Tuesday, 16 June 2020

New Missionary Zeal announced by Johnson, just as virtually everyone else is reflecting our national gross mistakes of slavery and colonialism

On 9th June, the UK House of Commons' specialist select committee charged with overseeing  Government  policy on overseas  international development  produced a detailed report  on "The Effectiveness of  UK aid."

In conducting its inquiry it took  oral evidence from 15 independent expert witnesses, along with the Secretary of State for International Development, Anne-Marie Trevelyan M, and her junior minister , James Cleverly MP, who also holds a position overseeing Africa and the Middle East at   Foreign Office.

Here is one of the important international matters addressed by the Secretary of State in her oral evidence on 28 April:

"We have made some really punchy and world-leading investments early on in terms of vaccine and drug development. £250 million went into CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is the organisation that then can help the scientists with, potentially, a vaccine and then roll it out to the next stages of trials and so on. There are a number of those now moving forward. It is really critical.
We have also invested in the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, again to help in that medical space, to help what might be a small business or a small scientific group to take an idea and push it through, because that might be the one that cracks it. Those are really important in that space because, until we can have a treatment programme, be it a vaccine or other treatments that we can take globally, we cannot crack that. These focuses are really important.
We have also put nearly £300 million into resilience programmes, if you likeUN appeals and the WHO—and underwriting British funding to help them to really be able to take up the challenge of assessing and starting to support those most vulnerable countries. Of course, there is then a wider economic response both in terms of the £150 million that we have committed in the short term to the IMF to help with its catastrophe trust, and the Treasury has worked on a big package with the Paris Club for debt deferrals to help underpin and shore up those economies so that they do not crash.
…..The question of the integrated review is one that the Prime Minister has, as you know, spoken of for some time. It is about really having the chance to properly look across Whitehall at all our outward-facing activities and to ask ourselves what our priorities are. Are we doing it as well as we can? Do we want to change direction? Coming out of the EU after 40 years, there are large asleep policy areas because they were not ours to make independent decisions upon. He really wants to properly kick the can in every area and have a coherent and wide conversation, not only within Government but with all those who are experts in any particular part of that international conversation. It had begun. We had a couple of gatherings on it. Quite a lot of thinking has gone on.
That is what I would call a kind of machinery-of-government side-line outcome at this point. The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to the 0.7%. You all know him as well as I do. He is an internationalist to his boots and he believes in it incredibly strongly. As he put in the manifesto, “We will proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7%”. He did not have to put the word “proudly” in; I thought that was rather touching. He genuinely feels that this is something that the UK should and will continue to do.
Regarding the question of how we deliver it most effectively, and whether the Foreign Office and DFID together do a better job, they do different things. The Foreign Office has some very specific global leadership roles. DFID is all about delivery, really, and strategic policy thinking and working with international agencies like the World Bank and all those sorts of organisations. They do two very different things.

Here is  what Cleverly  told the Committee in oral evidence on 28 April:

"The Prime Minister appointed separate Secretaries of State for the FCO and DFID. Ultimately, the structure of Departments is a choice for the Prime Minister, but we do have separate Secretaries of State. The functions of the Departments are complementary and aligned, but they are not the same. The fact that we still have two sets of civil servants, each with different skillsets, indicates to me that the departmental work from the FCO and DFID is complementary. I know the Prime Minister is seeking to get greater alignment and to make sure that all of the Departments of Government that face internationally are pulling in the same direction, but ultimately they are structurally separate and their work is different.|)

The key single conclusion of the inquiry was:
 "In a time of COVID-19, we need stability and should seek to avoid a potentially disruptive and costly machinery of government reorganisation that will impact on the effectiveness of aid.
This Committee advocates strongly for the retention of the current standalone Ministry of State model for international development, with a Cabinet level Minister. If the Government should decide to make significant changes to current systems and structures for administering UK aid, the Government should, as a minimum, present a statement to Parliament setting out an evidence-led rationale for any change; quantifying expected costs and how intended benefits justify the costs and showing how both will be measured and controlled."
Less than a week later, the Prime Minister told Parliament in a statement to MPs on  16 June he was doing exactly the opposite!
Here is is his less than convincing explanation.

The Prime Minister has announced (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/prime-minister-announces-merger-of-department-for-international-development-and-foreign-office) that
"DFID and the FCO will merge, uniting development and diplomacy in one new department that brings together Britain’s international effort.
Work will begin immediately on the merger. The new department – the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – will be established in early September and will be led by the Foreign Secretary.
The merger is an opportunity for the UK to have even greater impact and influence on the world stage as we recover from the coronavirus pandemic and prepare to hold the G7 presidency and host COP26 next year.
UK aid will be given new prominence within our ambitious international policy. The Foreign Secretary will be empowered to make decisions on aid spending in line with the UK’s priorities overseas, harnessing the skills, expertise and evidence that have earned our reputation as a leader in the international development community.
The UK is the only G7 country to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas development and the Government remains committed to this target, which is enshrined in law.
Announcing the new department, the Prime Minister said:
This is exactly the moment when we must mobilise every one of our national assets, including our aid budget and expertise, to safeguard British interests and values overseas.
And the best possible instrument for doing that will be a new department charged with using all the tools of British influence to seize the opportunities ahead.
The Prime Minister has also announced that the UK’s Trade Commissioners will come under the authority of UK Ambassadors overseas, bringing more coherence to our international presence.
The objectives of the new overseas department will be shaped by the outcome of the Integrated Review, which is expected to conclude in the autumn, and is the biggest review of foreign, defence and development policy since the Cold War."

In answering questions in the House of Commons after his statement, the Prime Minister said he looked forward to the new  super international affairs department taking Global Britain out to the  wider World with "missionary zeal"

After two weeks of national  soul-searching over Britain's past roles in slavery and colonialism, he could have chosen his words more carefully!
Effectiveness of UK aid: interim findings
International DEvelopment Committee  9 June 2020


Published: 9 June 2020

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