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Thursday, 21 October 2021
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Leading charities fear transparency will be lost following DFID and FCO merger

Action Aid responds

This week’s announcement to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will sabotage the UK’s ability to respond effectively to the biggest crisis we have faced in a century, at home and abroad. DFID’s hard-won reputation as a world leader in global development is based on long-standing expertise that is critical to tackling the Covid-19 crisis, as well as uplifting the rights of women and girls around the world.

Dismantling a well-functioning, expert government department amidst a national and global crisis will undermine hard-won gains in the area of women and girls’ rights, including girls’ education, freedom from violence and resilience in the face of the climate emergency.

DFID has consistently demonstrated excellent global leadership and has made a huge difference around the world, from responding to Ebola and malaria or providing water and sanitation, to tackling climate change and improving the rights of women and girls. The current pandemic must be tackled efficiently and expertly – if it is not addressed everywhere, it will have consequences everywhere, including in the UK.

By all independent markers, the FCO is not in a position to deliver transparent and accountable aid to the people who need it the most. Both the ICAI – the government’s own independent body to assess its aid spending – and the Aid Transparency Index, have consistently rated the FCO’s spend as low on transparency and effectiveness. Just last week, reflecting on the evidence to date, the International Development Committee restated the need for an independent DFID.

The rationale, therefore, for placing control of our aid under a Foreign Secretary and National Security Council, does not seem to be based in evidence but suggests an approach which securitises our aid and moves it away from poverty alleviation for those most in need. This threatens our ability to deliver value for money in the long term for the British taxpayer.

Further, the decision has been made without transparency, consultation or accountability. The government is failing to act according to the standards of transparency and accountability that have underscored Britain’s reputation as a global leader in both development and diplomacy.

This is not building a “Global Britain,” this is turning our backs on those struggling to survive. This is not who we are. The reality is that those living through poverty, climate change and disease – especially women and girls – will bear the brunt of this decision.

Humanity & Inclusion UK comments

We are deeply concerned about the implications that the government’s decision to merge DFID and the FCO will have on the lives of the millions of people with disabilities that DFID is currently supporting. DFID is a world leader on the inclusion of the most vulnerable and has taken incredible strides in particular on the inclusion of people with disabilities. The decision taken today puts at risk the enormous gains that DFID has achieved in leaving no-one behind.    

We are also concerned about the impact on people caught in the midst of conflict. “How can the UK continue to impartially support the most vulnerable people including those impacted by conflict if foreign interests such as the arms trade are tied to humanitarian ones?” says Aleema Shivji, Executive Director of Humanity & Inclusion UK. It is essential that UK aid is not instrumentalised nor integrated in any way in political, security or military agendas.  Humanitarian assistance must be based on the most urgent needs and in accordance with humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. 

This decision means thousands of fewer people with disabilities in conflicts and crises will access quality UK aid and the British taxpayer will get worse value for money. DFID has one of the highest transparency ratings for how it spends #UKAid. The FCO has one of the lowest. It is therefore crucial that DFID remains an independent department responsible for its own budget. Just last week Cross-Party MPs that form the Parliamentary International Development Committee said the same.  

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