Another controversial governmental merger!
As of yesterday (August 31st), the Department for International Development (DFID) has been merged with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, from which it was originally spun in 1997 to protect the use of aid for poverty reduction purposes.
There has been surprise and alarm over the timing over the decision, as the UK struggles with the current Coronavirus pandemic and the prospect of a severe economic downturn. An integrated review of UK foreign policy – which some expected to be a roadmap for the merger – has been paused because of the pandemic.
The original ambition of DFID was to halve the proportion of people living in poverty globally, get all children into primary education, improve access to reproductive health care as well as reduce infant, child, and maternal mortality. The report also proposed making mutual agreements with our development partners, improving coordination of assistance in support of locally-owned development strategies, and a determination to achieve coherence between aid and other policies that impact developing countries.
DFID has also achieved significant influence by persuading the world to commit to the Millennium Development Goals, which led to a united global effort to systematically reduce poverty, improve healthcare, and get all children to school. It also worked to resolve conflict and to improve the effectiveness of the international system in dealing with humanitarian disasters.
There are concerns about what the current merger could mean for the future direction of UK foreign aid. Just at a time when the world is facing a global health emergency and an existential threat from climate change, Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings have decided to dismantle one of the world’s most effective development organisations. Does this make sense, or will it have negative implications for the health of men, women and children around the world?