ActionAid's response to DFID/FCO merger

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The announcement today to merge the Department for International Development with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office will sabotage the UK’s ability to respond effectively to the biggest crisis we have faced in a century, at home and abroad. DFID’s hard-won reputation as a world leader in global development is based on long-standing expertise that is critical to tackling the Covid-19 crisis, as well as uplifting the rights of women and girls around the world.

Dismantling a well-functioning, expert government department amidst a national and global crisis will undermine hard-won gains in the area of women and girls’ rights, including girls’ education, freedom from violence and resilience in the face of the climate emergency.

DFID has consistently demonstrated excellent global leadership and has made a huge difference around the world, from responding to Ebola and malaria or providing water and sanitation, to tackling climate change and improving the rights of women and girls. The current pandemic must be tackled efficiently and expertly – if it is not addressed everywhere, it will have consequences everywhere, including in the UK.

By all independent markers, the FCO is not in a position to deliver transparent and accountable aid to the people who need it the most. Both the ICAI – the government's own independent body to assess its aid spend – and the Aid Transparency Index, have consistently rated the FCO's spend as low on transparency and effectiveness. Just last week, reflecting on the evidence to date, the International Development Committee restated the need for an independent DFID.

The rationale, therefore, for placing control of our aid under a Foreign Secretary and National Security Council, does not seem to be based in evidence but suggests an approach which securitises our aid and moves it away from poverty alleviation for those most in need. This threatens our ability to deliver value for money in the long term for the British taxpayer.

Further, the decision has been made without transparency, consultation or accountability. The government is failing to act according to the standards of transparency and accountability that have underscored Britain’s reputation as a global leader in both development and diplomacy.

This is not building a “Global Britain,” this is turning our backs on those struggling to survive. This is not who we are. The reality is that those living through poverty, climate change and disease – especially women and girls – will bear the brunt of this decision.