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16 Jun, 2020 15:37

Jackpot for anyone near Russia: Boris Johnson merges departments to ‘unite our aid with our diplomacy’

Jackpot for anyone near Russia: Boris Johnson merges departments to ‘unite our aid with our diplomacy’

The UK’s Dept for International Development (DfID) is to merge with its Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced, citing a desire to help countries “vulnerable to Russian meddling.”

The new department is to be called the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and headed by current Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, and is likely to come into effect this autumn. Explaining the move, Johnson was explicit in his aim to move DfID’s vast aid budget (set at 0.7 percent of gross national income) to more politically or economically useful destinations. 

“We give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security,” the PM told Parliament on Tuesday. “We give 10 times as much aid to Tanzania as we do to the six countries of the western Balkans, who are acutely vulnerable to Russian meddling.”

This will unite our aid with our diplomacy, and bring them together in our international effort.

Good news for those with, say, oil or convenient borders; not such good news for resource-poor countries in less strategically important locations.

The decision has already been criticized by Johnson’s predecessor David Cameron, who tweeted that the merger was a “mistake” and would lead to “ultimately less respect for the UK overseas.”

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Labour leader Keir Starmer also weighed in on the debate, labelling the move “the tactics of pure distraction,” at a time when the government is under pressure for its handling of the Covid-19 crisis, high unemployment figures and a u-turn on free school meals for vulnerable children. 

“I want to see Britain as a moral force for good in the world,” he added. “We don’t achieve that by abolishing one of the best performing and most important departments.”

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