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Aid charity may refuse future government funding after ‘breach of trust’

02 Sep 2021 News

Dr Emily Wilson, chief executive, IRise International


An aid charity may not accept future government funding after a breakdown in trust with officials, its chief executive has said. 

Emily Wilson, founder and chief executive of IRise International, said the charity “would have to think really carefully” about working with the government again, after the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) cancelled a funding agreement without notice. 

IRise International works to tackle period poverty and stigma in Uganda and the UK.

Wilson was interviewed for the September issue of Charity Finance magazine, which is published by Civil Society Media.

‘A breach of trust’

Wilson told Charity Finance that the FCDO had agreed to part-fund one IRise International project, only for the government to tell them that the funding agreement was void.

“Instead of sending us the final contract, we were told it had been cancelled,” she explained. 

A different funder had to step in to ensure the programme could go ahead.

Wilson said: “That should not be happening. 

“Every government is entitled to look at their strategy and make changes and review it in line with their policies. 

“But this is a breach of trust, I think, to treat other partners in this way.”


Wilson added: “Those professional values, that professional respect which normally governs these sorts of relationships – and we have worked with government, we have had quite a lot of government funding, before the pandemic I was giving my time for free on a government taskforce – I just think it breaks that relationship of trust where you are working in partnership with the government towards shared goals.

“When they turn around and make these sorts of decisions without relevant consultations, in a way which significantly disrupts not just the investment they were going to make but the investment they have already made, it undermines that professional respect which underpins a meaningful partnership.

“From our perspective, and our board’s perspective, if they turned around tomorrow and said: ‘Here’s the money’, we would have to think really carefully about the risk. 

“We would not normally work with a partner where there wasn’t that trust. 

“So there is that issue now. Working with UK government suddenly seems like a very high-risk endeavour.”


The FCDO confirmed earlier this year that government aid spending would be cut by around £2bn this year, breaking a manifesto promise to maintain spending at 0.7% of gross national income.

Experts warned that cuts to funding for small international development charities would have an “enormous and damaging” impact on work in the poorest parts of the world.

The Small International Development Charities Network called on ministers to “honour the provisional agreements made with small charities”.

The full interview with Emily Wilson is published in the new Charity Finance magazine.

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