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Statement: DFID merged into FCO – ODI Response

Written by Sara Pantuliano

Reacting to today’s announcement of the merger between the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office, Sara Pantuliano, Chief Executive of the Overseas Development Institute, said:

“The UK has been a global leader on development – not least due to the extraordinary expertise and trust built up by DFID. The department is a well-respected example of global Britain at its best. This expertise must have central place in a merged department; it must not be an FCO takeover of DFID.

Building a more sustainable and just world undoubtedly needs a whole government effort, including the considerable diplomatic clout of the Foreign Office. But how the merger is managed will be crucial: development expertise must be preserved and championed in the new department, Official Development Assistance must not be politicised and UK aid should continue to support the most vulnerable.

The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has previously criticised the way the rest of UK government has spent overseas aid and ODI research suggests Cabinet level representation for the minister specifically responsible for international development is an important way of ensuring accountability.

Overall, departmental mergers are complex and time-consuming exercises. So doing this in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic is very strange. The government should be focusing on helping poorer countries to weather the crisis and solving mounting global challenges like climate change rather than rearranging the bureaucratic furniture.”

Read ODI's recent briefing paper on Merging development agencies: making the right choice.

Read ODI's recent briefing papers on Beyond donorship: UK foreign policy and humanitarian action.