February 22, 2024

Leading Business

Business in Evolution

The UK government’s strategy for international development

37 min read

Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs by Command of Her Majesty, May 2022.

A UK aid flight carrying blankets and hygiene kits for Ukrainian refugees arrives in Moldova. Credit: Igor Zaharov/FCDO.

A community leader shows an older community member how to use a tablet. Hello World secured a Small Charities Challenge Fund grant to bring solar-powered outdoor internet Hubs to 5 isolated and rural Himalayan communities in Nepal. These hubs have launched connectivity, education, training, employment and driven transformational change. Credit: Johnny Fenn and Hello World

Scientists at the Kenyan Medical Research Institute (KEMRI). UK funding of £1.2 million supported a series of studies led by the KEMRI Wellcome Trust research programme together with the Kenyan Ministry of Health to help monitor, understand and inform the COVID 19 response in Kenya. Credit: KEMRI/Wellcome Trust.

Construction of a solar home system by Bboxx Kenya to which GuarantCo, part of the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG), provided a KES 1.2 billion (c. USD 11.25 million) financing solution to invest in affordable solar home systems for 470,000 Kenyans. Credit: Bboxx.


Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.

The UK has a proud record of global leadership on international development. We have helped support tremendous progress over recent decades, improving people’s lives, tackling poverty, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance and helping countries to become more prosperous, resilient and secure.

But in the world we face today our development work must form an increasingly key part of a coherent UK foreign policy. We are already providing life-saving aid to those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as we have in crises from Afghanistan to Yemen, and Ethiopia to Nigeria. We are delivering on our health plans, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are taking forward our commitments made during the UK’s Presidency of the G7 and of COP26 on global health, climate and nature. I am proud to have launched British International Investment, providing honest and reliable investment to help low- and middle-income countries access the investment they need.

This new International Development Strategy builds on these foundations and gives direction to our future priorities, building a distinct UK offer to support countries to make progress, secure investment, build resilient economies and institutions, and unleash their population’s potential.

This is a whole of government approach not only to how we will deliver UK aid, but also how we will work with and help to channel world class UK expertise, business, civil society networks, research partnerships and technology capability towards development outcomes. A distinct UK response that will help to build countries’ resilience and empower people.

Ultimately, our strategy is about unleashing the power of people and countries to take control of their own future. We will strip back bureaucracy, give greater autonomy to our Ambassadors and High Commissioners, and focus on a more responsive development offer for developing country partners. At the same time, we will ensure that our international development work furthers UK ideals, standing up for freedom around the world and supporting countries to plan for their own sustained, long-term progress and resilience.

The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs

Executive summary

Our International Development Strategy is a central part of a coherent UK foreign policy. The principles of free markets, free trade, effective institutions, free speech and shared technology have underpinned development advances over recent decades. But we live in a world where these principles are challenged by a renewed geopolitical contest for influence. At the same time, global challenges threaten development progress – from climate change and biodiversity loss, to the pandemic, which pushed millions into poverty.

This strategy revisits the UK’s approach to international development in light of this new context, building on the Integrated Review. Progress towards a safer and more prosperous world requires all our capabilities – our diplomatic influence, trade policy, defence, intelligence, business partnerships and development expertise – to build strong country-level partnerships and effective global alliances. We all benefit from that progress, in the UK and around the world.

Success means unleashing the potential of people in low- and middle-income countries to improve their lives. When people have more power and choice, populations become more prosperous, peaceful and healthier. While supporting the principles of freedom, democracy and self-determination, our development partnerships will tackle the causes of instability, conflict and human suffering. This will give citizens in those countries a greater stake in their own future and yield dividends including removing some key drivers of irregular migration.

We will draw on our national strengths to provide a better offer through four clear priorities. Together these build on what we know about successful development, underpinned by core principles such as supporting the long-term agency of countries and people, building effective institutions and capabilities, and drawing on our world class research and expertise. This approach will enable us to provide effective, integrated support to partner countries striving to determine their own future.

  • deliver honest and reliable investment, building on the UK’s financial expertise and the strengths of the City of London, and delivering the Prime Minister’s vision for the Clean Green Initiative, supporting partner countries to grow their economies sustainably

  • provide women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed, unlocking their future potential, educating girls, supporting their empowerment and protecting them against violence

  • provide life-saving humanitarian assistance and work to prevent the worst forms of human suffering, prioritising our funding and being a global leader in driving a more effective international response to humanitarian crises

  • take forward our work on climate change, nature and global health. We are putting the commitments of our Presidency of G7 and COP26, our global leadership in science and technology, and our COVID-19 response, at the core of our international development offer

We will have a distinct UK approach to development characterised by:

  • taking a patient approach which helps our partners to tackle the structural problems they face, building the strong economic and social foundations that underpin long-term development

  • doing proportionately more through country and bilateral programmes, being a more responsive development partner to countries’ needs and more consciously geopolitical in approach

  • using our world-class British expertise to support partner countries through providing advice, exchanging lessons and evidence of what works, and building partnerships across government, business and civil society

  • stripping back excessive bureaucracy associated with delivering aid, giving our Ambassadors and High Commissioners greater authority and making it quicker to get programmes delivering on the ground

This strategy is a whole of government approach to international development which will see us working closely with UK businesses, civil society, academia, research centres and beyond to bring together the UK’s full capability for mutual benefit. In addition, the Ministry of Defence and UK Armed Forces play a significant role identifying and addressing the root causes of instability, as well as helping partner nations build their own security and resilience capabilities. It is essential that defence, diplomacy, and development activities are mutually supportive wherever there are implications for international development, and this strategy will enhance cross-departmental coordination. It gives a clear signal to our partners about what they can expect from the UK offer and how this will strengthen in future.

