When the Department for International Development (DFID) was set up in 1997, it made fighting world poverty its top priority. This marked a turning point for Britain’s aid programme, which until then had mainly involved economic development.
In its manifesto the government elected in May 1997 pledged to create a new department for international development headed by a cabinet minister. Previously the aid programme was managed by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA), a wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Among its key objectives, DFID set out to make global development a national priority and promote it to audiences in the UK and overseas, while fostering a new ‘aid relationship’ with governments of developing countries.
In the autumn of 1997, DFID published its first white paper with the focus on eliminating world poverty. Three other white papers, issued in 2000, 2006 and 2009 reinforced the first white paper’s message.
Two acts of parliament have since helped to put development higher on the national agenda. The International Development Act 2002 clarified the purpose of aid spending as poverty reduction; while International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Act 2006 defined DFID’s annual reporting to Parliament through its Annual Report.