Diana Dalton, Head of Building Support for Development at DFID, assesses how the funding of awareness projects ultimately supports the Millennium Development Goals.
The Department for International Development (DFID) is just over 10 years old. Formerly the Overseas Development Administration and part of the Foreign Office, its emergence as an independent government department in 1997 demonstrated the UK’s commitment to take the reduction of global poverty seriously and fulfil its international commitments.
A White Paper, ‘Eliminating Poverty, A Challenge for the 21st Century’ was promptly issued, setting out the priorities for action for the new department. In it, a commitment was made that DFID would increase public understanding of global mutual dependence and the need for international development.
A decade on, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander is as committed as ever to increasing the UK’s awareness of development issues and the key role that DFID plays. He oversees a programme to build support for development which grew out of the commitment made in the original White Paper. This programme includes a competitive challenge fund that was originally launched in 1998, called the ‘Development Awareness Fund’, to support projects run by partners who share DFID’s objectives and that contribute to achieving the aims set out above.
The Development Awareness Fund now supports over 80 projects every year, amounting to a total annual expenditure of £4m, reaching into schools and communities right across the UK. An annual competition is run, beginning with organisations submitting ‘concept notes’ for their project, which are then assessed by an external team knowledgeable in the development awareness and education sectors. If successful, they are asked to submit a full proposal, which follows a particular format, provide the associated budget, and explain how impact is going to be measured. These, again, are put through a thorough external assessment process, being ranked according to how well they meet the criteria for the Fund, how well designed the project is, whether they offer value for money, and how effective they will be in achieving sustainable impact.
As you can imagine, it’s a competitive business and only around one out of every four full proposals submitted are successful. More than half of those funded are projects being run in schools, often focusing on the training of teachers to be able to accurately reflect the interconnectedness of the world in their teaching and inspire their students to become responsible global citizens.
DFID is one of the very few sources of funding in the UK for work of this nature, which is of unquestionable importance for the future of our world. Most of this type of activity is still being carried by the voluntary sector. This is why DFID is also working closely with the education Ministries to raise the profile of global education in schools, and looking at practical ways of embedding it into the curriculum – so that every child comes out of education with an accurate understanding of the world and their place in it.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cannot be achieved alone. Building support for development is vital if we are to successfully meet the challenges ahead. Support and a commitment to take action must rapidly grow not only among members of the UK public, but in other developed nations’ governments, civil society, global business and international institutions.
In its first 10 years, the Development Awareness Fund has made significant strides towards achieving more widespread awareness and support for development. And across the next 10 years, we will continue to build on this to help achieve the MDGs.