IDC Inquiry into UKAid to Pakistan - FCDO written evidence


1.              Overarching narrative

2.              Strategy, coherence and alignment

2.1              Are the UK's strategic aims for its Pakistan aid programme clear and appropriate?

2.2              Are other aspects of the UK/Pakistan relationship coherent and well-coordinated with the aid programme and its aims and objectives?

2.3              To what extent is there effective joined up strategy and delivery across the country portfolio?

2.4              To what extent is UKAid spending in Pakistan integrated, coordinated and 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' programmes in Pakistan?

3.              Focus and scale

3.1 How effective is UKAid in Pakistan in supporting its progress towards achieving the SDGs?

3.2 To what extent is UKAid in Pakistan focused on the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable people in that country?

3.3 Is the level of the UK's aid spending in Pakistan appropriate in order to achieve long-lasting change?

4.              Delivery

4.1 How effective are the partners (NGOs, private contractors and multilateral agencies) through which UKAid is delivered in Pakistan?

4.2 What are the key risks (and mitigations) to the value for money, effectiveness and impact of UKAid projects and programmes in Pakistan?

5.              Safeguarding

5.1 What are the main safeguarding challenges for aid delivery in Pakistan and how well are these being addressed in UKAid projects and programmes?

6.              Performance

6.1 Are there adequate processes of independent evaluation and self-evaluation built into the country programme?

6.2 What evidence is there of lesson-learning and turning learning into action?

7.              COVID-19

7.1 How has UKAid responded to the challenges of COVID-19 in Pakistan, and how effective has this response been?

8.              Annexes

1.     Overarching narrative


Since we submitted written evidence to the International Development Committee’s (IDC) Inquiry into UKAid to Pakistan in September 2019, COVID-19 has dramatically changed the context in which we operate. This written evidence covers the period from September 2019 to February 2021. It sets out the journey that the UK’s engagement with Pakistan has taken, including our response to COVID-19 and how we have promoted increased coherence across the UK government’s objectives through the Integrated Delivery Plan and the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). It also sets out the progress we have made on the transition from being a donor to a partner which began in 2017.

Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with the population having doubled since 1990 and likely to exceed 338 million by 2050. An estimated 60% of the population are under the age of 30. Pakistan has 22.8 million children, predominantly girls, out of school, making it an important part of HMG’s target of getting 40 million girls into education globally. Pakistan is currently the eighth most vulnerable country to climate events. It hosts the second highest number of refugees in the world and ranks 154 in the Human Development Index.

The UK has a unique comparative advantage in Pakistan.  We have a relationship rooted in a deep affinity based on shared language, history and people to people links.   The 1.6 million strong British-Pakistani diaspora intertwines the two countries.  Our relationship is based on strong education and family ties that shape decision makers’ views and preferences.  Our track-record of significant development interventions have earned respect and influence for our expertise and technical assistance.  UK soft power helps promote positive perspectives for the UK and our activities. Our long-running defence relationship with the military, who are the key decision makers on many of the issues that matter to the UK, helps us promote regional security and tackle sources of direct threat to the UK. 

The UK has had success in supporting Pakistan to improve development outcomes over the last 10 years. UKAid has helped over 10 million children in primary school since 2011; supported the delivery of nearly 1 million births by skilled attendants; helped over 6.6 million more people access microfinance loans; and provided cash transfers to help 5.2 million of the poorest families meet their basic needs.  Since 2011, UK support has reached over 1.7 million new family planning users and prevented 4,900 maternal deaths, over 3.49 million unwanted pregnancies, and 490,000 unsafe abortions.

Pakistan is at a crossroads. If it is able to harness the demographic dividend of its young population this could shift the trajectory of Pakistan’s development towards high income status, avoiding the risk of lack of opportunity for young people leading to increased unemployment, frustration and instability. Succeeding in this transition requires hard decisions to be made now, for example reducing population growth and locking in economic reforms. It also requires recognition that substantial progress must be made to reduce inequality, promote inclusivity of gender and faith, and build the human capital needed to drive inclusive economic growth.

