Submission to the International Development Committee’s inquiry on the Philosophy and Culture of Aid – Plan International UK
Contact detail: Amelia Whitworth, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, E:Amelia.email@example.com
Plan International UK is a global children’s charity, we work to advance children’s rights and equality for girls. Last year our work reached over 10 million people globally.
1. Submission summary
- Plan International UK welcomes the International Development Committee’s (IDC) inquiry on the Philosophy and Culture of Aid, and we are pleased that the Committee has chosen to consult on the content of the inquiry at this early stage.
- We recognise that there are a wide range of critical issues that the inquiry can and will cover. As such, we encourage the committee to ensure this inquiry is an inclusive and rigorous process that seeks to explore and tackle issues in the philosophy and culture of aid thoroughly.
- In future phases of the inquiry, when the terms of reference have been defined, we will be pleased to make submissions to the Committee on a range of issues related to the philosophy and culture of aid.
- The focus of this submission, however, is not on ‘what’ themes the IDC should consider, rather it considers ‘how’ the inquiry should be undertaken so that the IDC’s inquiry is thorough and inclusive, and adds the greatest value to the debate.
- Plan International UK recommends that the IDC commits to undertaking meaningful consultation with diverse children and young people in countries which receive UK aid, and the UK itself, to understand their views on, and experiences of, the philosophy and culture of aid.
- UK aid shapes the lives of millions of children and young people each year; it enables them to go to school, provides essential food and medicine and helps keep them safe. UK aid shapes their lives and futures. They are experts in their own lives, and their own experiences of the philosophy and culture of aid, and they have a right to be listened to. We encourage the IDC to take the opportunity to pioneer a new way of gathering parliamentary evidence that seeks to listen to these experiences so that UK aid is a force for good in the world.
- Any consultation with young people must be safe, meaningful and recognise existing power inequalities. It should be accessible and inclusive, recognising that young people are not a homogenous group but have different lived experiences, and face different barriers, based on intersecting characteristics such as, but not limited to, gender, age, race and sexuality.
- This submission was developed by Plan International UK in consultation with a small number of young people in the UK. The consultation methodologies outlined in this submission were developed in partnership with a diverse group of girls from 12 countries in early 2020.[i]
2. Central recommendation: the International Development Committee should seek to actively consult children and young people as an integral part of the Philosophy of Aid Inquiry
- Whilst recognising that there are many ‘themes’ the IDC could explore to add value to the debate around aid, this submission will focus on ‘how’ the inquiry should be undertaken to best achieve the IDC’s goals.
- We recommend that as part of this inquiry, the IDC commits to undertaking meaningful consultation with children and young people in countries which receive UK aid, and the UK itself, to understand their views on, and experiences of, the philosophy and culture of aid.
- Specifically we encourage the IDC to consult children and young people who are a) participating in a UK aid funded programme or in receipt of UK aid in some other way b) live in a country that receives UK aid and c) live in the UK, as the UK Government is accountable to them. We encourage the IDC to place a particular emphasis on consulting girls and young women as existing gender inequalities can mean they are less able to have their views and voices heard.
- We would also strongly recommend involving children and young people and existing networks of youth activists in policy development and long term meaningful partnership. This would enable them to be actively engaged in shaping the decisions that affect their lives, rather than just the passive recipients of consultation that does not result in meaningful action.
- Consulting children and young people as part of this inquiry should be a priority as UK aid impacts the lives of millions of people, including a vast number of children and young people, around the world. In the context of UK aid, too often children and young people who are directly affected by the priorities and funding decisions of UK aid – which are intrinsically linked to UK politics - are not provided with opportunities to have their voices heard or influence the decisions made by the UK Government that directly affect their lives.
- Plan International UK believes in the right of people, including children and young people, to be involved in decisions and debates that affect their lives. This is not just an ideological position: when children and young people are meaningfully engaged in ways that truly dismantle barriers and break down systems of exclusion—whether based on age, gender, class, ethnicity, or other facets of identity— this has a ripple effect that can positively transform the groups and institutions in which they are meaningfully engaged in. They become partners, not just ‘beneficiaries’, in a community’s health, prosperity, security, and sustainability.
- But more than that, young people want to be involved in the decisions that affect them: Plan International’s research found that 76% of girls and young women aged 15 to 25 are motivated to drive social and political change in their homes, communities and beyond.[ii]
- Therefore the inquiry on the philosophy and culture of aid presents a significant opportunity for the IDC to break the mould of what a traditional committee inquiry looks like. We encourage the committee to take the bold step of choosing to meaningfully consult children and young people who engage with UK aid as part of this inquiry, as well as children and young people in the UK.
