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UK government outlines development assistance priorities to Parliament

At the parliamentary committee on international development, the UK secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, highlighted his government’s four broad priorities for development assistance:

  1. Tackling climate change and protecting biodiversity;
  2. Driving economic development;
  3. Supporting girls' education; and
  4. Ensuring an end to preventable deaths of mothers, babies, and children by 2030.

When pressed by the committee on what would be deprioritized, Sharma stated that no decisions had been made ahead of the government spending review and that with a growing development assistance budget, there may not be any cuts to other spending item areas needed. Sharma said ensuring that UK development assistance retains its primary objective of alleviating poverty and delivering value for money for British taxpayers is a priority.

Sharma gave reassurances to the committee that the government would maintain its commitment to spend 0.7% of its gross national income on official development assistance. He also gave his personal support for maintaining an independent department for international development, noting that he had seen the high-standing and extensive influence of the department around the world.

On Brexit, Sharma noted that his department was already planning how the UK could deploy any additional funding as a result of a no-deal exit including expanding the UK's bilateral portfolio. Sharma was keen to stress that the government aims to maintain a constructive relationship with European partners.

Video - Secretary of State parliamentary evidence session

UK conditions contributions to World Bank's IDA on stronger efforts on climate, gender, poverty

The UK government has made the size of its future contribution to the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA), the Bank's concessional loan facility for countries in financial difficulty, conditional on the institution doing more to channel money into tackling the climate crisis, improving gender equality, tackling fragility and ensuring vulnerable countries can pay their debts. Speaking at the World Bank and IMF’s Annual Meetings, the UK secretary of state, Alok Sharma, noted that as the single biggest donor to IDA, the UK government would seek to leverage its financial contribution to the forthcoming nineteenth replenishment round.  

Sir Suma Chakrabati, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and former high-ranking UK civil servant, has said that the UK could be doing more to influence the World Bank given the size of its financial contribution and called for more senior roles within the Bank to be given to British nationals.

Alok Sharma used the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings as an opportunity to have a productive meeting with the new World Bank President, David Malpass and to meet with the Bank’s infrastructure team.  The UK permanent secretary to the Department of International Development, Matthew Ryecroft, also spoke at the  WB’s Global Health Security Roundtable on combating anti-microbial resistance and tackling pandemic threats.

News article - The Guardian

United Kingdom Global health

UK parliament accuses NGOs of lack progress on abuse safeguarding

A year on from the safeguarding summit hosted by the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) in response to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the development assistance sector, the parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) has accused charities of failing to deliver on the pledges they made. 

In a new report, the IDC highlighted that NGOs have not made enough progress on improving transparency to protect and support whistle-blowers of sexual abuse. They found that insufficient coordination was the main obstacle to progress and argue that DFID can do more to promote participation in cross-sectoral safeguarding forums. The UK government also released three new reports charting the progress it and other actors have made in improving safeguarding in the sector and the further steps that need to be taken. 

News article - The Guardian

Report - Iternational Development Committee 

Report - UK Government

Press release - DFID

United Kingdom

UK NGO Christian Aid closes offices as a result of Brexit

The UK charity, Christian Aid, has linked its decision to close a quarter of its country offices and cut back on programs partly to losses incurred as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

While the restructuring was part of a long-term plan, the charity noted that the cuts have been compounded by the falling value of the pound and general funding uncertainty as a result of Brexit.

News article - Devex

EU United Kingdom

UK government sets out vision for continental partnership at Financial Times Africa Summit

Andrew Stephenson, UK minister for Africa, set out the UK government’s new approach to partnering with Africa at the Financial Times Africa Summit in London on October 14, 2019. The approach is aimed at building mutually beneficially economic partnerships with African countries by:  

  • Accelerating long-term, sustainable, direct investment across Africa using the UK’s development finance institute (CDC) and its export agency (UK Export Finance);
  • Supporting African governments and regional organizations to build regulatory environments that facilitate trade; and
  • Investing in partnerships with key countries, by radically expanding the UK’s presence in Africa, opening up new diplomatic missions and bringing in trade experts and investment specialists.

Stephenson also spoke about the UK’s coming UK-Africa Investment Summit (to be held in London on January 20, 2020), which aims to contribute to this new approach by building UK-Africa commercial partnerships in infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and renewables. The Summit also aims to position the City of London as a global hub for capital and investment in Africa.

Press release - UK government

United Kingdom Agriculture

Outgoing chair of the UK Parliamentary Development Committee says he fears for future of UK development assistance

Stephen Twigg, the outgoing chair of the International Development Committee (the UK's parliamentary development assistance watchdog), has stated his fears about a potential decline in the poverty-focus of UK development assistance in a post-Brexit world.

In a recent interview with Devex, the online development news journal, Twigg argued that the UK trend towards a more isolationist domestic policy, coupled with the public's growing lack of trust in official institutions, is negatively impacting UK development assistance. Twigg noted that while he doubted the international commitment to deliver 0.7% of gross national income as official development assistance (ODA) would be scrapped entirely by the current UK government, he was worried that the government could dilute what counts as ODA and reduce the authority and power of the Department for International Development.

News article - Devex

United Kingdom

UK development minister commits to centering women and girls in development assistance initiatives

In a recent Huffington Post op-ed, the UK secretary of state for international development, Alok Sharma, committed to putting the transformation of girls' and women's lives at the center of all UK development assistance.

In acknowledgment of International Day of the Girl, Sharma emphasized the ways in which the UK is working to ensure girls get access to and remain involved in education systems, and that women and girls also have access to family planning methods and good healthcare. Sharma also noted that the UK has increased its support to the fight against curable diseases like malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS, given that AIDS remains the leading cause of death in women of reproductive age globally.

Op-ed - Huffington Post

Global Fund releases table showing total pledges by country

At its sixth replenishment conference in Lyon, France, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria raised a record-breaking US$14 billion in commitments from public and private donors, the largest amount of funding ever raised for a multilateral health organization. The Global Fund has since released a table showing the amounts pledged by each attendant.

Pledges at Global Fund Sixth Replenishment Conference - The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

UK government braces for £200 million in assistance contract guarantees over no-deal Brexit

The UK government could be liable to pay £200 million (US$257 million) to UK-based organizations as part of its commitment to guarantee existing European Union development assistance contracts in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to a source organizing the government’s scheme. This figure is substantially higher than the £90 million (US$115 million) estimated by the Department for International Development in March of 2019 to the UK Houses of Parliament.

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU at the end of the month, but parliament has legislated that Prime Minister Boris Johnson must ask for an extension until January 2020 if no deal has been found. Johnson insists, however, that he will honor the October 31, 2019 exit date.

News article - Devex

United Kingdom

New UK-Gates research partnership to tackle global food insecurity

The UK government has announced, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, £38 million (US$46 million) in additional development assistance to support research aimed at tackling global food insecurity. The Foundation will provide additional funding, which will support a series of projects by: 

  • Helping scientists to use biotechnologies to enhance the efficiency of crops; 

  • Supporting the West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) project to build up its evidence base around disease threats to cassava, an essential crop in West and Central Africa; 

  • Providing funding to support naturally occurring biological nitrogen fixation processes to deliver useful levels of nitrogen to cereals for smallholders in Africa and reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers. 

Press release - UK government