Demonstrators gesture during a protest over alleged police brutality in Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by: Temilade Adelaja / REUTERS

A civil service union in the United Kingdom warns of staff cuts among the country’s development ranks, security forces open fire on protesters against police brutality in Nigeria, and the U.S. Department of State considers a move from the civil society crackdown playbook. This week in development:

A union representing civil servants is warning of imminent staff cuts at the U.K.’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. A document written by the Public and Commercial Services Union and obtained by Devex says staff cuts for director-level positions are “expected to be in the range of 20%,” while adding it remains unclear whether those reductions will be, “replicated across the organisation.” Ministers have said that the merger that brought together the U.K.’s development department with its foreign office would not result in compulsory staff reductions, but the union representatives described a chaotic and unclear situation within the newly created FCDO. “We are now over a month into the existence of the FCDO, yet the future of the organisation in terms of size, shape, structure is still very unclear,” the document states. The group raised particular concerns about employees on short-term contracts, as well as those who are not U.K. citizens. The status for many in these categories remains “precarious,” they wrote. Whether non-U.K. citizens will be able to extend their employment could depend on FCDO’s eventual staffing structure. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is reportedly considering a “hybrid structure” that would allow European Union and Commonwealth nationals to hold most positions, while reserving some for U.K. nationals.

Nigerian security forces opened fire on protestors Tuesday night, killing several people and bringing more global attention to a movement against police brutality in Africa’s most populous country. In recent weeks, a young and decentralized movement has been calling on the government to do away with a heavily armed police unit called the Special Anti-Robbery Squad — or SARS. The group is notorious for violence, extortion, and torture, including reports of extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and it has long been the subject of public outcry. Last week, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that he would disband the unit, but public demonstrations have continued. Protestors had assembled at the Lekki toll gate in a northern suburb of Lagos, and some witnesses reported that security forces began shooting after first cutting the lights and removing security cameras. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres condemned “the escalation of violence,” and U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden urged the government “to cease the violent crackdown on protesters,” and to, “engage in a good-faith dialogue with civil society to address these long-standing grievances and work together for a more just and inclusive Nigeria.”

The U.S. Department of State is considering a declaration that would label prominent human rights groups anti-semitic, Politico reported on Wednesday. The declaration, supported by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, would reportedly refer to groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam, and it would urge governments not to provide them with funding based on their alleged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel’s construction of settlements on the West Bank. An Oxfam official told Politico it, “does not support BDS or call for the boycott of Israel or any other country,” and a representative of Human Rights Watch noted that, “criticizing government policy is not the same as attacking a specific group of people.” The potential declaration has drawn criticism at a time when civil society freedom is already under pressure from undemocratic regimes around the world. Such a move would provide “further cover for others to kick out/harass rights advocates,” Saskia Brechenmacher, a fellow in Carnegie's democracy, conflict, and governance program, wrote on Twitter.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.