Thank you for contacting me about the merger of the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
As you know, the FCO and DFID have merged to create a new overseas department. 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 new department launched on the 2nd September and is led by the Foreign Secretary.
The UK has been at the heart 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 believe that now is the right time to make this change. The coronavirus pandemic has imposed fundamental changes on the way the Government operates and, if there is one further lesson, it is that a whole-government approach is just as important abroad as it is at home. I am glad that by making this change now, we can ensure that the UK can lead the international effort on the Covid-19 recovery and renewal. The change will also mean that the new Department will be ready to deliver the outcomes of the Integrated Review that will be set out in the autumn.
The Integrated Review of foreign policy, defence, security and international development, expected to conclude later in the year, will define the Government’s ambition for the UK’s role in the world and its outcomes will shape the objectives for the new department, including on International Aid.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will be accountable to Parliament for how it spends UK aid. I have been assured that the Government remains committed to full transparency in our aid spending and there will continue to be parliamentary and independent scrutiny of the aid budget. Following the merger, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) will be told to prioritise producing tangible, evidence-based recommendations to ministers to drive effective overseas development spending. The Foreign Secretary has commissioned a review of the ICAI to make sure ICAI’s remit, focus and methods are effectively scrutinising the impact of UK aid spend, in line with the aims of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance that this merger 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 GNI on international development, being the only G7 country to have enshrined this in legislation. This will support five ODA priorities: bottom billion poverty reduction, climate change, girls' education, COVID-19 and Britain as a force for good.
I agree that the whole country can be proud of the leadership that the UK has shown, supporting the UN and national governments to eliminate all forms of VAWG. This includes the largest single investment to help end Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in the world. The UK has also been at the forefront of international efforts to end child and early forced marriage, with a £39 million global programme supporting UN agencies to end this practice in 12 priority countries. Indeed, UK pressure helped ensure a separate target on ending child marriage was included within the Global Goals. DFID and FCO already work closely together on gender equality and will continue to draw on the skills and expertise of everyone in the new department to champion gender equality in international development and humanitarian crises.
The UK’s commitment to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights overseas is unwavering: from tackling HIV, to family planning, safe abortion, maternal and newborn health, and supporting efforts to end Female Genital Mutilation and child, early and forced marriage. Through our voice on the world stage and in our aid programmes, the UK continues to put women and girls and the poorest and most marginalised at the heart of what we do.
The UK is a world leader in efforts to end the AIDS epidemic and last year pledged £1.4 billion to the Global Fund to fight AIDS,TB and Malaria for the replenishment covering 2020-22. This will support the commitment to end the AIDS epidemic as a public health threat by 2030. I welcome the brilliant work of the Global Fund, which in 2018 alone provided 18.9 million people with treatment and protected 700,000 babies from being infected by their mothers.
I am glad that 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. Our values are not just right in themselves, but also the best route to lasting stability and growth.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP