionately small increases in remittances, for example by helping to reduce money transfer fees, could be as important as large increases in aid spending.

Avoid harm: Reduce the risk of counter-productive outcomes

Countries that are being helped by the UK’s development aid may sometimes be negatively affected by the UK in other ways. Harm might sometimes be linked to specific policy decisions. For example, the UK’s policy on arms exports to Saudi Arabia has been criticised because UK weapons have been used in the conflict in Yemen. Yemen is facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world and the UK  has doubled its humanitarian aid there.

But perhaps more commonly, harm can happen because of insufficient action. The UK may  not fully recognise or manage the risks of its interactions with developing countries. For example, it has been recognised that more needs to be done to the reduce risk of money laundering through the UK property market, including the proceeds of international corruption.