The Center for Global Development (CGD), a global development think-tank with an office in London, has published a new blog reflecting on the first anniversary of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCOD) following the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
The blog argues that some of the UK's core development strengths under DFID have been eroded as a result of the merger, highlighting that the FCDO is less poverty-focused, its commitment to development effectiveness is weaker, and its expertise has declined. CGD argues that these trends, coupled with the substantial budget cuts to the UK development assistance budget, threaten the UK’s development superpower status.
CGD argues that the purpose of UK development assistance has shifted as a result of the creation of FCDO and is now more concentrated on meeting UK national interests than addressing poverty. CGD recognizes that this shift began prior to the merger, but notes that the merger has accelerated the move away from poverty reduction.
On development effectiveness, CGD argues that while it is too early to empirically evaluate how the merger has impacted the quality of UK development assistance, CGD predicts that it will further decline, especially in the category of transparency. A recent review by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI), the UK’s independent development assistance watchdog, highlighted that the FCDO has been less transparent in its engagement with the ICAI than in prior years and the Chair of the UK parliamentary International Development Committee has criticized the UK government for a lack of clear information, particularly with regards to its spending plans.
Finally, on staffing CGD notes that when the merger happened, only 2 of the 7 initial appointments to the Management Board were former DFID officials. More recently, the FCDO has announced 20% cuts to its staffing costs, with most of the cuts likely to fall on staff managing development projects have been stopped due to cuts in the development assistance budget.