The Inter-American Development Bank headquarters in New York. Photo by: Wally Gobetz / CC BY-NC-ND

Boris Johnson does away with DFID, Donald Trump taps an American to lead IDB, and aid leaders face calls to confront systemic racism. This week in development:

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Tuesday that the Department for International Development will merge with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, confirming long-held fears that the country would do away with its highly regarded, independent development agency. In a speech to Parliament, Johnson revealed that the two departments will become the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The move has sparked widespread concern that it will see anti-poverty objectives subordinated to U.K. foreign policy and security goals, decrease transparency of aid spending, and threaten the quality of British development programs. “One cardinal lesson of the pandemic is that distinctions between diplomacy and overseas development are artificial and outdated,” Johnson said in his speech. He also referred to current U.K. aid spending as a “giant cashpoint in the sky” and questioned why the country gives as much aid to Zambia as it does to Ukraine, “though the latter is vital for European security.” Some British aid professionals found those comments worrying — or even offensive — since they seemed to suggest national interest could trump global need in aid allocation decisions. “The language used … [was] really quite disrespectful to the thought, effort, and commitment that has gone into aid and development programs,” said Myles Wickstead, visiting professor in international relations at King's College London. As a result of the merger, the parliamentary body that scrutinizes U.K. aid spending — the International Development Committee — could also face closure, according to a letter received within hours of Johnson’s announcement by Sarah Champion, the committee’s chair. Champion said DFID’s 3,600 staffers are her biggest concern. “They have at best a merger, and at worst potential redundancies hanging over their heads,” she said.

The White House plans to nominate an American to be president of the Inter-American Development Bank, breaking with a 60-year tradition that has seen leadership of the multilateral organization go to a Latin American. Mauricio Claver-Carone, the current head of Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, has received the endorsement of a handful of countries, including Brazil, one of the bank’s largest shareholders after the U.S. The current IDB president, Luis Alberto Moreno from Colombia, has led the institution since 2005 and plans to step down in September. “The nomination of Mr. Claver-Carone demonstrates President Trump’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in important regional institutions,” said U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Claver-Carone, a former U.S. Treasury official and U.S. director at the International Monetary Fund, is known for taking hard-line positions on American policy toward Cuba and Venezuela, where the Trump administration has been working to undermine the presidency of Nicolas Maduro. The White House previously put forward Claver-Carone to be IDB’s executive vice president, a powerful role historically reserved for an American, but Moreno rejected the choice out of concern that Claver-Carone’s positions might be at odds with the bank’s development mandate, according to The Associated Press. Claver-Carone has committed to serving a single five-year term, citing a need to end the practice of IDB presidents assuming the role for more than two terms.

Global development leaders are under pressure to confront and address the effects of institutional racism, both within their own organizations and in the design, portrayal, and implementation of their programs. Staffers at the U.S. Agency for International Development have circulated a letter calling on acting Administrator John Barsa to take a more public stance against racism and arguing that “USAID's credibility and effectiveness abroad are undermined by systemic racism and injustice at home." The letter, reportedly signed by more than 1,000 staff members, asked the agency’s leaders to “improve hiring outreach, fix our broken talent pipeline, and ensure that incoming and current nonwhite staff have equal opportunities and are paid and promoted equitably to their colleagues.” Other development organizations are also under scrutiny. On Tuesday, Katja Iversen, president and CEO of Women Deliver, announced she will take a leave of absence amid an independent probe of racial discrimination within the women’s rights organization. Calls to end police violence and racial discrimination have now gone global. At the request of 54 African heads of state, the United Nations Human Rights Council agreed to an “urgent debate” on racism and police brutality, which was held Wednesday and included remarks from the brother of George Floyd, the black man whose death in police custody sparked protests in the U.S. and around the world. Philonise Floyd called on the council to conduct a high-level international investigation into the killing of black people in America.

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.