When aid relationships change: DFID’s approach to managing exit and transition in its development partnerships

Managing the transition from traditional aid to new kinds of development partnerships is increasingly important for the Department for International Development (DFID) in the current aid landscape.

Score: Amber/Red
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 16 November 2016
  3. Type: Performance review
  4. Subject: Transitioning development partnerships
  5. Assessment: Amber/Red
  6. Location: Burundi, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, South Africa, Vietnam
  7. Lead commissioner: Francesca Del Mese

Read the approach paper

Our approach

This review looks at the Department for International Development’s (DFID) approach to transition from development partnerships based on bilateral aid to new forms of financial and non-financial partnerships delivering broader UK government objectives. We do not consider the original decision to transition away from bilateral aid, which, as a policy decision, is beyond ICAI’s remit. However, we do consider DFID’s approach to the transition and whether it is managed so as to maximise the benefits. These include achieving cost savings and promoting stronger bilateral relationships, and minimising the risks, such as loss of momentum on poverty reduction or a reduced ability to achieve UK government aims in-country.

Our review covers transitions initiated from the 2011 Bilateral Aid Review (BAR) onwards. In the BAR, DFID identified 16 countries for transition. India and South Africa were later added to the list.

The review examines the relevance of DFID’s approach to transition to each country’s development needs and to wider UK government strategic goals. It considers how effectively the approach was implemented. It also explores lesson learning on the transition process within DFID and across the UK government.

While the review focuses on DFID’s performance, rather than the performance of the UK government as a whole, it includes how well DFID engages with other government departments  in the UK and whether it promotes development objectives effectively throughout the transition process.

Review questions

  1. Relevance: is DFID’s approach to transition relevant?
  2. Effectiveness: how effectively is DFID transitioning to a post-bilateral aid relationship with partner countries?
  3. Effectiveness – evidence and learning: how effectively is DFID capturing and applying learning to support its transition approaches?



Published 26 May 2016

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 16 November 2016

Government response

Published 16 February 2017

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 14 December 2016

ICAI follow-up

Completed 29 June 2018