When I wrote a blog post listing the new ministers appointed at the Department for International Development after the referendum result last June, I can honestly say I did not expect to be writing another blog so similar and so soon. But such is the nature of politics.
I’m sure that we weren’t the only ones who were somewhat surprised by the election result a couple of weeks back. Some of you who attended the National Conference might remember the parliamentary advocacy session where you planned out your advocacy strategy in the context of different election outcome scenarios. Well, it turns out that none of the election scenarios that we provided were anywhere near accurate, just like most polls and pundits. Sorry folks!
At the time of writing, the Conservative Party (in minority government) has yet to secure an agreement with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. Jeremy Corbyn has proclaimed that Labour is the ‘government in waiting’ to his MPs. Meanwhile, the prime minister is pushing ahead with the reshuffle at full force. What all of this means is pretty uncertain at the moment. But we do know that there are several key updates for UK international development.
So here’s what we know so far:
The Government has committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on UK aid: Alongside all of the other major parties, the Conservatives pledged to ‘maintain the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on assistance to developing nations and international emergencies’ in their election manifesto. The party also committed to spend aid in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, ending extreme poverty, saving children’s lives, providing an education for girls and investing in research and development into threats to global health. It pledged to work with other countries to change international definitions of development assistance or to change the law to alter the definition of aid spending.
Priti Patel has been re-appointed as Secretary of State for International Development: Patel, who was appointed by prime minister Theresa May last July, returns to lead the Department for International Development. Over the last year, Patel made clear that she intended to uphold the 2015 manifesto commitments to education, health, nutrition and leaving no one behind. Notably, last September, after months of action from RESULTS UK campaigners and other organisations, Patel increased the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to £1.1 billion.
DFID remains an independent department, but ministerial posts are merged: Despite reports circulating last weekend that Boris Johnson had asked for complete control of the UK’s aid budget, DFID has not been folded into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). Instead of having three DFID ministers serving Patel, two of the ministers now hold joint positions between DFID and the FCO, while one continues to work solely at DFID. Joint ministers are not a new phenomenon – there were many under David Cameron – but how this DFID/FCO arrangement will work in practice remains to be seen.
Rory Stewart retains his ministerial position, but the post is now joint with the Foreign Office: Stewart is back in his post as Minister of State, continuing to oversee DFID’s work in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, as well as on conflict humanitarian and security and economic development. But Stewart’s ministerial remit has also expanded: he also holds responsibility for several areas of the FCO, including the department’s work in Africa. Stewart is now accountable to both Priti Patel at DFID and Boris Johnson at the FCO.
Alistair Burt is appointed in a ministerial position joint between DFID and the Foreign Office: Former DFID Minister James Wharton lost his seat in the election. His replacement, Alistair Burt, served as Minister of State for Community and Social Care at the Department of Health last year and as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the FCO from May 2010 until October 2013. Burt is known for supporting for improved humanitarian access to Syria during his time at the FCO. His ministerial remit for DFID includes the Middle East & North Africa; Asia (DFID only); conflict, humanitarian, and security; human development, including children, education and youth, the Global Funds Department and cross government funds. This means that Burt will oversee most of the issue areas that we work on. Like Stewart, he also holds responsibility for some of the FCO’s work, including in the Middle East and North Africa.
Lord Bates retains his ministerial position at DFID: Lord Bates is the only junior minister to retain his position solely at DFID. Lord Bates’ ministerial remit at DFID includes the Caribbean, Overseas Territories, Europe, the United Nations and Commonwealth, global partnerships and emerging powers, education and youth. When there is a debate on an area of international development in the House of Lords, Lord Bates answers for the government.
Now, we await the Queen’s Speech where the government will outline its parliamentary plans for the next year. It will take place from 21st June before MPs vote on the content of the speech - essentially a vote of confidence in the government, on 29th June. Phew! A week certainly is a long time in politics.