Pakistan is currently defined as a Lower Middle Income country (World Bank Group Income group classifications) and is targeting achieving Middle Income status. The FCDO is working to strengthen the three interlinked pillars crucial to Pakistan’s development: security, resilience and prosperity. To support Pakistan to use its own resources to make the investments and reforms necessary to achieve Middle Income status, we are transitioning away from a traditional donor relationship by assisting the government of Pakistan to strengthen institutions, develop markets and build systems to unlock economic growth and poverty reduction. This will involve shifting the balance away from grant financing towards new instruments such as development capital through CDC, the UK’s development finance institution. and more up-stream strategic technical assistance (TA) and knowledge transfer. As part of this transition, HMG has targeted our engagement more precisely, focusing on UK areas of strength. We have deployed our soft power, including work through the British Council, and technical expertise to encourage Pakistan to implement the reforms needed in the most effective way.

COVID-19 has presented wide-reaching challenges, with far-reaching impacts on health systems, the economy and the whole of society. To respond, the UK built on existing relationships and programmes to respond swiftly, strengthening health systems, supporting children to continue to be educated and communicating vital public health messages. Close coordination between the different elements of the UK government’s response has helped to bring our different expertise to bear on this multi-faceted crisis.

Our unique bilateral relationship with Pakistan means the UK is well placed to meet our objectives using established governmental and external levers. Strong political and military diplomatic engagement, combined with our status as a respected bilateral development partner, gives the UK good access to the most important powerholders and policymakers in Pakistan. Bringing development programming and diplomacy closer together is already enabling the FCDO to support the shared interests of the UK and Pakistan.

2.     Strategy, coherence and alignment

2.1  Are the UK's strategic aims for its Pakistan aid programme clear and appropriate?

The UK’s overarching aim in Pakistan is to support a more inclusive, prosperous and stable country, less reliant on aid and more resilient to shocks, working in partnership with the UK to advance shared interests. We want Pakistan to achieve a self-financed exit from poverty and become a stronger trading partner. This is vital to safeguard UK national security and wider interests in the region.


In June 2019, government departments working in Pakistan developed an Integrated Delivery Plan (IDP) to provide a clear strategic framework for the whole of the UK’s activity in and related to Pakistan, including a whole of HMG approach to the use of ODA. This brought together the work of the FCDO’s predecessor departments, the Department for International Trade, Ministry of Defence, National Crime Agency, Public Health England. The IDP recognised the role played by the British Council, including using Chevening scholarships. The IDP sets the direction for our financial assistance, including cross-departmental funds such as the Conflict Security and Stability Fund and Fleming fund.


The IDP is structured with three interlinked overarching themes supported by objectives under each thematic area. These include:


  1. Enhance Stability


  1. Build Resilience and Capability.


  1. Promote Inclusive Growth


2.2  Are other aspects of the UK/Pakistan relationship coherent and well-coordinated with the aid programme and its aims and objectives?

The Integrated Delivery Plan (IDP) is delivered through seven virtual teams covering each IDP objective. These bring together all UK government departments and cross-departmental funds in Pakistan and unites their work around the key themes set out in the IDP. For example, our engagement with key policy makers on treatment of minorities is informed by the work we do on programmes such as AAWAZ II, which promotes the rights of children, women, youth and religious minorities, protect them from exploitation, and prevent discrimination and intolerance. Through the IDP we were able to respond quickly to the imminent threat of desert locusts to support food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, protecting crops and livelihoods and building resilience to withstand such shocks better in the future. The response brought together FCDO, DIT and MOD expertise under the IDP.


The Integrated Delivery Plan for Pakistan has driven cross-department working across the UK government departments working in Pakistan, and this will be strengthened through organisational design work currently taking place following the creation of the FCDO. Development, CSSF, and defence work will continue, as the UK transitions to providing more management-intensive, but impactful, technical assistance in place of financial aid. This activity is overseen by the Pakistan Board, chaired by the High Commissioner and comprising senior representatives from across HMG in Pakistan.  The Board meets regularly to review strategy, delivery and implementation as well as risk.


In April 2020, we updated the Integrated Delivery Plan to respond to COVID-19. Further detail on the resulting Integrated Delivery Plan-COVID is provided in the COVID-19 section of this document.

