More than 100 charities of all sizes from across the UK are joining together to call on the UK government to not make planned changes to the way UK aid funding is spent.
The issue lies in a reported merger of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), as part of a wide-spread Whitehall shake-up following the Conservative election victory.
But charities have united with senior Conservatives to urge Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep DfID as a separate department and make sure that the Secretary of State for International Development keeps oversight of how the UK’s aid funding is spent.
It’s part of British law that the UK will spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) every year on supporting the world’s most vulnerable people — which is really something to be proud of.
Meanwhile, the Conservative party manifesto ahead of last week’s election said the party would “proudly maintain” the 0.7% pledge.
But there is a growing problem with how UK aid funding is being spent.
DfID is one of the best spenders of aid money in the world for accountability and transparency, which means that they’re the department to make sure aid funding is always being spent towards the aim of poverty alleviation.
But around 30% of the aid budget is now being spent outside of DfID, by other departments and cross-government funds — including the FCO, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, and the Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF).
That means that less UK aid money is reaching the world’s poorest people, according to a recent report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.
The National Audit Office has also found that the lack of transparency and accountability in other government departments (that aren’t DfID) means there’s uncertainty about whether or not UK aid is always being used most effectively.
Meanwhile, Johnson has previously said the UK aid budget should be spent “more in line with Britain’s political, commercial, and diplomatic interests” — including backing a report last year calling for DfID and the Foreign Office to be merged.
The controversial report sparked concern among the aid sector at the time, by calling for aid funding — which should be spent on ending and alleviating poverty — to instead be diverted to the Ministry of Defence and even the BBC World Service, which the report said should be funded “entirely from the overseas aid budget.”
So charities from all across the UK are trying to stop the merger happening, to keep DfID as a separate department, and to ensure that UK aid is always being spent with a focus on supporting the world’s poorest people.
“Merging DfID with the FCO would risk dismantling the UK’s leadership on international development and humanitarian aid,” say the charities, including Global Citizen, in a statement.
“It suggests we are turning our backs on the world’s poorest people, as well as some of the greatest global challenges of our time: extreme poverty, climate change, and conflict,” the statement continues. “UK aid risks becoming a vehicle for UK foreign policy, commercial and political objectives, when it first and foremost should be invested to alleviate poverty.”
As well as Global Citizen, organisations signing onto the statement include: World Vision UK, ActionAid UK, Oxfam GB, STOPAIDS, Women for Women International UK, War on Want, Amref Health Africa UK, World Jewish Relief, Islamic Relief UK, Tearfund, VSO, the Kambia Appeal, TackleAfrica, and Mothers Union.
You can help us stop this merger happening, by taking action with us here to urge Boris Johnson to keep an independent DfID and help ensure that UK aid is always reaching the people who need it most.