ICAI Evaluation of DFID’s Electoral Support through UNDP

25 Apr 2012

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), the organisation responsible for the scrutiny of UK aid, has today published a report on the UK’s support for elections through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The review looks at the effectiveness of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) funding for electoral support through UNDP, rather than UNDP’s own performance.

The report gives an overall traffic light rating of Green-Amber. The traffic light ratings for the different elements of ICAI’s assessments are as follows:

  • Objectives           Green-Amber
  • Delivery               Amber-Red
  • Impact                  Green-Amber
  • Learning              Amber-Red

Between 2001 and 2011 DFID channelled £140 million in electoral assistance through the UNDP. This includes support for the design of electoral systems, determination of electoral boundaries, voter registration, education of voters and training for political parties and the media. The total amount provided to UNDP is 71% of the UK’s overall electoral assistance during this period.

The ICAI report concludes that DFID’s choice of UNDP as the primary channel for electoral assistance is credible and that its work through UNDP has contributed to the successful conduct of elections. DFID should, however, make efforts to seek alternative or additional delivery partners to complement its work with UNDP. The report also makes the following recommendations:

  • DFID should immediately engage with the UN at headquarters and local levels to improve performance. It should encourage the UN to resolve differences in approach to elections between UN agencies.
  • DFID should place greater emphasis on ensuring value for money in electoral assistance by encouraging more realistic budget processes and advocating appropriate electoral systems and technologies.
  • DFID should strengthen governance arrangements. They should separate political dialogue from technical oversight and make more use of third party monitoring. Risk management arrangements should be fully integrated into the design of assistance through UNDP.
  • DFID should ensure that electoral support is anchored in a strategy for democratic development. This should include how the election assistance relates to governance objectives beyond the time frame of that election.

Graham Ward, ICAI Chief Commissioner said: “As well as promoting democracy abroad, UK electoral assistance helps to mitigate the risks of conflict and political crisis associated with elections in many developing countries. In turn, building stable democracies enables better development.

“There are, however, tensions between the imperative to deliver specific elections successfully and the goal of long-term capacity building. A number of our case studies, including in Afghanistan, Burundi and Malawi, showed that the UNDP prioritised the delivery of the immediate goal over the longer-term strategy. The exception to this was in Bangladesh, where much better capacity-building outcomes were achieved. DFID needs to consider more carefully how to balance these two goals.”

Notes to editors:

This evaluation has been conducted in parallel with a larger UNDP evaluation of its own electoral assistance. This is the first time an ICAI report has been co-ordinated with another organisation’s study. There was regular communication and exchange of information between the two evaluations. This has enabled both to have a broader perspective than each could have had on its own. Each organisation has drawn its conclusions independently and UNDP will independently decide when to publish its report.

For further information please contact Clare Robathan on 020 7270 6734 or


The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) is the independent body responsible for scrutinising UKaid. We focus on maximising the effectiveness of the UKaid budget for intended beneficiaries and on delivering value for money for UKtaxpayers. For further details on ICAI, the workplan and for links to each report please visit www.independent.gov.uk/icai. ICAI’s Chief Commissioner is Graham Ward CBE. The three other Commissioners are: Mark Foster, John Githongo and Diana Good. Their biographies can be found on the ICAI website.

This report was prepared by ICAI with the assistance of KPMG LLP, Agulhas Applied Knowledge, Center of Evaluation for Global Action (CEGA) and the Swedish Institute for Public Administration (SIPU International).

ICAI reports are written to be accessible to a general readership and we use a simple ‘traffic light’ system to report our judgement on each programme or topic we review, as follows:

  • Green: The programme meets all or almost all of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money and is performing strongly. Very few minor improvements are needed.
  • Green-Amber: The programme meets most of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money and is performing well. Some improvements should be made.
  • Amber-Red: The programme meets some of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money but is not performing well. Significant improvements should be made.
  • Red: The programme meets few of the criteria for effectiveness and value for money. It is performing poorly. Immediate and major changes need to be made.

Sign up to our newsletter to receive notifications of our latest news and reports

ICAI will use your personal data only to contact you about our work via email(Required)
You can find more information in our Privacy notice. Please check your Junk folder for a verification email to confirm your subscription.