2.3  To what extent is there effective joined up strategy and delivery across the country portfolio?

The Integrated Delivery Plan (2019-20) and our Integrated Delivery Plan-COVID (2020-21) set out a joined-up strategic framework for all UK activity in Pakistan. We have realigned our portfolio of programmes to ensure our delivery is aligned with this framework. This included closing programmes which no longer fitted our strategic direction (e.g. nutrition, social protection) and developing a new suite of programmes focussed on strengthening systems.


We ensure that our technical assistance draws on UK institutions that are at the forefront of their disciplines. For example, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has provided expertise to improve Pakistan’s tax base and Public Health England (PHE) has supported health surveillance systems. We will build on this to deploy UK expertise and create new partnerships from across the UK Government and the private sector. This will enable us to move from traditional aid to a partnership with Pakistan based on mutual interests that will hone our comparative advantage and enable us to compete in a post Brexit world.

We use evidence and analysis to ensure that we make strategic choices with our assistance. For example, the Country Development Diagnostic and the UKAid-funded World Bank analysis ‘Pakistan at 100’ make clear the choices Pakistan needs to make to put it on a growth trajectory and this analysis has shaped our programming.

There are 58 centrally managed programmes (CMPs) operating in Pakistan in 202021. These cover a range of UK strategic priorities including economic development and trade; education; health; and climate.  Staff working in Pakistan have prioritised engagement with these programmes through regular meetings with the policy teams leading on each centrally managed programme, as well as active engagement with multilateral organisations as delivery partners and through donor coordination forums.

2.4  To what extent is UKAid spending in Pakistan integrated, coordinated and responsive to:

(i) the priorities and commitments of the Government of Pakistan

The current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government came into power, following the July 2018 election, with an ambitious manifesto, focused on boosting the economy through tackling corruption, social welfare, reducing poverty, and delivering jobs and housing. The balance in Pakistan’s Parliament has limited its ability to pass legislation furthering this agenda. The PTI government has taken some positive decisions on structural reform of the economy, including securing an IMF deal and working to implement the reforms required by the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF) Action Plan relating to countering money laundering and terrorist financing. .

The government of Pakistan has handled the COVID-19 crisis relatively effectively to date, using early and sustained targeted lockdowns to control the spread of the disease. UKAid spending is well aligned with the government of Pakistan’s development agenda, including support for Ehsaas, its ambitious multi-sectoral approach to poverty alleviation and social safety nets. We will continue to support Ehsaas, not through direct financing of cash transfers, but with a particular focus on boosting its capacity to deliver shock-responsive programmes. to respond to socioeconomic vulnerability and potential crises, including those resulting from climate change. For instance, we will provide technical assistance to the Government to develop dynamic databases, allowing more effective targeting of assistance to those who need it most.

Over 2020, we pivoted £88.2m of ODA spend to respond directly to the government of Pakistan’s priorities on COVID-19 response. We have made concerted efforts over the last two years to align our diplomatic and development activities so that they are mutually reinforcing.  Further detail is set out at section 8.

(ii) the views and needs of communities in Pakistan

Pakistan has seen an exceptional decline in poverty over the last 15 years, down from nearly 35 percent of the population in 2001-02 to under 10 percent in 2013-14 (HIES and World Bank Staff Calculations), but gains have reversed during COVID-19 and an estimated 88 million people (40%) are considered poor (compared to 25% before the pandemic).

Pakistan’s economic growth, alongside the government of Pakistan focus on poverty reduction and social protection, have contributed to progress on poverty reduction. However, the gains have not been distributed equally across the population. The needs of communities in Pakistan vary significantly by region. There are wide regional disparities within and between provinces which are reflected in gaps in access of marginalised groups to education, health, and decent living standards. At both national and regional level, the political and economic settlement is an exclusive elite bargain that uses deals, not rules, to determine policy and resource allocations. There remains a lack of economic mobility, inequality of opportunity and aspiration gaps across wealth quintiles and different social groups.

COVID-19 has exacerbated some of the existing inequalities and increased the risk of reversals in gains made so far in poverty reduction, gender equality and human rights. It is estimated that the number of people living below the poverty line may increase up to 125 million in the coming years. There is evidence of a rise in violence against women and children (particularly girls).

