Priti Patel is the new DfID chief: This week in development news

By Michael Igoe 14 July 2016

Priti Patel, newly appointed U.K. secretary of state for international development. Photo by: British High Commission, New Delhi / CC BY-NC-ND

A British cabinet shakeup raises big questions about the future of U.K. aid. Experts weigh the developing world consequences of Brexit, and aid groups ponder the line between acceptable and unacceptable risk amid renewed fighting in South Sudan. This week in development news:

Priti Patel, a conservative member of the U.K. parliament, has been appointed secretary of state for international development, replacing Justine Greening as head of the world’s second largest bilateral aid agency, after Greening was named minister of education in new Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration. Greening has led the Department for International Development since 2012. Greening’s new appointment came as a surprise — and prompted immediate speculation about who would take her place. On Twitter, rumors circulated that May might not appoint a new head of DfID at all, opting instead to absorb the department into the country’s foreign office, now headed by former London Mayor Boris Johnson. Supporters of an independent DfID aren’t breathing easily yet. As Devex reporter Molly Anders pointed out, three years ago Patel argued for “scrapping” the department that she now will lead in favor of a trade-focused body.

In other Brexit news, short-term impacts of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union fall heavily on developing countries, which will suffer an estimated loss of $3.8 billion, according to the British think tank Overseas Development Institute. ODI estimates that the devaluation of the pound — coupled with a decrease in the U.K.’s gross domestic product — will reduce developing countries’ exports by $500 million and reduce the value of U.K. foreign aid to developing countries by roughly $1.9 billion. The report cautions that long-term impacts of Brexit remain unpredictable and depend in large part on the type of exit deal the U.K. negotiates with the EU.

Aid groups braced against an outburst of violence in South Sudan that saw at least 272 people killed, and which has some organizations shifting from development to humanitarian relief — and many reducing their presence in the world’s newest country. Médecins Sans Frontières announced plans to reduce teams in the city of Juba, amid a broader effort inside the medical organization to examine the nature of acceptable and unacceptable risk in humanitarian settings. In South Sudan, a tenuous truce is holding between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those who side with Vice President Riek Machar.

Southern African countries are appealing for $2.7 billion in drought aid to address the impacts of El Niño, which has contributed to the region’s worst drought in three decades and has left more than 20 million people in need of emergency food aid. UNICEF is also sounding an alarm that the El Niño-induced food and agricultural impacts could lead to an increase in HIV infections. Women and girls facing food and livelihood stress could be more likely to turn to sex to survive, and HIV patients are more likely to miss their treatments.

On Monday — World Population Day — the international community shined a spotlight on the importance of investing in teenage girls. The UNFPA pointed out that with more young people alive in the world today, and with 9 out of 10 of them living in less developed countries, investments in health and education for this segment of the population — and particularly for girls — are more critical than ever.

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About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.


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