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Tue, 7 July 2020

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Merging the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office is a retrograde step which we will come to regret

Merging the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office is a retrograde step which we will come to regret

On the face of it, it is unclear what additional gain today's announcement will achieve, says Andrew Mitchell MP | Credit: PA Images

2 min read

It is seldom a good sign when governments decide to tinker with the Whitehall architecture - especially in the middle of the worst crisis for a generation.

Over the last 30 years the Department for International Development has become one of the most respected examples of Global Britain around the world.

Set up by Labour but overhauled and reformed under the Conservatives in 2010, it is widely seen as the most effective engine of International Development in the world.

Its ability to lead- to tie together the work of Britain's international NGOs and development community with the massive contribution in terms of thought and leadership from Britain’s leading universities and academic institutions is extraordinary.

DfID’s reputation harnessing effective ways of tackling poverty and deprivation is unsurpassed.

This is all part of what DfID has done so well- fulfilling the aspirations of those who set it up and those who have built it since, which secures its world class reputation today. 

We can all be hugely proud of Britain’s leadership role in tackling conflict and poverty in the poorest parts of the world, something from which we as a country benefit directly too. 

DfID’s reputation harnessing effective ways of tackling poverty and deprivation is unsurpassed.

As I know from first-hand experience, it is the people who drove the Government's development agenda within DfID and across Whitehall who are the reason for Britain’s effectiveness and for the widely-held view internationally that Britain has been a development superpower.

It is these people who will likely be poached by the international system.

New York and Geneva’s gain will be Britain’s loss.

It is not usually a good sign when governments decide to tinker with the Whitehall architecture- especially in the middle of the worst crisis for a generation.

It also looks as if the cart is being put before the horse since the security and defense review which is so important to developing Britain’s future within the world post-Brexit, has barely begun. 

Also on the face of it, it is unclear what additional gain this will achieve.

Under David Cameron as Prime Minister, the National Security Council was the place where the strategic direction of DfID was discussed and agreed.

The National Security Council is where defense, diplomacy and development should be tied together into a comprehensive policy for Britain. Chaired by the Prime Minister, it is where he has line of sight over all the different parts of government which deliver Britain’s strategic direction.

I believe this is a retrograde step which we will come to regret. 

 

Andrew Mitchell is Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield and former secretary of state for international development. 

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