A letter signed by over 200 UK NGOs working in the development sector has been released, describing the announcement of roughly £5 billion in aid cuts as a “tragic blow for many of the world’s most marginalised people the UK once supported.”
“The government has not even spared countries ravaged by humanitarian crisis, disease, war, and poverty,” adds the letter, signed by Global Citizen, Save the Children, Oxfam, ONE, Christian Aid, Care International, and more.
“When other nations are stepping forward and bolstering their aid budgets, the UK has instead chosen to step back,” they added.
The criticism comes in the wake of the UK government’s statement that gives the first insight into how roughly £5 billion in aid cuts will fall across different areas of spending.
However, the statement, published by Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab on April 21, doesn’t give an explicit breakdown of which countries or development programmes will lose support and by how much.
Instead, it spells out how Raab’s department, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), plans to allocate its remaining £8.11 billion aid budget — which is roughly 80% of the UK aid budget for this year — to broad themed areas such as the climate, health, and girls' education.
By comparing the figures provided to earlier years, it’s possible to get a rough picture of how the axe falls, the charities have said.
Compared to the 2019-2020 budget, the 2021-2021 budget will see deep cuts to humanitarian support. An analysis by Bond, a network representing UK NGOs, sent to Global Citizen and reported in the Independent, estimates that this year’s allocation of £906 million towards humanitarian responses is a 41% cut on 2019’s allocation of £1.536 billion.
Meanwhile projects aimed at improving health and health care have been cut by 9% compared to 2019, Bond’s analysis shows, and there will be a 68% cut for schemes that fund conflict resolution and building open societies, from £1.4bn to £419m, over the two years.
An analysis by Save the Children found that the budget for girls' education for 2021 had been cut by a quarter compared to 2019, the Guardian reports.
WATCH: The UK has announced far-reaching aid cuts to some of the poorest countries in the world. What are they cutting and why does it matter? @bhanu_bhatnagar speaks to Public Affairs Adviser @awjrussell in our latest #SaveNewsBites#UKAidpic.twitter.com/YYUz1U2CY1— SavetheChildren News (@SaveUKNews) April 21, 2021
MPs in parliament have criticised the lack of more clarity on the budget. Andrew Mitchell, a Conservative MP and former Secretary for International Development said: “These words hide the most draconian cuts ever made by Britain and they affect many countries where Britain has a deep and abiding relationship.”
Meanwhile, Sarah Champion, a Labour MP and chair of the international development select committee which scrutinises FCDO spending, said: “Raab has snuck out a statement at the end of the day that details what they’re funding, not what they’re cutting.”
“People’s lives are directly impacted by these decisions and it is shocking that they still don’t have clarity they need,” she added.
Romilly Greenhill, the UK director of anti-poverty organisation the ONE Campaign, said in the open letter: “The cuts reveal a government which makes bold declarations about the importance of investing in girls' education and preventing future health crises, but takes a scythe to the very projects needed to deliver on these ambitions, all in the midst of a pandemic and the same year we’re due to host major summits on these issues."
Kevin Watkins, the chief executive of Save the Children, added: “These cuts will trim UK borrowing by a fraction, but devastate lives across many of the world’s poorest countries.”
The breakdown of the themed areas, and the amounts allocated to them, includes: £400 million for girls' education, £1.3 billion for global health, £534 million for climate change and biodiversity, £906 million for humanitarian preparedness and responses, £419 million for open societies and conflict, and £491 million for trade and economic development.