Department for International Development

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Revision as of 17:30, 12 December 2011 by Melissa Jones (talk | contribs) (Sensitive reports withheld)
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The UK Department for International Development (DFID) was set up in May 1997 by the incoming Labour government. Headed by a cabinet minister, it made fighting world poverty its top priority. Previously the aid programme was managed by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA), a wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. According to DFID, this move 'marked a turning point for Britain’s aid programme, which until then had mainly involved economic development'. [1]


India was the biggest single recipient of British aid between 2003 and 2008, with £1 billion spent through DFID. Critical research by Corporate Watch writer Richard Whittell in a project entitled Dodgy development: DFID in India exposed the gap between the picture of development aid painted by DFID in the UK, and reality on the ground in India. DFID was accused of being involved in pushing the industrialisation of India, particularly mineral extraction and processing. It actively works with companies and corporations (many of them British), aiding them through helping privatise utilities and services and monetarise the economy to their benefit, with detrimental effects on the poorest people .[2]

Sensitive reports withheld

In response to an FoI request to DfID for access to the report “Orissa Drivers of Change”(2005-2006) prepared by consulting company GHK, which is openly talked about on their website, DfID denied access to the report, claiming that there was:

strong public interest in ensuring that DFID and the UK Government are able to promote international development and protect UK interests abroad. To do this there must be good working relationships with these other governments based on confidence and trust. Disclosing opinions and sensitive information relating to them would be likely to damage these relationships; harm DFID’s ability to work with and influence other donors in eradicating poverty and undermine the UK’s ability to respond to international development needs.
Disclosure would also be likely to inhibit the willingness of other governments or international organisations to share sensitive information with the UK government. It would significantly weaken the UK’s ability to deliver UK Government policy. [3]

See the full Freedom of Information response here: Media:2nd_Orissa_DoC_response_DfID.doc‎, Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell (May 2010 - present)

The report (eventually obtained by other means) gives a detailed overview of the political economy of Orissa based on in-depth studies. In particular it examines 'the challenges faced in Orissa in meeting the Millennium Development Goals'. Like DFID's other 'Drivers of Change' reports, it is essentially a study of how to influence change in the State. What is intriguing about it is the amount of time it dedicates to analysing social movements and protest in Orissa.

On the subject of mining, the report details the make up and success rate of movements against a range of projects, including the Utkal alumina project which DFID had promoted as part of the Business Partners for Development programme in which they were a partner.[4]. The project was rapidly removed from the BPD site after protesters were shot by police in 2001. The tone of the report, which recommends enabling civil society to have increasing protest power to oppose projects, is in direct contrast to the policies of DFID to promote the same mining and industrial projects. This raises questions about who the report was for and who it was shown to. In the hands of the mining companies such a deep knowledge of protest could be a dangerous tool.


Andrew Bennet



  1. DFID The creation of DFID, acc 12 December 2011
  2. Richard Whittell, Corporate Watch Dodgy development: DfID in India Accessed 30/04/10
  3. John McGinn, DfID Openness Unit, 9th Sept 2011 Freedom of Information Requests F2011-287 response letter.
  4. Karin Tang and Richard Slater. ORISSA DRIVERS OF CHANGE, DFID India. Final Report. GHK. July 2006
  5. Centre for Global Development Funders Accessed 22nd January 2008