UK earmarks half of aid budget for fragile states

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. In his Lord Mayor’s banquet speech yesterday, he announced that his country will spend 50 percent of foreign aid on fragile states, a 30 percent increase from 2014. Photo by: Russell Watkins / DfID / CC BY-SA

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron announced yesterday that the U.K. will dedicate half of the Department for International Development’s aid budget to developing “fragile and failing” states, as part of a “full-spectrum response” to the threat posed by Islamic State group.

The Department for International Development committed last year to spending 30 percent of its $18 billion aid budget on fragile and failing states, according to 2014 data from the Department for International Development. The shift announced yesterday would therefore necessitate a pull of approximately $3.6 billion from elsewhere in the aid budget.

43 percent of the U.K.’s total aid budget – including funds administered through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – currently goes to fragile states and regions, a DfID spokeswoman told Devex.

It’s not yet known exactly where the aid will come from in terms of countries or sectors, but DfID priorities – which will likely see fewer cuts – include economic development, women and girls, and disaster response; all top priorities outlined in previous statements by Justine Greening, the secretary of state for international development.

Cameron also referred to earlier remarks by U.K. Chancellor George Osborne, who said the government would “break ground” by diverting official development assistance in order to support refugees for their first year in the country. The practice is actually already common in the U.K., which spends approximately 0.8 percent of its aid budget on refugee assistance in-country, according to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Compared with other OECD donors, the U.K. diverts among the least to such assistance, so it’s possible the U.K. will use more ODA for this purpose and follow the lead of countries including Sweden, Norway and Finland, all of which spend more than 15 percent of ODA on refugee assistance in-country.

“There’s no capping of ODA to refugees, donors can spend as much as they want,” Yasmin Ahmad, data collections manager at the OECD development cooperation directorate told Devex in a phone interview. 

“Across Europe there’s been an increase over the past because costs for keeping refugees has gone up, but it’s a problem for us because many countries already using funds weren’t reporting them, and the U.K. didn’t report for number of years until recently,” Ahmad said.

Stay tuned for more coverage from Devex on this major shift for aid spending priorities in the U.K. and how changes will affect DfID and its implementers.

For more U.K. news, views and analysis visit the Future of DfID series page, follow @devex on Twitter and tweet using the hashtag #FutureofDfID.

About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.