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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab greets Italy's Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio at G7 foreign leaders at Lancaster House in London.

Credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street - Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

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 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