Department for International Development
The UK Department for International Development (DFID) was set up in May 1997 by the incoming Labour government. Headed by a cabinet minister, it made fighting world poverty its top priority. Previously the aid programme was managed by the Overseas Development Administration (ODA), a wing of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. According to DFID, this move 'marked a turning point for Britain’s aid programme, which until then had mainly involved economic development'. 
India was the biggest single recipient of British aid between 2003 and 2008, with £1 billion spent through DFID. Critical research by Corporate Watch writer Richard Whittell in a project entitled Dodgy development: DFID in India exposed the gap between the picture of development aid painted by DFID in the UK, and reality on the ground in India. DFID was accused of being involved in pushing the industrialisation of India, particularly mineral extraction and processing. It actively works with companies and corporations (many of them British), aiding them through helping privatise utilities and services and monetarise the economy to their benefit, with detrimental effects on the poorest people .
Sensitive reports withheld
In response to an FoI request to DfID for access to the report “Orissa Drivers of Change”(2005-2006) prepared by consulting company GHK, which is openly talked about on their website, DfID denied access to the report, claiming that there was:
- strong public interest in ensuring that DFID and the UK Government are able to promote international development and protect UK interests abroad. To do this there must be good working relationships with these other governments based on confidence and trust. Disclosing opinions and sensitive information relating to them would be likely to damage these relationships; harm DFID’s ability to work with and influence other donors in eradicating poverty and undermine the UK’s ability to respond to international development needs.
- Disclosure would also be likely to inhibit the willingness of other governments or international organisations to share sensitive information with the UK government. It would significantly weaken the UK’s ability to deliver UK Government policy. 
See the full Freedom of Information response here: Media:2nd_Orissa_DoC_response_DfID.doc
The report (eventually obtained by other means) gives a detailed overview of the political economy of Orissa based on in-depth studies. In particular it examines 'the challenges faced in Orissa in meeting the Millennium Development Goals'. Like DFID's other 'Drivers of Change' reports, it is essentially a study of how to influence change in the State. What is intriguing about it is the amount of time it dedicates to analysing social movements and protest in Orissa.
On the subject of mining, the report details the make up and success rate of movements against a range of projects, including the Utkal alumina project which DFID had promoted as part of the Business Partners for Development programme in which they were a partner.. The project was rapidly removed from the BPD site after protesters were shot by police in 2001. The tone of the report, which recommends enabling civil society to have increasing protest power to oppose projects, is in direct contrast to the policies of DFID to promote the same mining and industrial projects. This raises questions about who the report was for and who it was shown to. In the hands of the mining companies such a deep knowledge of protest could be a dangerous tool.
Support for genetic engineering projects
DFID has faced strong criticism both for the extent of its support for projects involving genetic engineering and for its lack of openness about the research. In September 2002, The Independent on Sunday reported that DFID had been running a '£13.4m programme to create a new generation of GM animals, crops and drugs throughout the Third World. The so far unpublicised programme has financed research in more than 24 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe into at least 80 GM projects ranging from long-life bananas to fast-growing pigs and fish.'
DfID was accused by Dr Sue Mayer of GeneWatch UK of having 'deceived' the public about the scale of the programme. In a Leader comment, the Independent on Sunday said that the revelation that DFID had funded such a huge programme of GM research across the Third World was "deeply disturbing":
- The whole programme legitimises and promotes technology still opposed by many Third World governments and their peoples. Britain has no business doing this. And it certainly should not continue without subjecting the work to the kind of public debate that ministers have rightly decided must be completed before any decision is taken to commercialise the technology at home.
A significant number of DFID GM crop projects have been undertaken by the John Innes Centre which has also enjoyed tens of millions of pounds in investment from Syngenta.
Included in the DFID schemes were projects linked to a controversial £65m DFID aid programme in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh - a programme which critics allege will help push 20 million subsistence farmers off their land. The concerns about this DFID-backed project received wide-scale publicity as a result of media coverage of the findings of a citizens' jury with 'scenario workshops' (or 'prajapeertu') conducted among poor farmers and landless labourers in Andhra Pradesh who unanimously rejected the development proposals.
The DfID's Director of Rural Livelihoods and Environment, Andrew Bennet, is understood to have been among those at DFID who encouraged criticism of those who conducted the research, Dr Michel Pimbert, of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and Dr Tom Wakeford, then of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). DFID, which provides around 70% of both institutes' funding, even demanded the suppression of the report. Pimbert and Wakeford responded by accusing 'a few individuals within a major donor agency' of trying to 'silence critical reflections' by seeking to suppress a report that gave 'a bigger voice to poor and marginalised communities'.
Bennet left DFID to join the Syngenta Foundation at the height of the controversy. Syngenta is the world's largest biotechnology company and Syngenta directors occupy 3 of the 5 seats on the Syngenta Foundation's board. Moreover, within months of taking up his new post, Bennet had, in the words of Paul Brown and John Vidal in The Guardian,
- pulled off a coup by gaining a place on the governing body of the Consultative Group on the International Agricultural Research centres (CGIAR). This is the network of international public research institutions which have been the target of biotech companies for years but, until now, escaped infiltration. Critics are appalled. "CGIAR has unabashedly adopted the corporate research agenda, thereby accepting that it ceases to follow the original mandate of conducting agricultural research for 'public good."
In fact, the CGIAR's own NGO Committee (NGOC) refused to toe the official line. It decided to freeze its relationship with the CGIAR pending a review of the CGIAR's research agenda. The NGOC observed:
- The CGIAR is deviating from [its] mandate and is adopting a corporate agenda for agricultural research and development. CGIAR's consideration of Syngenta Foundation's membership is a clear indication of the trend towards the corporatisation of public agricultural research.
- DFID The creation of DFID, acc 12 December 2011
- Richard Whittell, Corporate Watch Dodgy development: DfID in India Accessed 30/04/10
- John McGinn, DfID Openness Unit, 9th Sept 2011 Freedom of Information Requests F2011-287 response letter.
- Karin Tang and Richard Slater. ORISSA DRIVERS OF CHANGE, DFID India. Final Report. GHK. July 2006
- Independent on Sunday (2002) Britain funds pounds 13.4m GM programme in Third World, Sept 15, acc 1 May 2013
- Independent on Sunday (2002) GM by the back door, Sept 15, acc 1 May 2013
- The Prajateerpu controversy, archive of emails on citizens' jury, 26 July 2002-29 Aug 2002, accessed in web archive 1 May 2013
- Alex Kirby (2002), UK aid for India sparks row, BBC News, 18 July, acc 1 May 2013
- Paul Brown and John Vidal (2002), Eco Soundings,, The Guardian, 13 Nov, acc 1 May 2013
- NGO Committee of the CGIAR (2002), Statement by the NGO Committee of the CGIAR, 30 Oct, acc 1 May 2013
- Andrew Bennet, former DfID Director of Rural Livelihoods and Environment joined the Syngenta Foundation in 2002
- Centre for Global Development Funders Accessed 22nd January 2008