International development before British interests

Alistair Burt on the need to maintain DFID’s values as it is absorbed by the Foreign Office

The World Today
Published 1 August 2020 Updated 27 September 2020 2 minute READ

Rt Hon Alistair Burt

Former Minister for the Middle East and North Africa (2017-19), UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office

If ever a government department is rather more than the sum of its parts, it is DFID, the Department for International Development.

Although it worked hard over the years to fend off, never quite successfully, the idea that it was a development NGO masquerading as a branch of the executive, nonetheless it had a special feel of commitment to its purpose which made it an exhilarating place in which to be a minister. An international reputation for the quality of its leadership, diligence and ambition, it projected ‘Global Britain’ before the more recent iteration of that phrase was coined.

But now its work must be realized in a new guise, following its merger with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I have never been one to believe that administrative reforms per se should be a high point of government policy. Far more important is personality, principle and the product of such reform.

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