Policy Updates

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UK development assistance budget to be cut in 2020

The current UK Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, confirmed to parliamentarians on July 6 that the UK development assistance budget will be cut in 2020 and most likely also in 2021. Trevelyan, speaking at a session of the parliamentary International Development Committee, noted that she could not confirm the exact figure of the cut, but that it could be as much as £2.0 billion (US$2.5 billion).

Trevelyan said the Department for International Development (DFID) is conducting an in-depth review of where these cuts should fall and that no final decisions have been made; however, even though no decisions have been taken, some sectors are already confirmed to be of higher priority: According to Trevelyan humanitarian work is at the "top of the list" followed by healthcare (including COVID-19 and preventable diseases). She also highlighted funding for girls’ education and climate change would be protected. It was confirmed that cuts could happen across the multilateral portfolio and could impact funding to the UK’s development finance institution, the CCD Group.

News article - Devex

Twitter - Foreign Affairs Committee

Video - UK Parliament

UK Development Finance Institution to stop funding oil and coal by 2050

On July 2, the UK’s Development Finance Institute, the CDC Group, unveiled its new climate strategy. The strategy's headline commitment is to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. It prohibits the CDC from funding oil and gas either directly or via third-parties but may allow some funding to gas infrastructure in exceptional circumstances. According to the strategy, the Group will spend 30% of its portfolio in 2021 on climate finance investments.

In 2019, the CDC Group made commitments totaling £1.7 billion (US$2.1 billion). The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) is the sole shareholder.

News article - Devex

Strategy - CDC

UK provides additional humanitarian funding to Palestine and Syria

The UK government has confirmed that it will be providing £36 million (US$44 million) in additional funding for healthcare and education for Palestinians via the UN Relief and Works Agency.

The UK government has also pledged a further £300 million (US$369 million) to address the crisis in Syria, bringing its total support for this crisis to over £3.3 billion (US$4.1 billion) since 2012. The funding will provide life-saving support to Syrians affected by the on-going conflict and will focus on supporting vulnerable Syrians with education, healthcare, food, and economic recovery.

Press Release - UK Government (Palestine)

Press Release - UK Government (Syria)

Donor Tracker to host webinar on donors’ international COVID-19 response following Global Goal Summit pledges

On July 2, 2020, from 16:00-17:00 (CEST), Donor Tracker will host a second webinar on donor countries’ international COVID-19 responses following the Global Goal Summit. The Summit, held on June 27, raised US$6.9 billion for developing globally accessible COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments.

The Donor Tracker's expert team will analyze the Summit's outcomes and discuss implications for donor countries’ further international responses to the pandemic.

Registration - Zoom 

UK International Development Minister defends merger between DFID and FCO

The UK’s Secretary for State for International Development, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has written an article in the Guardian defending her government’s decision to merge the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Trevelyan claims that the merger will not diminish UK global leadership on development; she notes the Prime Minister’s commitment to maintain poverty reduction at the heart of the new department’s mission and to continue to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA).  

Trevelyan goes on to say that the government has an "ambitious vision for the future of the UK as an active, internationalist, problem-solving and burden-sharing nation". As an example of its leadership, she cites the UK’s recent hosting of the Global Vaccine Summit 2020. Trevelyan wants humanitarian assistance to be central to the new department's mandate and to establish a stronger role for the UK military in the country's humanitarian efforts as a means of further strengthening the UK’s delivery of humanitarian assistance.

News article – The Guardian

In poll, two thirds of conservative UK voters say UK has no responsibility to alleviate poverty

Conservative Progress, a UK-based think-tank, has undertaken a poll of 2,000 conservative party voters and found that 9 out of 10 want the government to drop its commitment to provide 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance. 55% of those polled said they wanted the commitment dropped completely, while 37% said the commitment should be reduced.

In addition, two-thirds of the polled voters do not think the UK has a responsibility to alleviate poverty in poor countries. The overwhelming majority (86%) also agree with the Prime Minister’s recent decision to merge the Department of International Development (DFID) in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Almost half the people polled live in seats in the north of England, the Midlands and Wales, which were recently won by the Conservatives, but are traditionally Labour party supporting areas.

News article – The Express

With merger of Department for International Development into Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK faces major transparency challenge

The UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was ranked as one of the most transparent donors in the world in the recently published 2020 Aid Transparency Index. According to the Index, DFID was in ninth place out of 47 donors with a 'very good' rating.

In contrast, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which in September will be responsible for UK development assistance, was found to be far less transparent. It came in at thirty-eighth place, with a transparency rating of 'fair'.

The findings of the report will cause a transparency challenge for the UK government, following the announcement by the UK Prime Minister of the government's plan to close DFID and merge it into the FCO. The findings also reveal that the UK government has failed to meet its own target of ensuring all ODA-disbursing departments in the UK are rated as 'good' or 'very good'.

