David Cameron, arrives as he is appointed as Foreign Secretary by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as he reshuffles his cabinet from 10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
David Cameron, arrives as he is appointed as Foreign Secretary by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as he reshuffles his cabinet from 10 Downing Street. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

White Paper on international development – analysis from our working groups

Following the release of the UK government White Paper on international development last week, we asked some of our working groups to analyse what was contained, and highlight what was missing.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Group

The Bond SDGs Group welcomes the White Paper’s strong references to the SDGs throughout. For many years, we have called for a coherent and comprehensive strategy to deliver on the SDGs in the UK, and the White Paper provides a basis to guide the UK’s work across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

We are pleased that the government has incorporated some of our key recommendations, notably a recommitment to Leave No One Behind, to human rights, to a whole-of-government approach, a deepening multistakeholder partnerships and shifting power in its aid programmes.

The UK must now play a positive role in pushing for some of the key reforms needed in the international financial and multilateral systems to unlock progress across the SDG framework and to rebuild trust. The challenge now is for the UK to operationalise and institutionalise the aspirations of the White Paper and to galvanise all departments in SDG implementation both internationally and domestically to promote policy coherence and deliver results.

Humanitarian Group

The White Paper presents a combination of positive commitments and missed opportunities. It’s encouraging to see a renewed dedication to reducing poverty, humanitarian principles, and lasting solutions. However, although allocating 50% of ODA to least developed countries is an important step, a clearer focus on fragile and conflict affected regions is needed.

Commitment to system reform and supporting communities affected by crises is commendable. Moving away from transferring risks to local organisations, and holding international agencies accountable for quality partnerships aligns with the objectives of decolonising aid.

Setting aside up to 15% for resilience building demonstrates commitment to long term solutions. However, an accepted definition is needed to depoliticise discussions on recovery in conflict situations such as Syria.

The commitment to legislate to introduce a tailored humanitarian ‘exception’ across UK’s financial sanctions is welcome and needs to happen as soon as possible, in consultation with NGOs and banks.

Disappointingly, one the of the most significant transformations the world is undergoing – population ageing – is completely absent from the paper.

While the White Paper indicates directions it misses an opportunity by not integrating peacebuilding into climate and humanitarian action.

Disability and Development Group (DDG)

The Bond DDG are encouraged that the White Paper guarantees the UK will be ‘delivering the commitments of the Disability Inclusion and Rights Strategy and the global disability summits’, alongside recognising that equal opportunities must be ensured for everyone if ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change is to be achieved.

Crucially there is an aim to prioritise ‘more effective targeted financing and support for disability inclusion’ and a commitment to scaling up solutions to reach ‘those most at risk of being left behind’, with a welcome focus in education.

Despite these assurances, there are notable gaps in disability mainstreaming across the paper, including in health, water and most disappointingly in climate, where people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted. But we hope the call to ‘build expertise’ by engaging organisations of persons with disabilities in decision making will ensure disability inclusion is realised across the spectrum of emerging global issues.

Changing Donor Policy and Practice Group

The Bond Changing Donor Policy & Practice Group is pleased the White Paper responded to the overwhelming call from Global North and South to prioritise inclusive and locally led development, especially its new commitments to build equitable partnerships “based on mutual respect”, to acknowledge the UK’s past and to be led by the communities closest to the issue.

We support the mainstreaming of this issue across sections on conflict, women’s rights and humanitarian action, and the commitment to “accept higher short-term risk” allowing for strengthened local partnership. We’re also glad to see plans for a new strategy on supporting local leadership, incorporating civil society engagement, “risk” and terminology, which we look forward to helping shape in the coming months.

For now, these are just words. The crucial test will be how these positive commitments are institutionalised, including what they mean for increasing unrestricted flexible funding, ringfenced funding for local organisations, reducing bureaucracy and better community engagement.

People of Colour in Development Group

The White Paper has a clear focus on equality and human rights, so the paper’s silence on specific anti-racism strategies is noticeable. It is crucial to understand that development policies and practices should actively work against perpetuating racial inequalities. This gap calls for a dedicated approach to ensure that anti-racism is ingrained in the fabric of international development efforts.

It is a missed opportunity to not acknowledge racial justice and its role in development in a stronger way. It is also a missed opportunity to not connect the White Paper to the recommendations from the IDC’s sub-inquiry into Racism in the Aid Sector, as these could have been integrated and built upon.

The UK wanting to be a trusted partner is commendable, and the confirmation that the government wants to do better in learning from, responding to and respecting priorities of low and middle income countries, but we would have welcomed being told how the FCDO plans to do this. Without the context as to why the UK has a responsibility to address colonial legacies and its role in perpetuating inequalities, it is not clear how we can hold them to account.


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