Chapter 1: A new International Development Strategy

1. The UK brings powerful economic and political tools to our development partnerships: aid, diplomacy, trade, investment, expertise and influence. We will use those to meet the evolving needs of our partners, and support achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in line with the Integrated Review. We will pursue a focused set of objectives which we judge collectively represent a compelling offer from the UK to developing country partners. We will deepen cooperation with businesses, sovereign wealth funds, private investors, international organisations and civil society so that we are achieving greater impact together – and achieving better outcomes for people in low- and middle-income countries as well as British citizens. We will work with our friends and family in the Commonwealth, and with our key strategic partners around the world. When we work together to ensure that free societies can thrive, we all benefit.

British Investment Partnerships

Employee at a company focused on green-building solutions; manufacturing site, Lilongwe, Malawi. British International Investment was part of the joint venture which set up the company. Credit: Harrison Thane for Communication for Development/British International Investment.

2. We will help countries get the investment they need to grow secure, open, thriving economies. Countries need to avoid loading their balance sheets with unsustainable debt, and mortgaging their future economies against bad loans. We can help, by putting our national economic power at the centre of our development approach: capital markets, investment and growth expertise, independent trade policies.

3. Low- and middle-income countries need to expand infrastructure investment seven-fold, to more than $1 trillion per year, just to support their transition to net zero. In 2022, one-half of low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa are in debt distress or at a high risk of distress. The Spending Review provided at least £2.4 billion over the next three years to unlock finance for green growth, enabling us to leverage billions more. We will use this alongside our financial expertise and diplomatic influence to deliver honest, responsible investment, in particular for cleaner and more reliable infrastructure.

4. Through British Investment Partnerships (BIP) we will work with both government and private sector partners. We will mobilise up to £8 billion of UK-backed financing a year by 2025 including from the private sector, targeting the main barriers to investment. Unlocking just a fraction of the assets managed by investors, pension funds and sovereign wealth funds would represent an enormous advance in financing for development. The Clean Green Initiative, launched by the Prime Minister at COP26, is the climate pillar of BIP, supporting countries to grow their economies sustainably.

5. Our financing model will be characterised by high standards, transparency and reliability. It will play a transformative role in tackling climate change by supporting clean, inclusive, and resilient growth in the countries where it invests. And it will deliver for people here in the UK – investments abroad will generate export opportunities in the UK, creating jobs right across the country.

6. British Investment Partnerships include the following elements, and also help to deliver the Clean Green Initiative:

  • British International Investment (BII). The UK’s development finance institution will deliver high quality and sustainable investments across sectors from renewable energy to digital infrastructure, deepening our engagement in Africa and South Asia and entering new markets in the Indo-Pacific and Caribbean. BII will mobilise third party capital, supporting the UK’s position as a global financial centre . It will mobilise more commercial investors, including Sovereign Wealth Funds and Pension Funds. Under its new strategy, BII has set a new target for 30% of new commitments over five years to be in climate finance

  • Clean Green Initiative ‘Just Energy Transition Partnerships’. We will support countries to mobilise public and private finance to deliver on their climate ambitions through Just Energy Transition Partnerships, such as the South Africa agreement announced at COP26. These will provide a platform for low- and middle-income partner countries to work with climate finance donors, international financial institutions and private investors to achieve a just energy transition, helping partner countries to deliver on their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) commitments

  • British Support for Infrastructure Projects (BSIP). A new innovative programme, BSIP, will facilitate concessional loans to help partner governments access high quality and affordable infrastructure finance

  • other Development Finance Instruments to mobilise investment. We will work with capital markets to share risk and remove barriers to investment to mobilise finance for development at scale. We will support countries to issue green bonds and create new investment vehicles that help partner countries raise finance on international stock markets, through the Mobilising Institutional Capital Through Listed Product Structures (MOBILIST) programme. We will also support the Private Infrastructure Development Group (PIDG) to mobilise private finance into green infrastructure projects in emerging markets, through provision of advice, guarantees and early-stage risk capital to build a pipeline of new bankable projects

  • providing UK guarantees to unlock more affordable finance. By using FCDO’s balance sheet to provide UK guarantees, we are helping unlock an additional $3 billion of climate finance for partner countries from the World Bank Group and African Development Bank

  • UK Export Finance (UKEF). UKEF will increase its support to clean and green infrastructure in developing and emerging markets and increase its presence in key countries to support international partners to access direct lending and guarantees. For example, UKEF provided over £140 million in export finance to help develop Ghana’s healthcare, sanitation and transport systems, while also helping to secure export opportunities for UK companies on these major national infrastructure projects

7. This toolkit will be flanked with new UK Centres of Expertise to help governments pursue resilient and sustainable economic growth. These will focus on financial services, economic growth, including high potential sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture, trade, technology, green cities and infrastructure, building on existing UK expertise, evidence and technology in these sectors.

