Campaigners accuse government aid policy of fuelling big business interests in rush to support private healthcare and education

Campaigners accuse government aid policy of fuelling big business interests in rush to support private healthcare and education

Date: 24 April 2015

  • DfiD accused of ‘dogmatically’ supporting private education and healthcare in Africa and Asia in new report
  • Campaign group writes to Cabinet Secretary over possible conflict of interest in DFID 
  • Pearson, Coca-Cola, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Adam Smith International running education and health programmes for UK

Download Profiting from poverty, again: DfID’s support for privatising education and health

A new report from campaign group Global Justice Now has accused the Department for International Development (DfID) of using aid money to set up private healthcare and education in Africa and Asia which has benefited British and American companies.

The report, which is released on the day of education giant Pearson’s AGM, is especially critical of the overlap between one of Pearson’s head staff and his position as a representative of DfiD.  Former Blair government advisor Sir Michael Barber acts as DfID’s Chief Education Representative in Pakistan while also being Chief Educational Adviser at Pearson, a company which receives money from DfiD for running private school programmes. Global Justice Now is writing to the Cabinet Secretary to raise concerns.

A protest will take place outside Pearson’s AGM on Friday at 11am at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London WC2N 5BY, called by groups including the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Action Aid and Global Justice Now calling on Pearson to withdraw from establishing fee paying private schools in the global south. The same demand will be made in an open letter signed by the groups and published on the same day.

The report, Profiting from poverty, again: DfID’s support for privatising education and health,  uses numerous examples to show DfID’s support for private education and healthcare in the global south including:

  • The Girls’ Education Challenge – DfiD is spending £355 million during 2011-2017 and has devolved management of the project to Price Waterhouse Coopers.  The project portfolio shows private sector involvement in education in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nepal and Uganda. Under the Girls Education Challenge, DfID is funding a project in Tanzania that also involves Pearson. DfID has chosen to partner with Coca-Cola, which claims it will promote “the economic empowerment of 5 million female entrepreneurs across the global Coca-Cola value chain.”
  • An education project in Kenya managed by pro-privatisation consultancy Adam Smith International, that aims to enroll 50,000 children into private schools.
  • A Health PPP Facility, which is receiving £35 million from DfID over an eight year period to assist low-income governments to ‘improve strategic purchasing of healthcare services… under a range of Public-Private-Partnership options.’
  • DfID has also funded the Washington-based Center for Education (CEI) and is connected, via funding  through HANSEP (Harnessing non-state actors for better health care for the poor) with the Center for Health Market Innovations (CHMI). The CEI, like the CHMI, is coordinated by the Results for Development Institute (R4D) , a non-profit organisation also based in Washington which aims at ‘removing barriers impeding efficiency in global markets for essential commodities (for instance, in health and nutrition).’

Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now said:

“Aid should be used to support human needs by building up public services in countries that don’t have the same levels of economic privilege as the UK. So it’s shocking that DfID is dogmatically promoting private health and education when it’s been shown that this approach actually entrenches inequality and endangers access.

“Aid is being used as a tool to convince, cajole and compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help big corporations like Pearson, but which detract from the real need to promote publicly funded services that are universally accessible.

“It seems highly inappropriate that executives from a company like Pearson can be acting in an official capacity at DfID, while their company provides commercial services that would directly benefit from the type of decisions being taken by DfID. This is just one example of how the UK’s aid agenda seems to be driven by corporate interests rather than by trying to meet the needs and aspirations of the majority of people in the world.”