Britain’s proposed cuts to foreign aid in healthcare, conflict prevention and the climate crisis could cost lives, more than 200 NGOs across the world have warned. an open letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
A government review of the international development strategy commissioned by Liz Truss is due soon, but the announced restructuring of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has raised concerns that development will be abandoned.
“It would be short-sighted to leave out critical issues like global health, climate change and conflict prevention from the next international development strategy. It would also cost lives,” the letter said.
“This decision will undermine the UK’s ability to play its part globally in addressing pressing challenges, increasing security and eradicating poverty. Supporting countries in times of crisis is critically important, but so is investing in development assistance that prevents these crises.
Responding to the Ukraine crisis should not mean funds are diverted from elsewhere, the letter reads. The war highlighted the importance of a development strategy that is “poverty centred, evidence and rights based, and accountable to the British public and the communities it is meant to serve”.
On Tuesday, the Telegraph reported that the review was due for publication next Monday but was delayed until mid-April after Truss ordered it to be redesigned to focus more on his interests.
The department’s controversial restructuring comes less than two years after the Department for International Development (DfID) merged with the Foreign Office in 2020. At the time, then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that help would be “the beating heart” of international politics.
Last week, the aid information site Devex reported that the managing director of FCDO for Africa, Moazzam Malik, who previously worked for DfID, had resigned amid the restructuring.
Stephanie Draper, CEO of Bond, the UK NGO network, said Malik’s resignation was a blow to the FCDO.
“The FCDO urgently needs a dedicated Cabinet Minister for International Development to lead the UK’s development priorities. The FCDO needs real, high-level expertise to help prevent future crises, rather than constantly trying to cope with the consequences,” Draper said.
This week, the Parliamentary International Development Committee was told by NGOs that government aid cuts during the pandemic had hit women and girls the hardest.
“It’s very clear there’s been a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and we still don’t know where these cuts landed,” committee chair Sarah Champion said at the end of the session.
“I really hope that the rumors of conflict funding being pulled, climate adaptation funding being pulled, and a lot of health care funding being pulled are just that – rumors – because it will be devastating. if it’s true.”
The FCDO did not respond to specific criticism but said development remains a “fundamental priority”.
“We will release a new international development strategy this spring. This will define how we deliver on our climate change and health commitments, as well as restoring funding for women and girls and humanitarian work this year,” a spokesperson said.