With all eyes on COVID-19, UK's integrated review of foreign, defense, development capabilities temporarily scales back

In a joint letter to the respective chairs of the UK parliamentary Select Committees for Defense, Foreign Affairs, and International Development, UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said the  UK’s review of its foreign, defense, and development policy is being temporarily scaled back as civil service resources were being redeployed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Johnson said the government would keep them updated on the new timetable.  

The International Development Committee's inquiry into the effectiveness of UK development assistance, which was due to feed into the review, has announced that it will pause oral submissions in parliament; however, it is still accepting written submissions.

Twitter - International Development Committee

United Kingdom Global health

UK is top CEPI donor with additional US$274 million for COVID-19 vaccine

The UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson,  has committed an additional £210 million (US$274 million) in new funding for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support the search for a vaccine against the virus causing the coronavirus. CEPI have said they need an additional $2 billion from international governments to develop the crucial vaccine. This level of funding could be achieved if all G20 countries contributed $100 million. 

The new funding, announced at the G20 Leaders' Summit on the 26th March, makes the UK the biggest international donor to CEPI. To date, they have contributed £250 million (US$327 million). 

Press release – UK government


Chair of UK parliament’s International Development Select Committee urges government not to merge Department of International Development with Foreign Office

The new Chair of the UK parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC), Sarah Champion (Labour MP), has urged the government not to merge the Department of International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Champion notes that the two departments have very different mandates; the FCO is in charge of political diplomacy, while DFID delivers humanitarian and development programs. She argues that merging the two would reduce the effectiveness of the UK's development assistance, degrading country's soft power which has been strengthened in the past by high-quality development programs.

News article - Politics Home

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Development assistance goal of 'mutual prosperity' has siphoned money away from countries with greatest need, says UK civil society group

BOND, the UK network for organizations working on international development, has urged the UK parliamentary International Development Committee (IDC) to use its current development assistance effectiveness inquiry to critically examine the government’s goal of using UK  assistance to deliver mutual prosperity.

BOND argues that the goal of ensuring UK development assistance delivers win-wins for the UK  and low-income countries' national economic interests has resulted in development assistance being redirected away from lower-income countries towards middle-income countries. It also notes that there is scant evidence as to whether the policy has actually benefitted people in the UK and those in low-income countries.

Bond also calls on the parliamentary review to pay attention specifically to ensuring aid transparency, maintaining relevant development expertise, and ensuring independent oversight and accountability of the UK development assistance program.

News article - BOND

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Development think tank calls on UK government to integrate global health into upcoming review on defense, foreign, and development policy

The international development think-tank, the Centre for Global Development (CGD), has called for the UK government to ensure that the UK's global health capabilities are fully taken into account when undertaking its integrated review of the UK’s foreign, development, and defense policy.

CGD notes that previous UK government reviews, like the 2010 National Security Capability Review failed to sufficiently take account of the UK’s global health capabilities. CGD argues that the current integrated review offers a unique opportunity to set out how the UK’s world-leading capabilities on public health research and innovation and public health delivery and education can be fully utilized as part of a Global Britain. CGD offers three areas where UK global health capabilities could be exploited:

  • Global security through UK research and development work on antimicrobial resistance, pandemics, and bioterrorism; 
  • Global Health Diplomacy through knowledge-sharing, ODA, and health-friendly migration and trade policies; and
  • Global health system strengthening through supporting universal health coverage and affordable access for all.

Report - Centre for Global Development

As head of UK's DFID resigns post, civil society nervously awaits signal of department's future

The top civil servant at the UK's Department for International Development’s (DFID), Matthew Rycroft, has left his post as Permanent Secretary of the department to join the UK’s Home Office. Nick Dyer, DFID's Director of Economic Development and International has taken on the role of acting permanent secretary on a temporary basis as a recruitment process is carried out.

There has been a mixed response to the announcement from UK civil society, with some thanking Rycroft for the energy and stability he brought to his role. Others, however, have been more critical of his performance noting that he often failed to listen to those below him.

UK civil society wais nervously to hear who the new appointment will be. There are concerns that the new appointee could be a former official from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and that this might signal a further step in a potential merger between the two departments. 

