UK aid cuts: reactions from the UK and beyond
7 May 2021
The UK government informed scores of programmes and organisations of cuts to their funding over the last two weeks.
On 21 April, Dominic Raab published a written statement outlining the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s (FCDO) official development assistance (ODA) budget for the financial year 2021/2022. The statement did not detail which areas of work had been cut.
This left journalists, NGOs and sector bodies scrambling to decipher what had been cut and by how much.
Here’s what @DominicRaab’s statement on #UKAid doesn’t say - the size of the cuts for some key sectors.— Al Russell (@awjrussell) April 21, 2021
Humanitarian response down nearly half since pre-pandemic and girls’ education down a quarter despite being a “priority”. pic.twitter.com/E00ALeS4LF
The headline figures were stark with a 41% cut to humanitarian assistance, 68% cut to conflict and open societies, 25% cut to girls’ education (despite being labelled a priority), and 9% cut to health compared to pre-pandemic levels.
There was widespread condemnation among prominent politicians across the political spectrum.
GOV cuts UK soft power by £4bn via Written Statement.— Tobias Ellwood MP (@Tobias_Ellwood) April 21, 2021
This is a grave mistake and not in the spirit of ‘Global Britain’.
I’m sorry @DominicRaab could not come to the Chamber to make this announcement. pic.twitter.com/pEYzlLP76U
The UK’s claim to be a soft power superpower is undercut by the abrupt cut to the aid budget. Altho’ the Foreign Secretary’s statement yesterday avoids giving the figures, cuts will fall heaviest on the UK’s projects in the poorest countries. https://t.co/eZB6Ns0Ns4— Peter Ricketts (@LordRickettsP) April 22, 2021
Good to see girls’ education & gender on the agenda for @G7.— Baroness Sugg (@liz_sugg) May 3, 2021
But finding it difficult to square this rhetoric with the reality of the #UKAid cuts - education ⬇️40%, life-saving family planning ⬇️85%. The lives of millions of women & girls will be harder.https://t.co/SwAikPtXJw
In a year that the UK is on the global stage by hosting the G7 and COP26, global agencies and public figures were quick to condemn the cuts.
The government rhetoric of “global Britain” was also questioned, as the cuts were seen as the UK retreating from the world stage.
UK’s 85% family planning aid cut will be devastating for women and girls says @UNFPA, while @UNAIDS also 'deeply regrets' cuts— UN News (@UN_News_Centre) May 1, 2021
“When funding stops, women and girls suffer” – UNFPA chief @Atayeshe https://t.co/RpQN3ja3rS
Spoke with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson this morning. I applaud his dedication to girls' education – but I am concerned he won't reach his goal of helping 40M girls go to school unless the U.K. recommits 0.7% of national income to aid and pledges £600M to @GPforEducation.— Malala (@Malala) April 23, 2021
It brings me no joy to criticise the Foreign Office, a dept I love, but I’m afraid the cuts to UKAid are badly thought through and will undermine our reputation internationally. Thanks to @Telegraph for publishing this from me today: https://t.co/l72vYs3Xd5— Lauren McEvatt (@LaurenMaeve) April 30, 2021
Following the statement, the FCDO began contacting organisations to inform them of budgets and programmes being cut. This included a 95% cut in polio eradication, 80% cut to WASH projects focusing on clean water and sanitation and cuts in conflict affected areas such as Myanmar, Niger and Yemen. There were also huge cuts to the UNAIDS programme and UNFPA, with an 85% cut to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
“When funding stops, women and girls suffer.” — Dr. Natalia Kanem, @UNFPA Executive Director— UNFPA (@UNFPA) April 29, 2021
See the statement on UK government funding cuts: https://t.co/aQhHzjb4r4 #StandUp4HumanRights #FundUNFPA pic.twitter.com/jq2JKfNB00
UNAIDS regrets the decision of the United Kingdom to reduce its financial support by 80%.— UNAIDS (@UNAIDS) April 29, 2021
This will have a significant impact on the provision of life-saving HIV services, access to sexual & reproductive health & rights, & upholding the human rights of the most marginalised.
These statements from UN agencies are particularly damning, as UN agencies hardly ever openly speak out against governments’ decisions.
While previous Conservative governments have championed the work of small NGOs and charities, the impact of the cuts from the current government was catastrophic, with funding from FCDO all but “wiped out”. Programmes affected include those focusing on educating girls who had been forced into domestic labour in Bangladesh, as well as several programmes working in reproductive health.
The Small Charities Challenge Fund was closed, forcing the closure of 42 programmes, to save £2.1 million. Jess Price, director at Health Improvement Project Zanzibar which had its programme closed, highlighted that this saving was less than the cost of a recent refurbishment to the Downing Street press room.
"The government has wiped out support for small charities by pulling the SCCF & Community Partnership grants & let down the sector". Read about the impact on #SmallButMighty charities like @UkBangladeshhttps://t.co/vKmdBuKoEE @devex @willrworley @FCDOGovUK— Small International Development Charities Network (@SIDCNetwork) April 30, 2021
UK cuts grants for small aid charities to save ‘less than cost of No 10 press room’https://t.co/0uDlfyKiD0— gavincrowden (@gavincrowden) May 6, 2021
The full picture is still coming to light. Bond is currently conducting a survey of our members to try and get a fuller idea of the impact of the cuts. If you haven't complete it yet, you can take part in our survey here.