Greater emphasis should be given for work aimed at helping women and indigenous people, says inquiry on UK foreign aid work on deforestation and biodiversity loss

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An inquiry into UK foreign aid programmes aimed at halting deforestation and preventing biodiversity loss, much of it caused by climate change, has recommended:

  • greater emphasis on work aimed at helping women and indigenous people;
  • a re-think of the large amounts of money spent on multilateral, internationally-administered programmes (as opposed to direct UK funding of projects); and
  • improved co-ordination between different UK government departments carrying out the work.

The inquiry was by the parliamentary Sub-Committee on the work of the aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). ICAI publishes reviews of aid programmes, which the Sub-Committee then scrutinizes on behalf of Parliament and its electorate. The Sub-Committee also publishes government responses to this work.

The Sub Committee, chaired by the Conservative MP for Stafford, Theo Clarke, noted in its inquiry report the “catastrophic” levels of forest and biodiversity loss that continued to disrupt the lives of millions of people.

The ICAI review found that 90% of the world’s population that live in extreme poverty depend for some part of their livelihoods on forests.

According to ICAI, some groups of people, particularly women, youth and poorer people, were not consistently included in the design of UK aid programmes, recommending that gender issues should be given greater priority.

The Chair of the Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI, Theo Clarke MP, commented: “Work on tackling deforestation and biodiversity loss has to include those most directly affected by it. That means women and indigenous people, who ICAI found were not always consulted enough and are sometimes even excluded from the crucial planning stage of projects.

“The government should make a bigger effort to include these marginalised groups in its programming.

“With the increased focus on climate change following the COP26 UN climate change conference, the government should also work to ensure that it has the capacity and resources to match the scale of the challenge.”

The overall conclusion of the Sub-Committee report was that while UK aid had made a valuable contribution to addressing the challenges of deforestation and biodiversity loss, improvements could be made in some areas.

The Sub-Committee report agreed the government should make more effort to include women and indigenous groups in its projects.

The UK government has responded to the challenge of climate change by committing to spend £11.6bn to tackle it.

When asked by the Sub-Committee how much of this money will be allocated to international, multilateral bodies (compared with projects directly managed by the UK), the Minister for the Pacific and the International Environment, Lord Zac Goldsmith, replied “too much.” Lord Goldsmith said there was scope to work on more bilateral programmes.

The Sub-Committee report recommended the government should review multilateral vs bilateral approaches and report back to it within six months.

The Sub Committee also recommended that government departments working on tackling deforestation and biodiversity loss should explore how they can improve co-ordination with each other. They should also, the Sub-Committee said, ensure that their initiatives are aligned with local actions on the same problems.

The full report is available on the UK Parliament website.