by William Davison
(Bloomberg) — The U.K. is cutting support for adevelopment program in Ethiopia, which human-rights groups have claimed backs forced resettlements, in favor of projects to boost the economy.
Only the focus of spending has changed and the level of aid pledged in 2015-16 for Ethiopia will be maintained, the
Department for International Development said in a statement posted on its website Thursday.
“The U.K. will now evolve its approach by transitioning support towards economic development to help generate jobs,
income and growth that will enable self-sufficiency and ultimately end poverty,” according to the statement.
The donor-funded program, known as the Promotion of Basic Services, or PBS, provides grants to local governments in
Ethiopia to fund the salaries of health, education, agriculture, water and road workers to improve regional state services. It has a budget of $4.9 billion from 2012 to 2018.
Ethiopia’s government is “not concerned” by DfID ending its funding of PBS as there are no plans for it to reduce its
overall assistance, said Communications Minister Redwan Hussien on Friday. “The money will keep on flowing, it’s only a matter of re-targeting. As long as it fills a certain gap then we’re OK with it,” he said by phone from the capital, Addis Ababa.
The World Bank’s Inspection Panel, an independent complaints mechanism, said in 2013 it was investigating claims
that funds the bank and other donors contributed to PBS were being used for a resettlement plan in Ethiopia’s southwestern Gambella region.
New-York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch says the government has forcibly moved tens of thousands of people in Gambella, leading to “serious human rights violations.”
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry has said the Gambella resettlements were voluntary and successfully achieved their goal of improving public services in sparsely populated areas.
The High Court in London last year said a review could be conducted into whether the U.K.’s aid agency is adequately monitoring the human-rights record of Ethiopia’s government.
There is no connection between the case and the PBS decision, a DfID spokesman said in an e-mailed response to
questions on Friday, requesting anonymity in line with the organization’s policy. The agency reviews the way it delivers aid as the needs of developing countries change, he said.