British International Investment is a leading investor among European development finance institutions. From 2017-2021 BII’s investments supported firms that employ almost 1 million workers, generated 277,000 gigawatts of electricity and paid £10 billion in taxes.

Case study: Liquid Telecom

Liquid Telecom, established in the UK in 2005, is the leading pan-African fibre, data centre and cloud technology provider. Liquid built Africa’s largest independent fibre network, approaching 100,000km, across 14 countries and it aims to connect millions more people and businesses. BII’s $220 million investment is accelerating Liquid’s expansion along its Cape-to-Cairo route and further into central and western Africa, including to places that lack affordable and reliable broadband today, like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This new cable will add $280 million to DRC’s economy over the next five years. It will be the longest, seamless land-based fibre in Africa and the largest cross-border infrastructure project on the continent. Internet access helps businesses grow and strengthens local economies, but requires infrastructure in place. Investments in such vital digital infrastructure have the potential to be truly transformational.

8. Since leaving the European Union, we have full control over our trade policy and will use it to support long-lasting development. Trade helps countries to grow their economies, raise incomes, create jobs and lift themselves out of poverty. Trade should be conducted within a system of transparent and predictable international rules. Yet many low- and middle-income countries face high barriers to trading efficiently.

9. The UK has established Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with 33 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries covering £15.6 billion of trade in 2020. We will expand EPAs and develop new Free Trade Agreements with emerging economies covering goods and services.

10. We will support countries to increase their exports, increase trade with the UK, build sustainable and resilient global supply chains that benefit all, and tackle market distorting practices and economic policies. This will help low- and middle-income countries become our trade and investment partners of the future, creating secondary benefits for UK business and consumers. This is key for our own and our partners’ economic security, helping us to have more diverse supply chains for critical commodities and components.

11. This year, Department for International Trade and FCDO are launching a new Developing Countries Trading Scheme, using our independent trade policy to give better access to the UK market for goods from low- and middle-income countries, through a set of simpler, more generous trading arrangements than those in the UK’s current arrangements. This will help enhance trade with over 60 countries, boosting economic growth and jobs.

Transformative trade

As an independent trading nation, the UK can build on previous success:

  • over £21 billion of imports each year come from countries in the existing preferences scheme, the Generalised Scheme of Preference, with businesses and consumers saving over £770 million in tariff duties each year as a result of the scheme. The new Developing Countries Trading Scheme will build on and improve the Generalised Scheme of Preferences

  • UK support to the SheTrades Commonwealth Programme has empowered over 3500 women entrepreneurs, helped generate £32 million of trade for women-owned businesses in the tourism, IT, textiles and agriculture sectors, while also supporting the creation of over 6,000 jobs

Provide women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed

Beneficiaries of the Girls Education Challenge programme which has supported over 330,000 vulnerable girls in Kenya to access quality education and improve their life opportunities. Credit: FDCO.

12. Unlocking the full potential and power of women and girls accelerates progress on all our global priorities, from economic prosperity to security. The UK has long been at the vanguard of standing up for the rights of women and girls around the world, through our development, diplomatic and legislative efforts, including the International Development (Gender Equality) Act 2014. This is not just good development, but also symbolises UK ideals, and is part of what we offer to the world.

13. We intend to restore funding for this vital work. We will increase our efforts and leadership beyond this financial commitment: to put world-class expertise, data, research and technology at the heart of our partnerships with low- and middle-income countries on these issues; to work with the private sector and investors to mobilise new and innovative investments for women and girls; to put our diplomatic power to work raising global ambition and securing international commitments; and ensure we do not roll back on hard-won rights. This includes a new global coalition to get all children into school and learning.

14. Long term success would see every girl receiving 12 years of quality education, all women and girls empowered to have voice, choice and control over their lives, free from the threat of violence, and a significant reduction in the Global Gender Gap (a measure of the state of gender equality across 130 countries) which is currently 135 years. Our new approach is framed around Three Es – education, empowerment and ending violence and will be set out in full in the UK’s 2022 Women and Girls Strategy. We will:

15. Educate girls, standing up for the right of every girl to 12 years of quality education:

  • mobilise our partnerships and investments behind the G7 commitment to get 40 million more girls in school and 20 million more girls reading by age 10 by 2026

  • improve education quality at scale, through research and expertise, with a focus on foundational skills and skills for the future, so girls achieve their potential, transition into the work force, and break the cycle of poverty

  • build effective education systems with skilled staff and break down the barriers to girls staying and thriving in school, including poverty, disability, unintended pregnancies, early marriage, conflict and crises

