This past weekend saw us hold the annual RESULTS National Conference, bringing together people from over the UK to discuss and debate international development, to learn new advocacy skills and to meet with key decision makers from across the sector.
The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Aid in a time of austerity: making the case for international development.’ In the face of domestic cuts, the UK’s aid budget has come under more intense scrutiny than ever before and we felt it vital that we address this issue with our conference.
Saturday 28th April
Saturday was our issue day, during which we focused most heavily on the key conference theme over four sessions. We opened the day with a speech from Aaron Oxley, Executive Director of RESULTS UK. Aaron spoke about the challenges facing the sector at this time and how important building alliances and support for aid is in the UK.
The first session was a presentation by InterMedia, a not for profit research organisation, of the findings of their recent study ‘Building support for international development’ a multi-country study of perceptions and understanding of development issues among key groups: ‘influentials’, ‘government decision makers’, and ‘ interested citizens.’ The findings of the study are hugely important for the work of RESULTS.
InterMedia found that low numbers of people in the UK understand international development well, and are similarly not very aware of the details of the people and institutions that are working on them. The capable presenters found themselves engaged in almost an hour of in-depth discussion with the RESULTS grassroots supporters. The session provided an excellent opening to the conference and provided great context for the following sessions. You can access the InterMedia findings here.
The second session of the day was titled ‘Making the case for UK aid spending’ and was a panel discussion designed to examine the different arguments we can make for the continuation of UK aid. The panel was made up of Joe Powell from the ONE campaign, Emily Barley from Conservative Future and Dr. Sabrina Bakeera-Kitaka, a Ugandan paediatrician and child health advocate. Joe presented ONE’s ‘Living
Proof’ campaign which is designed to show the real people who are impacted by aid spending and he presented this excellent video. Emily presented some of the more “self interested” arguments for UK aid spending, such as the benefits to British business and national security. She spoke of how poverty and instability can lead to organised crime, migration or piracy, excellent arguments that don’t simply re-state the moral case for aid. Dr. Bakeera-Kitaka spoke first-hand about the impact UK support for vaccination programmes like those funded through the GAVI Alliance had in Uganda.
The third session of the day was a debate on the subject of whether middle-income countries should still receive aid. This hotly contested issue was discussed by Brendan O’ Neil from Spiked Online, Diarmaid McDonald, Coordinator of the Stop AIDS Campaign and Kate Adams, Policy and Advocacy Officer from War Child. This was a fantastic session and the various presenters really got stuck into one another. It would be wrong to say that any specific conclusions were reached but the debate provided some interesting talking points indeed!
We rounded out the day with a session titled “Will a short term focus on results have negative impacts for long term development?’ The aim of the session was to explore what impact the current trend for high impact, results-oriented spending will have on longer term, hard to measure development indicators. The speakers in the session were Gideon Rabinowicz from UK Aid Network, who spoke about his experiences seeing impossible reporting targets and monitoring and evaluation criteria suffocate good projects, and Peter Moszynski, an aid worker and journalist who spoke about his years of experience in Sudan and now South Sudan; a nascent country which needs huge support both short and long term.
Sunday 29th April
On Sunday we held an all day strategic campaigning workshop which was led by the staff at RESULTS UK. We covered issues such as problem analysis, stakeholder mapping and developing winning messages.