New UK Government Doubles Down on Its Commitment to Tackling Global Challenges

By Noha Zeitoun

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On May 7, 2015, Conservative David Cameron was once again elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and this time with a majority in Parliament. In theory, this gave the Conservative Party unfettered agency to implement its own strategy toward domestic and international affairs without much need for compromise. The world waited until November to learn exactly how that impacted development aid.

In its “UK Aid: Tackling Global Challenges in the National Interest” report, the Department for International Development (DFID) announced bold commitments to tackle malaria, family planning, nutrition, sanitation and extreme poverty. The new strategy outlines a cross-governmental approach, going beyond traditional aid by impacting global issues and poverty through tax policies, debt and trade.

The UK is among only a handful of countries that spend at least 0.7% of their gross national income (GNI) on international aid, the United Nations’ aid spending target, and the only G20 country to do so. The new UK aid strategy reassures the international community that the UK will continue to do so.

Additionally, the new aid strategy outlined four strategic objectives and included strengthening global peace, security and governance; strengthening resilience and response to crises; promoting global prosperity; and tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable. Focusing on aid as a strategy for the country’s own security and national interest, DFID will allocate 50% of its spending to fragile states and regions.

David Cameron Addresses The 2015 Conservative Party Autumn Conference (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

“I believe it’s a false choice to say we should either do the right thing or the smart thing – because a strong, sensible international development approach will achieve both,” says the Right Honorable Justine Greening MP, secretary of state for international development for the United Kingdom from the Chatham House in London. “That in responding to the needs of the poorest, we address our own too. That what benefits them, also benefits us.”

The government’s commitments will work to eradicate extreme poverty and improve the lives of the world’s poorest by 2020. Through increased investment and continued commitments, the government will fund greater business and sustainable economic development in the poorest developing countries. The new strategy aims to save the lives of 1.4 million children by immunizing 76 million against deadly diseases, help at least 11 million children gain a decent education, increase access to family planning, improve nutrition, tackle violence against women in all forms, end preventable child and maternal deaths, and stop disease by giving at least 60 million people access to clean water and sanitation.

While DFID will remain a primary channel for distribution of funds, there is a push for a more integrated approach, including the use of a new cross-government Prosperity Fund led by the UK’s National Security Council to support global prosperity. A new £500 million ($758m) Official Development Assistance Crisis Reserve will support the government’s global crisis response.

With the increasing global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the government announced the launch of the new £195 million ($295m) Fleming Fund to strengthen surveillance of drug resistance and lab capacities in developing countries. The new aid strategy invests an additional £70 million ($106m) into the fund and an additional £90 million ($136m) into the UK Vaccines Network until 2020. In addition, over the next five years £1 billion ($1.5b) will be invested into the new Ross Fund for research and development in combatting infectious diseases, including testing vaccines, treatments and technology. The fund, partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will support the fight to eradicate malaria.

Read more about DFID’s Innovation Hub in Impact magazine.

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