This country has been and always will be open and outward-looking, leading in solving the world’s toughest problems and striving to be a force for good in the world. Whether it’s stepping up to support desperate Syrians and Yemenis in conflict zones, leading the way in eradicating Ebola and malaria, or supporting millions of children to gain a decent education, I am proud that UK aid is keeping the UK safe while helping the world’s poorest stand on their own two feet. I have been assured that the UK will continue to protect the world’s poorest.
At this time of unprecedented crisis however, tough choices must be made, which is why the Chancellor has announced a temporary reduction in the UK’s aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of the UK’s national income. I am encouraged that the UK will spend more than £10 billion next year to fight poverty, tackle climate change, support girls’ education, resolve conflicts and improve global health. I am told that the UK will return to 0.7 per cent when the fiscal situation allows.
The FCO and DFID merged last September to create a new overseas department: the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), led by the Foreign Secretary. The merger allows for the integration of international development and foreign policy. I support this as it substantially lowers the risk of different parts of government working independently of each other, and allows the UK to speak with one voice internationally.
I am proud that the UK has been at the forefront of the international effort to tackle Covid-19, which shows the good that this country can do through our international engagement. The current crisis shows just how important it is that development and diplomatic efforts are fused together more closely, in order to maximise our international impact and make the biggest difference to people’s lives.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance that this is not about rolling back commitments on international development, but about pursuing them with greater effect. Indeed, the FCDO will place UK Aid at the heart of what it does, leveraging the development expertise of DFID through the reach of the FCO’s global network. This will allow for a more effective delivery of aid, and in a manner that fully accords with our national interest and values.
As the Prime Minister noted in his foreword to the recently published Integrated Review, the creation of the FCDO is the springboard for all our international efforts. I have every confidence that this is so, and that the FCDO will play a decisive role in allowing the UK to best achieve its global objectives, be it reducing poverty, tackling climate change, championing girls’ education and building back better from Covid-19.