Pakistan’s lack of regional interconnectivity, restrictive trade policies and barriers to entry constrain the pace of growth. While progress has been made, Pakistan still raises too little in tax revenues and allocates too little funding to economic and human development outcomes. High levels of inequality in human development outcomes and exclusion, particularly for women and girls, inhibit economic growth and drives instability and conflict. The government of Pakistan can be effective but too often weak accountability, poor planning and resource allocation leads to inadequate and poor delivery.

Helping members of minority groups is a high priority for our assistance, and we are in the process of commissioning two research studies to help us improve our understanding of how to engage with and target minority groups in Pakistan. These should both be completed by October 2021, and evidence gathered will be used to help improve our targeting strategies across the portfolio.

In January 2020, the UK carried out a perception survey of our work in Pakistan. 2000 people responded, indicating that the UK should assist Pakistan on education, health and economic growth/jobs, all of which are high priorities for our assistance. The survey highlighted the difference the UK has made on Girls’ Education, with 72% of Pakistani respondents agreeing that the UK provides access to education.

A follow up survey that the FCDO ran in Pakistan in October 2020 (500 respondents) found that perceptions of the UK’s international relations and global influence have strengthened in Pakistan, particularly around the UK’s commitment to tackling global challenges including Girls Education and Climate Change (from 33% in 2019 to 51% in 2020) and its contribution towards the economic growth of other countries (38% in 2019 to 53% in 2020), Overall, the survey found that that there is substantial increase in the proportion of respondents who say Pakistan’s relationship with the UK is heading in the right direction – a rise of 22 points from 36% to 58% in 2020.  

(iii) multilateral, and other bilateral, donors' programmes in Pakistan?

There are currently 52 donors operating in Pakistan, spending a total of $4.1bn. This includes contributions from commercial banks, multilaterals and bilateral donors. The majority of this money is spent on education (34%) and poverty reduction (25%), other areas include health and nutrition, energy and open societies.

Other significant bilateral and multilateral donors include: the USA, Germany, the European Union, the UN, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Pakistan also receives significant loans and investment from China and Arab States.  

Donor relationships with the government of Pakistan are facilitated by the Economic Affairs Division, who hold regular meetings with individual donors. They also hold collective meetings with key donors and stakeholders from federal and provincial ministries to ensure assistance is coordinated and aligned with government. However, there remains room for improvement and the Economic Affairs Division is working to improve coordination through a new policy framework.  

Outside of governmental donor coordination mechanisms, the FCDO regularly interacts with other donors to ensure our assistance is effectively coordinated and responds to issues in the most effective way.  For example, we work with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to help shape their country strategies as well as with the content of the IMF programme. We work closely with these organisations on issues such as economic corridors, tax system strengthening, social protection, trade policy, business environment reforms, and macro-economic stability.

3.     Focus and scale

3.1 How effective is UKAid in Pakistan in supporting its progress towards achieving the SDGs?

There are many challenges to overcome if Pakistan is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, with many goals having been assessed as off-track even before COVID-19. Pakistan has taken achievement of the SDGs seriously, approving a national SDG framework and establishing of SDG units. However, recent evidence suggests weak implementation of policies related to the SDGs and lack of institutional coordination within government.


A 2018 report supported by UKAid, entitled ‘Where Pakistan Stands on the Implementation of the SDGs 2018,’ found that SDGs 1 (no poverty), 3 (good health and well-being), 4 (quality education), 6 (clean water and sanitation), 8 (decent work and economic growth) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) are a priority for the country.


From 2015 to 2020, key UKAid achievements include:


3.2 To what extent is UKAid in Pakistan focused on the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable people in that country?

