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DFID's Civil Society Partnership Review (CSPR)

Published Friday, November 11, 2016

Outcomes of, and reactions to, DFID's recent Civil Society Partnership Review (CSPR).

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DFID has historically provided a significant level of funding to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs). In 2014/15, DFID’s contributions to CSOs (£1.4bn) made up 25% of its total bilateral aid spending.

DFID has historically provided a significant level of funding to Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), both through its country officers (many of which outsource particular projects to CSOs) and through direct funding from DFID headquarters. In July 2015, DFID announced its intention to conduct a Civil Society Partnerships Review. The review was to cover all aspects of DFID headquarters’ funding to CSOs, including funding levels and funding mechanisms. Funding to CSOs from DFID country offices was to be outside the scope of the Review.

Prior to the CSPR, DFID was providing so-called strategic/unrestricted funding (funding whose use is not tied to any particular project or programme) to large CSOs, under s-called Programme Partnership Arrangements (PPAs). DFID headquarters was also funding CSOs through a variety of other schemes, most notably UK Aid Direct, previously known as the Global Poverty Action Fund (GPAF). Under this scheme, small and medium CSOs were able to apply for funding for specific projects. Other schemes included UK Aid Match, under which CSOs conducting public appeals could ask the Government to match the donations they receive, and the International Citizen Service, under which DFID was covering the expenses of young adults who volunteered overseas.

The review was due for publication in November 2015 but was ultimately delayed by a year: it was finally published on 4 November 2016. The headline announcement was that PPAs would be replaced with a new scheme called UK Aid Connect, which would “support coalitions of CSOs, think tanks, public, private and third sector organisations to help find solutions to current complex situations whilst tackling tomorrow’s challenges.” It is not yet clear precisely how this scheme will work in practice, or how much funding will be available. DFID’s other main mechanisms for funding CSOs have been retained, with funding for UK Aid Direct and UK Aid Match being doubled.

Reaction to the Review was mixed. There was some concern about the scrapping of PPAs, particularly since UK Aid Connect will not open for applications until March 2017, three months after the end of the last PPAs. The expansion of UK Aid Match was welcomed but there was some concern that it might encourage CSOs to focus on appeals which will capture the public imagination, rather than on those which are most needed. More broadly, the delay to the Review’s publication had clearly caused some frustration, but many were broadly supportive of its content.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7765

Author: Rob Page

Topic: International development

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