IDS comments on new UK International Development Strategy

Published on 16 May 2022

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has today announced the long-awaited Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) new International Development Strategy.

The strategy sets out the Government’s future approach to international development, prioritising investment partnerships, support for humanitarian relief, investing in the economic progress and security of women and girls, and building on G7 commitments around climate change and global health. It strongly emphasizes bilateral programmes and their connections with UK foreign policy, trade and investment priorities, while  downgrading support for multilateral agencies.

Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute of Development Studies, said:

“We welcome the Government’s publication of this strategy after such long delays, and note that it contains some positive elements. However, this new International Development Strategy broadly fails to deliver the new vision needed to improve the lives of the poorest people around world and fails to restore the UK’s leading global role in development.

“Our research shows that today’s crises – conflict in Ukraine and Ethiopia, climate change induced floods and heatwaves and Covid-19 – are all interconnected and require a rounded response, not a strategy that handpicks a few priorities in isolation.  For example, you cannot improve the lives of women and girls without addressing the harm caused to them by climate change, religious persecution, poor health or conflict. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide the framework for addressing development challenges as a whole, and they should have been at the core of the strategy announced today.

“The strategy’s emphasis on short-term, quick-win and often technical solutions is expedient for government but overlooks the deeper causes of poverty, vulnerability, and problems such as climate change and violence against women. Effective development needs to engage in the partnerships and forms of action that can tackle causes and so generate lasting improvements to people’s lives.

“Universal challenges such as global health security and climate change require co-ordinated international responses, and the linking of local and national action with global level commitments and solidarities. Multilateral agencies such as the UN are best placed to lead and inspire these and whilst there is room for reform, we believe it’s short-sighted for the FCDO to cut support for them without a clear assessment of the impact this will have. The increased bilateral aid spend should not be tied to trade deals or investment partnerships but instead focused on supporting the most vulnerable communities to face our rapidly accelerating global crises.

“The UK has a long tradition of high quality international development research, evidence and expertise. The Covid-19 pandemic showed us how vital science and research is for tackling global challenges. Whilst we welcome the continued commitment to evidence and expertise in this strategy, and the  Government’s claims to be aligning international development with UK science and research, this must go further. We need to see investment not just in technological research and innovation, but also in the social, political-economic and contextual evidence that will show which approaches will work where, why and for whom. And commitments to UK science must be complemented  by investing in the equitable, international research partnerships needed to find solutions that will benefit marginalised people around the world, and in many cases, here in the UK as well.”

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