The Department for International Development (DfID) is set to be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Prime Minister has announced.
DfID has existed since 1997 and manages Britain’s foreign aid budget, focusing on sustainable development overseas.
The announcement of the merger came as a shock to many, despite talk towards the end of 2019 suggesting that Boris Johnson planned to merge the department into the wider Foreign and Commonwealth Office in a bid to streamline the Civil Service.
Despite asserting that the government would maintain its target of 0.7 per cent of GDP going towards foreign aid – a target first met under David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister, the decision to merge the departments has been widely criticised.
David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair have all criticised the move – three prime ministers who had the largest commitment to the department during their tenures. The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the merger would “diminish Britain’s place in the world”.
DfID had aimed to support the United Nations development goals with its commitment to 0.7 per cent reflective of the UN target set. The department has consistently invested in aid projects abroad which have contributed to the fall of global poverty and have helped the advancement of many nations.
It is thought that the merger is aimed at bringing international aid more in line with the broader foreign policy goals of the UK government. Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: “For too long frankly UK overseas aid has been treated as some giant cashpoint in the sky that arrives without any reference to UK interest.”