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Women for Women International response to the DFID and Foreign Office merger

Response to the DFID and Foreign Office merger

16 JUNE 2020 | London

Women for Women International is deeply concerned about today’s announcement of the merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

We know that UKAid funding makes a real difference for some of the most marginalised people around the world, including women survivors of war. We have been proud to work with DFID over recent years to implement UKAid funding in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria, supporting over 15,000 women in total. Women in these countries have experienced the trauma of war and bear the burden of rebuilding after conflict.

We are particularly disappointed that there has been no consultation with civil society ahead of the decision announced today. We urge the UK Government to meet its ongoing commitment to consultation by ensuring there is widespread and meaningful engagement with a range of groups and experts from across the sector throughout the merger process. This is essential to ensuring that the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is fit for purpose.

As an organisation that has worked effectively with both DFID and the FCO, we understand, appreciate and support the mandates of both organisations. We urge the UK Government to reconsider today’s decision. Failing that, it is essential that the upcoming merger does not lead to DFID’s mission to ‘promote sustainable development and eliminate world poverty’ being deprioritised and jeopardised by political interests. The new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office must adhere to internationally agreed standards for aid spending, scrutiny and safeguarding (particularly on gender equality) as well as maintaining DFID's high standards and indispensable expertise.

What is more, the UK has committed to supporting the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, which includes a pledge to ‘Leave No One Behind’. It is vitally important that this merger does not result in reneging on our commitment to the world’s most marginalised people.

We must not turn our backs on the world. The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating inequality, and it is the world’s poorest who will bear the brunt. The economic impact of the global crisis is already having a devastating effect in the countries where Women for Women International works, with increased poverty, hunger and insecurity making life less safe for women in countries affected by conflict.

Now more than ever, we must keep to the commitments we have made as a member of the international community to the most vulnerable and marginalised women living in some of the world’s most challenging contexts. The alternative will undermine the progress that DFID has contributed to over the last 23 years.