Decisions on how to allocate UKAid is informed by context analysis and baseline assessments which seek to identify poor and marginalised communities, and target those most in need especially women and girls, children and persons with disabilities. For example:


We have a wide range of programmes that focus on tackling multi-dimensional exclusion and promoting inclusive growth to leave no one behind, and gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is a top priority across the portfolio, across a range of different sectors:


3.3 Is the level of the UK's aid spending in Pakistan appropriate in order to achieve long-lasting change?

Despite the extent of poverty, Pakistan is not aid dependent, with aid constituting less than 1% of Pakistan’s GNI (OECD 2019). Reflecting this, aid spent in Pakistan by the FCDO has been reducing since 2017 from £378m in 2017-18 to £269m in 2019-20. As government of Pakistan institutions and domestic or private financing are ready to take forward development without relying on donor funding, we are transitioning away from funding delivery towards providing technical assistance to help Pakistan deploy its own resources to best effect. We will reduce spend and shift to more data/technology-based technical support combined with high level engagement and private investment.

The UK’s relationship with Pakistan means that we are well placed to influence decisions and support their implementation. Given the capacity of the UK in Pakistan, the level of influence with the government of Pakistan, and the potential to leverage more and deeper partnerships, the UK has an opportunity now to ensure our investment sets the right trajectory for progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.  

4.     Delivery

4.1 How effective are the partners (NGOs, private contractors and multilateral agencies) through which UKAid is delivered in Pakistan?

In 2019-20, 39% of UK bilateral assistance went through federal and provincial governments; 26% through private sector organisations; 18.5% through multilateral agencies; and 16.5% through international/local NGOs. We have maintained a mixture of delivery channels in order to balance risk. We work with partners who deliver the best impact for an efficient return on our investment.


We have used results-based direct Government-to-Government bilateral financial aid to the government of Pakistan in the education, health and social protection sectors when we assess this is the most sustainable and impactful delivery route. We have used our assistance to encourage the government of Pakistan’s to use its own funds to strengthen systems and help more people. We have worked through government at the provincial and federal level where we have confidence that they have the systems in place to manage funds effectively. We only pay for results that have been achieved and verified, either by our own staff or independent third-party monitoring.


The FCDO also works with for-profit suppliers, civil society organisations and multilateral donors in Pakistan. We carry out Early Market Engagement exercises to ensure that a wide range of potential partners are informed of upcoming procurements. We carry out due diligence assessments of all not-for-profit implementing partners, including an assessment of their ability to deliver.


In Pakistan, FCDO delivers directly or indirectly, through 11 local and international civil society organisations via Accountable Grant Agreements (AGA). Recent enhancements in the commercial oversight of AGAs are designed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of programme delivery via this route.


For commercial suppliers, FCDO has used framework agreements to reduce procurement timescales and drive value for money and overall effectiveness. We have a Strategic Relationship Management system for our highest impact supply partners, under which partner performance is evaluated twice-yearly, and remedial actions are taken where necessary.

4.2 What are the key risks (and mitigations) to the value for money, effectiveness and impact of UKAid projects and programmes in Pakistan?

The Integrated Delivery Plan ensures that the all UK government departments in Pakistan take a cross-HMG approach to identifying and managing risks. This identifies twelve strategic risks within six risk categories: context; delivery; fiduciary; operational; reputational and safeguarding risks.  Severe and major strategic risks identified include economic downturn in Pakistan; safeguarding concerns, reduced ability to monitor programmes due to COVID-19 impacting portfolio planning and delivery. We maintain a zero-tolerance approach to safeguarding, fraud, bribery and corruption if they were to materialise.  All risks have mitigation measures and are being closely managed.


We have set triggers against each risk category and have set a clear process for escalation of risks to senior managers and Ministers if risks breach this trigger or otherwise cause concern. We adjust our risk appetite to reflect changing circumstances. For example, during 2020 we took the decision to increase our risk appetite in some areas of our COVID-19 response, reflecting the fact that, notwithstanding the uncertain context and increased delivery challenges, there was an urgent need to act that required us to accept greater risk, while working to mitigate the risk as much as possible.

An additional layer of assurance is provided through the Portfolio Risk Assurance Programme (PRAP II) which helps programme teams identify, assess and mitigate risks across their programmes. This includes: carrying out in depth reviews of the highest risk partners ensuring there are robust governance, management and financial controls in place; conducting ‘cash flow tracking’ exercises down the delivery chain to ensure funds reach beneficiaries; and supporting staff with technical support and training.


