By CivilServiceWorld

16 Dec 2013

Mark Lowcock

Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Development

What were your biggest policy and delivery challenges in 2013, and how did you handle them?
2013 has been a hugely important year for the Department for International Development (DFID), because it marks the year the UK meets its long-standing commitment to invest 0.7% of gross national income in international development. We have been determined to ensure that we get great value for every single penny of taxpayers’ money and produce ambitious, tangible results. Britain’s spend on international development is a smart investment: security and economic growth in the most fragile countries in the world is in our national interest. But it is also the right thing to do: transforming millions of people’s lives by providing economic development to create jobs, as well as the basics like food, clean water, healthcare and education. The big policy shift now is to focus more on economic development and job creation. We are restructuring the department to accelerate that.

Where have you made the most progress in implementing the Civil Service Reform Plan, and what are your reform priorities for 2014?
For me the Civil Service Reform Plan is about making the civil service the very best it can be: more agile and effective, especially when it comes to achieving value for money and efficiency. As a department we’ve made significant strides towards that goal, notably moving to our new London offices at 22 Whitehall. This move will enable us to save £62.5 million in rent and rates by 2020, and allowed us to introduce more efficient use of office space and flexible working practices that will save even more money in the longer term whilst improving the way we work. It also places us much nearer to the FCO and MoD, with whom we work very closely. Priorities for 2014 include continuing to expand our digital strategy, building our commercial capability, and improving talent management and performance management.

What are your key challenges in the last full year of the Parliament, and how will you tackle them?
The first is implementing our strategy on economic development, to help transform nascent and emerging economies to create jobs and inclusive, sustainable growth. The second is to continue to hone our expertise in responding to humanitarian crises and conflict situations – as in Syria, where the UK has taken a lead in providing desperately-needed support to people suffering as a result of the conflict, and in the Philippines, where DfID has worked with the armed forces and the NHS to help people affected by the typhoon in November. These two challenges are inextricably linked because promoting economic growth is one of the best long-term strategies for preventing conflict and reducing the impact of natural disasters. Then in 2015 the world will gather in the United Nations to agree new global development goals, based on the report published this year by a panel chaired by the prime minister.

What would you most like Santa to bring you this year? And what would you like him to take away?
A time machine, so I can go back to 1966 and watch England win the World Cup. And I’d like him to take away the nagging hope I harbour that maybe they can do it again in Rio in 2014 – which is bound to lead to disappointment.

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