x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UK Minister explains challenge of granting aid

Minister of state for international development advises conference on how to best co-ordinate aid efforts in Yemen and Pakistan, where governments are facing conflicts with militants or rebels.

Ghanaians who fled Libya rest at the Choucha transit camp. The UK department is assisting refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries.
Ghanaians who fled Libya rest at the Choucha transit camp. The UK department is assisting refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries.

ABU DHABI // Delivering aid in countries beset by violence, militancy and corruption requires a careful case-by-case approach, a British government minister has explained.

Alan Duncan, the minister of state for international development, spoke on the sidelines of a conference with UAE officials about how to best co-ordinate aid efforts in Yemen and Pakistan, where governments are facing conflicts with militants or rebels.

Choosing whom to support is often difficult. In Yemen, the British Department for International Development (DFID) aimed to work with the next government, while at the same time addressing concerns about how the money and goods provided would be handled.

"Democracy can sometimes throw up difficult results but you have to have faith in elections," he said.

In the meantime, the UK might support programmes on good governance, encouraging fair elections, financial accountability and a professional police force, he said.

Sometimes, however, a government shows so little promise of handling aid funds properly that the DFID bypasses it. In Pakistan, for example, the organisation works mainly with nongovernmental groups, said Mr Duncan. "We're very careful not to give direct budget support to governments we don't trust with the money," he said. "In the case of Pakistan we're very, very careful."

Much of the UK's recent aid there has gone to victims of the countrywide flood last summer, he said.

In Libya, where forces supporting ruler Col Muammar Qaddafi are battling rebels backed by international air power, the DFID have prepared a plan to deliver aid as soon as possible, he said. Meanwhile the UK department is assisting refugees who had fled to neighbouring Tunisia or Egypt.

While his department tries to plan for the long term, he said, the UAE's aid efforts tends to focus on reacting quickly.

The British ambassador to the UAE, Dominic Jermey, praised the UAE's rapid responses, particularly after last year's flood in Pakistan.

"We were really impressed last year when they were the first donor to go in," he said. "They were really quick off the ground to get money and aid in there."

chuang@thenational.ae