2nd July, 2020
Dear Prime Minister
I am writing on behalf of the London and South East Region of the United Nations Association (UNA LASER), as we think the proposed merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office would be a grave mistake.
It will be interpreted all over the world as cash-strapped Britain making development aid a crude instrument of foreign policy. You rightly underlined the fact that the UK is the only country in the G7 which spends 0.7% of Gross National Income on helping poor and sick people in developing countries . (That was a milestone set up by David Cameron when Prime Minister). Yet you immediately undermined that claim by saying the newly merged Department would “safeguard British interests”: In other words, your government will angle its aid not to where it’s most needed but to serve our foreign policy.
The Department for International Development was first created 56 years ago and since that time it has been merged and re-merged with the Foreign Office three times, responding, it would seem, to the changing political colour of the Government . We do not believe these shake ups and re-shake-ups improved the quality of our aid programme or increased the expertise of the staff. In fact much money will be wasted simply by the process of shuffling the chairs and the titles in Whitehall.
We note that this year’s 2020 Aid Transparency Index (ATI) rank DfID as one of the only two state departments in the top ten donors for effectiveness, transparency and accountability, whereas the FCO came in the bottom ten donors, with a tendency to not direct money to the world’s poorest people, and with much less transparency over spending.
This proposed change has been harshly criticised by three ex-Prime Ministers and by at least three major NGOs active in this field, namely Christian Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children. We understand that Professor John Bew will soon deliver his review of our foreign, defence and development policy. Surely it would be sensible to await his Report and then act in a more considered way?
Patricia Shepheard Rogers
Chair UNA LASER
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