A group of cross-party MPs in the UK has published a report on the effectiveness of UK aid and the potential impacts of the decision to merge the Department of International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The merger follows similar changes made in countries such as Canada and Australia to bring the functions of diplomacy and development together but has been widely criticised by development experts.
The new report by the International Development Committee, which has drawn on a wide range of evidence from the development sector, including from IDS, raises concerns that the merger was rushed and could be costly and disruptive. It also highlights the negative impact that merging the two departments could have on the UK’s international reputation.
In response to the report, Professor Melissa Leach, Director, Institute for Development Studies, said:
“This report highlights the serious harm that could be caused to the UK’s global reputation and some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, if development expertise is not retained in the FCO/DFID merger.
“We need a firm commitment to embed DFID’s skills, capacity and sustained investment in poverty reduction and research in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and across all ODA spending departments.
“The strength of the report highlights the need for proper scrutiny of UK Aid spending to continue through a dedicated parliamentary select committee and strengthened Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI). This is vital to ensure a UK aid strategy that is transparent and achieves value for money for the UK taxpayer.
“International development must be represented at Cabinet level and a Chief Scientific Advisor for development appointed at the merged department. At least three percent of DFID’s budget should also continue to fund the research we need to tackle global challenges, such as COVID-19 and climate change.”