UN World Food Programme, April 2021
UK Aid to Pakistan – Written evidence submitted by the UN World Food Programme to the International Development Committee
Introduction and recommendations
- The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters, and the impact of climate change. In recognition of WFP’s work at the triple nexus, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020 for its efforts to combat hunger and its contribution towards peace and stability.
- With a budget of USD 75.4 million in 2020, WFP is one of the largest development partners in Pakistan working in the hardest to reach areas. In 2020, WFP supported 2 million people with relief and recovery and nutrition interventions, 55 percent of whom were female. WFP Pakistan has received GBP 11.6 million from the UK since 2017, and UK allocated contributions account for 3.3 percent of the Needs Based Plan (January 2018 – December 2022), making the UK WFP Pakistan’s third largest donor. WFP is an implementing partner as part of FCDO’s Multi-Year Humanitarian Programme in Pakistan.
- Pakistan is one of the largest recipients of bilateral UK Aid – in 2019 it was the largest recipient of bilateral UK Aid. As such, the FCDO’s Country Programme in Pakistan must be progressive and serve as a flagship programme globally for the British Government. Therefore, we make the following recommendations:
To enable partners to respond to changes in the UK’s strategic framework for security, defence, development, and foreign policy, the FCDO should:
- Clarify how the substance of the Indo-Pacific tilt, set out in the recently published Integrated Review, will translate into integrated UK engagement in Pakistan across development and diplomacy, and how UK Aid will be leveraged as part of the country strategy – and across which sectors – to develop a “strong, modern relationship” with Pakistan as is articulated in the Review.
- Clarify how the recent cuts to the ODA budget will affect UK Aid to Pakistan, in particular bilateral UK Aid, over the coming 3-5 years.
- Ensure that the development of the government’s new international development strategy is a consultative process which engages with UN and NGO partners, as well as communities, in Pakistan.
To better serve the most vulnerable people of Pakistan, the FCDO’s programme should:
- Address nutrition and improve access to nutritious foods
- Strengthen community resilience and response to multiple shocks
- Support stability, particularly through investments in early recovery and/or income generation activities in Newly Merged Districts (NMDs)
- Provide greater support for early recovery activities to bridge short-term emergency humanitarian assistance and longer-term development activities
To enhance the quality of UK Aid in Pakistan, WFP recommends the following:
- A more transparent and consultative approach to spending allocations and decisions
- A more streamlined and less bureaucratic approach to disbursement and project management (e.g. the in-country management of pooled funds; continued demands for more due diligence information beyond which has been corporately agreed)
- Adherence to standardized corporate reporting formats (fewer ad-hoc requests)
- Greater responsiveness to the Government of Pakistan’s priorities including support for joint Government funding proposals linked to national and provincial priorities
- Better advance planning to avoid last-minute disbursements or underspend
- Better leveraging the comparative advantages of UN and NGO partners
- Building on and consolidating the achievements of joint UN work in NMDs to support the government’s efforts towards stabilisation.
- Despite living in a food surplus country which is a major producer of wheat, rice and other staples, 23.5 percent of Pakistan’s population faced food insecurity in 2020. Chronic poverty, high vulnerability to natural hazards and internal conflict were some of the driving factors. While the poverty rate has declined by 40 percent over the last two decades to 24.3 percent in 2015, the IMF projects a sharp reversal, with up to 40 percent of Pakistanis living below the poverty line in the wake of COVID-19.
- After experiencing an extensive drought in 2019, Pakistan faced multiple shocks in 2020. Heavy snowfall and avalanches in January 2020 caused numerous casualties and damaged homes and markets in Baluchistan and Pakistan-Administered Kashmir. A joint UN assessment from January 2020 estimated that 1.76 million people were affected. The locust outbreak severely impacted agricultural production in all four provinces – findings from a joint WFP-FAO assessment revealed that crop production had significantly decreased compared to an average crop year. Reduced wheat production was reported by 93 percent of farming households in 2020. Pakistan is exposed to severe floods, droughts, and earthquakes, making it the seventh most affected country by long-term climate risks worldwide.
- The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation. Movement restrictions and the closure of borders, offices, and schools had a devastating economic impact – GDP growth rate for the 2019–20 fiscal year was 0.4 percent. In a country with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 years out-of-school and one of the highest dropout rates in the world, extended school closures are expected to have long-lasting implications. A World Bank study predicts an estimated 930,000 children may drop out of primary education.
- The multiple shocks further deteriorated the country’s already precarious nutrition situation. According to the latest national nutrition survey (2018), 40.2 percent of children under 5 were stunted, 17.7 percent were wasted, and 28.9 percent underweight.