  • deploy UK expertise and institutions on higher education, skills and scholarships to develop future leaders and build prosperity and stability in partner countries

16. Empower women and girls, unlocking the social, economic and political agency of all people:

  • drive progress on universal, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) including on the fight to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and other harmful practices

  • work to ensure women’s voices are heard at all social, political and economic levels. It is essential they can hold leaders to account without fear and participate fully in the economy

  • improve economic security for girls and women, targeting the longstanding inequalities women and girls face. These include the unpaid care burden, and lack of access to and control over, for example, land, finance, digital connectivity and skills, information and services

17. End Violence, driving international action to end all forms of gender-based violence:

  • drive a new global consensus on ending violence against women and girls, and lead globally on women, peace and security. We will strengthen global action against sexual violence in conflict, through a new Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict (PSVI) strategy, including the Foreign Secretary’s convention initiative

  • scale up proven approaches to prevent violence – in homes, schools, workplaces, communities, and online. This includes intimate partner and domestic violence, sexual violence, child marriage, sexual exploitation, modern slavery, child abuse and exploitation and abuse and harassment in the aid sector

  • put survivors at the heart of our approach and prioritise those most at risk, including adolescent girls, women and girls with disabilities, and LGBT+ individuals. We will support survivors to safely access the support they need, including integrated gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health services

Putting survivors’ needs at the heart of response: the Murad Code

On 13 April 2022, Lord Ahmad, the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Nadia Murad, Nobel Laureate and Yazidi survivor of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), jointly launched the Murad Code at the UN Security Council. Ensuring that survivors can have their experiences recorded safely, ethically and effectively is the first step towards accountability for CRSV crimes. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many survivors, who face re-traumatisation and unnecessary re-interviewing due to poor practices and lack of coordination between actors involved in this work. Not only is this devastating for individuals but it undermines wider work to support survivors and secure justice.

The Murad Code, which is available in Ukrainian and four other languages, places survivors’ needs at the heart of information-gathering by setting out a global code of conduct for actors involved in this work. We are working with governments, UN agencies, NGOs and UK delivery partners to ensure the Code is used in responses to CRSV across the world, including the widespread reports of CRSV carried out by Russian forces in Ukraine.

Step up our life-saving humanitarian work

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss visiting a UNHCR warehouse to look at humanitarian aid being sent to Ukraine.
Credit: FCDO.

18. The UK is a global leader in driving more effective approaches to crises. We have led international efforts to strengthen crisis solutions and reduce humanitarian need. As a champion of digital cash payments, we have made humanitarian responses faster and more effective. Drawing on our expertise in disaster risk financing and insurance, we have helped to set up all four of the world’s regional insurance schemes, enabling rapid responses that save lives and livelihoods.

19. The UK stands for humanity and dignity and is committed to unlocking the potential and agency of people trapped in cycles of crises. We will prioritise humanitarian funding levels at £3 billion over the next 3 years, to remain a leader in crisis response. But we will go further than just spending aid: we will use our diplomatic capabilities to push the international system to act ahead of conflict and climate shocks and famines; draw on innovative finance and insurance mechanisms to better manage and anticipate humanitarian emergencies; invest alongside the private sector in science and technology solutions like satellite imagery and digital cash transfers; and harness our expertise in the patient development of systems and institutions to strengthen the resilience of countries and communities.

20. With our network of allies and partners and through our efforts across the globe, we will focus on three priorities:

  • prioritising humanitarian assistance to people in greatest need and providing them with what they need the most to recover from crises

  • protecting the people most at risk, including from conflict-related sexual violence and barriers to humanitarian assistance

  • preventing and anticipating future shocks and building resilience in long-running crises by tackling the underlying drivers of crises, instability and extreme food insecurity

Sharing British expertise in disaster risk financing and insurance with our partners in Africa

The UK is a founding donor of the African Risk Capacity (ARC), which insures African governments, NGOs and the World Food Programme against droughts and storms. To date, the ARC has paid out over £100 million. These payouts have helped save lives and livelihoods, for example through targeted food and nutritional support for children, pregnant and lactating mothers and families, cash transfers and cattle fodder to keep livestock alive.

Using science to drive crisis response in Yemen

Poor data in humanitarian contexts impedes effective responses. The UK partnered with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and UK-based company Catapult to build an assessment of the COVID-19 impact on mortality in Yemen. Through a historical data statistical analysis, satellite imagery and machine learning, partners identified and monitored burial sites, assessing changes over time. Satellite imagery was also used to monitor key access routes, schools, markets and hospitals. This analysis informed assessments of the scale of the COVID-19 outbreak and the risk of famine, enabling evidence-based advice on national social distancing measures and operational efforts.

21. We will prioritise people in greatest need and provide principled humanitarian assistance at times of crisis, as we have through our commitments this year of £286 million to support over 4.4 million Afghans, the £220 million in UK humanitarian aid we have provided so far for the Ukrainian people in the face of Russia’s invasion, and our ongoing multi-year support to crises in Africa.

