A newly merged DfID and FCO must be made to work—and action is needed now
The UK Prime Minister’s announcement today that the Department for International Development (DfID) will merge with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has been met with strong views across the board.
While we do not endorse the Government’s decision, the progress the UK has made in leading investment in fighting global injustices, through one of its most effective departments, must not be lost.
We believe that, with decisive action in the following areas, the UK can continue to influence international development effectively:
- The Prime Minister is right to protect the commitment to 0.7% of GDP for international development. We see in our own programmes the essential, life-changing difference UK Aid makes to communities, families and children. However, as the international development budget contracts with the economy in 2020, the Government must ensure that the merger does not further deplete resources for this vital work.
- The decision to merge the departments was explained, in part, as an attempt to bring UK Aid in line with UK interests. A clear distinction must be drawn between tied aid and its use to win benefits for UK companies with little or no accountability to development objectives, and it being in line with UK interests as explained by the Prime Minister. This is important because the UK has established itself as a leader in promoting child care reform globally by adopting a Cross-Government Policy Statement that applies to all Departments and which commits the Government specifically to help address the institutionalisation of children around the world. This is very clearly in the interests of the UK because investment in child care reform builds strong child protection systems, generates dividends for child health, education and poverty, and has an intergenerational impact on ensuring more stable, prosperous societies.
- The UK plays a leading role in promoting this vital issue of global child care reform. The UK Government must practically demonstrate this leadership in the early planning of the merger so that the collective capability of UK diplomacy, aid and current leadership of the Commonwealth can be harnessed to improve the lives of millions of children now and for generations to come.
- DfID is a global leader in development thanks to its proven track record of transparency, effectiveness and accountability. This, as a minimum, must be maintained as the aid budget comes under the control of the FCO, and that in particular will be used to strengthen the case for and provide reports back on the impact of UK Aid on child care reform around the world.
- Any major change is accompanied by disruption and there will be both negative and positive consequences of the merger. The hard-won development expertise in DfID, as well as the progress being made in furthering the support to and the commitment of governments around the world to deliver successful child care reform need to be protected and any disruption to that progress by the merger actively mitigated.
We will continue to monitor the situation as the merger takes place.