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IDS Director highlights strengths of DFID and warns against merge with the Foreign Office

Published on 13 December 2019

Professor Melissa Leach has responded to media reports that the UK’s Conservative party and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are considering merging the Department for International Development (DFID) within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  A joint letter published in the Financial Times on Thursday 12 December, warned that downgrading UK development in that way would risk damaging the UK’s international influence and its capability to respond to emerging threats and global challenges.

The Financial Times letter to editor (behind paywall), described how the UK’s global reputation and influence is dependent upon the three ‘D’s of defence, diplomacy and development, that the whole of those three are greater than the sum of their parts and that reducing development would leave the UK’s foreign policy unbalanced.

It went on to say:

“DFID’s work in some of the toughest places in the world, its longstanding international partnerships and recognised approach to transparency are fundamental to the UK’s international reputation. The recent Portland Index on soft power, which ranks the UK second, noted that merging DFID into the FCO was “unlikely to be positive”.

“The two departments are highly regarded precisely because they work together but remain distinct, enabling them to focus on what they do best.

“Tinkering with this world class architecture and the definition of what counts as overseas aid, risks damaging our capability to respond to emerging threats and challenges and reducing our influence at the very moment when we are seeking to relaunch Britain on the world stage.”

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