Economist editor argues UK should spend more on diplomacy than development in Africa

The editor-at-large of the Economist, Xan Smiley, has written an article for The Spectator, a current affairs magazine, arguing that the UK should increase its spending on diplomacy rather than development assistance to Africa in order to improve the UK’s influence over the continent.

Smiley, critical of the UK’s approach in the recent elections in Zimbabwe, laments the decline of effective UK diplomacy on the continent, citing the Foreign Office’s shrinking budget as a main factor. She notes that the Foreign Office's budget of £1.4 billion (US$1.9 billion) has shrunk more than 40 per cent since 2010, while Britain’s development budget stands at £13.4 billion (US$18.1 billion). Smiley calls for the Department for International Development (DFID) to be put more firmly under Foreign Office control in the future and makes the case for redirecting some of its budget to the Foreign office, noting that if just a tenth of the its budget was redirected toward diplomacy, it would double the Foreign Office’s budget.

Article - The Spectator 

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UK government announces £105 million package for Tanzania aimed at family planning, education, and legal services

The UK government has announced a new development-assistance package for Tanzania to improve family planning, education, and legal services. The package will provide £55 million (US$74 million) for family planning services with the aim of reaching around 800,000 women with modern, voluntary, and safe family-planning support and averting 6,200 maternal deaths. A further £42 million (US$57 million) will be provided to improve the education system, with a focus on improving the quality of primary and lower-secondary schools and getting more girls to continue on to secondary education. Finally, £8 million (US$11 million) will be provided to help improve Tanzania’s legal system in order to bolster its ability to tackle corruption.

Press release - UK government 

UK government launches its largest tax partnership program with Ethiopia

Penny Mordaunt, UK Secretary of State for International Development, has announced a new £35 million (US$47 million) tax partnership program with Ethiopia during a her recent visit to the country, with the aim of helping the country transition away from development assistance by mobilizing more domestic resources. The program represents the single largest tax program to date for the UK. It is aimed at transforming the tax system in order to generate more revenues so that Ethiopia can better finance its own public services and development. During her trip, Mordaunt also announced a £9 million (US$12 million) Civil Society Support program aimed at empowering Ethiopian citizens to hold their government to account, including the most vulnerable.

Press release - UK government

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UK Development minister signals willingness to break with international ODA rules

Penny Mordaunt, UK Secretary of State for International Development, has announced that the UK’s foreign-assistance budget will be able to fund disaster relief in the UK’s overseas territories in the future, signalling a break with international rules that prohibit the use of official development assistance (ODA) to countries that exceed a certain income level. “It is ridiculous that a country which had been flattened by natural disaster shouldn't qualify for aid as the day before it was doing quite well," Mordaunt said. "While we lobby to change those rules, we will not let them deter what we consider to be the right thing to do.”

The international rules for what governments can count as ODA within their budgets is set by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, of which the UK is a member. Past assistance to help overseas territories including Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands, which were devastated by Hurricane Irma, came from outside the UK’s budget for foreign assistance.

News articles - The Telegraph, The Daily MailThe Daily Express

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DFID agrees to strengthen its approach to governance following independent review

DFID has formally responded to the Independent Commission for Aid Impact’s recent review of its governance work in Nepal and Uganda by committing to improve its governance approach. While the review was predominately positive about DFID’s governance work, it did call for greater coherence of governance programming at the country level, more program flexibility, and greater evaluation. In response, DFID is updating its governance strategy, introducing more adaptive programming, and piloting a new approach to evaluation and learning.

Report - International Commission on Aid Impact

Formal Response - DFID

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UK Parliament slams response of NGOs to sexual abuse

The UK Parliament's International Development Committee (IDC) has published a damning report evaluating efforts of NGOs to address systemic failures that led to highly publicized sexual abuses in partner countries. The committee said NGOs have been aware of major problems going back 16 years, showing “complacency verging on complicity”. MPs are calling for the creation of an independent ombudsman to support victims of abuse and a global registry to prevent those who committed abuses from obtaining roles with other organizations.

News article - The Guardian 

Report - IDC

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UK's Global Disability Summit yields 170 commitments

The United Kingdom's first-ever Global Disability Summit on July 24, 2018 resulted in 170 commitments from governments, multilateral organizations, foundations, and others. Among the most noteworthy pledges were commitments to pass new laws aimed at addressing discrimination against people with disabilities, to fortify efforts around humanitarian crises, and to help them better access technologies to improve their lives. 

Press release - UK government

Comprehensive documentation of pledges - UK government

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UK’s first-ever strategy on bio-security puts tackling global health at its center

The UK government has published for the first time a cross-government Biological Security Strategy aimed at protecting the UK from the spread of infectious diseases, the rise of antimicrobial resistance, and deliberate biological attacks. DFID’s global health work lies at the heart of the strategy, with a commitment to strengthen the health systems of developing countries, improve disease surveillance at the national and international levels, and maintain investments in the research and development of new vaccines and drugs.

Strategy - UK government

News article - The Telegraph

UK to double assistance to Palestine to boost economy

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) has announced £38 million (US$51 million) over five years (2018-2023) to help develop the economies of Gaza and the West Bank in what it describes as an effort to promote peace between Palestine and Israel through greater economic cooperation. The assistance, which is expected to create hundreds of jobs, largely targets infrastructure, technical assistance, and capacity-building.    

Press release - DFID

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UK calls for action on disabilities as its global summit gets underway

The UK government is calling for concrete actions and commitments to addressing discrimination against people with disabilities as part of its first-ever Global Disability Summit in London July 24, 2018. Co-hosted with the Kenyan government and the International Disability Alliance (IDA), the summit includes the announcement of a UK program called UK Aid Connect, which will work with local organizations to support job placement for people with disabilities. The program will be led by the NGOs Sightsavers and Leonard Cheshire Disability. 

The UK is also using the opportunity to highlight ongoing activities aimed at improving the lives of people with disabilities. 

Press release - Department for International Development

Opening speech - DFID Secretary Penny Mordaunt

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