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On 26 February 2015, the Department for International Development (DFID) announced that it was reconfiguring important elements of its bilateral aid programme with Ethiopia. A key element of this reconfiguration is ending its support for the ‘Promotion of Basic Services Programme’ (PBS), a large multi-donor programme that also receives support from the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

DFID’s announcement is striking in that it makes no reference to the controversy that has surrounded the PBS in recent years. This briefing seeks to place DFID’s announcement in context.

Opponents have alleged that funds provided through the PBS have inadvertently supported a controversial ‘villagisation programme’ – known officially as the Commune Development Programme (CDP) – by the Ethiopian Government, involving forced resettlement and other human rights abuses.

A World Bank Inspection Panel report stated in November 2014 that it had found evidence of an “operational link” between the PBS and the CDP. On the same day that DFID made its announcement, the World Bank agreed an action plan that is supposed to address the problems with the PBS identified in the Panel report. Critics do not believe that the action plan goes far enough.

Meanwhile, Leigh Day has sought judicial review by the British High Court of DFID’s support to the PBS on behalf of a claimant who has allegedly been the victim of forced resettlement by the Ethiopian authorities. Leigh Day is seeking a judgment on whether DFID has adhered to its own policies and principles in supporting the programme. The High Court ruled in July 2014 that the claimant has an arguable case. As a consequence, a full hearing is due to be held.

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