How DFID Works with Multilateral Agencies to Achieve Impact

DFID spends almost two thirds of its budget through multilateral agencies. This review considers how well DFID engages with them to achieve impact.

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11 Jun 2015
Green - Amber
Lead commissioner
Mark Foster
Related documents

ICAI terms of reference Multilaterals
ICAI Multilaterals inception report

DFID depends greatly on the multilateral system to achieve results. Multilateral agencies are able to deliver  on a large scale and have widespread legitimacy to lead and co-ordinate development and humanitarian assistance. DFID is well respected as a funder and has significant influence in the multilateral system. In 2013-14 DFID spent almost two-thirds (£6.32 billion) of its budget through multilateral agencies and many agencies depend on DFID as their largest funder.

Our review found that DFID has used its influence to promote positive change and encouraged agencies to focus on cost effectiveness. This has contributed to demonstrable reform in some individual agencies over recent years.

Despite this positive impact we are concerned that DFID is operating without a clear overall strategy for engaging with the multilateral system. Our review also found that DFID’s focus on improving agencies’ management processes has been at the expense of strategic dialogue on what multilaterals do and how they do it. DFID’s focus on improving organisational effectiveness is important, but higher-level strategic concerns should not be crowded out as a result.

As a result of our findings, we have given a rating of Green Amber.


Recommendation 1: DFID should have a strategy for its engagement with the multilateral system as a whole at the global level.

Recommendation 2: DFID needs clear objectives for its work with the multilateral system in its country-level strategies.

Recommendation 3: DFID should address the low proportion and limited seniority of its core staff resources devoted to managing its relationships with multilateral agencies.

Recommendation 4: DFID should continue to press for greater transparency and accountability of multilaterals.

Recommendation 5: DFID should promote more integrated working amongst multilateral institutions at country level.

Recommendation 6: DFID should work more collaboratively with other bilaterals in its engagement with multilateral agencies.

Recommendation 7: DFID should communicate more effectively to taxpayers about the role, impact and importance of multilaterals.


ICAI’s follow up

ICAI follows up on all of its reviews to check what progress has been made since publication. ICAI’s follow up report on multilaterals is now available.

Government response

The government publishes a response to all ICAI reviews. You can read its response to ICAI’s review of multilaterals online.