It led to 188 aid and development leaders from nonprofit organisations and think tanks across the country writing an urgent letter to the prime minister, pleading with him to reconsider.
And a landmark new report from a cross-party group of MPs has now confirmed what most expected: the merger will be extremely expensive, diminish Britain’s status as a global “superpower,” and hurt the world’s poorest people most.
The findings were published on July 16 by the International Development Committee (IDC) — a group of MPs that scrutinise the spending of UK aid by DfID and other government departments.
It called the merger “rushed and impulsive”, lacking any kind of consultation, and demanded that the decision be comprehensively explained to parliament with evidence.
The report also urged clarification on how the new Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) will work towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals — a set of 17 objectives agreed by Britain and all 193 UN Member States to end extreme poverty by 2030.
While the government is attempting to find savings amid vast investment in response to the pandemic, the report found that the ill-timed merger would be “extremely costly and disruptive,” and “impair organisational effectiveness.”
And while Johnson highlighted similar mergers in Canada and Australia as best practice, the report stressed analysis of the Australian merger as having lost “2,000 years of expertise.” It’s a big concern with the DfiD merger too as the government risks losing staff with decades of development experience.
The report insisted that poverty reduction must remain a priority to keep UK aid effective too — and recommended that this is overseen with thorough parliamentary scrutiny by a dedicated select committee, a type of parliamentary group that functions to closely examine the work of government departments.
“In the long run, the creation of the FCDO could reduce the UK's influence on the world stage,” the report says.
Poverty reduction is the fundamental basis of UK aid. Without an independent @DFID_UK, poverty reduction could lose out to competing objectives. Read our concluding report on the effectiveness of UK aid. https://t.co/umjPwGboCnpic.twitter.com/0asw9HpCpT— International Development Committee (@CommonsIDC) July 17, 2020
The IDC had already published a report on June 9, 10 days prior to the merger announcement, that argued for the retention of an independent DfID along with its own secretary of state. Now, that cabinet-level position is also under threat.
And since the merger was unveiled, results have been released from the latest biennial Aid Transparency Index, an independent assessment of global aid spending, taking into account transparency, accountability, and effectiveness..
DfID was ranked ninth out of 47 global donors, given a rating of “very good” — the highest of the five ratings. However, the FCO languished in 38th with a rating of “fair” on its transparency levels — up from "poor" in 2018.
“We have now come to the end of our deep-dive into how effective UK aid is,” said Labour MP Sarah Champion, chair of the IDC. “Our evidence shows DfID has a glowing reputation overseas, its expertise envied, and its aid programmes delivering a lifeline for many of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.”
“DfID gives the UK considerable international standing and is something we should all be proud of,” she continued. “It is deeply disappointing that the government failed to recognise these strengths as it made its impulsive move to have the FCO swallow up DfID. Now we are on the brink of this expertise being lost and our international reputation being damaged beyond repair.”
“The fact that there was no consultation, seemingly no evidence as to why this is a good idea, really lets down the communities that UK aid is there to support,” Champion added.
You can take action now by sending an email to Dominic Raab — the foreign secretary — urging him to ensure UK aid continues to be transparent and accountable, prioritising the world’s poorest.