Less money – but targeted at those who need it most

Ukraine and Afghanistan hit our reduced aid budget. But with £7.5 billion to distribute, Britain remains the G7’s third-largest donor, says Andrew Mitchell.

The World Today Published 2 December 2022 Updated 1 December 2022 2 minute READ

Andrew Mitchell MP

Minister of State, UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Aid from the United Kingdom saves lives, and our international development policies have the power to transform them. The government is committed to international development as a means of helping countries to lift themselves out of poverty.

We are still one of the most generous countries in the world, the third largest donor in the G7 as a percentage of gross national income (GNI) in 2021, when it comes to helping those in need. This is because we know aid or Official Development Assistance can make the world a healthier, safer, more prosperous and less conflict-ridden place.

The aid budget remains at 0.5 per cent of gross national income until the fiscal situation allows a return to 0.7 per cent

In November, we announced a significant new pledge of £1 billion over the next three years to the Global Fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria. This will avert more than one million avoidable deaths. The UK is a founding supporter of the fund and, with pledges of £4.4 billion in the past 20 years, its third largest donor. During that time the fund has saved 50 million lives.

In 2021 alone, the Global Fund provided 23 million people with life-saving antiretroviral therapy for HIV and 5.3 million with TB treatment and care. It treated 148 million cases of malaria and helped distribute 133 million mosquito nets. The Global Fund is also making a difference in Ukraine. These are real, tangible results which have led to lasting change. 

We want to continue this work, but now, more than ever, we must make difficult decisions over how we spend our taxpayers’ money on international development.

The Chancellor announced extra money in his Autumn Statement to help provide vital refuge to those fleeing the war in Ukraine and insecurity in Afghanistan. This is absolutely the right thing to do. But this support alongside wider migration challenges has put considerable pressure on the wider aid budget, which remains at around 0.5 per cent of GNI until the fiscal situation allows a return to 0.7 per cent.

In this context and to meet the unforeseen cost of supporting those fleeing the war in Ukraine and insecurity in Afghanistan, the Official Development Assistance budget at the FCDO will temporarily be reduced to an estimated £7,584 million in 2022/23 and we are planning on a similar budget in 2023/24. 

Value for money, maximum impact

Our hard-pressed but brilliantly professional officials will have to make difficult choices on which projects to fund and which to close. I do not claim this will be easy, but we will aim to do this in a way which offers the best value for money and maximizes impact. 

In these times of economic challenge, it is ever more critical that we spend in the right areas. On this, the International Development Strategy remains our guide. We will deliver honest and reliable investments; provide life-saving humanitarian assistance; and work to prevent the worst forms of human suffering.

We are also committed to more transparency over how we spend this money. The FCDO can only achieve its development aims when it works closely with our delivery partners.

But the UK’s international development programme has never just been about aid. It is also about making the most of Britain’s wider expertise: in science and technology, business, trade and finance as well as our strong civil society networks.

We want to support our staff: our people, who are at the front line of delivering the best of the UK. Our staff are delivering the programmes that underpin our funding, but they are also delivering ideas. 

We will also invest to develop new vaccines and drought-resistant crops with international partners

Yes, we must focus on the poorest and most vulnerable, prioritizing support to low-income countries, our humanitarian work, and providing opportunity for women and girls. But at the same time, we will continue to deliver a number of activities. We will invest in research. New vaccines, nutrition-enhanced potatoes and drought-resistant crops are the result of some of the best brains in UK science and universities collaborating with partners around the world – for the benefit of all.

We will offer honest and reliable investment around the world, including through our development vehicle British International Investment, providing an alternative to the binding offers of other countries. We will tackle climate change, helping countries move from coal to renewable fuels. And we will take a patient, long-term approach with partner governments to put in place the institutions and policies that will bring about long-term change. 

The greatest cause of our time

International development is the greatest cause of our time. This generation has the power to do something about the hideous discrepancies of wealth and opportunity which disfigure our world. 

As one of the world’s largest aid donors, we have the power to really make a difference. My mission is to reinforce – and enhance – the UK’s leadership on international development.

Read more: Chair of the International Development Select Committee Sarah Champion on the damage caused by Britain’s reduced aid spend