In 2019-20, PRAP II reviewed programmes with a total value of over £1.3bn, and the lessons learned have been shared across all programmes managed by the FCDO in Pakistan. PRAP II strengthens risk management by giving an extra level of assurance and allowing us to be proactive about exposing and tackling weaknesses.  This enables staff to better protect funds.  For example, a review of one partner identified a need for improved information systems, and £8 million worth of funding was suspended until that partner was able to make the necessary improvements to improve assurance.


All commercial partners are required to undertake a due diligence assessment before funds are disbursed. Programmes with an element of financial aid are required to undertake a Fiduciary risk assessment (FRA).  We also undertake Overseas Security and Justice (OSJA) assessments for our security and justice programmes to ensure that our overseas security and justice assistance meets our values and human rights obligations.

5.     Safeguarding

5.1 What are the main safeguarding challenges for aid delivery in Pakistan and how well are these being addressed in UKAid projects and programmes?

Key challenges relevant to aid delivery in Pakistan include modern slavery, child labour, and domestic and sexual exploitation and abuse, particularly against women and girls. Social exploitation results from the systematic discrimination and marginalisation of women, children, religious minorities and other vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities and transgender people. Pakistan ranks 144 out of 188 in the Gender Inequality Index and in the worst 10 countries for prevalence of modern slavery.


In November 2018 the former-DFID Head of Office approved a strategy on ‘Strengthening DFID Pakistan’s Approach to Safeguarding’ for the period 2018-2021. The strategy focused on familiarising staff on the new standards, policies and reporting mechanisms and strengthening safeguarding within all development programmes. A group of safeguarding champions was established to strengthen safeguarding of programmes. The champions received training on the safeguarding due diligence and best practices on specific issues including safeguarding children, working with partner governments and safeguarding in infrastructure projects. We also carried out due diligence assessments of all accountable grants that had more than a year left. Where gaps were identified in the capacity of implementing partners, action plans were developed to address them. Safeguarding provisions have been incorporated in all new accountable grants and MoU agreements.


The FCDO is currently working on an updated action plan for Pakistan which will ensure we are positioned to continue to deliver the new HMG strategy for safeguarding against sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment that was launched in September 2020 for  UK government departments that are involved in the use of ODA. The safeguarding strategy will be presented to the Pakistan Board for approval in April 2021.


Some FCDO programmes work directly to combat sexual exploitation and abuse. AAWAZ II protects vulnerable groups from exploitation through increasing their voice, choice and control. This is done by strengthening government institutions with effective policies and action plans to protect the rights of vulnerable groups and using community engagement to reduce vulnerability to forms of exploitation.

6.     Performance

6.1 Are there adequate processes of independent evaluation and self-evaluation built into the country programme?

We have strong mechanisms in place for monitoring and evaluating the impact of our programmes.  When weaknesses are identified, we have addressed these and put in place remedial measures. Our monitoring approach involves regular communication with implementing partners, the government of Pakistan and other stakeholders, as well as regular field visits to implementation areas, the use of independent third-party monitors and mandatory annual review processes.  In addition to standard monitoring approaches, we regularly commission reviews within various programmes at different stages of implementation.


Over 2020, the impact of COVID-19 has challenged colleagues across the UK government’s network in Pakistan to think differently about how we monitor our programmes. A number of programmes have employed remote methods for monitoring to ensure there is sufficient oversight of programmes whilst travel restrictions are in place. We have also held training sessions for staff on remote monitoring methodologies, working closely with FCDO experts to build on best practice.


Evaluation is a vital tool for strengthening the evidence base for our interventions in Pakistan, improving our understanding of the context and what works. We carry out independent evaluations for selected programmes, choosing programmes with high value or importance to UK strategic objectives, and/or those where the evaluation can make a significant contribution to strengthening the evidence base and informing future programming in Pakistan and across the FCDO and the wider donor community. Evaluations often have a long lag time once a programme is delivered therefore lessons learned are incorporated in successor programmes.