22. We will uphold International Humanitarian, Human Rights and Refugee Law and meet our international obligations to protect refugees and people seeking asylum. This will include offering legal resettlement routes to the UK for refugees fleeing conflict and facing persecution to give them a chance to rebuild their lives. We will protect the most at risk in situations of conflict and crisis, including civilians, refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), women and girls, and people with disabilities. This will include improving humanitarian access, building on our efforts at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to deliver COVID-19 vaccines through ceasefires in conflict zones. We will also ensure national security efforts do not hinder humanitarian action, as we did with other UNSC members in protecting humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan from sanctions.

23. Finally, we must help countries escape cycles of conflict and violence which underpin so many protracted humanitarian emergencies and in which malign actors can advance their interests. That means building on the UK’s capabilities, reach and international role in conflict prevention and reduction: to target long-lasting political settlements, tackle new threats including disinformation and cyber-attacks, as well as enduring ones like landmines, address the causes and consequences of forced migration, and establish a new conflict and atrocity prevention hub that brings together all UK Government capabilities. It means increasing cooperation on building security and countering transnational threats and challenges, from terrorism and extremism, to serious and organised crime and irregular migration.

Take forward our work on climate change, nature and global health

The Blue Belt Programme deploying monitoring equipment and carrying out scientific fieldwork around Pitcairn Island to build understanding of these unique marine ecosystems. The data collected during these expeditions will ultimately support the local Pitcairn community to protect these marine environments. Credit: Luke Hosty, Protect Blue.

24. To build economic, security and technological partnerships of the future we will continue to put shared global challenges at the heart of our offer to low- and middle-income countries: as a responsible international actor and a trusted strategic partner. We will turn our historic global leadership at COP26 and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic into lasting progress for our allies and partners and for British people. And through the Prime Minister’s Clean Green Initiative we will partner with low- and middle-income countries to ensure they can access the funding and support needed for them to deliver on their climate ambitions.

Tackle climate change and protecting nature

25. By 2030 climate change and biodiversity loss will have pushed millions into extreme poverty. Women, children and those living in conflict-affected states are most affected. The Integrated Review made tackling climate change and biodiversity loss the UK government’s number one international priority. We were the first major economy to set a binding Net Zero emissions target, and we have led the world on offshore wind power. We have helped 88 million people to cope with climate change and promoted sustainable land management on 510,000 hectares in the last decade. We passed a world-leading Environment Act in 2021 to protect and enhance our environment.

26. We will continue to lead by example beyond our Presidency of COP26, and push for further strong international commitments and implementation through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

27. The Prime Minister has promised to double our International Climate Finance (ICF) contribution to at least £11.6 billion between 2021-2026, including investing at least £3 billion of ICF in development solutions that protect and restore nature. Our sustained commitment means we will:

  • focus UK ICF on driving the rapid transformation and systemic shifts required to achieve the Paris Agreement goals and deliver on the Glasgow Climate Pact. We will help countries to strengthen their energy security and provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy for all. We will ensure a balanced split between mitigation and adaptation finance, recognising that support for nature can deliver on both as well as addressing biodiversity loss

  • employ the full range of our development finance toolkit, including British International Investment, and put the UK’s strengths – our capital markets, innovation, and expertise – to work in mobilising more private finance to advance our climate and nature goals, including in support of the Prime Minister’s Clean Green Initiative

  • ensure that all new bilateral UK ODA aligns with the Paris Agreement in 2023. This means our bilateral Official Development Assistance (ODA) spend drives progress towards mitigating our impact on the climate, and helps partners adapt to a rapidly changing environment. We will also build on our 2021 commitment to ensure all new UK bilateral aid spending does no harm to nature by taking steps to ensure UK bilateral ODA becomes ‘nature positive’, aligning with the international goal to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, and the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, once agreed

  • develop innovative approaches to tackle climate change and protect nature – for instance, through the Ayrton Fund for clean energy innovation. We will harness the world-leading science, technology, research and policy experience the UK has to offer to accelerate progress towards these goals

  • support the Dasgupta Review recommendations on the Economics of Biodiversity, working with others to protect at least 30% of the ocean and 30% of land globally by 2030. We will take forward the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, including through efforts to end deforestation and promote climate-resilient, sustainable food systems

Protect ocean biodiversity for future generations

Our £500 million Blue Planet Fund supports low- and middle-income countries to reduce poverty and protect ocean biodiversity for current and future generations, working with key partners and drawing on UK expertise in marine science. 3 billion people rely on the ocean for food security and livelihoods, but the ocean is under threat from over-exploitation, pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change. The Blue Planet Fund invests in nature-based solutions, tackles marine pollution and promotes sustainable seafood.

Improve global health

28. We are tackling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global health challenges. UK expertise in public health has been at the forefront of the international response: shaping multilateral approaches to address health challenges and using our research excellence to accelerate global access to COVID-19 vaccinations and treatments. Strengthening health systems is the core of our long-term approach.

