UK's commitment to foreign aid
The UK is one of the few countries in the world to meet its commitment to spending 0.7% of our GDP on foreign aid. This figure is made up from a number of different sources, including portions of defence spending. The UK is doing everything in our power to defeat the evil that is Daesh. In response to the horrific refugee crisis that this conflict has caused the UK has given over £1 billion, making us the second largest bilateral aid donor to Syria in the world - only the United States has given more. We are spending this money on people staying in camps in the region unlike some EU countries, trying to prevent them making the perilous and potentially fatal journey to mainland Europe.
1 in 10 people in the world have no access to clean water. I have personally heard stories of the most heart wrenching (and in some cases terrifying) poverty experienced by children around the world who have benefited from overseas aid. UK foreign aid funds programmes which aim to protect children from horrendous sexual abuse, women who have been victims of sexual and physical abuse, and those who are starving - to name but three!
Between 2015 and 2019, the Department for International Development (DFID) supported 14 million children to gain a decent education and helped almost 52 million people get access to clean water and/or better sanitation. DFID is also leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation, including the largest single investment to end FGM.
Aid Spending Rules
The UK is working to update the Official Development Assistance (ODA) rules to ensure they reflect the breadth of UK assistance around the world. Reform is about getting the most out of the 0.7 per cent commitment for the world’s poorest and UK taxpayers. These efforts are building on the reforms to the Aid Budget that have been delivered in the past decade.
Certain publications have made a number of inaccurate claims regarding the UK's foreign aid programme which grossly misrepresent the real situation. Indeed a number of the projects they refer to are no longer funded and have not been for quite some time. Overseas aid is massively in Britain's interest. There are rigorous checks to ensure that aid is spent only on projects approved by the UK Government. These media stories that suggest that vast amounts of UK taxpayer money is being funnelled into the bank accounts of dictators and other corrupt officials is nonsense. Indeed under this Government the UK has increased the proportion of aid which the British Government has final say over the destination of the funds, while decreasing the proportion of aid given to organisations like UN.
Aid spending is now more transparent and accountable. Details of Department for International Development (DFID) programmes are published on DevTracker, with spend over £500 and information for contracts worth over £10,000 published on GOV.UK. In addition, before financial aid is provided, DFID checks the risks of corruption and only provides funding if it is clear that the money will be used for the intended purposes.
An independent body to oversee aid spending was established in 2011 to scrutinise aid spending. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which examines ODA spend across government, assesses how Ministers can drive efficiency, value for money and reach those most in need.
DFID has also stopped money going to ineffective aid organisations. The Multilateral Aid Reviews (MDRs) in 2011 and 2016 assessed multilateral agencies that received over £1 million in DFID core funding by testing alignment with UK priorities and their organisational effectiveness. On the basis of the 2011 review, Ministers took the decision to stop providing core funding to four institutions. Multilateral investments must be clearly justified in relation to UK priorities, multilateral performance and value for money, and, like all DFID programmes, are regularly assessed to ensure they deliver results, remain cost effective and prove good value for money for UK taxpayers.
UK’s Aid budget and Coronavirus.
The UK is using the aid budget to its full effect to counter the health, humanitarian and economic risks of the virus. The UK has committed aid to combat coronavirus and reinforce global efforts to find a vaccine.
Personally, I am proud that the UK is at the forefront of the global response to Covid-19. There has never been a more important time for us to be out in the world, delivering our 0.7 commitment, helping the most vulnerable in the world’s poorest countries and showcasing what the UK has to offer globally in terms of our expertise, our science and our influence to convene an international response.
The UK is now the largest single contributor to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), which is supporting the development of vaccines that will be available across the world. It is vital for the protection of the UK and the world that a vaccine is found and aid budget is enabling this.
The Department for International Development is leading the humanitarian support in the UK’s global efforts to combat the outbreak of Covid-19, including for those in refugee camps. This includes supporting World Health Organisation to help prevent the spread of the outbreak.
The Department for International Development and Unilever are also funding a programme to provide over 20 million hygiene products in the developing world, including areas where there is little or no sanitation. This support is vital to stop the spread of the disease in the developing world. Tackling the disease in developing countries will also reduce its potential future impact on the global economy and travel.
As we have all seen, coronavirus does not respect country borders. Health experts have identified the weakness of developing countries’ healthcare systems as one of the biggest risks to the global spread of the virus. They have warned that if coronavirus is left to spread in developing countries, this could lead to the virus re-emerging in the UK later in the year, putting further pressure on our NHS. the UK Government’s ability to protect the British public will only be effective if we strengthen the healthcare systems of vulnerable developing countries too. It is therefore vital that we do all we can now, to ensure we prevent a second wave, and the hard work of all our incredible doctors, nurses and frontline workers is not wasted.
Merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Many people have written to me regarding the recent announcement of the merger of Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) expressing their concerns. As the Government Whip for both the Foreign Office and DFID I have first-hand knowledge and experience of the relationship between the two departments and can reassure you that they have a long history of successfully working together. I am therefore confident that this merger will be in the best interests of our aid and diplomacy work abroad.
The new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (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. The Prime Minister has been clear that this is not about rolling back commitments on international development, but about pursuing them with greater effect, and that reducing poverty will remain central to the UK’s international work. The UK remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on aid, being the only G7 country to have enshrined this in legislation.
The coronavirus pandemic is a timely example of why now – more than ever – foreign policy and aid objectives need to be joined up. The Government sees an ambitious vision for the future of the UK as an active, internationalist, problem-solving and burden-sharing nation. This will help us lead the way in tackling challenges, like stopping this disease.
The UK-hosted global vaccine summit in June is a prime example of what we, as a country, can achieve when we lead from the front. The summit brought together more than 50 countries. It smashed its funding target, raising over £7bn to help vaccinate people against a range of preventable diseases and prepare for the global distribution of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine once one is developed.
This merger will mean that, within the new Department, we will see all the idealism and sense of mission that comes from DFID, alongside an understanding of the need to project UK values, UK policies and UK interests overseas. I have no doubt the new Department will deliver the UK’s ambitious international agenda. We are, and always have been, a bold and confident nation, unafraid to stand up for what we believe in. I see our development expertise working together with the best of British diplomacy as continuing squarely in that great tradition.