International development charities have strongly criticised the government’s foreign policy plans, warning that the prime minister is “surrendering” the UK’s role.
The Cabinet Office published the Integrated Review yesterday, which outlines the government’s strategy on defence, foreign policy and development work until 2030.
This confirmed that spending on international aid would drop from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%, removing billions of pounds from the development sector.
The government also said that it planned to publish a separate aid strategy, but gave no date for when that would be released.
Save the Children: No leadership
Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK, said: “The government claims the UK will be a ‘world leader on international development’.
“Yet before the Integrated review was even concluded it had closed the Department for International Development and abandoned the 0.7% aid commitment. These are not the actions of a ‘world leader on international development’.
“Sadly, the prime minister’s statement provides further confirmation of the government's intent to surrender the UK’s position as a development superpower.”
Referring to the absence of a separate aid strategy, Watkins added: “Instead of putting international development where it should be, at the heart of the foreign policy review, it has been relegated to a sub-strategy to be published at a later date.”
'Unfair and unequal'
Danny Sriskandarajah, chief executive of Oxfam GB, said: “The goals of promoting human rights, equality and fairness set out in the review are admirable.
“But pouring billions into military hardware while cutting food, medicines and clean water for people on the brink of famine is about as unfair and unequal as it is possible to imagine.
“I urge the prime minister to think again, do the right thing and reverse the aid cuts. British leadership in the fight against global poverty is in the national interest, it increases our international standing and is the right thing to do.”
The government will spend around £10bn on international aid next year under current plans, down from around £15bn in 2019-20, according to data from the House of Commons.
The review said the UK was “one the world’s largest providers” of overseas development aid, and added: “We will focus our aid work on those areas which are important to a globally-focused UK and where we can have the greatest life-changing impact in the long term.”
The review promised “a new international development strategy”, which would show how aid spending aligned with foreign policy goals, but did not say when this would be published.
Risk of 'irrecoverable damage'
Stephanie Draper, chief executive of Bond, the umbrella body for international development bodies, said that she welcomed some of the review but was worried “the Integrated Review suggests a departure from UK funding going to the people who need it the most.
“The review should have been an opportunity to understand how many destabilising factors come together, but some of the most foundational elements of a stable global society are poorly addressed – such as poverty and hunger. Instead, the review looks set to align UK aid with our future trading and security partners.”
Draper called on the government to “immediately abandon its attempt to cut the aid budget to 0.5% of gross national income before irrecoverable damage is done”.
Last week 40 charities called on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) not to cut aid to South Sudan.
This came after news that FCDO aid funding to Yemen was set to be cut in half, a move which the UN called a "death sentence".