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What does Boris Johnson mean for international development?

24 July 2019
Author: Paul Abernethy

Boris Johnson is the new prime minister of the United Kingdom. Winning around 66% of the vote from Conservative Party members, he beat the current foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt to the title of Conservative Party leader, securing over 92,000 votes in a contest that had nearly 160,000 eligible votes. 

The former mayor of London and foreign secretary will take the office today and is expected to name his cabinet ministers throughout the week. But what does his appointment mean for international development?

Johnson’s views on the aid budget and DFID

Over the past month, Boris Johnson has come out in support of the law which determines that the UK spends at least 0.7% of our gross national income on Official Development Assistance (ODA). That said, through the various hustings in front of Conservative party members across the UK, he has also said he believes that the international aid budget should be used to support the diplomatic and commercial objectives of the UK. 

While ODA is protected by international rules set by the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC), a move like this could represent a significant shift in the way UK aid is currently spent. 

This isn’t the first time Johnson has spoken out on the issue – earlier this year he called for a multibillion-pound cut to the aid budget and the closure of the Department for International Development (DFID) as a separate Whitehall department. 

We believe that any closure or merger of DFID with another Whitehall department would severely undermine the life-saving interventions of the UK and run contrary to the government’s ambition for Britain to remain an outward facing, globally engaged nation.

What is Bond doing?

We hope Boris Johnson will continue to build on the UK’s globally respected reputation on international development, so we can keep tackling some of the world’s toughest problems, like the scourges of poverty, inequality and injustice, and the climate emergency. 

We are working with our members to make clear what we need to see from the new prime minister to build “a safer, healthier, more prosperous world” and align UK aid with the “Sustainable Development Goals, to end extreme poverty, save children’s lives, and provide education for girls”, as stated in the 2017 Conservative party manifesto

We will continue to make the case that the UK must lead by example in meeting its own objectives for international development and stick to internationally-agreed principles. The new government must ensure that all UK aid is focused on the primary purpose of reducing poverty and inequality, reaches most vulnerable and marginalised communities around the world and is spent in a sustainable, climate compatible way, to ensure that no one is left behind. 

If you would like to be involved in our preparations for working with the new government, email Paul Abernethy or Alice Whitehead

Join the Bond Lobbying Group to gain political insight on lobbying and campaigning related to UK aid issues.

About the author

Paul Abernethy
Bond

Paul leads the political advocacy of Bond, working with parliamentarians and ministers in support of ending global poverty.