29. As holders of the G7 Presidency in 2021, the UK drove international commitments for equitable vaccination, as well as agreements on clinical trials, supply chains and manufacturing, vaccine confidence, strengthening health systems and galvanising support for the 100-day mission to rapidly develop vaccines and other tools. Over the coming years we will:

  • invest in increasing access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics (VTDs) and to life-saving medicines to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and other diseases, including by strengthening country delivery systems

  • reduce the risk of future global health threats, building stronger health systems, strengthening the WHO and improving global health surveillance and response capability

  • promote a “One Health” approach to preventing and responding to health threats, reflecting the link between the health of people, animals and the environment

  • work towards ending preventable deaths of mothers, babies and children, investing both bilaterally and through initiatives such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

  • invest in the research and innovations needed to keep driving breakthroughs in health systems and health security: through life-saving technologies (such as easy-to-use vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics) to respond to the changing burden of disease and health threats, including from COVID-19, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and zoonoses

Chapter 2: Our approach and distinct UK offer

A partnership between UK aid and Gavi: the Vaccine Alliance, is supporting the Government of Ghana to use Zipline drones to collect coronavirus test samples and deliver vaccines. Credit: Zipline Ghana.

30. Our approach to international development will be as a patient partner that champions openness, predictability and the rule of law.

31. We bring decades of experience in international development to our partnerships. We know what works: People and governments being able to determine their future, access expertise, adopt good policies, build effective institutions and work together to tackle the root causes of problems and leave no one behind. We will use our work on development to support the security, freedom and prosperity of people and countries, investing in and sharing good ideas, scientific advances, new technologies, expertise and evidence.

32. Our bilateral partnerships will be tailored to the geopolitical reality faced by low- and middle-income countries – helping our strategic partners to navigate the contested, competitive modern global economy and determine their own future. We will do so while helping to tackle the complex emerging challenges affecting partner countries, for example through investing in cyber and physical security, addressing transnational threats including irregular migration, and tackling serious and organised crime, financial crime and illicit flows.

Act with patience for long-term change

33. Our international development partnerships are founded not just on aid but in patient, long-term policy expertise and evidence, and in the combined power of the UK’s global economic, scientific, security and diplomatic strengths.

34. We will use those advantages to help our partners tackle the structural problems they face and reduce their strategic dependence on others. We know that development progress depends on strong economic and social foundations – underpinned by effective institutions, from functioning markets to a free press. From a credible central bank to fair courts. Open and accountable institutions ensure systems work for everyone.

35. This means keeping sight of the benefits for real people in the countries where we work. Channelling the opportunities created by ideas and markets to create meaningful opportunities and lasting prosperity.

36. There are no quick fixes. A patient approach is essential – one which unlocks the power of people, ideas and institutions, and tackles the causes of crises, to deliver lasting growth, stability and poverty reduction. No country can progress long-term without a responsive and capable state that does the basics well: from providing security and the rule of law to setting the policies and regulations that enable firms and entrepreneurs to thrive. Transparency and accountability support progress. We will continue to tackle corruption, ensuring systems work for people.

Case study: partnerships for growth

The UK builds in-depth, long-term partnerships with low- and middle-income countries, putting them on the pathway to sustainable and equitable growth. In Ghana, FCDO’s partnership with the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Overseas Development Institute gave critical support to the Ghanaian Finance Ministry as it designed its support package for COVID-19 hit sectors. At the same time, support from HM Revenue and Customs’ Capacity Building Unit to the Ghanaian Revenue Authority has been instrumental in meeting the most stringent global tax transparency standards, a vital step in Ghana’s bid to become a regional financial centre.

Shift towards country programmes

37. We want to have more and closer bilateral partnerships that support countries to succeed as open, free nations. To underpin this, FCDO will substantially rebalance its ODA investments from multilateral towards bilateral channels. By 2025 FCDO intends to spend around three‑quarters of its funding allocated at the 2021 Spending Review through country programmes. This will allow FCDO to focus funding on UK priorities and control exactly how taxpayers’ money is used to support these.

38. Multilateral organisations including the United Nations, global health and education funds, the international financial institutions and the Commonwealth will remain essential partners in achieving our goals. That includes our role in the UN where, as a permanent member of the Security Council, we have the influence and authority to advance freedom, peace and security – such as upholding the rights of women in Afghanistan, securing humanitarian access in Ethiopia and building a coalition on conflict-related sexual violence. It includes our work with institutions like the Green Climate Fund to tackle the climate crisis; with global education funds to ensure 12 years of quality education for every girl; with global health initiatives to prevent the next pandemic; and with the international financial institutions to help low- and middle-income countries recover from COVID-19 and mobilise new investment. It includes our work with the World Bank, where we have agreed the largest ever commitment to low- and middle-income countries – $170 billion over the next 15 months – to help countries deal with the consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.

39. We will make sure our contributions reflect a proportionate burden-share with partners. We will continue to push for multilateral reform to improve value for money, building alliances with like-minded partners. And we will work with our allies for a multilateral system that remains fit for purpose in today’s world: reflecting the realities of the global context and able to protect the values of freedom and self-determination where they are being undermined.

