Britain to shake up development work with focus on 'partnership' not aid

Development Minister Andrew Mitchell to unveil rebrand in speech on Thursday

Britain provided aid via the Royal Air Force after the earthquake in Turkey and Syria. PA
Powered by automated translation

Britain will on Thursday unveil a shake-up of its international development work, moving its focus away from foreign aid towards “working alongside countries as partners”.

The focus on “shared objectives” such as tackling climate change will be badged under the new brand name “UK International Development”.

Development Minister Andrew Mitchell will call in a speech for reform of global banking so that countries can “drive their own development”.

While a backbench Conservative MP, Mr Mitchell protested against a cut in the UK’s foreign aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of national income.

He also objected to the merger of Britain’s Foreign Office with the Department for International Development.

Now a minister in that merged department, Mr Mitchell is expected to say the future of development “is not about charity, handouts and dependency”.

“It is about listening to our partners and working together to advance our shared objectives,” he will say.

Specific projects will include a programme to get six million more girls into school per year by raising education spending, Mr Mitchell will say.

He is expected to announce a new scheme for young people in Britain to volunteer abroad.

Another project is to hold a food security summit in London this year focusing on the UK’s work to tackle hunger and malnutrition.

“It is frankly obscene that in the 21st century and in our world of plenty children are today slowly starving to death,” Mr Mitchell will say.

The UK’s foreign aid budget in 2021 was £11.4 billion ($14.21 billion), down by 21 per cent after the funding cut.

The cuts led to countries including Yemen, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan receiving less money than before.

New projects will fall under the UK International Development brand starting from Thursday.

The revamp takes forward a promise in a recent rewrite of the UK’s foreign policy blueprint to “go beyond” direct development aid.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is promising to share UK expertise and make use of London’s position as a leading financial centre.

The UK wants to “unlock hundreds of billions in financing for developing countries” as they demand more help in tackling climate change, the government says.

Thursday’s appearance at the Chatham House think tank will be Mr Mitchell’s first major speech since returning to the development brief in October.

He has spent recent days taking to the airwaves to defend the UK’s handling of the crisis in Sudan, where British citizens and diplomatic staff have been evacuated.

Mr Sunak’s rewritten foreign policy paper defended the decision in 2020 to create the merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

It said the latest aid rebrand would “help ensure that the value of our international development is understood at home and internationally”.

Updated: April 26, 2023, 11:01 PM