Aid merger concerns: Moderator writes to PM

7.7.2020 | Mission News, Global Mission, Moderator, Church in Society, Public Affairs

Presbyterian Moderator, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, has expressed his deep concern at plans to merge the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), and asked the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP 'to reconsider this decision for the good of all, not least the poorest on our planet.'

In his letter, Dr Bruce echoed the concerns of PCI’s development partners, Tearfund and Christian Aid, along with many other like-minded NGOs and global charities. Dr Bruce wrote that the merger presented, “a very real danger around conflicts of interest and risks jeopardising the UK’s world-leading humanitarian work, with its dedicated focus on fighting poverty and inequality amongst the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.”

He also said, “The decision becomes harder to understand as we find ourselves in the midst of the biggest global humanitarian disaster in a century, with the Covid-19 pandemic threatening to reverse decades of hard-won gains for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, against the backdrop of challenges posed by the climate crisis.”

Rev Dr Liz Hughes, convener of PCI’s Council for Global Mission, which amongst other responsibilities manages the denomination’s international aid and disaster relief response through its development partners and partner churches around the world, welcomed the Moderator’s intervention. “Each year our 500-plus congregations wonderfully support our partners through the World Development Appeal, specific disaster relief responses and other means. The value of this kind of support and the difference that international aid can make is unquestionable,” Dr Hughes said.

“In his intervention, which I welcome, the Moderator was not saying that the UK’s international aid programmes would cease. Rather he was saying that DFID has an internationally respected reputation with a strong track record that has made a difference to the world’s poorest people, all of which is now at stake.

“He pointed out, however, that more aid spending has been directed towards countries where the UK has security, economic, and climate interests, a direction of travel that could become more entrenched if this decision is implemented. PCI is concerned the proposed merger represents a departure from DFID’s stated commitment to ‘put the last first’ through programmes aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This also raises particular fears that a link might be made between aid and trade on an increasing basis,” Dr Hughes explained.

Dr Hughes also made the point that the Independent Aid Transparency Index rates DFID within the top 10 internationally, while the FCO rates much lower. “To play with DFID’s reputation and its record seems a potentially damaging and retrograde step, especially in the midst of a global pandemic that will hit the poorest nations hardest.

“As our Moderator pointed out to Mr Johnson, for us as Christians, to defend the rights of the poor and needy, and to care for our global neighbours as much as we care for ourselves, are gospel imperatives. I would add that these are basic humanitarian values, which are shared by people of all faiths and none, and this should include secular governments,” she said.

With Members of Parliament due to debate matters relating to DFID and the FCO in the House of Commons this Thursday, Dr Hughes also called on Northern Ireland’s MPs to raise this important issue during the debate.

You can read Dr Bruce's letter to the Prime Minister here.

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