UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has informed the House of Commons in London of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s plans to overhaul Britain’s Official Development Assistance (ODA). This followed the UK government’s decision to temporarily reduce its ODA from the current 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5% next year. (GNI is the total amount of money earned by a country’s people and businesses, regardless of where it was earned.)
“The UK is facing the worst economic contraction in almost 300 years, and a budget deficit of £400-billion – double that of the last financial crisis,” he pointed out. “Britain is responding to a health emergency, but also an economic emergency, and every penny of public spending will rightly come under intense scrutiny by our constituents.”
He gave an assurance that the country would return to devoting 0.7% of its GNI to ODA when the fiscal situation permitted. He pointed out that, according to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data for 2019 (that is, before the Covid-19 pandemic) only one other country belonging to the G20 group of leading economies had been spending 0.5% or more of its GNI on ODA. Even with the funding cut, the UK would spend some £10-billion on ODA next year.
“So I can reassure the House that we will retain our position as a leader in the global fight against poverty,” he affirmed. “We will remain committed to following the rules set by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee.”
From now on, British aid would be focused on seven global challenges. These were climate change and biodiversity; Covid-19 and global health security; girls’ education; science, research and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; humanitarian preparedness and response; and trade and economic development. This approach was intended to increase the impact of UK ODA.
Regarding climate change and biodiversity, the aim was to assist developing countries to achieve “greener and cleaner” development. “I can reassure the House that we will maintain our commitment to double International Climate Finance,” he said. Britain would finance climate-resilient and low-carbon technologies in developing countries, including solar and wind power.
“[W]e will prioritise measures to tackle Covid[-19], and promote wider international health security,” he assured. These included continuing investments into international initiatives such as the GAVI Vaccine Alliance; the Global Fund for Aids, TB and Malaria; the International Finance Facility for Immunisation; and the COVAX Covid-19 vaccine programme. The UK would also remain the second largest State donor to the World Health Organisation.
“[W]e will continue to prioritise girls’ education, because it is the right thing to do, and because the fortunes of so many of the poorest countries depend on tapping the full potential of all of their people, which must include women and girls in education,” stressed Raab. “Our global target, working with our partners, is to get 40-million girls into education, and have 20-million more girls reading by the age of ten.”
With science, research and technology the emphasis was on applying the latest technology solutions in the fields of education, health, poverty and conflict, agriculture and economic development and low carbon technologies. Under the rubric of open societies and conflict resolution, the focus was on strengthening democratic institutions, free media, human rights and effective governance. Regarding humanitarian preparedness and response, the UK sought to be able to lead stronger international and collective responses to crises, including famine. Trade and economic development assistance was intended to build Britain’s future trade and investment partners.
“Finally, at all times we will look to improve our delivery of aid in order to increase the impact that our policy interventions have on the ground, in the countries and communities they are designed to benefit and help,” he stated. “With the approach that I have set out, we will maintain our international ambition, and deliver greater impact from our aid budget at a time of unparalleled pressure on the public finances.”