Case study

Improving coherence between multilateral and bilateral activities

Improving coherence between multilateral and bilateral activities.


In its 2014 report, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) found that: ‘The ICF is not, however, doing enough to ensure coherence and build synergies across its portfolio, particularly between multilateral and bilateral initiatives’ and recommended that: ‘The ICF should strengthen coherence across multilateral and bilateral delivery channels and programmes…’

Coordination and coherence can be challenging for many Governments and aid donors, and is not unique to DFID. Funding routes for climate finance e.g. multi-lateral and central funding can cut across the country level processes and are not always complementary. This requires strong leadership from the host country government, and co-ordination between donors, both of which may need support.

DFID tries to address this challenge at multiple levels, both as a bilateral donor and through the ICF specifically. We act at a project level, country level, regional level and as an organisation, though there is always room for improvement. In the Management Response to the ICAI report we undertook to highlight systems that enable effective country level planning, so that we can learn from them. We will continue to do this and will publish further examples on the ICF page of the GOV.UK website, building on some of the examples below:

Coherence at the Project level

Humanitarian Preparedness Project

In order to respond more effectively and efficiently to humanitarian crises in the coming years, DFID, UNICEF, UNHCR, UNOCHA and WFP are investing in enhanced emergency preparedness. The DFID-funded project, entitled “Strengthening Humanitarian Preparedness in High Risk Countries” will support humanitarian partners to scale up their efforts and yield long term cost savings (currently averaging at £2 saved for every £1 spent), increase the speed of response (a week on average) as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with responses.

The project is an extension of the 2014-2015 humanitarian preparedness collaboration between UNICEF, WFP and DFID. The addition of ICF funds has enabled us to expand the programme and extend it to UNHCR and UNOCHA, thus improving inter agency coherence. It will include activities such as emergency supply prepositioning, infrastructure development, staff training and contingency planning.

The project will strengthen participating agencies’ capacities to ensure the centrality of protection, accountability to affected populations and to provide timely, appropriate and cost effective humanitarian response, as well as building the longer-term resilience of people to the impacts of climate change. Key outcome indicators are as follows:

  1. In the project countries, in relation to jointly identified risks/scenarios, improved capability of participating agencies for more timely and appropriate humanitarian response to meet their primary mandate and cluster/sector coordination responsibilities. Globally, strengthened agencies’ risks and preparedness planning capabilities

  2. Greater ability of participating agencies to contribute to more coherent and coordinated approach in interagency preparedness for response and in the development of national and regional preparedness and response capacities

The target countries are selected based on a common understanding of risk, which includes climate risks, together with a shared log frame and a view to strengthening co-operation and coordination. By preparing for humanitarian emergencies the UK and its partners can:

  • protect development gains and investments
  • enhance the ability of humanitarian and development actors, affected governments, and communities, to cope
  • enable the UK itself and the international system to respond quickly and more appropriately when events occur
  • address timeliness and efficiency in the early stages of the response

This also has the potential to become a cost effective platform for other parts of DFID to use, and we are keen to build on the project and encourage both UN and non-UN actors – potentially the Red Cross or NGOs - to come on board.

Coherence at the country level

All DFID Business Cases must, as part of the Management Case, set out in detail how the proposed intervention will be implemented, including details of the relationships and division of roles and responsibilities between DFID, any partner government, other donors, programme partners or implementing agents; and outline how ‘beneficiaries’ are represented in the governance of the intervention.


In Nepal DFID has been focussed for some time on strengthening existing coordination mechanisms for climate programming. An example at the national level is the Multi-Stakeholder Climate Change Initiative Coordination Committee – MCCICC - which is supported by the Nepal Climate Change Support Programme (NCCSP). To set these up has been challenging but worth the effort in terms of ensuring an inclusive planning process and coherence for the implementation of diversified sectoral adaptation activities.

The Government of Nepal and 14 donors and development partners, including both the EU and DFID, signed a Donor Compact on Climate Change in September 2009. This compact lays out a set of principles to guide development partner support to the Government of Nepal, to implement a series of actions designed to:

  • identify and assess climate risks, particularly to the most vulnerable people and sectors
  • elaborate, test and implement adaptive responses
  • establish the basis for a climate resilient economy

The MCCICC was formed by the Ministry of Environment in April 2010 to coordinate both the Government’s and development partners’ efforts in supporting climate change initiatives in Nepal. This committee includes the National Planning Commission, Ministry of Environment, key line ministries, and representatives from academia, I/NGOs, civil societies and development partners.

