STOPAIDS strongly opposes the Prime Minister’s announcement today that the world leading UK Department for International Development (DFID) will be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to create a new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We believe this decision:
1) was announced at a terrible time globally and has been hastily made;
2) fundamentally threatens to undermine the UK’s focus and impact on the lives of the world’s poorest people; and
3) abandons DFID’s strong global reputation at just the time the UK hopes to promote ‘Global Britain’.
This merger has been announced in the midst of a global pandemic when all focus should be on reducing the impact of the crisis on the world’s poorest and most marginalised. The decision has been taken hastily without the government conducting a full Integrated Review or widely consulting with key informed stakeholders. It has been announced despite every respected parliamentary and independent oversight body for international development raising significant concerns about the impacts of a potential merger. It has been announced despite having no details about how these crucial bodies (Independent Commission for Aid Impact, International Development Committee, National Audit Office etc.) will continue to have oversight in order to ensure that the UK aid budget is spent most effectively and in line with achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
But everyone’s key concern should be what impact this will have on the world’s poorest. Today’s decision risks taking the focus of the UK’s aid budget away from its core mandate of reducing poverty. Instead it allows for resources to be possibly diverted to suit UK foreign policy or trade priorities that may have no or relatively little benefit to the world’s poorest. It risks a significant reduction in the value for money of aid spending as, unlike DFID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a poor track record in this area. It risks a reduced voice for the Sustainable Development Goals in the Cabinet due to no longer having its own Secretary of State. It risks reduced UK leadership on international development issues in global events and processes due to having only one Secretary of State with an almost impossibly broad and diverse portfolio.
STOPAIDS is proud to have worked with DFID for over two decades and witnessed the impact of its life-saving investments in the HIV response and the wider global health arena. We have seen DFID play a key role in global processes and governance mechanisms that support global health and progress across international development and cooperation. This critical UK global leadership on HIV, health and international development must not be squandered at a time when years of progress are already at risk of being unravelled. The significant level of respectability that DFID commands globally has historically amplified the UK’s standing on the global stage. Merging this Department will undermine the UK’s international position and its desired projection of a ‘Global Britain’.
For all these reasons we strongly urge the Government to reconsider today’s announcement.
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