The UK Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the Commonwealth and Development, Dominic Raab, announced on April 22, 2021, that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will be responsible for delivering £8.1 billion (US$10.9 billion) of official development assistance (ODA) in 2021-2022, which is a reduction of 23% based on the UK’s 2020 provisional ODA figures.
Other government departments will be responsible for an additional £1.8 billion (US$2.4 billion), as announced in January, making the total UK ODA budget £9.9 billion (US$13.3 billion) in 2021-2022.
Raab also provided headline budget figures for key thematic priorities for the FCDO. The FCDO has allocated:
- £534 million (US$729 million) for climate and biodiversity and £941 million (US$1.2 billion) in 2021-2022 will be counted towards meeting the UK’s International Climate Finance commitment of providing £11.6 billion (US$15.6 billion) over the next five years;
- £1.3 billion (US$1.7 billion) for global health and COVID-19 – it is assumed that this is bilateral spending, but it is not entirely clear with the text noting a focus on COVAX (the global vaccine initiative), the World Health Organization, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and it also specifies bilateral spending via individual countries;
- £400 million (US$537 million) for girls’ education to be invested directly in over 25 countries, helping to achieve the global target of getting 40 million girls into education systems – Raab noted that the UK will generously replenish the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) (the UK is co-hosting the GPE replenishment with Kenya this summer), but refused to reveal the exact UK commitment;
- £906 million (US$1.2 billion) for humanitarian preparedness and response, which will include a £30 million (US$40 million) crisis reserve fund;
- £251 million (US$337 million) in research and development across the UK's priority areas and a further £38 million (US$52 million) targeted directly at science, technology, and innovations;
- £419 million (US$562 million) in support of open societies and conflict resolution;
- £491 million (US$659 million) on economic development and trade;
- £3.1 billion (US$4.2 billion) will be provided as multilateral core contributions to key global funds and development banks, including keeping the UK’s pledge to be the top donor to the World Bank’s low-income lending arm (the International Development Association), and this bucket also includes funding to key bodies such as the British Council and the FCDO; and
- Half of its bilateral ODA will go to Africa (with Raab noting that there will be a major tilt towards East Africa), and one-third of the bilateral budget will go to the Indo-Pacific region and South Asia, while funding to China will be cut by 90% and fall to £900,000 (US$1 million).
Many parliamentarians and civil society organizations criticized the government for a lack of clarity on where the cuts had actually been made and how spending would be affected beyond the broad thematic areas. The way the data had been presented made comparisons with 2020 and 2019 ODA spending extremely difficult. Commentators were also disappointed that there was no country budget level data announced, beyond China. Raab noted that country budget allocations were in the process of being decided and further information would be released once the decisions had been taken.
A joint statement made by numerous UK NGOs condemns the announcement as a "tragic blow" for the world’s poorest.