Greening retains position as head of DfID

Justine Greening was greeted by Permanent Secretary for the U.K. Department for International Development Mark Lowcock and staff upon her return to the aid agency’s headquarters after being reappointed as secretary of state for international development. Photo by: Jessica Lea / DFID / CC BY-NC

U.K. Department for International Development chief Justine Greening is to remain in post following May 7’s general election.

Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed Monday that the secretary of state would retain the position, after his Conservative party emerged victorious at the polls last week.

Greening, who has headed the department since September 2012, told reporters outside No. 10 Downing Street she was “very happy” and “delighted” to keep the role. She later released a statement saying she was “proud” to continue in at the department, and vowed the U.K. would remain at the forefront of agreeing new global poverty reduction targets in the year ahead.

“I believe in a U.K. which stands tall in the world and shapes events around us,” Greening said. “Our investment in international development can help create a world that, over time, is healthier, more stable and increasingly prosperous.”

Her reappointment was backed by global development professionals. Ben Jackson, CEO of the U.K. sector’s membership organization Bond described Greening as “very knowledgeable of the immediate issues and challenges facing the sector” and “a passionate advocate for women and girls.”

“2015 is a major year as we come to the end of the [Millennium Development Goals] and the start of the [sustainable development goals]. It’s important that the secretary of state plays a leading role at key negotiations over the next six months to ensure they deliver for people and the planet,” he added.

ONE Campaign’s U.K. Director Diane Sheard also voiced her support for the decision.

“As the cabinet minister responsible for continuing the U.K.’s leadership on overseas development, we wish Justine Greening every success as she returns to her in role at DfID,” she said. “As the new government begins its program of work, it is crucial that ending extreme poverty is seen as a top foreign policy priority.”

New minister — Grant Shapps

Prime Minister Cameron also announced the party’s former co-chairman Grant Shapps would move to DfID as a minister. The department is yet to confirm his responsibilities.

The member of the Parliament’s former roles since he was elected in 2005 included shadow housing minister and minister for housing and local government. Parliamentary records show he did not take part in a House of Commons vote in December 2014 to pass a bill to commit 0.7 percent of U.K. gross national income to official development assistance each year.

Grant Shapps was appointed by David Cameron as minister of state at the Department for International Development. Photo by: Paul Toeman / Conservatives / CC BY-NC-ND

The British press has reported his appointment as a demotion, pointing to embarrassment he caused his party during the election campaign over allegations of editing the Wikipedia pages of his Conservative party rivals, including Greening’s, and for failing to fully declare financial interests and paid employment outside Parliament.

A global development insider who wished to remain anonymous told Devex they were disappointed that despite its achievements, DfID was often seen politically as the “naughty step” of government departments.

“This is an opportunity for Shapps to rebuild his reputation,” the source noted. “It’s a great department and it would be a real shame for a minister to not use it if they have been demoted.”

Uncertainty over Desmond Swayne

Cameron is yet to clarify other appointments at DfID, particularly the future of minister Desmond Swayne. Despite still being listed on the DfID website as a minister of state for international development, he appeared to have been locked out of the department’s offices Monday when he arrived for work.

Swayne, who has worked on international development since July 2014, yesterday tweeted: “No calls. Arrived DFID: Pass didn't work; All my stuff packed in boxes. The End?”

The prime minister is due to announce further appointments today.

Other moves

Former Parliamentary Undersecretary of State Baroness Northover has lost her position at DfID. Her party, the Liberal Democrats, is no longer in coalition government, with the Conservative party winning an overall majority in the elections.

Northover replaced Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone in the position in November 2014. Featherstone, who is credited for high-profile anti-female genital mutilation campaigning, lost her north London seat in last week’s elections and is no longer an MP.

Other Liberal Democrat MPs who had a role in development but failed to gain re-election include international affairs spokesman Martin Horwood and Michael Moore, who introduced the private member’s bill that led to a new law committing 0.7 percent of U.K. GNI on development.

The Labour Party yesterday confirmed Mary Creagh MP would remain in her position as shadow secretary of state for international development.

Stay tuned for more U.K. election coverage and news, views and analysis on how this impacts DfID and U.K. aid in the coming weeks. To explore additional content, visit the Future of DfID series site, follow us on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #FutureofDfID.

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  • Gabriella jozwiak profile

    Gabriella Jóźwiak

    Gabriella Jóźwiak is an award-winning journalist based in London. Her work on issues and policies affecting children and young people in developing countries and the U.K. has been published in national newspapers and magazines. Having worked in-house for domestic and international development charities, Jóźwiak has a keen interest in organizational development, and has worked as a journalist in several countries across West Africa and South America.