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Development Aid

Question for Department for International Development

UIN HL10805, tabled on 18 October 2018

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the report by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Respecting communities in International Development: language and cultural understanding, published in June, in particular its finding that the lack of attention to language by the Department for International Development and others can frustrate the success and sustainability of development programmes.

Answered on

30 October 2018

We recognise the value of language capability for the delivery of our core mission and programmes. In particular, it enables us to understand contextual issues and needs, and helps us to communicate, engage stakeholders, develop positive relationships, and influence across our delivery chain.

To ensure that we have deep capability in terms of local context, culture and languages, we employ Staff Appointed in Country (SAIC) as a core part of our operating model. Of the 1345 DFID staff employed in our overseas offices, 61% are SAIC. Our SAIC work in a range of advisory, needs assessment, programme design and management, and evaluation roles. SAIC are recruited with a high level of English capability.

For DFID’s UK staff deploying to locations overseas where English is not an official operating language, we seek to recruit people with the specified level of local language required for those roles. Where this is not possible, we provide language tuition to develop people to the required proficiency level. This tuition is delivered in a variety of ways dependent on the needs of the individual and the team they will be joining, e.g. via group tuition and some is immersive 1:1 tuition undertaken overseas.

Through our procurement and funding processes we also verify that our delivery partners have the capability to understand and operate in the relevant country context.

We are reviewing our current approach to language capability and considering how language skills feature through DFID’s resourcing and employee lifecycles. We will consider the findings of the report as part of our review.