Source: The Guardian, by Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent,
Britain is to stop sending aid to a series of relatively affluent developing countries as the government focuses resources on countries with the highest levels of poverty, and failing states that have become havens for Islamist fundamentalists.
A review of Britain's £8.4bn international development budget will herald the end of aid to Russia, Serbia, China, Cambodia, Vietnam and Moldova.
Aid to Yemen, regarded by Britain as a failing state whose lack of economic development provides a fertile recruiting ground for al-Qaida, will instead be doubled from £46.7m this year to £90m by 2015.
The changes will be announced by Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, who established separate reviews into Britain's bilateral and multilateral aid budgets after the general election.
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) could be a victim of the review of Britain's support for multilateral organisations. Unesco, which was boycotted by Britain for 12 years between 1985 and 1997 on the grounds that it was "pro-Soviet", will have to meet a series of targets to justify its aid after the review found that it wasted the £12m it receives from Britain each year.
Mitchell told the BBC Politics Show that the reviews would lead to Britain's aid budget being "much better focused" on areas of greatest need. "People who live in conflict states are very much part of that," he said.
The reviews are designed to answer opponents on the right and left who have criticised the government's approach to aid from different angles.
A focus on developing countries in greatest need, with a hard-headed payments by results system, is meant to show sceptical Tories that the aid budget is being spent in a sensible way. Many Tories believe it was wrong of David Cameron to ringfence the aid budget, after the prime minister pledged to maintain Britain's commitment to meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on aid by 2013.
Targeting resources at a country such as Yemen, some of whose territory is used by al-Qaida as a training ground, is also designed to show that concerns on the left about the securitisation of Britain's aid budget are unfounded.
Charities have warned that aligning aid priorities with Britain's overall foreign and trade policy could lead to a return to the 1990s when the Pergau dam in Indonesia was funded with British aid money. Harriet Harman, the shadow international development secretary, voiced these fears when she warned of "subsuming aid activities into military activities".
Mitchell said it was in Britain's interests to help countries which present a threat. "It's very much in our national interest to tackle these effects of dysfunctionality and poverty, such as piracy, migration, terrorism and disease in Somalia," he told the Sunday Times. "Tackling the causes of poverty upstream is much less expensive than sending in troops."
Mitchell also tackled one of the main criticisms from the right, that it is wrong to provide aid to India, whose economy is growing at such a fast pace that Delhi can afford a space programme. "The fact is that if you want to reach these [UN] millennium development goals, which we are also keen to do by 2015, you have to operate where poverty is greatest," he told the Politics Show. "In India there are more poor people in three states than there are in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Operating there in the way that we do is extremely effective in poverty alleviation."
The reviews, which have been subject to independent peer review, will have four main themes:
• A complete overhaul of the way in which Britain distributes aid. Mitchell believes that Gordon Brown announced an overall figure for a grant to a particular country without working out what exactly that would deliver. "Now it is going to be payment by results, so money will only be granted if it is clear how many more children will be educated in a given country and how much clean water will be supplied, for example," one source said.
Independent evaluation. A four-strong independent panel, including the Kenyan anti-corruption expert John Githongo, will monitor aid spending. The panel will report to parliament.
• Britain has a moral duty to help those in need in line with its values. Mitchell frequently quotes the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce to support the aid cause. "You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again you did not know," Wilberforce said.
• It is in Britain's own national interests to help countries which present a threat, however indirectly.