NGOs free to speak out against UK aid cuts 'without fear,' FCDO insists

FCDO Minister Nigel Adams. Photo by: Peter Nicholls / Reuters

Development organizations are “free to raise concerns about potential reductions” to the aid budget “without fear that this will prejudice their standing with FCDO,” according to the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

“Delivery partners will continue to be chosen on the basis of who is best able to deliver U.K. aid programmes, including through the fair and transparent procurement process set out in the Public Procurement Regulations,” wrote FCDO Minister Nigel Adams in response to a parliamentary question on Thursday.

He added that final decisions on the aid cuts had “not yet been made” — but the government is expected to make an announcement on the reductions next week. Funding cuts have already impacted humanitarian, family planning and research programs.

Why does it matter?

The development sector has not always enjoyed the freedom to speak out about how the aid cuts would impact their work. In March, Devex reported that FCDO officials were instructing some development organizations facing budget cuts and consequent program cancellations against talking about the reductions publicly.

Threats around funding lingered over some NGOs facing cuts, preventing them from speaking out, sources told Devex.

The government has faced widespread criticism for its approach to the reductions, which are taking place after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last year that the U.K. would not be meeting the legally enshrined spending target of 0.7% of national income. Spending has been reduced to 0.5% of national income, leaving a gap of around £4.5 billion ($6.2 billion).

The cuts process has taken place without transparency or consultation on how harm could be mitigated, according to sources at aid organizations.

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.