The Prime Minister has announced that DFID and the FCO will merge, uniting development and diplomacy in one new department that brings together Britain’s international effort.
- Work will begin immediately on the merger. The new department – the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – will be established in early September and will be led by the Foreign Secretary.
- The merger is an opportunity for the UK to have even greater impact and influence on the world stage as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and prepare to hold the G7 presidency and host COP26 next year.
- UK aid will be given new prominence within our ambitious international policy. The Foreign Secretary will be empowered to make decisions on aid spending in line with the UK’s priorities overseas, harnessing the skills, expertise and evidence that have earned our reputation as a leader in the international development community.
- The UK is the only G7 country to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on overseas development and the Government remains committed to this target, which is enshrined in law.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will enable the UK to punch with more weight internationally at a critical time for the international system.
- In recent months we have been at the heart of the international effort to tackle Covid-19. For example, earlier this month the Prime Minister chaired a virtual Global Vaccines Summit which raised enough money to immunise 300 million children. This shows the good that this country can do through our international engagement.
- Next year, will be even more critical for the UK on the world stage: we will be President of the G7, and host both the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and the UN’s 75th anniversary celebrations.
The current pandemic reminds us that security, prosperity, development and foreign policy are inextricably interlinked.
- The pandemic has demonstrated just how important it is that our development and diplomatic efforts are fused together more closely. We do not have the luxury of separate diplomacy and development efforts.
- If we are to maximise our international impact, we must combine our national assets and speak with one voice.
- As the world becomes ever more complex, we need single cross-government strategies for every country, driven by the overarching strategy set by the National Security Council and implemented on the ground by an Ambassador or High Commissioner heading all of Her Majesty’s Government’s work in-country. The new Foreign and Commonwealth Office will enable this by bringing foreign policy and development together.
This is not about rolling back on our commitments to international development but pursuing them with greater effect.
- When DFID was created in 1997 it was the right set-up for that era. DFID officials have done fantastic work worldwide over the years, earning the Department a very well justified reputation as the best in its field.
- But the world has been transformed since then. This requires us to make sensible changes to strengthen the influence that should come from being the only G7 country to commit in legislation to spending 0.7% of GNI on international development. We owe it to the British people to make best use of these assets.
- At present, the division of responsibility between DFID and FCO means we are not always able to properly assess aims and priorities, or act as coherently as we might. No single decision-maker in DFID or the FCO has the power to resolve policy choices.
- Having a single new Department will allow us to maximise our influence by empowering the Foreign Secretary to decide the priorities for both UK spend on international development and our diplomatic efforts, without losing any of the technical expertise which makes our offer so distinct.
- The Department for International Development has been a more effective spender of aid than any other Government Department and we are clear that this expertise must be brought into the centre of the new Department ensuring our development experts are at the heart of the new Department.
- Alongside the new Department we will continue our existing work to fully align all of the UK Government’s operations overseas, including putting Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners under the line management of Ambassadors and High Commissioners.
Now is the right time to make this change.
- The coronavirus pandemic has already imposed fundamental changes to the way we operate and if there is one further lesson, it is that a whole-of-government approach is just as important abroad as it is at home.
- Making this change now will ensure the UK can lead the international effort on COVID recovery and renewal but it will also mean the new Department will be ready to deliver the outcomes of our Integrated Review that will be set out in the autumn.
The guiding purpose of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will be to promote the UK’s national interest around the world and UK Aid will be at the core of that project.
- Ours is a broad view of the national interest. It is based on values as much as it is on our core interests of security and prosperity.
- The UK stands for open societies and democratic values, because they are right in themselves and also the best route to lasting stability and growth.
- In the real world you cannot separate diplomacy and development as you pursue these interests and values – nor should we in our governance structures.