Matthew Rycroft starts as DfID permanent secretary this week

Former UN ambassador began work as department’s top official yesterday

Matthew Rycroft is the new DfID permanent secretary. Credit: Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire/DPA/PA Images

By Tamsin Rutter

23 Jan 2018

The UK’s former UN ambassador Matthew Rycroft took over as permanent secretary in the Department for International Development this week.

A civil servant since 1989, Rycroft was named as the successor to interim leader Nick Dyer in October, and yesterday said he was delighted to be joining the department as permanent secretary “at this important time”.

“DfID has a fantastic reputation and a crucial mission: to eradicate poverty. I believe in aid and also in international development more broadly,” he said.

“As the UK leaves the EU, we need to consider our strategic direction. I want us to think of ourselves as central to the British government’s work, building partnerships to protect our country from long term threats, creating long term opportunities and promoting the UK around the world.”


Rycroft added that he was looking forward to meeting civil servants within the department over the coming weeks.

On Monday, his first day in the department, he met DfID’s media team, who had just returned from covering the deadly outbreak of diphtheria in refugee camps in Bangladesh, he said on Twitter.

Also on Twitter, civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood welcomed the new perm sec to the post.

Penny Mordaunt, who replaced Priti Patel as DfID’s secretary of state after the latter was forced to resign in November when it was discovered that she’d had unofficial meetings with Israeli figures, said in a statement that it was “fantastic” to have Rycroft on board.

“He brings to the role a deep dedication to international development, a truly global perspective and an understanding of how Britain’s security and prosperity depends upon our aid commitment,” she added.

Mordaunt set out her priorities for the department last year, including getting ready to boost trade and investment with developing countries after Brexit, calling on foreign governments to invest in their own healthcare and education, cutting funding for organisations that do not deliver on targets and helping other departments to spend overseas aid more effectively.

Rycroft’s first civil service job was with the Foreign Office working at the UN in Geneva, and he has also worked on the NATO desk in London, at the British Embassy in Paris, as FCO Europe director, as private secretary to the prime minister for foreign affairs, and as FCO’s chief operating officer.

He was the UK’s permanent representative to the United Nations in New York from April 2015.

Dyer, who has had various roles in the department over the past 20 years, took the top role on an interim basis after former perm sec Mark Lowcock moved to head up the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in July.

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