O v Secretary of State for International Development

06 Mar 2015

This week saw the conclusion of a long-running judicial claim by Mr O, an Ethiopian national, against the Secretary of State for International Development. Ethiopia is one of the largest recipients of UK development aid, and receives more than £300 million of aid from the UK government. A large proportion of this aid contributed to the so-called “Protection of Basic Services” (PBS) Programme, coordinated by the World Bank.

Underlying the case brought by Mr O, a subsistence farmer who had been forced from his land, was the contention that UK aid for the PBS programme was linked to human rights abuses by the Ethiopian government. His claim concerned the adequacy of the process by which the Department for International Development (DfID) assessed Ethiopia’s compliance with its human rights obligations – a pre-condition for receiving British aid money. Permission to apply for judicial review was granted by Warby J in July 2014. Mr O thereafter sought specific disclosure of key documentation on the assessments carried out by DfID.

On 26 February 2015, shortly before the disclosure application was due to be heard, DfID announced that it would be ending all funding to the PBS programme. On the day of the hearing DfID then confirmed that the funding had been cut “as a result of ongoing concerns related to civil and political rights” in Ethiopia. In light of this decision, Mr O agreed to withdraw his claim.

The case marks an important development in ensuring accountability over UK aid.

Nikolaus Grubeck and Michael Armitage (instructed by Leigh Day) acted for Mr O.

Please click to view the Human Rights Watch press release.

This case has been featured in various press, including the Guardian.