The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has set out the government’s new priorities for foreign-aid spending as he confirmed a cut in Official Development Assistance.
In a written statement yesterday, Raab confirmed the aid spending target would be reduced from 0.7% of UK national income to 0.5% in 2021.
Raab’s statement comes after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced the temporary cut to 0.5% of national income in last year’s Spending Review.
The Treasury said at the time that the cut, which Sunak said would dampen the hit to the UK economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic, would be reversed “when the fiscal situation allows” – a sentiment Raab repeated yesterday.
Raab said the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had completed a cross-government review of how ODA should be allocated against the government’s priorities for the coming year.
The priorities for UK aid, which Raab set out in November, are climate and biodiversity; Covid and global health security; girls’ education; science and research; defending open societies and resolving conflict; humanitarian assistance; and promoting trade.
He said ODA has been split between departments in a way that would ensure it was “spent where it will have the maximum impact, has greater coherence and delivers most value for money”.
The way ODA has been allocated has changed “to support a more integrated approach”, he added.
The FCDO will be responsible for spending the lion’s share of ODA, £8.1bn. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy will get the second-largest allocation, £706m, followed by the Home Office, £470m.
The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will get £337m – a figure that has dropped significantly since 2019-20, when it was £625m, having risen consistently in previous years.
Based on current national income forecasts, the UK is likely to spend more than £10bn on ODA this year, Raab said.
His announcement has led to a fresh wave of criticism from charities and human-rights groups, who hit out at the cut in November.
Oxfam’s head of policy, Sam Nadel, said today that cutting aid during a pandemic “is a dereliction of Britain’s duty to the world’s poorest people and will cost lives”.
Danny Harvey, executive director of Concern Worldwide, said it would be difficult for the UK to deliver on its commitments to “build back better” after coronavirus “should there be such a dramatic reduction in aid spending". He said the decision would have a significant impact on the world's poorest people.
Last week former prime minister Theresa May accused her successor, Boris Johnson, of "abandoning our position of global moral leadership" by scrapping the 0.7% target.
The Spending Review announcement came despite a pledge not to cut ODA when the Foreign Office and Department for International Development merged last year.
Raab said yesterday that the 2021-22 settlement "gives us the best possible launch pad to champion our international priorities for the coming year, as we commence our G7 presidency and look ahead to hosting [the climate summit] COP26".
"It sustains our commitment to the world’s poorest people, advances our strategic interests overseas, and delivers on the prime minister’s ambition to bring greater coherence and strategic oversight to the UK aid budget," he added.
Raab said he would also lead a second cross-departmental review on a new development strategy “to ensure close alignment of UK aid with the objectives to be set out in the integrated review”.
The integrated review of foreign, defence and development policy is expected early this year, having been delayed more than once because of Covid-19.