DfID appointment appears to assure department’s future

25 Jul 19

The appointment of Alok Sharma as the UK’s new international development secretary appears to have scotched uncertainty over the department’s future.

Alok SharmaIndian-born Sharma was named secretary of state for international development by Boris Johnson after the new Conservative leader took over from Theresa May as prime minister yesterday.

Development professionals have greeted the arrival of the former employment, housing and Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister with calls for him to put to bed question marks over DfID’s future.

“I am delighted to have been appointed international development secretary,” Sharma said after his appointment. 

“We will work across the whole of government to deliver Brexit and make sure UK aid is tackling global challenges that affect us all, such as climate change, disease and humanitarian disasters.

“Investing 0.7% of GNI on international development shows we are an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain that is fully engaged with the world.

“I am committed to transforming the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, giving them access to quality education and jobs, while promoting Britain’s economic, security and foreign interests.”

Sharma replaces Rory Stewart to become DfID’s fifth leader in just four years, an issue that observers say has contributed to uncertainty about the future of the department amid speculation that Johnson could merge it with the FCO.

In her final questions in parliament, May defended DfID and described the aid budget as “an important element of our standing in the world”.

Although Sharma is a newcomer to development issues, his appointment was greeted with relief among professionals in this sector, who called for him to rule out a future FCO merger.

David Westwood, director of policy and programmes at World Vision UK, said: “We know that aid is spent most effectively and transparently through DfID, and we urge Sharma to fight for it to remain an independent department. 

“A messy and costly merger with the Foreign Office would lead to inefficient spending, unclear priorities, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

“When aid is spent well it helps break the cycle of poverty. But it’s also a key part of building the UK’s influence on a global stage, while helping ensure peace and stability. 

“A government that claims to promote a ‘global Britain’ should take this seriously.”

  • Gavin O'Toole, expert on Latin America
    Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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