Expand our use of British expertise

40. Global development challenges cannot be solved by money alone. Progress is fuelled by expertise, evidence, scientific advances, and new and established technologies. We are a science and technology superpower and home to world-leading institutions across government and our prestigious universities. Our expertise in areas such as agricultural technology, biosecurity, pandemic preparation, earth observations, and digital health can accelerate development progress. We want our partners to be able to draw on UK expertise and to develop innovative development solutions with us.

41. To share the best of UK expertise, help us learn from our partners and our partners to learn from each other, we will establish new Centres of Expertise and build on existing platforms for shared learning. We will focus on where we as the UK are best placed to support – through government, business, academia and civil society – including:

  • a suite of new UK Centres of Expertise, providing tailored advice, ‘what works’ evidence, and technological solutions to the greatest development challenges we face. Initial areas of focus will include financial services; green cities and infrastructure; public finance; trade; and green and inclusive growth (for instance, on agriculture and manufacturing)

  • enabling countries to make informed choices on responsible use of data, digital and other critical technologies, and improving cybersecurity, as set out in the UK’s International Technology Strategy and National Cyber Strategy. We will accelerate digital transformation for all, by investing in digital infrastructure and promoting affordable digital access; improving related policies and regulations; enhancing digital skills and supporting digital entrepreneurship and innovation; and building cybersecurity capacity for a free, open, peaceful, safe and secure cyberspace

  • influencing the development of international norms and standards for technology that reflect shared democratic principles and values. These include trade openness, data, digital identity, critical technologies such as AI, biotech and clean technologies, and telecommunications, ensuring they support development, freedoms, resilience and sustainability

UK experts and partners sharing skills and developing innovative solutions together

The UK PACT (Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions) programme provides short-term “skill-shares” between partner governments and UK experts from the private and public sectors, to help countries meet their climate goals through peer-to-peer exchange. This includes development of climate laws and national decarbonisation strategies, energy regulation, low carbon transport and green finance.

The Global Research Partnership (GRP) funds trilateral science partnerships between UK, Indian and low and middle-income country researchers to address global development challenges. One of the results of this joint programme between FCDO, India’s Ministry of Science and Technology and UK Research and Innovation is an award-winning novel device to prevent preeclampsia that has saved thousands of lives across Asia and Africa.

42. To make sure we can continue to lead with expertise and maximise the impact of our ODA spend, we will increase our investment in research on ‘what works’ and science and technological innovations to accelerate progress on our development priorities. This includes empowering women and girls, reducing humanitarian need, increasing tax revenues and promoting growth, tackling climate and protecting nature, improving health and strengthening health systems. We will also develop and scale solutions to address challenges in agriculture and the food system that cut across our development priorities through the Gilbert Initiative, BII and our bilateral investments.

43. As well as helping people in low- and middle-income countries, promoting equitable partnerships will create new opportunities for businesses and institutions across all parts of the UK to benefit through access to shared knowledge and expertise.

Evidence-based solutions to global challenges

The UK has a proud history of using our scientific strengths, development expertise and global partnerships to uncover new, evidence-based, solutions to global challenges:

  • UK-backed research and development in crop varietal improvements have reduced global grain prices by 20%
  • our investments in low-cost solar technologies have helped to provide clean energy access to hundreds of millions of people across low- and middle-income countries
  • our 2016 investments in a vaccine to tackle Middle East Respiratory Syndrome enabled rapid adaptation to produce the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19, saving tens of thousands of lives to date
  • UK-funded research has identified interventions that halve rates of domestic violence, ensure that girls can access education, learn, be empowered, and become part of the labour force
  • big data analysis, using artificial intelligence to combine satellite and modelling data, is helping to predict the spread of new diseases, take early action against severe weather events, and respond effectively in humanitarian emergencies, such as Cyclone Idai

Work globally

44. Our alliances will reflect the vision of the UK in the world which the Prime Minister set out in the Integrated Review: a European country with global interests. By combining our development expertise with our international diplomatic network we can achieve global impact: across our diplomatic footprint (spanning 178 countries and territories); our country spend (in 2020 UK bilateral ODA went to 131 countries) and our trade links (the Developing Countries Trading Scheme will cover over 60 countries).

45. We will combine this global reach with sustained and strengthened collaboration with likeminded allies whether across the Commonwealth, in Europe, the US, the Gulf or the Indo-Pacific, so that our combined offer to partner countries becomes even stronger.

  • We will sustain our commitment to Africa, building partnerships with African countries that lead to a freer, safer, more prosperous, healthier, and greener continent. Geostrategic competition in Africa will intensify over the next decade, and the impacts of COVID-19, climate change and biodiversity loss are increasing the vulnerability of many countries and their citizens. Our response will articulate the benefits of freedom and openness for governments and their people – to achieve lasting growth, stability, poverty reduction, and reduced humanitarian need, in the face of growing challenges from authoritarian influence, zero-sum politics and disinformation. We will empower women and girls through 12 years of quality education, better sexual and reproductive health and rights, preventing violence and working to end preventable deaths. As the Prime Minister has said, we want the UK to be African countries’ trade and investment partner of choice.

