Recently, Boris Johnston announced the Government plans to abolish DFID (the Department for International Development) and merge it with the Foreign Office – thereby making a ‘Whitehall Super Department’.
What is DFID?
DFID has been involved in global development for over twenty-three years, and has since grown into a positive, effective and forward-thinking vehicle for change. Millions have benefited from vaccination schemes, drives for education and improving access to clean energy; not to mention DFID’s pivotal role in the aftermath of humanitarian disasters. While there are fair critiques of how international aid is distributed, DFID strives to be transparent and accountable in ensuring tax money is used where the need is greatest. In short, DFID is a leading voice in the development field – and we should be proud of this. It’s no mean feat.
The UK currently spends 0.7% of its GDP on overseas aid. To put that into perspective, that stands at 7p per £10 earned, which although sounds insignificant, has made the UK one of the world’s largest donors. However, it is a far cry from being the ‘giant cashpoint in the sky’ as cited by our PM. The Foreign Office exists as a separate entity to promote national interests, by supporting UK individuals, businesses and exports, as well as protecting our security. Without wanting to dabble in the politics at stake here, the issue therein lies that these are very different goals to that of development. The goal of aid is not to serve as a political or commercial tool, but to serve the world’s poorest and most marginalised.
From a personal perspective, I’ve seen first-hand the transformative work of DFID. In 2018, I headed out to South Africa on the ICS programme (as funded by DFID) teamed with Tearfund. While this may sound pretty dramatic, ICS literally changed my life. I came back to the UK fired up for social justice in my every day, and I even changed my university course (and place!) last-minute to enrol onto International Development at Sussex. Two years on and while the memories are somewhat fading, my love for Development is ever-present and I owe it to ICS and DFID. My team of UK and in-country volunteers are still great friends of mine to this day, and I have learned so much from them.
Given the difficulties of finding employment in modern day South Africa, ICS gave our counterparts a real opportunity. Tshedi Sibanda, my counterpart, has gone on to do incredible things, working for a HIV prevention programme supporting young women with leadership, employability skills and sexual and reproductive health. In essence, she says that ICS ‘empowered me to find my own voice’ – she now sits as a voice at the table representing young women where vital decisions are made.
Another guy from my team, Sihle Innocent Nxumalo, said that ICS allowed him to learn about ‘our similarities, our ideas and hopes to create a better world’, as a ‘major influence’ on his life. We are just three stories in a myriad of others. But such opportunities won’t exist if DFID doesn’t have the same purpose. And that same purpose has always been and should always be about the people behind policies and procedures. This is the very nature of Development.
If you want to show your support for the world’s most vulnerable, join us in asking the prime minister to ensure that UK Aid continues to prioritise those who need it most. Find out more here.