The Prime Minister has announced that the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) and The Department for International Development (DFID) will merge 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 merger is set to be completed by September and the new department will be 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.
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. By making this change now, 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 Prime Minister has provided reassurance 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 GNI on international development, being the only G7 country to have enshrined this in legislation.
I have worked extensively on international development, being the previous chair of the APPG for the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development, in which I worked with colleagues to ensure the 17 goals promoted by the United Nations can be achieved. The goals are focused on improvement in areas such as poverty, climate action and clean water and sanitation.
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.
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.