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06 July 2020

DfID no more – King's global briefing calls into question motives behind the merger

Three prominent voices in international development have raised concerns about the recently announced merger of the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

Busy African city street

A budget previously earmarked to serve the world’s most vulnerable is at risk of being diluted to serve British self-interest abroad because of the proposed merger of DfID and the FCO, the academics have warned.

In a webinar hosted by our School of Global Affairs, Dr Eka Ikpe, Professor Myles Wickstead CBE and Tim Durrant drew on their research, expertise and professional experience to interrogate the government’s decision to merge both departments into the newly formed ‘Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’.

Speaking to Jill Rutter, a Senior Research Fellow at the UK in a Changing Europe, they also outlined other worries, including a lack of clarity around the purpose of this change, uncertainty about how the decision might undermine trading agreements with the African continent, and the detrimental effect it is bound to have on the UK’s image amongst the global community.

Critical of Prime Minister Boris Johnston’s choice of words, Dr Ikpe, Senior Lecturer at the African Leadership Centre, said: “It is absolutely crucial that we are not silent on the narrative about the African continent as reliant on the UK’s ‘giant cashpoint in the sky’.”

Other panelists remarked that discriminatory language discourages international collegiality and undercuts the government’s vision for a Global Britain.

Similarly, Professor Myles Wickstead CBE, visiting Professor of International Development at King's, stressed that the UK’s approach to international development should be focused on a willingness to “co-operate…with other countries to make the world a better place”. He continued:

“There are lots of opportunities to collaborate to address common challenges we all face – like climate change, international terrorism and pandemics that can cross borders.”

Professor Myles Wickstead

Tim Durrant, Associate Director of the Institute for Government, noted that mergers of this kind can often distract from the actual work that needs to be done. The panelists agreed that the credibility of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office will depend on its level of accountability and transparency with regards to its level of accountability and transparency in distribution of overseas aid.

Watch the recorded global briefing What the merging of DfID and FCO means for international development and the UK globally here.

In this story

Jill Rutter

Visiting Professor

Eka  Ikpe

Director, African Leadership Centre

Myles  Wickstead

Visiting Professor