- Our recommendation is not that children and young people should be a ‘theme’ in the inquiry, rather this form of meaningful consultation young people should be a lens or a method through which it seeks to answer the key questions surrounding the philosophy and culture of aid. To truly understand the benefits and challenges of UK aid the IDC should ask those children and young people, particularly girls, whose lives and futures are directly shaped by decisions made in Westminster about the future of UK aid.
3. Principles for how consultation with children and young people should be undertaken
In this section of our response we outline some principles for effective, meaningful and safe youth engagement and some practical suggestions for how the IDC could seek to consult children and young people as part of the philosophy of aid inquiry.
It is intended to give an overview as well as ideas and suggestions. If the IDC were to pursue this form of consultation as part of the inquiry we recommend resourcing an expert to develop and deliver a full consultation roadmap that considers the following principles:
- When undertaking consultation and engagement with children and young people existing systemic power inequalities should be recognised. Any consultation should seek to engage on the basis of equitable power relations and mutual respect.
- It should be recognised that children and young people are not a homogenous group. Their views and experiences will vary from place to place but also within communities of children and young people as each of their lives is unique and shaped by a range of factors including gender, race, sexuality and other intersecting characteristics. In view of this we would also recommend an approach which considers how consultations can be as accessible as possible to children and young people recognising the multiple and intersecting barriers some face.
- In particular, the consultation methodology should not exclude people on the basis of access to technology, level of education or other factors. It is essential that any consultation is undertaken using appropriate, child friendly language, and that materials are translated as required for the groups of children and young people being consulted.
- Consultation should not be just a one off ‘extractive’ engagement. To meaningfully consult children and young people the IDC should, at a minimum, communicate the outcome of consultations to those who have participated. In addition to ‘mass consultation’ methodologies like surveys, we also recommend a higher level of engagement with a smaller number of children and young people that involves consultation throughout the life of the inquiry and, where reasonable and possible, co-design of policy recommendations, as well as the opportunity to feed back on the final report and next steps.
- There should be a clearly defined set of desired objectives and outputs from the consultation. These should either be co-created with children and young people where possible, and where it is not possible they should be clearly and accessibly communicated.
- To undertake any consultation or engagement with children and young people organisations should undertake due diligence and a risk assessment process, and fully adhere to best practice safeguarding principles.
- Children and young people should be remunerated at a minimum for any expenses incurred to undertake consultations, and the IDC may also want to consider remunerating participants for the time contributed to take part in consultation.
Practical suggestions for consultation methodology:
- If the IDC were to choose to consult children and young people as part of this inquiry Plan International UK recommend a mixed methodology approach, combining online surveys of children and young people, offline conduct of the same survey and focus groups with children and young people, particularly those who are the most ‘left behind’ including refugees, displaced young people and young people with disabilities.
- We recommend that the IDC works with an experienced youth engagement professional to develop the tools for the consultation (surveys, risk assessment etc.).
- To maximise the impact of this consultation we would strongly recommend that the IDC commissions a ‘consultation pack’ and then partners with NGOs and other groups, including youth-led groups, to undertake this consultation. This should be in addition to consultation tools like a survey and a number of focus groups, which should be resourced by the IDC.
- When we consulted a small number of young people from the UK whilst preparing this submission, they noted that they liked surveys because they “don’t take too long”[iii] and can be anonymous, but they also think longer and more detailed focus sessions are good for getting into an issue more deeply as they allow space for discussion. They also proposed the idea of peer-to-peer consultation and “listening sessions”[iv] where everyone is able to share their ideas and thoughts in an enabling environment. The young people we spoke to emphasised that they find consultation and engagement works best when they have options of formal and informal ways, where possible, to share their thoughts and experiences.
- Key to making this form of consultation work well is ‘playing back’ some of the findings to informants as conclusions are being developed to ensure that the data analysis has correctly reflected priority issues.
- As mentioned above, we also strongly recommend engaging a small number of key informant groups or existing youth activist networks, or young women and girls’ rights groups, to work with the IDC for the length of the inquiry from initial consultation to policy development, and beyond as the IDC advocates for its recommendations with government.
"as a young person I think it is important to work with and talk to young people on issues that will affect their future the most" – Helena, Plan International UK Youth Advisory Panel Member
“Young people are experts in our own lives and we should have a say in decisions which affect us. As young people are impacted by UK Aid it is only natural for them to be consulted and their views and lived experiences listened to and respected” – Isabelle, Plan International UK Youth Advisory Panel Member
[i] Further details of these methodologies and the development process can be accessed here: Plan International, Setting the Agenda: The Girls’ Platform for Action, 2020. https://plan-international.org/publications/setting-agenda-girls-platform-action
[ii] Plan International, Taking the Lead: Girls and Young Women Changing the Face of Leadership, 2020. https://plan-international.org/publications/taking-the-lead
[iii] Plan International UK Youth Advisory Panel Member
[iv] Plan International UK Youth Advisory Panel Member