News article – Devex

Centre for Global Development gives recommendations to UK’s new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office on maintaining global leadership in development

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).

Blog post - CGD

Three former Prime Ministers join growing chorus condemning UK decision to close Department for International Development

The UK development sector is still reeling after the sudden announcement by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on June 16, 2020, that the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) will be fully merged into the Foreign Commonwealth Office.

As the shock of the announcement subsidies, there is a growing clamor of critical voices hailing the decision as a terrible mistake. Three former-UK Prime Ministers — Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and David Cameron — have all publicly denounced the merger as short-sighted and detrimental to UK’s global influence and reach. The UK International Development Select Committee has signaled that the move is not constructive, citing evidence from a new report (released just prior to the Prime Minister's announcement), which highlighted the vital importance of an independent DFID to the UK’s global leadership on development. BOND, the UK network representing non-governmental organizations in the development sector, published a blog predicting the merger's negative impact on the world’s poor. Newspapers as diverse as the Financial Times and The Guardian have also been critical. The Guardian reported that staff morale within DFID is at an all-time low: Many are upset and angered by the sudden announcement and concerned about the future of their jobs.

Despite the rush of criticism, there have also been some who welcome the move. James Cowan, the Chief Executive Officer of the UK demining organization, the Halo Trust, claims that the merger will allow the government to take a more coordinated approach to UK foreign and development policy. Dr. Mukesh Kapila, the former head of the conflict and humanitarian affairs within DFID, says the move is long overdue.

Blog post - BOND

News article - The Guardian

News article - The Guardian

Analysis of ODA spending allocations by UK’s Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office suggests merger will shift UK's development priorities

A new report by Development Initiatives, an international development data organization based in the UK, has warned that the planned merger of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) could shift the focus of the UK's official development assistance (ODA) away from poverty, gender, and fragile states. It also raises concerns about declining transparency as a result of the merger.

The report draws on data analysis of ODA spending allocation over the last five years by the FCO and DFID to examine how a greater alignment of UK ODA spending with foreign policy objectives might impact on future UK ODA allocations.

The analysis revealed stark differences in spending patterns across the two departments:

  • The FCO allocated 78% of its ODA to middle-income countries between 2014-2018 and 74% of its ODA over the to countries where less than 5% of the population lived in extreme poverty. In stark contrast, DFID allocated 61% of its ODA to countries where over 20% of the population live in extreme poverty, and over half of its ODA to low-income and least developed countries.
  • The FCO allocated less than half of its ODA (41%) to fragile states. In contrast, 88% of DFID ODA went to fragile states.
  • The FCO does not report on how much of its ODA is allocated to supporting gender equality. In contrast, gender equality is an important priority for DFID with over 61% of its ODA going to projects focused on gender equality in 2018.
  • In 2020 an assessment by Publish What You Fund, an independent assessor of development assistance transparency, deemed the FCO's transparency ‘fair’, while DFID ranked among the most transparent donors in the EU and third most transparent in the world.  

The report recommends that the UK legislation which requires UK ODA to be allocated for poverty reduction and gender equality, which currently only applies to DFID and not to other spending departments, be applied to all ODA spending by all departments. The report also recommends maintaining DFID expertise within the new department and establishing a new cross-government ODA committee.

Report – Development Initiatives

UK Foreign Secretary commits to ensuring ODA retains strong focus on poor and fragile countries, but key oversight mechanisms in jeopardy

The UK's Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has committed to parliamentarians that the government will ensure that the share of the UK’s ODA spent on poor and conflict-affected countries is maintained by the new department for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs (FCDO). The UK spends more than 50% of its ODA in fragile states and over half in low-income countries.

Last week, Raab was appointed by the Prime Minister to head the new FCDO, after the announcement was made that the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) would be merged into the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. According to the government's plan, the merger will take place over the summer and the new department will be up and running in September 2020.

Raab, however, failed to answer questions from parliamentarians regarding whether the UK's development assistance watchdog (the Independent Commission on Aid Impact, ICAI), will be preserved despite the merger. Raab only said that scrutiny of the ODA budget will be maintained if not increased under the FCDO. Many parliamentarians are concerned about the future of ODA oversight, especially since Raab has already written to the Chair of the UK parliamentary body (the International Development Select Committee), to ask that the Committee be closed down to enable the Foreign Affairs Committee to take up scrutiny of development assistance.

Parliamentarians have yet to vote on the issue. A cross-party letter from more than 70 members of the UK Parliament has called for the International Development Select Committee to be kept alongside the IACI to ensure maximum oversight.

News article - Devex

News article - The Guardian

In major blow to independent development assistance policy, UK's Department for International Development is merged into Foreign and Commonwealth Office

On June 16, 2020, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced that the Department for International Development (DFID) will be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to create a new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Johnson said the merger was needed given the intensely competitive global geopolitical situation, citing the rising power of China in particular. He claimed that the new organization will enable the UK to fully unite its development assistance with its diplomacy efforts to bolster the UK's global foreign policy efforts.

