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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
Bees for Development is extremely concerned about the effects of the announced merger between the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on the UK’s ability to continue its positive role in international aid and ultimately on levels of global poverty.
DFID has a strong reputation and is well-respected around the world. Being brought into the FCO, the mission of the department’s staff, programmes and purpose will be fundamentally different. DFID's independence of political decision-making will cease.
The commitment to spending 0.7% of the UK’s national income on overseas aid remains, which should allow DFID's current programmes to continue. However, beyond these commitments, future spending choices are likely to be more closely tied to the UK's political diplomatic, defence and trade priorities, as defined by the FCO.
Nicola Bradbear, Director of Bees for Development says: "Britain has until now been leading the way in spending 0.7% of national income on aid - the only major economy to do so. If we don't tackle poverty, then the results affect us all: climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, mass migration, epidemics, political instability".
It is likely that overseas aid will have little or no representation at cabinet level, resulting in a decrease in priority of aid amongst foreign policy decisions. There is a great risk that changes in roles and staffing will alter relations internally, and externally with overseas partners.
The timing of this announcement is particularly bad, when we know that people who are already suffering through poverty will be affected much worse by the effects of Covid-19, now and in years to come. People in the places where we work need more support at this time, not less.
Ultimately, it appears that future directions depend very much on the commitment of the UK Government to overseas aid. The present rhetorical approach is deeply worrying, with reference to the current structure as a "cashpoint in the sky" made by Boris Johnson. There is no evidence that DFID represented an easy source of funding, or wasted money. DFID is widely regarded as a transparent and exceptionally effective body by external organisations and those in the development field.
Bees for Development will continue to press UK Government to recognise the importance of aid and to prioritise aid programmes that assist people who really need them. Aid must not become a tool specifically for furthering foreign policy goals in place of alleviating poverty.