The Prime Minister has announced that the FCO and DFID will merge to create a new overseas department. The new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will place UK Aid at the heart of what it does, leveraging the development expertise of DFID through the reach of the FCO’s global network. The merger is set to be completed by September and the new department will be led by the Foreign Secretary.
As the world becomes ever more complex, I agree with the Government that we need single cross-government strategies for every country, driven by the overarching strategy set by the National Security Council and implemented on the ground by an Ambassador or High Commissioner heading all of the Government’s work in-country. For example, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioners will come under the line management of Ambassadors.
I believe that now is the right time to make this change. The coronavirus pandemic has imposed fundamental changes on the way the Government operates and, if there is one further lesson, it is that a whole-government approach is just as important abroad as it is at home. I am glad that by making this change now, we can ensure that the UK can lead the international effort on the Covid-19 recovery and renewal. The change will also mean that the new Department will be ready to deliver the outcomes of the Integrated Review that will be set out in the autumn.
I am proud that the UK has been at the heart of the international effort to tackle Covid-19, which shows the good that this country can do through our international engagement. The current crisis shows just how important it is that development and diplomatic efforts are fused together more closely, in order to maximise our international impact and make the biggest difference to people’s lives.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s reassurance that this is not about rolling back commitments on international development, but about pursuing them with greater effect, and that reducing poverty will remain central to the UK’s international work. The UK remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on international development, being the only G7 country to have enshrined this in legislation.
I am glad that this merger will mean that, within the new Department, we will see all the idealism and sense of mission that comes from DFID, alongside an understanding of the need to project UK values, UK policies and UK interests overseas. Our values are not just right in themselves, but also the best route to lasting stability and growth. I understand the concerns you have raised and will feed these back to ministers as we move forward.