The merger has been in the cards for some time; the Prime Minister publicly stated his support for the idea when he was Foreign Minister last year but the June 16 announcement has nonetheless taken many by surprise especially since it comes in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The decision was heralded as part of the government's ongoing integrated review of its foreign, defense, and development policy which has officially been put on pause due to COVID-19. 

In the past, NGOs in the development space have raised concerns that a merger could result in a less poverty-focused UK development program. These concerns will be heightened now, given that part of Johnson's explicitly stated rationale for the merger is the mismatch between how the UK currently directs its development assistance and UK diplomacy, foreign policy, and security goals. Johnson noted that DFID's budget is four times the budget for the FCO; DFID spends as much on assistance to Zambia as it does to Ukraine — even though Johnson claims the latter is vital for European security — and spends ten times as much on development in Tanzania than in six countries in the Western Balkans — countries which Johnson cited as vulnerable to Russian interventions.

Under the merger, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, will have the final say on what countries will receive UK development assistance and which will stop receiving it. A single UK strategy for each country will be overseen by the UK's National Security Council, which is chaired by the Prime Minister. In-country, all strategies will lead UK work at the country level and be implemented by UK Ambassadors.

The merger comes just one week after the UK cross-party parliamentary committee on international development called for the UK government to retain an independent DFID with a cabinet-level representative. The parliamentary committee’s interim report assessing UK development assistance effectiveness noted that a merger between DFID and the FCO had the potential to reduce the accountability of UK Official Development Assistance (ODA) and dilute the focus of UK ODA away from poverty reduction.

Press Release - UK Prime Minister's Speech to Parliament on DFID

News article - BBC

News article - The Guardian

News article - The Independent

New Coalition for the Sahel must be guided by humanitarian principles, says UK Minister for Africa

The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, has called on the new Coalition for the Sahel, of which the UK is a member, to adopt a strong focus on tackling the drivers of instability in the region and to ensure humanitarian principles guide all of the coalition’s work.

The Coalition is a new international initiative supporting security, political, and development efforts in Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. Members of the coalition include all the governments of the region, France, and the EU.  

Speaking at the coalition's international meeting on June 12, 2020, Duddridge praised the creation of the initiative and called for it to work across three key areas:

  1. Tackling the drivers of instability;
  2. Providing a joint vision for addressing instability in the region; and
  3. Working to ensure that human rights and humanitarian principles are integrated into all coalition efforts and are included in the terms of reference for the initiative.

The UK is the third-largest humanitarian donor to the region and has provided over £500 million (US$615 million) in bilateral development and humanitarian assistance since 2015.

Press release – UK government

UK announces US$79 million in development assistance to Colombia for climate efforts

On World Environment Day, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced that it will provide £64 million (US$79 million) in development assistance to Colombia — which is home to almost 10% of the world’s biodiversity — to support rainforest preservation and sustainable, rural livelihoods.

This funding comes from the UK’s International Climate Finance Fund (UK IFC), which is a pool of funding dedicated to supporting climate change. This financing builds on the £173 million (US$213 million) of development assistance that has already been provided to Colombia through the UK ICF program. The UK government has committed to doubling its climate financing in the next couple of years.

News article - inews

Anticipating budget cuts, UK's DFID puts new funding decisions on hold

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) has informed all of its suppliers that it is putting some of its new funding decisions on hold in light of anticipated cuts to the development budget brought on by the economic recession likely to hit the UK as a result of COVID-19.

The UK’s development assistance budget is particularly vulnerable to a UK wide economic recession, as the country's Official Development Assistance (ODA) is tied to the performance of the UK's economy. The government is committed to delivering 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) as ODA.

DFID is keen to prioritize life-saving assistance and funding that supports measures to address COVID-19 and is working on a number of scenarios for how to manage this prioritization and the inevitable cuts that will follow. DFID will set out its plans out in more detail in the coming weeks.

News article - Devex

UK's new Shadow International Development Minister outlines Labour Party's development priorites

The Labour Party’s recently appointed Shadow International Development Secretary, Preet Gil, has set out the party’s new vision for international development. Gil has called for a strong, independent Department for International Development (DFID) that can function as a global leader in tackling poverty and inequality. While the Labour party’s immediate priority would be to focus some of the UK’s ODA budget on addressing COVID-19, Gil argued that the ODA budget must also be used to tackle long-standing inequalities related to gender, climate, healthcare, water and sanitation, and nutrition.

Gil also identified solidarity as a guiding principle of Labour’s approach to international development. In practice, this means forging partnerships with a wide variety of actors around the world (including faith groups, charities, academics, trade unions, co-operatives, movements, and businesses) and ensuring that the UK's development assistance prioritizes the inclusion and amplification of excluded or marginalized voices.

