UK Foreign Minister provides little detail to UK Parliament on where assistance cuts will fall; NGOs and parliamentarians worry UK will backtrack on gender equality promises

The UK Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, appeared before the UK parliamentary International Development Committee on January 27, 2021. Raab was questioned, among other things, on which development programs will be cut under the government's proposed decrease in the UK development assistance budget from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% in 2021.  

Raab provided little detail in his response, only noting that the UK will not be "salami-slicing" budgets, where all programs face would small cuts, but will instead focus on protecting programs within the seven priority areas outlined by the government. These areas are: climate change and biodiversity; COVID-19 and global health security; girls' education; science, research, and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; trade and economic development; and humanitarian preparedness and response.

Raab denied the figures used within a recent article produced by The Guardian newspaper last week, that noted that UK Ambassadors had been tasked with finding between 50 -70% of cuts to apply to the bilateral development programs in their respective countries.

UK NGOs have been highly critical of the lack of transparency and consultation around how decisions will be taken to reduce the UK’s development budget. The Centre for Global Development, a global think-tank based in London, noted that it took four years for the UK development budget to be scaled up from 0.5% of GNI to 0.7% but will be cut in just four months, highlighting concerns around ensuring value for money when reducing the budget. Raab confirmed when questioned that the government does not have a clear threshold to determine when the UK will go back to 0.7%, but that the decision will rest on multiple factors.

Raab also evaded giving a clear response when asked whether the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will embed the former Department for International Development’s Strategic Vision on Gender Equality, instead noting only that girls’ education and preventing sexual violence will remain priorities. This has sparked concern amongst NGOs and parliamentarians that the UK may backtrack on its holistic approach to addressing gender equality.

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