The NCCSP puts into action the commitments made by DFID and the EU as well as other development partners in the Donor Compact. It seeks to implement climate resilient development activities in the most vulnerable areas of Nepal and helps build the capacity of the Government of Nepal to develop, cost, budget and implement evidence-based adaptation measures at the local level. It also enables other bi-lateral and multi-lateral climate change programmes to channel support through a harmonised mechanism.

The NCCSP was developed closely with the Government of Nepal, and will help it to implement the adaptation priorities set out in the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) document approved by the Government in September 2010.


In Tanzania, DFID has led development partner groups in order to support co-ordination on climate change, setting both short and long term objectives and agreeing them with Heads of Mission. DFID Tanzania is also providing support through a secretariat to the Development Partners Group on Environment and Climate Change.

DFID Tanzania mapped all development partner programmes and spend on climate change, identified synergies and in some cases developed joint programmes or promoted greater coherence, e.g. in the field of water resources and urban resilience. The Tanzania office also funded joint analytical work which informed and supported the development partners working on climate change, in areas such as the economics of climate change, climate financing mechanisms, agriculture action plans and scoping work on urban resilience. This work has resulted in a Joint DFID/World Bank urban resilience programme, co-financing with the Swedish Development Agency (SIDA) on ‘green mini grids’, and collaboration on water resources management.

Coherence at the Regional level


All country and regional Departments in DFID went through an Inclusive Growth Diagnostic process in 2015. DFID-Southern Africa shared and consulted on their Regional Diagnostic (RIGD) with country offices. This intersected with a structured regional roadshow process, where DFID-SA visited the 4 country offices in the region to explore their individual perspectives and identify areas of mutual interest. ICF consideration was built into the process. Regional water and energy supply featured within the priorities mapped out in the regional Diagnostic, and water and energy programming - current and planned - is predominantly ICF funded.

Two regional climate change advisers currently provide dedicated climate change advice/planning to the 4 country offices in the region. This provides a direct and very practical route to identifying and building synergy between regional, bilateral and other country programming.

Specifically on water, within the SADC Transboundary Water Management (TWM) Programme, DFID-SA jointly funded some flood risk mapping in the important international Zambezi and Limpopo basins with DFID Mozambique; and there has also been collaboration with DFID offices in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe on TWM planning and strategy.

The ICF-supported ‘Cooperation in International Waters in Africa’ initiative is World Bank managed but co-financed by DFID along with other donors, and has helped facilitate key work which ultimately enabled progress on rehabilitation of the Kariba Dam. This infrastructure has significant strategic regional and national importance, including to the countries in which several DFID offices are operating, and in terms of clean energy.

Coherence at an organisational level

The DFID ‘BAR/MAR’ process

The UK Aid strategy sets out how Britain’s aid spending will be restructured to tackle some of today’s biggest global challenges including mass migration, disease, the threat of terrorism and global climate change. DFID is carrying out an assessment of how it delivers its strategic objectives at the country level through its network of country offices and through the multilateral organisations we support. DFID also runs a number of programmes for which the Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) is based in the UK, but some (or all) of the funded activity takes place in DFID focus countries. There are a number of reasons why we run such programmes, such as efficiency, the provision of ‘global goods’, or regional reach. Country and policy teams should take this into account when considering portfolio coherence.

The Bilateral Aid Review (BAR) is looking at where DFID currently operates and assesses what role we should play and which delivery channels offer best VfM and impact. The Multilateral Aid Review (MAR) looks at which multilaterals we can work with to achieve our priorities.

There is also a BAR/MAR ‘coherence phase’. The overall aim of this coherence process is an allocation of DFID’s budget that delivers our strategic objectives through the right channels, in the most cost-effective manner, maximising value for money, and based on a solid understanding of what works. It is intended to drive coherence across the portfolio, and allow us to take decisions to ensure we have the right mix of ambition, risk and realism to deliver against strategic objectives, and make high level choices about delivery channels where appropriate.

Published 29 January 2016