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On 6 July 2022 there will be an Estimates Day debate on the spending of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on its strategy for international development.

These subjects were selected by the Backbench Business Committee and were proposed by the Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP.

This paper briefly sets out FCDO spending on aid, the new international development strategy, and the policy background to the changes.

New aid strategy

In May 2022, the FCDO published its new ten-year strategy for international development. The strategy will be in place for ten years.

The strategy identifies four priorities for UK aid:

  • Reliable investment to help UK partners grow sustainably and mobilise up to £8 billion of UK-backed financing by 2025. This includes working through the UK’s relaunched development finance institution, British International Investment, to invest in businesses, trade, and jobs overseas.
  • Empowering women and girls, with a focus on ensuring girls receive 12 years of quality education, supporting reproductive and sexual health, and ending violence against women and girls. The Government will restore spending to 2019/20 levels, totalling £745 million in 2022/23.
  • Provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to those in greatest need, and work to prevent such crises and build resilience to them. The UK will spend £3 billion over the next three years. Around 25% of this figure has already been committed to Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Ukraine.
  • Climate change, biodiversity, and global health. The strategy confirms climate change and biodiversity as the UK’s “number one” international priority. The UK will spend £11.6 billion in climate finance from 2021 to 2026 to help countries adapt to, and mitigate the impacts of, climate change. Health aid will include investments to Gavi, the vaccine alliance, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

While poverty is not mentioned a separate priority, the Government argues a focus on increasing trade, the empowerment of women and girls, and action on climate change will help alleviate or address the causes of poverty. By law, UK development assistance provided by the FCDO must also be intended to reduce poverty and inequality between persons of different gender.

Reductions in UK aid spending

The strategy is published in the context of reduced UK aid spending and the Government’s wider foreign policy intentions to increase UK efforts in Africa and the Indo-Pacific, partly in response to China.

Aid spending was an estimated £3 billion lower in 2021 than 2020 (£14.5 billion versus £11.5 billion). While the date at which the UK will restore aid spending from 0.5% to 0.7% of Gross National Income is uncertain, the tests laid out by the Government suggest this will be in 2023/24, on current trends.

The reductions in spending have been controversial, with organisations including UN agencies as well as charities and NGOs stating many programmes have seen their contributions from the UK reduced.

In line with the Government’s 2021 integrated review of foreign, defence, security, and development policy, UK aid under the new strategy will focus on Africa and the Indo-Pacific (a region extending from Afghanistan to China):

  • Africa: In 2020, 52% of country-specific or region-specific bilateral aid was spent in Africa. UK aid objectives will include poverty alleviation, economic development, girls’ education, and climate change.
  • Indo-Pacific: In 2020, 39% of country-specific or region-specific bilateral aid was spent in the Asia region. UK aid will focus on economic ties, humanitarian support, girls’ education, and open societies. The integrated review previously noted that absolute poverty will be “almost eliminated” in the region by 2030.

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