Reaction to news that Department for International Development is to be merged with Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Cocoa Farmer in Ivory Coast

The Fairtrade Foundation is deeply disappointed by the announcement that DFID is to be merged into the FCO.

We fear that the move undermines the UK aid programme at a time where its expertise is vital in the fight against COVID-19 and poverty. Fairtrade has long called for a whole-government approach to fighting global poverty, including ensuring that the UK’s trade policy benefits developing countries. An independent department with a Secretary of State around the Cabinet table is an essential part of this mission, ensuring professional, high quality delivery and accountability.

UK aid is meant to have one focus, and one focus only: poverty reduction. That is why more aid goes to Zambia than the Ukraine and to Tanzania than the Balkans. The experience of other rich countries, is that aid governed by foreign policy is often diverted away from the poorest people. The Independent Commission for Aid Impact has consistently marked down aid spent by other government departments over the last few years for its weak value for money and effectiveness - in contrast to DFID, rightly acknowledged as a global leader on development.

CEO of the Fairtrade Foundation Michael Gidney said;

'The midst of a global pandemic and the widespread poverty it is causing is not the time to be reducing Britain’s aims and ambitions on the world stage. Downgrading the role of the internationally respected global aid powerhouse that is DFID is a backward step. An independent DFID is best to support our allies and our friends that look to us for support which is freely and impartially given on the basis of need, no strings attached. Aid must remain focused on poverty reduction, not diverted for security interests or in return for favourable trade terms.'

To scrap DFID, with all the upheaval, uncertainty and distraction it will cause, at the very moment when the impacts of COVID-19 on the world’s poorest are only getting worse is deeply irresponsible. This global pandemic requires a global response, and DFID has two decades worth of expertise that should be being utilised, not side-lined.