International Development Committee:

The Philosophy and Culture of Aid Inquiry


International Justice Mission UK Response

March 2021




The UK has been pioneering in its provision of aid worldwide, with many UK aid-supported projects and programmes contributing to poverty alleviation and positive systemic change. This success is testament to the UK’s role as a force for good in the world.


Looking ahead, the UK can continue to be a leading figure in aid provision by introducing processes, strategies and metrics to ensure that aid is spent effectively. The effectiveness of aid provision is dependent on whether it is targeted strategically, sustainably and systemically. Tackling the root cause of vulnerabilities, rectifying systemic failings in supporting those most at risk and creating sustainable solutions must be at the heart of the UK’s culture of aid.


International Justice Mission UK

IJM is a global organisation that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities in 21 programme offices in 14 countries to combat modern slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power. We work side-by-side with local authorities and governments to rescue and restore survivors, hold perpetrators accountable in local courts, and help strengthen the public justice system so it can better protect people from violence. This model is replicable and has been proven to reduce the prevalence of modern slavery and violence, in some cases by as much as 86%. 


Clear strategic objectives


The creation of an overarching thematic strategy which establishes the foundation for aid priorities is necessary to ensure that the objectives of UK aid are unambiguous and transparent. In particular, the FCDO must be clear in its commitment to eradicating serious forms of violence, namely modern slavery, violence against women and girls and police abuse of power. These are the forms of violence that people living in poverty are most pervasively effected by, often perpetuating cycles of poverty and hindering social mobility.


IJM’s Recommendations to the FCDO proposed that the UK must be bold in setting its objectives in tackling modern slavery globally. Defining a new international modern slavery prevention strategy and setting out a roadmap for how this will be achieved can provide the impetus for the next phase of the global anti-slavery movement. The creation of overarching thematic strategies not only establishes focus and clarity on an issue, but also acts as a benchmark for stakeholders to measure progress over time.


IJM identified foundational principles upon which that strategy ought to be built. Firstly, tackling impunity by empowering local law enforcement to address modern slavery is needed to ensure that all are protected by the law. Secondly, the inclusion of survivors in developing anti-slavery projects and policies is critical to the creation of informed anti-slavery efforts. Thirdly, ensuring that survivors have access to trauma-informed support to meet their fundamental rights and individual needs. Lastly, strengthening collaboration between international law enforcement agencies is required to effectively dismantle the criminal networks which seek to exploit people across borders.


Ensuring aid projects are built on a firm basis


Understanding that many driving and compounding factors contribute to an issue is key to problem-solving. Sustainable poverty alleviation requires traditional efforts focused on economic and education opportunities to go hand-in-hand with strengthening the rule of law.


IJM's underpinning philosophy argues that ending everyday violence is critical to ending poverty. We have seen firsthand how cultures of impunity created by ineffectual justice systems enable unchecked violence against people in poverty. Violence is a major driver of keeping people in poverty, blocking individuals and communities from gaining access to much needed resources and programmes, therefore preventing social mobility.


Aid-supported projects and programmes should not work in silos. Programmatic collaboration is vital to ensuring that systemic failings are being tackled holistically and at their source. Further, modern slavery and violence against women and girls should not be considered as distinct from broader initiatives relating to economic and educational progress. Reducing violence against individuals and communities living in poverty is a necessary component of bringing about sustainable development.


Protecting children’s rights through access to education is crucial to progress and the UK’s prioritisation of girls’ education is welcome. However, these initiatives will be undermined if rule of law is weak and justice systems under resourced. A girl cannot access an education if she is subjected to violence on her way to school or at school, or if she is forced to work. Access to education must go hand-in-hand with strengthening public justice systems so that children are able to attend school safely and without fear of violence.


Measuring Effectiveness


Core to discussions on the philosophy and culture of aid provision is the effectiveness of sustainable international development projects and programmes. Aid-supported projects and programmes should drive systemic change by sustainably building capacity of local authorities, with the aim of reducing reliance on long-term aid. Crucially, universal access to protection of the law must be prioritised in order to reduce the vulnerability of individuals and communities to violence and enable them to achieve social mobility.


It is crucial the inquiry into the culture of aid recognises the need to ensure that aid provision is effective and that the impact of aid-supported programmes is monitored and evaluated.


The monitoring and evaluation of UK aid-supported projects and programmes must be focused on demonstrating impact. Reliable measurements which track progress over time are key to understanding what practices work in reducing the prevalence of issues, namely violence and poverty. This requires civil society partners to work closely with the FCDO to report progress. Metrics that identify key measures of systemic change and track progress are crucial to this. In terms of IJM’s casework areas, measuring the prevalence of violence over time through victimisation surveys is crucial to understanding our programmes’ effectiveness.


IJM performs independent baseline studies before the launch of our programmes so that we are able to track our programmes’ progress further down the line. For example, studies on IJM’s work countering the commercial sex trafficking of children in the Philippines have shown the number of minors available for purchase on streets and in bars once notorious for sex trafficking has plummeted between 75% and 86% in the cities where IJM has worked.


Local Expertise and Knowledge


People with lived experiences must play a central role in the conception and development of strategies and interventions. This is particularly true of survivors of modern slavery and violence. The lived experience of survivors makes their perspective a necessary element of aid strategies and interventions. In order for change to be strategic, sustainable and systemic, people with lived experience must not only have a seat at the table but must be at its head.


COVID-19 has demonstrated the role that local organisations play in stepping into resource gaps and supporting the most vulnerable during a crisis. It is vital that aid provision prioritises the expertise and experience of local organisations which have the contextual knowledge needed to effectively tackle issues at source.


Central to finding good practice that is both sustainable and long-term is implementing projects that are specific to a community’s needs. IJM’s field offices have seen firsthand the necessity of drawing on local knowledge to ensure that projects are tailored and context-dependent. For example, IJM worked directly with local communities to identify children being trafficked for forced labour into the fishing industry in Lake Volta, Ghana. Research carried out by IJM drew on the insights of those in the community who had been trafficked or who had witnessed children being trafficked. This enabled IJM to support local authorities in bringing children to safety.


This demonstrates how survivors with lived experience and local civil society organisations are best placed to understand and navigate these issues. Networks built through service provision enable civil society organisations to work with other key stakeholders to achieve lasting change, namely local authorities, law enforcement and businesses.