The Centre for Global Development (CGD), a global development think-tank, has published a new blog setting out seven key steps the UK government should take in order to ensure its recently announced new 'super department' — the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office — maintains a strong commitment to development. On June 16, 2020, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the Department for International Development (DFID) would be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as part of a radical reorganization of UK foreign and development governance.
The CGD recommends:
- Refraining from cutting the development assistance budget in 2020: The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office should make it clear to the UK Treasury that the budget allocated to DFID a year ago should be retained. The UK's official development assistance (ODA) budget could face cuts as a result of the economic downturn, caused in part by COVID-19. The ODA budget is tied to the UK’s overall economic performance through the UK’s commitment to delivering 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) as ODA.
- Creating a directorate on global health security in the new department: The COVID-19 crisis highlighted the importance of global health security. The establishment of a new directorate could ensure that global health security remains a key pillar of UK development and foreign policy in the coming years.
- Ensuring parliamentary scrutiny via a cross-government committee on development assistance: In order to maintain scrutiny on the UK development budget, the government should establish a new cross-government committee on development assistance which would operate alongside a new Foreign Affairs and International Development Committee. The UK’s Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI), an operationally independent non-departmental public body, should also be retained. It is unclear as of yet what will happen to ICAI, though the Foreign Minister has indicated that reviewing the ODA budget will be a priority moving forward.
- Ensuring Cabinet representation on development with the appointment of a Chief Secretary for Development: This would promote better development policy and could help ensure coherence and quality across development spending.
- Retaining DFID's professional advisory cadre, chief technical advisors, and value for money architecture: The expertise within DFID is a major asset and the government should ensure that it is retained in the new department.
- Letting Her Majesty's Treasury lead in representing the UK within the Board of World Bank and regional development banks: This will help ensure coherence in the UK’s international finance approach, which is of particular importance to helping low-income countries with their economic recovery from COVID-19.
- Maintaining a strong focus on poverty: Rather than cutting funding to the world's poorest countries, the UK can reallocate some of the ODA that was previously channeled through the EU for EU neighborhood countries for security support to countries like those in the Balkans and Ukraine (which Prime Minster Boris Johnson signaled his intention to provide).