In Brief: UK will have less than £4B for bilateral projects, analysis warns

A U.K. marine fixes a shelter kit to a house in the British Virgin Islands. Photo by: MOD / DFID / CC BY

The U.K. government's preexisting aid budget commitments mean that it will have less than £4 billion ($5.5 billion) to spend on bilateral projects, even in its priority areas, according to an analysis by the ONE Campaign, an anti-poverty group. That constitutes a 63% drop since 2019.

ONE warned that the U.K. government’s decision to reduce its aid spending to 0.5% of national income risked “severe consequences,” including for humanitarian aid and girls’ education, which were identified as priority areas by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

According to the analysis, even priority areas face cuts of nearly a quarter, and nonpriority areas — such as nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene — could be cut altogether.

The U.K. government has a number of multilateral spending commitments using aid funding that it is legally obligated or has promised to pay, amounting to £6.2 billion of a £10 billion total aid budget for 2021. These obligations include climate finance and international health initiatives such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, as well as payments to the European Union and World Health Organization.

Exclusive: NGOs say FCDO gagging them on aid cuts

The lack of transparency around the U.K. aid cuts has been a major concern for NGOs.

But the ONE report warned there would be even less money available if the government made multilateral payments it pushed back in summer 2020 when the first round of aid cuts took place, as the original 0.7% spending target shrank with the U.K. economy.

Why does it matter? Little is known about how decisions around the U.K. aid cuts have been made, and NGOs have repeatedly accused the government of poor transparency. The report highlighted the real-world consequences of cutting the aid budget so fast and by so much.

Crucially, it also confirmed what many suspected: Even FCDO priority areas are not safe, and many projects are likely to suffer.

About the author

  • William Worley

    William Worley is the U.K. Correspondent for Devex, covering DFID and British aid. Previously, he reported on international affairs, policy, and development. He also worked as a reporter for the U.K. national press, including the Times, Guardian, Independent, and i Paper. His reportage has included work on the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh, drought in Madagascar, the "migrant caravan" in Mexico, and Colombia’s peace process. He can be reached at william.worley@devex.com.