International Development Select Committee Briefing, June 2020

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  1. International examples of parliamentary scrutiny of ODA spending (e.g. how unique is the IDC?)

The following provides a summary of parliamentary scrutiny in three countries – Canada, Australia and Norway - where development departments or agencies have been merged into foreign affairs departments. 


The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2013 and renamed Global Affairs Canada (GAC).


Parliamentary scrutiny of the Canadian Overseas Development Assistance is guided by the Official Development Assistance Accountability Act established in 2008.


Under the Act, GAC is required to produce two annual reports:


The act means that the following three criteria are adhered to for ODA to be reported as such to parliament:

  • Contributes to poverty reduction.
  • Takes account of the perspectives of the poor.
  • Consistent with international human rights standards.


House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development is a cross-party committee that scrutinises GAC’s work, as well as the following autonomous agencies:




AusAid, the government's aid agency, was merged into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) in 2013.


Senate Standing Committees on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade is a cross-party committee that scrutinises Dfat’s work.

During 2019-20 the committee examined 25 reports including under the framework of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). These include annual reports from Dfat and the Department of Defence.

Dfat produces five yearly reports on its aid programme:

  • Australia’s Official Development Assistance: Statistical Summary 2018-19.
  • Foreign Affairs and Trade Portfolio Budget Statements.
  • Australian Aid Budget Summary.
  • Annual Report: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
  • Performance of Australian Aid Report.


Dfat is working on a new international development policy.  Work on this has been paused during Covid-19.  The policy will be accompanied by a performance framework against which Dfat can be held accountable.



The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation was integrated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2014.


The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which is a cross-party committee scrutinises the work of the ministry. 


The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation reports on effectiveness of Norway’s aid spend and is a directorate under the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In related matters it also reports to the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.  A separate Evaluation Department provides independent evaluations of development cooperation (in a similar way to ICAI) carried out in line with the guidelines on evaluation set out in the Regulations for Financial Management in Central Government and in the OECD DAC quality standards for development evaluation.  The Evaluation Department also provides an annual report which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to send the annual report to the Norwegian Parliament, the Storting, and the Office of the Auditor General for information.


There is no separate arm/sub-committee of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence which specifically looks at Norad’s evaluations, along the lines of the ICAI sub-committee of the International Development Select Committee.





  1. International examples of development involvement in National Security Councils (e.g. are there any examples of the Minister for Development sitting on the NSC?)

It is hard to find any examples, apart from the UK, where a Minister for Development participates in a country’s National Security Committee.  The below table sets out what happens in a selection of countries.  However it’s worth noting that if staff focused on development in the new FCDO feel like they don’t have a say in decision making at the highest level as they used to, morale could be affected and talented officials will be lost.  Reflections from Australia and Canada’s experience of similar mergers underline this point in this article in the Guardian.

A review of the AusAid merger into Dfat highlighted that there was a lack of overall strategic focus and direction, with a set of distinct separate programmes emerging, and this had not helped Australia’s position itself in the region.

It is also worth highlighting that with regard to the examples set out below, while none of them has development representation on the national security councils or committee, this does not necessarily mean that development priorities and expertise are not taken into account.  Political will at the highest level to value development is critical.  For example, in Norway, foreign policy and development are well integrated and valued in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the commitment to ODA spending is driven by a moral responsibility around ‘humanitarian internationalism’ as well as international positioning.


The role of National Security and Intelligence Advisor to the Prime Minister sits within the Privy Council Office led by the Privy Council Clerk who also serves as Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service.  Also located within the Privy Council are the Foreign and Defence Policy Advisor to the PM and the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Foreign and Defence Policy.  National Security falls primarily within the remit of the Public Safety Canada


The strategic framework for Canada’s national security is The National Security Act




The National Security Division of Prime Minister and Cabinet leads national security advice to PM. 


The National Security Committee is a Cabinet Committee that considers major foreign policy and national security issues including border protection policy, national responses to developing foreign policy and security situations (either domestic or international) and classified matters relating to aspects of operation and activities of the Australian Intelligence Community.

It is chaired by the PM and includes ministerial representation from Defence, Home Affairs, Industrial Relations, Foreign Affairs, Finance.  The Minister for International Development does not sit on the committee.



The permanent members of the Government’s crisis council are the secretaries general of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Health and Care Services.  It does not include Minister for international Development.



The National Security Committee comprises the Commissioner of the Garda Síochána, the Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the Secretary General of the Department of Defence, and the Secretary General of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The Revenue Commissioners, Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport also have intelligence roles, but are not full members of the NSC.



Chaired by the President. Its regular attendees (both statutory and non-statutory) are the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Defense, and the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is the statutory military advisor to the Council, and the Director of National Intelligence is the intelligence advisor.