- Pakistan continues to face multiple sources of internal and external conflict. While incidences of domestic terrorism have reduced, in part due to measures taken by the Pakistani state, extremism has grown. Furthermore, Pakistan’s high-profile disputes with neighbouring India and Afghanistan have periodically resulted in violence and continue to pose a threat to regional and international security.
- As an evidence of the prevailing shocks and humanitarian needs, Pakistan has made its way to the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) 2021.
UK Aid to Pakistan
Coordination and responsiveness of UK Aid spending in Pakistan
To what extent is UK Aid spending in Pakistan responsive to: (i) the priorities and commitments of the Government of Pakistan; (ii) the views and needs of communities in Pakistan; (iii) multilateral, and other bilateral, donors’ programme in Pakistan?
- As is indicated above, development challenges in Pakistan are multifaceted and challenge the standard definitions used by the international assistance community to determine how activities should be funded. While UK Aid has been at the forefront at the global level on issues such as the Grand Bargain and the importance of supporting the nexus between humanitarian, development and peace/stability, UK funding in Pakistan continues to appear siloed according to traditional perspectives.
- Pakistan offers an excellent opportunity for UK Aid to be delivered in a more cohesive and integrated manner without the constraints that the traditional delineations present. In the context of the merger between DFID and FCO, this could be taken further by a more progressive approach by FCDO. Examples include multi-year funding for integrated humanitarian – development – peacebuilding initiatives linked to the Triple Nexus in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, support to jointly funded initiatives between Federal/Provincial Government, with WFP as an implementing partner.
To what extent does UK Aid enable linkages across the Triple Nexus (Humanitarian – Development – Peacebuilding)
- FCDO has primarily engaged with WFP in response to sudden onset emergencies, such as winter emergencies, or emergency indicators such as the prevalence of acute malnutrition. FCDO is willing to sponsor assessments analysing the severity of food insecurity in certain areas, specifically Newly Merged Districts (NMDs). However, WFP has not witnessed a joined-up programme design by FCDO. Despite emergency levels of food insecurity documented in an FCDO-funded Comprehensive Food Security and Livelihood Assessment in NMDs, FCDO did not support food assistance in a district with 62% food insecurity (despite government recommendation). The link between supporting the broad findings of assessments and beyond support to lifesaving interventions appears weak. WFP’s early recovery and livelihood restoration activities for returnees and host communities in NMDs are not supported by FCDO, whereas early recovery is arguably the activity which best bridges humanitarian aid and development. Shifting directly from humanitarian aid to development, which appears to have been FCDO’s approach in NMDs, leaves early recovery unattended.
Effectiveness of UK Aid in Pakistan
Effectiveness of UK Aid in supporting Pakistan’s progress towards achieving SDG 2
- From a WFP perspective, FCDO has not demonstrated effectiveness in linking a range of mutually reinforcing SDG 2 interventions and through its rather unilateral approach has not helped to tackle needs in an integrated way. This has been most evident in its approach to the Rome Based Agencies (RBAs) – WFP, FAO, and IFAD – as it has not related its funding to the RBAs collectively, only individually. This has served to limit opportunities for complementary and/or integrated interventions.
Effectiveness of partners through which UK Aid is delivered.
- FCDO often shows a preference for working with INGOs, including in large emergencies. However, over-reliance on NGOs can have negative impact on local markets, as NGOs tend to procure locally (driving price hikes for emergency commodities). WFP’s comparative advantages in market analysis, supply chain, procurement, and delivering at scale is sometimes not leveraged by FCDO. Examples include the Sindh flood response and the Baluchistan winter/flood response in 2020.
Safeguarding and evaluation
- FCDO is strongly interested in WFP’s selection of downstream partners, counterterrorism, fraud & corruption, and associated risk management. The identification of downstream partners (actual and prospective) is required before a grant agreement is signed. The fact that FCDO will not partner directly with national NGOs due to high risk, is one of the reasons WFP is a useful partner. WFP accepts the risk of working with these national partners as it has the required tools and means to build capacities of national partners through effective risk mitigation measures.
Impact of Covid-19
How has UK Aid responded to the challenges of COVID-19 in Pakistan, how effective has this response been?
- Despite lengthy negotiations and detailed work on a proposal which went through many iterations, WFP was not supported for the COVID humanitarian response in 2020. The argument put forward by FCDO was that humanitarian needs were not evidenced. However, food security has more solid data than any other humanitarian sector, and COVID hotspots had been scientifically identified in 39 districts. This part of the response was not effective in that both parties invested significant time and effort in a major proposal which was eventually rejected. The fact that the humanitarian needs do exist and are intensified by COVID-19 coupled with other multiple shocks is manifested in Pakistan’s inclusion in the GHRP 2021.