This rapid review found that the delivery of the UK government’s £500 million Blue Planet Fund, which aims to protect the marine environment and reduce poverty, has been affected by a lack of adequate cross-Whitehall coordination and oversight.
- Our review found a lack of coordination and coherence between Defra – the Blue Planet Fund’s strategic lead – and FCDO, with duplicated work in some areas and gaps in delivery.
- In haste to allocate funds, Defra rebadged some existing projects, bringing them under the Fund’s portfolio, with inadequate consultation on country and regional needs.
- It was not always clear to what extent the Fund was contributing to poverty reduction, despite this being a statutory requirement for UK aid.
- Key management processes were still missing two and a half years after the Fund’s launch, including monitoring, evaluation and learning, and finalised key performance indicators.
- When the Fund’s Joint Management Board flagged ‘severe’ risks similar to those observed in our review, these were not discussed at wider International Climate Finance Management or Strategy Boards, suggesting a lack of cross-government oversight.
- We also noted concerns about the overheads being charged by Defra’s arms-length bodies to deliver parts of the fund, which were higher than the norm for aid-funded activities.
- The government was found to be addressing some of the issues raised, such as weak engagement with developing countries, by appointing regional coordinators and creating country plans – although our review questioned the impact of this with 90% of the Fund already allocated.
- As the strategic lead for the Blue Planet Fund, Defra should put in place formal core central management functions, including results management and reporting systems to enable the Fund to demonstrate impact and value for money.
- Given the major risks identified by this review, cross-government oversight of the Fund should be strengthened.
- The Fund should ensure that poverty reduction, as the statutory purpose of UK aid, is the primary focus of its programming.
- Defra and FCDO should ensure that governments and other national stakeholders in the countries where the Fund operates are empowered to shape programmes by creating formal channels for them to communicate their priorities and needs.