We currently have seven live programme evaluations, with new evaluations planned for 2021-22For example, the Punjab Economic Opportunities Programme (PEOP) 2013-2014 was a £55 million programme, co-funded by UKAid and the Government of Punjab. PEOP aimed to improve income earning opportunities for 145,000 poor and vulnerable people (40% of them women) in selected districts of Punjab by equipping them with market oriented vocational skills. The results of the evaluation (published in 2019 as part of our Evaluation Report) indicated that improving rural women’s access to skills training in high-demand and popular trades increases uptake and provides valuable income-generating skills. However, people who were already more employable were much more likely to complete the course, suggesting that pre-screening could significantly enhance completion rates.


Internal Audit Department (IAD) assessed the design and operation of our controls and risk mitigation in relation to DFID’s risk appetite in August 2018, and gave us a rating of ‘Mature’ with improving trajectory: “We found key controls to be in place, consciously designed, with a risk basis and suitable oversight and governance over their implementation.” They assessed the office’s overall net risk position to be major, with controls considered as adequate, in both design and operation, to manage net risk well within risk appetite.

6.2 What evidence is there of lesson-learning and turning learning into action?

As well as utilising learning throughout the programme cycle with annual reviews, monitoring and evaluation, FCDO has taken steps to put organisational learning at the centre of the way we work in Pakistan.

For example, in Pakistan FCDO encourages learning through after-action reviews of work or processes. These identify practical lessons we can take away from an activity and use in the future.  The office has produced lessons-learned notes on training undertaken by staff, the statement of assurance process, financial reporting and the staff awards process.  These are cascaded to staff and logged to ensure that practical lessons will be used.  The office also held a cross mission lessons learned session after virtual Ministerial visits, which we will draw on to support upcoming virtual visits such as that of the International Development Committee.

We have a group of learning champions who actively participate in wider FCDO lesson learning structures, including the team responsible for developing FCDO best practice in programme management to ensure that guidance is informed by, and informs, activity in Pakistan.

As set out in correspondence in 2019 and 2020 between the Secretary of State for International Development and the International Development Committee, a review commissioned by HMG found that some new school buildings built as part of the School Construction and Rehabilitation Programme, implemented by IMC Worldwide, were not fully compliant with the Pakistan Building Code Special Provisions. As a result, 1,277 schools were subject to a peer review of building designs by University College London. This review, which concluded in August 2020, found that the majority of schools were safe. Safe schools are being handed over to the authorities so they can be used, and more than 1000 have been handed over to date. The review found that 374 school buildings required retrofitting works to make them safe. Under Ministerial direction, more than 300 have now been retrofitted and we are working with IMC to ensure that all are complete by 31 July 2021. The contract value has been reduced and payments to IMC moved to an output-based arrangement. FCDO only makes payments when results are achieved and approved by the responsible Minister.

FCDO has ensured that lessons have been learned from this programme. In January 2020, we collaborated with FCDO’s Better Delivery Department to produce a learning module for the FCDO’s Aid Learning Platform on our experience with this programme to ensure that the lessons identified here are shared across FCDO. The lessons learned in this project have also informed a new departmental approach to risk management.

7.     COVID-19

7.1 How has UKAid responded to the challenges of COVID-19 in Pakistan, and how effective has this response been?

COVID-19 required the UK to act swiftly to help the government of Pakistan respond to the health, economic and social impacts of the crisis, while also supporting British nationals affected by the crisis and ensuring that UK staff were able to continue to work effectively. To shape and coordinate our response, we adapted our Integrated Delivery Plan to focus on five clear objectives:



New virtual teams were created under each objective. As with the IDP, the teams brought together all government departments and cross departmental funds at post to safeguard UK wider interests. To date the UK has spent approximately £88.2m on the COVID-19 response across a range of sectors:


The crisis placed health systems under huge strain, and there was an urgent need for additional support as well as a need to disseminate public messages to reduce the spread of COVID-19. FCDO support included:




The restrictions necessary to combat COVID affected livelihoods and jobs. FCDO support included:



With 51 million children affected by school closures, in addition to 22.8 million children already out of education, it was vital to ensure that education continued for all children. FCDO support included:



Other sectors

Other areas in which the FCDO has provided assistance have included:



The IDP-C has helped the UK be at the forefront of responding to COVID-19 in Pakistan and the government of Pakistan have expressed their appreciation for the assistance we have provided.

8.     Annexes