Government response to ICAI recommendations on ‘the UK’s response to COVID-19 aid: a rapid review – World


The UK is a major donor to the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We have committed up to £ 1.3bn in UK aid to help end the pandemic as quickly as possible and deal with its impacts.

The government welcomes the review by the Independent Aid Impact Commission (ICAI) of the UK’s response to aid. Independent scrutiny is essential to ensure that our policy and programming deliver maximum impact and value for money.

The ICAI review assessed the credibility, consistency and effectiveness of the UK aid response to the pandemic. He concluded that the initial UK aid response was swift, credible and appropriate, building on lessons from previous crises and the experience and knowledge of staff, and benefiting from previous investments in health emergency preparedness . The ICAI found that the initial priorities were well anchored in the available evidence and that the government moved quickly to put in place mechanisms to monitor emerging risks and vulnerabilities related to COVID-19.

The ICAI concludes that the UK government has made a significant contribution to global efforts to develop COVID-19 vaccines and that the UK has clearly made a significant contribution to an unprecedented level of international cooperation, for example through its first contributions to humanitarian appeals and funding from COVAX to support equity. access to vaccines. The ICAI notes that in addition to the UK’s central aid response, a significant amount of the UK’s aid program has been reallocated at country level to address more health, humanitarian and economic impacts. wide of the pandemic.

The ICAI report notes that the government’s response to aid to the pandemic has been affected both by temporary cuts in aid and by the contraction of the UK economy during the pandemic. Its recommendations focus on accelerating the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries and supporting their equitable deployment; the role of specialist staff in decision-making; and the withdrawal of foreign personnel from the UK during crises.

Government response to recommendations

Recommendation 1

Building on its investments in vaccine development, the UK government should now do more to accelerate the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries and support their equitable deployment to vulnerable populations.

Answer: partially accept

Since the start of the pandemic, we have worked to support equitable access. More needs to be done to accelerate the supply and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries. That’s why the UK is making national commitments, supporting multilateral cooperation and using its G7 presidency to step up the world’s immunization efforts in 2022.

Our investment in the research and development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has made a critical contribution to global immunization efforts. Over a billion doses have been distributed worldwide at cost, two-thirds of which are destined for low- and middle-income countries. We are a major donor to the COVAX Advanced Market Engagement (AMC), which supports access to COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries. Our £ 548million pledge will help COVAX AMC deliver up to 1.8 billion doses to these countries by early 2022.

Under the UK Presidency, G7 leaders pledged to step up efforts to immunize the world by the end of 2022. The UK is working closely with international partners to achieve this ambitious goal. This includes efforts to increase vaccine supply, strengthen downstream delivery, and develop more sustainable approaches to vaccine financing. The next steps will be discussed at a meeting organized by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in December with the G7 foreign and development ministers. The G7 will share and fund one billion doses of vaccines over the next year. The UK will donate 100 million doses, 80% of which will go to COVAX to enable it to provide additional support to countries most in need.

COVID-19 vaccines donated through COVAX are administered by Gavi and its Alliance partners, who work with governments to ensure strong and transparent distribution and notification plans are in place to ensure priority groups are reached. We work through the Boards of Directors to ensure that Gavi and World Bank funds available to support delivery in the country are approved and disbursed in a timely manner. We work with COVAX and technical partners (WHO, UNICEF), and through bilateral programs and the FCDO diplomatic network to identify and remove bottlenecks that can be resolved through targeted funding, equipment or technical assistance available through COVAX, the World Bank and others. For bilateral donations to the UK, we asked recipients for assurance that they have the capacity to deploy doses in accordance with national deployment and vaccination plans.

Recommendation 2

FCDO should delegate as much operational discretion as possible to specialist staff close to the program delivery point to ensure the UK’s COVID-19 response is agile, adaptable and fully informed by the local operational context.

Answer: accept

During the temporary reduction in aid spending and the contraction of the UK economy, ministers had to make decisions centrally on the best overall portfolio to meet the demands. This was based on advice from country teams and central thematic expertise. This approach ensured that Official Development Assistance (ODA) resources across the world could be used in the most efficient and effective manner, meeting HMG priorities while responding to the COVID-pandemic. 19.

While decision making on overall spending was inevitably taken centrally in consultation with post staff, program staff had the flexibility to adapt existing bilateral FCDO programs to support communities affected by COVID-19. In 2020, FCDO adapted existing programming amounting to over £ 700million in ODA in response to the direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic.

Following the establishment of FCDO, the FCDO Program Operational Framework (ProF) was established, building on the old DFID Smart Rules and the old equivalent of the FCO. The PrOF provides the framework, the mandatory rules and the guiding principles for the implementation of the programming delivered by the FCDO. This explains how the Department maintains high standards of program delivery, risk management and due diligence in the wide range of challenging places where we work. The PrOF explains how FCDO program teams can continue to make evidence-based decisions, apply professional judgment and learn and share lessons while ensuring that FCDO remains properly accountable to UK taxpayers in everything we do . the PrOF is published on GOV.UK.

Recommendation 3

FCDO should review and adapt its exit strategy so that it is more clearly differentiated based on risk and individual staff preferences in order to guide the repatriation of staff to countries of origin in future crises.

Answer: partially accept

FCDO takes its duty of care to staff very seriously. Decision-making on staff withdrawals from overseas posts in the event of a crisis is based on our ability to continue to fulfill our legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to protect staff from reasonably foreseeable damage. In some cases, this may not correspond to individual preferences.

We agree that the drawdown strategy must be differentiated by risk. FCDO’s approach to downsizing during the pandemic was based on a robust risk analysis process. Withdrawal decisions were made on a job-by-job basis based on the level of risk, with the positions determining the business-critical roles necessary to further achieve the DRG’s objectives given local circumstances. About half of DFID’s civil service staff abroad were not withdrawn during the pandemic. We regularly collaborate with other donor governments and partner organizations to share information on risks and approaches to managing staff safety.

Staff who returned to the UK continued to work remotely and expert local staff remained in the country. In many cases, the ability of staff to operate in the country has reportedly been severely constrained by the pandemic and the restrictions put in place to respond to it. Staff who were brought back to the UK returned to their overseas posts as soon as possible, with decision making based on the evolving risk situation. Most had returned to their overseas offices in September 2020.

FCDO is developing a new repatriation policy for the merged organization that recognizes the impacts of withdrawals on staff and their families and the support we will provide to staff. Clear policy advice continues to be made available to Posts to inform decisions about risk and due diligence to our staff and their families.


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