Op-ed - LabourList

UK pledges US$2 billion at Gavi’s Global Vaccine Summit: 44% increase from 2015 pledge

At the Global Vaccine Summit, convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in London on June 4, 2020, the UK pledged £1.7 billion (US$2 billion) for the period of 2021-2025. This represents a 44% increase from the UK’s previous pledge of US$1.3 billion to Gavi for 2016-2020.

The UK was represented at the event by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Given that the UK was hosting the virtual summit, Johnson opened the event, identifying Gavi as a key institution in the fight against COVID-19. He called on the global community to unite in the fight against this pandemic.

Press release - UK Government

At Gavi's Global Vaccine Summit, world leaders exceed funding target with historic US$8.8 billion

Representatives of 52 countries, including 35 heads of state, joined the June 5, 2020, Global Vaccine Summit, convened by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to raise a total of US$8.8 billion in financing for childhood immunizations and vaccine infrastructure. World leaders, meeting with representatives of 12 organizations and corporations for the London-based pledging moment, hoped to reach a US$7.4 billion funding target. By the time the pledging ended, the target had been overshot by US$1.4 billion.

Against the backdrop of a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and laid waste to the global economy, attendees of the summit spoke passionately about the need for global cooperation and solidarity in ensuring that a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, once developed, be accessible to all.

The US$8.8 billion will support Gavi's campaign to vaccinate 300 million children in the world's poorest countries against diseases including diphtheria, polio, and measles by 2025. Disruptions to Gavi's regular immunization activities, caused by COVID-19, have endangered an estimated 80 million children under one year old. The funding will also bolster Gavi's efforts in strengthening health systems in low-income states which have been ravaged by the pandemic and will help build out infrastructure to support the eventual provision of a vaccine against the virus.

A further US$567 million was also raised for 'Gavi Advance Market Commitment for COVID-19 Vaccines' (Gavi Covax AMC), a new financing instrument designed to provide access to the eventual COVID-19 vaccine specifically in low- and middle-income countries.

“To beat the COVID-19 pandemic, the world needs more than breakthrough science. It needs breakthrough generosity,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “...When COVID-19 vaccines are ready, this funding and global coordination will ensure that people all over the world will be able to access them.”

Press release - Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance

UK pledges additional US$199 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen

Ahead of the UN’s virtual High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen on June 2, 2020, the UK Foreign Minister, Dominic Raab, announced an additional £160 (US$199 million) in humanitarian assistance to the country. The funds are expected finance training of 12,000 healthcare workers on how to operate safely in a COVID-19 environment and the operation of nearly 4,000 health centers.  

With the addition of this new funding, the UK’s development assistance to Yemen now totals £970 million (US$1.2 billion) since the conflict began.  

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is currently the largest in the world, with more than 24 million people (over 80% of the population) vulnerable and requiring help. The new funding will mean the UK has provided a total of £970 million (US$1.2 billion) in development assistance to the country since the conflict began.  

Press release – UK government  

COVID-19 represents opportunity to rethink global health approaches, says UK think-tank

The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a UK based research and think-tank, has called for international donors to use COVID-19 as an opportunity to adopt a new approach to addressing global health. In a recent blog post, ODI experts outline five key global health issues for donors to focus on:

  1. Installing universal healthcare: COVID-19 has revealed the dangers of excluding people’s access to healthcare. The fallout from COVID-19 could offer an opportunity for the implementation of universal healthcare systems. One ODI study suggests that in 71% of cases (based on 49 countries studied) governments' decision to install a universal healthcare system followed a crisis.
  2. Maintaining a focus on primary healthcare systems: COVID-19  poses a real risk that resources will be diverted away from primary healthcare as they are focused on hospitals and intensive care units. When Ebola hit West Africa the diversion of resources toward the outbreak may have resulted in a doubling of deaths from measles, malaria, HIV/AIDS,  and tuberculosis.
  3. Focusing on mental health: The negative impacts of the crisis on people’s mental health has drawn attention to the issue. This focus needs to be maintained in the post-crisis period, especially in low-income countries, as mental health issues interact with social and political factors of exclusion and vulnerability.
  4. Learning lessons on gender and discrimination from HIV/AIDS and Ebola: There are lessons to be learned from past outbreaks about gender-based discrimination. Special attention needs to be paid to women who make up the majority of healthcare workers and carers and are therefore at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.
  5. Prioritizing equitable access to water and sanitation: COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of adequate water and sanitation and its role in enhancing public health. While more than two-thirds of countries have water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) policies in place, less than 40% consistently finance or monitor these policies. While donors have made progress in this area, many marginalized and vulnerable groups still lack access. Their needs must be prioritized moving forward.

Blog – ODI