How DFID works with multilateral agencies to achieve impact

The Department for International Development (DFID) spends almost two thirds of its budget through multilateral agencies. This review considers how well DFID engages with them to achieve impact.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 11 June 2015
  3. Type: Other
  4. Subject: Multilateral spend
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Burma, Madagascar, Uganda, Vietnam
  7. Lead commissioner: Mark Foster

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Our review found that the Department for International Development (DFID) has significant influence in the multilateral system and has used its leverage to promote reform, but DFID lacks a clear strategy for its engagement and its focus on improving agencies’ management processes has often been at the expense of strategic dialogue on what multilaterals do and how they do it. Consequently, we awarded a green-amber score and made seven recommendations.


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.


  1. DFID should have a strategy for its engagement with the multilateral system as a whole at the global level.
  2. DFID needs clear objectives for its work with the multilateral system in its country-level strategies.
  3. DFID should address the low proportion and limited seniority of its core staff resources devoted to managing its relationships with multilateral agencies.
  4. DFID should continue to press for greater transparency and accountability of multilaterals.
  5. DFID should promote more integrated working amongst multilateral institutions at country level.
  6. DFID should work more collaboratively with other bilaterals in its engagement with multilateral agencies.
  7. DFID should communicate more effectively to taxpayers about the role, impact and importance of multilaterals.


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Review publication

Published 11 June 2015

Government response

Published 3 July 2015

ICAI follow-up

Published 21 June 2017