United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has announced a great repositioning in the Britain’s foreign policy priorities by integrating the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office that is under the leadership of the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab.
The new department will be called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and it’s expected to be formed in the autumn.
The review was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, but officials said the need to cooperate across Whitehall departments internationally in recent weeks had only underlined the need for greater cohesion.
Johnson when announcing to the members of parliaments said that the distinctions between diplomacy and overseas development are artificial and outdated.
He justified the decision, saying: “DfID outspends the Foreign Office more than four times over and yet no single decision-maker in either department is able to unite our efforts or take a comprehensive overview.
The government is to maintain its statutory commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid, but the blending of the two departments will inevitably require greater linkage between the UK’s aid, security and commercial interests.
Dfid’s £15.2bn budget dwarfs that of the Foreign Office, and diplomats have jealously eyed the scale of the guaranteed Dfid spending ever since the two departments were split by the Labour government in 1997.
“We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security. We give 10 times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling.
“Regardless of the merits of these decisions, no single department is currently empowered to judge whether they make sense or not: and so we tolerate an inherent risk of our left and right hands working independently.”
Regional trade commissioners working in the business department are also to be brought into the revamped department.
It was made clear Raab will be in the cabinet but it was not clear if Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Britain’s last international development secretary, will retain a cabinet post after the autumn.
The announcement was condemned immediately as turning Britain’s back on the world’s poorest.
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, responding to Johnson’s statement, described it as “the tactics of pure distraction”, against a backdrop of rising unemployment and one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world.
“Abolishing DfID diminishes Britain’s place in the world,” he said. “There is no rationale for making this statement today. The prime minister should stop these distractions, and get on with the job of tackling the health and economic crisis we currently face.”