News article - Devex

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UK government rewrites 2020 budget with broad-ranging stimulus package to support UK economy through COVID-19; analysts predict recession

Just days after announcing the new government’s 2020 budget, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced a significant new stimulus package to support the UK economy in the face of COVID-19 pandemic, comprised of government-backed loans, grants, and company tax cuts to support the UK economy. The package, effectively rewrites the 2020 budget, expanding the UK fiscal deficit.

As part of the package the UK government has announced it will:

  • Pay 80% of the wages of workers unable to do their jobs due to new social distancing restrictions (with a cap of £2,500 thousand per month or US$3,629 thousand). It is estimated this will cost the UK government £10 billion (US$13 million); 
  • Provide £30.0 billion (US$39.2 billion) in tax relief for companies; 
  • Provide $330.0 billion (US$431.6 billion) in government-backed loans for companies; and
  • Increase welfare payments and statutory sick pay.  

Sunak has announced that the package, far more broad-ranging than the initial £12.0 billion (US$15.7 billion) announced in the 2020 budget on March 13, 2020, will be financed through extra borrowing.

Financial analysts estimate that the current package is likely to cost the UK government up to £79.0 billion (US$103.3 billion) in public spending, throwing doubt on 2020 budget plans for increased public spending. Analysts predict that the UK fiscal deficit which is currently at 2% of GDP will rise to 10% of GDP and that a recession looms, as growth falters. 

News article - The Guardian

News article - Bloomberg

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UK parliamentary committee launches inquiry into development assistance effectiveness

The newly elected International Development Select Committee (IDC) of the UK parliament has launched an inquiry into the effectiveness of UK development assistance.  The inquiry will inform the Government’s ongoing integrated review of foreign, defense, security, and development policy. The timetable of the IDC review is short; written and oral submissions are being collected until the end of April and the final report will be published in June of 2020.

The inquiry will assess:

  1. How UK official development assistance (ODA) is defined and administered;
  2. How other donors define and administer ODA; 
  3. The effectiveness of assistance allocated by the Department for International Development (DFID) compared to assistance allocated by other UK government departments;
  4. The definition of national interest and what weight it should be given in development co-operation; and
  5. The accountability of the systems and structures used to administer UK ODA.

News article - Devex

United Kingdom

UK government presents 2020 budget, including additional funding for research and development and Coronavirus response

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presented the UK’s 2020 budget on March 11th. The budget sought to serve a dual purpose: fulfill the government's manifesto promise of increased funding for public services; and respond to the immediate challenges presented by the Coronavirus crisis.  

According to the Institue for Fiscal Studies, the budget will increase the government's real spending by 9% between 2019-20 and 2023-24, meaning that public spending as a proportion of national income will rise to 41% by 2023-24. Additional government spending will largely be funded by increases in government borrowing. The budget is in line with the government’s own fiscal rules, based on forecasts from the Office of Budget Statistics (OBR). The OBR projected that the UK economy would grow by 1.1% in 2020, 1.8% in 2021 and 1.5% in 2022. However, these projections were undertaken before the full scale of the Coronavirus pandemic was anticipated and therefore are likely to be over-optimistic. Sunak has indicated that the government is considering relaxing the fiscal rules. 

Announcements in the budget included an additional £22 billion (US$28.8 billion) a year for research and development by 2024-25, increasing direct government support for R&D to 0.8% of GDP. New funding mechanisms for public R&D will be outlined in the coming months. In response to the Coronavirus crisis, the government set aside an additional £12 billion (US$15.7 billion) for public services and businesses. 

The UK Treasury is now undertaking a Comprehensive Spending Review (CRS) to define individual government departments' annual budgets for the next three years. This will be completed by July 2020 and will cover all departments including the Department for International Development.

UK Government – Budget 2020

News article - Institute for Government, The Guardian, Institue for Fiscal Studies


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UK government to fund economic relief measures for low income countries facing major COVID-19 disruptions

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced £150 million (US$196.2 billion) in additional development assistance for the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) as part of the UK's 2020 budget.

The fund is designed to help low-income countries with the short-term economic disruption caused by Covid-19. It will provide funding to low-income countries that are experiencing a sudden decrease in national income or falling government revenues as a result of the pandemic.

The UK has historically been one of the largest funders to the CCRT, which successfully helped Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea respond to the Ebola crisis in 2015.

Press release - UK government

United Kingdom Global health