    • Our partnerships will be carefully tailored to the wide range of countries where we work. We will build partnerships covering the full range of our objectives with those whose influence is felt across the continent, prioritising key strategic partners such as South Africa, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana. And we will make more targeted investments of our resources and our efforts in fragile states or where there are compelling trade and investment opportunities. We will partner with the African Union where our interests align and we can add value.
  • The Indo-Pacific region is critical to the UK, to our economy, our security and our values. It is the crucible for many of the geopolitical challenges of the coming century. It is home to one-third of the world’s poorest people. We have historic ties to Commonwealth nations, from India to the Pacific. The Integrated Review set out how we would increase our strategic focus in the region – through bilateral relationships like the UK-India 2030 Roadmap and our new UK-Indonesia Roadmap, new Free Trade Agreements, multilateral relationships including ASEAN, and new partnerships on technology, cyber, defence and security, like AUKUS (Australia, UK and US). In India and in Indonesia we have built comprehensive strategic partnerships with the UK covering a range of shared interests.

    • Our development partnerships in the Indo-Pacific are a critical part of that ambition. Through our ODA spend, expertise, trade and investment we will work with like-minded countries to build strong economic results – including more resilient supply chains – while delivering humanitarian support to those in need, supporting more girls into school, and promoting a positive vision of progress through free enterprise, accountable institutions, and free and open societies. We will put our science partnerships to work for global development challenges, and use our diplomatic and multilateral influence to secure lasting progress on our climate and biodiversity goals.
  • Across the Middle East and North Africa region we will continue to offer an alternative to economic coercion and restriction: demonstrating the value of free economies and open international norms through partnerships based on economic cooperation, sustainable development and technological leadership, alongside our work to deepen defence and security relationships.

    • We will remain a leading provider of life-saving humanitarian aid in crises such as those in Syria and Yemen; while using the full range of our development tools and expertise to support societies in building resilient, self-reliant economies through lasting economic and social reform. We are deepening relationships with allies in the Gulf to provide an alternative source of investment for developing countries through British Investment Partnerships. Our work on shared security challenges will address malign dynamics such as terrorism and extremism, serious and organised crime, and irregular migration – defending our interests, increasing cooperation on transnational threats, and tackling the causes of conflict and instability.
  • The centrality of a secure and resilient Europe to our national interests – as the foundation for our global role – is today more evident than for a generation. Even as we help the people and government of Ukraine, we are working to reshape the architecture that will underpin future European security, support those who must deter any future aggression like our friends in the Caucasus and Western Balkans, and end the strategic dependence which puts our economies and security at the risk and mercy of malign actors.

    • That will drive a new role for our development partnerships in the region: supporting private investment in resilient, sustainable infrastructure; stepping up to support those affected by conflict; and helping over the long term to build those economic and social freedoms which will underpin lasting resilience of societies and economies in the face of ongoing threat from malign influence and aggression.
  • Across Latin America and the Caribbean, through multilateral partnerships and British expertise, the UK will work with countries, including Commonwealth partners, on key global challenges. These include adaptation to climate change, protecting biodiversity and tackling deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere, and supporting sustainable infrastructure and growth. In doing so we will uphold the commitment to freedom, democracy and peace we share with our partners in the region.

  • Our vision is that by 2030 Small Island Developing States (SIDS), will have the economic and climate resilience not only to graduate from ODA with sustainable economies, but also to withstand economic and climate shocks. The UK will continue to work to help SIDS make best use of international aid and finance and improve how it works for them. 

Chapter 3: Delivering development in partnership

A shipment of syringes and safety boxes to support the country rollout of COVID-19 vaccines being processed in Dubai, 2021. Credit: UNICEF/Francis Kokoroko.

46. We will put agility and coherence at the heart of the strategic offer we make to our partners. The UK’s independent economic policy means we can move quickly in support of a coherent geopolitical approach – and move as one through our trade and investment policies, energy and science policies, technical expertise, and the access to capital we can provide as a global financial centre. In doing so we will make our international development efforts a source of inspiration and influence, underpinning the modern and dynamic partnerships we seek with our global allies.

Reduce bureaucracy

47. The collaborative and agile country partnerships required by this strategy will demand a reset in how we work. This must drive down the bureaucracy which risks smothering our instinct to be innovative and responsive; and re-energise the expertise and agility of our global network. This will mean we can deliver outcomes more quickly, and be more responsive to changes in the context. We will:

  • give authority to our Ambassadors and High Commissioners, development experts and partners across government to take quick and effective decisions about how to achieve our goals: grounded in evidence, relevant to the context in which we work, reflecting the new partnerships others want from us and harnessing all the benefits of our investment and expertise

  • make it quicker to get programmes delivering on the ground once a need for intervention is identified. That means accelerating every stage of the programme approval process, while ensuring effort is focused instead on good programme design. We will reduce the time it takes FCDO to approve a business case, for programmes under £40m in value, to less than 6 weeks – currently it can take many months

  • increase the speed with which we can engage partners through our grants process, while still ensuring that we only work with organisations who can protect money and safeguard people and the environment. We will streamline the standard templates used for grant agreements, and work with 12 of our major NGO partners to agree a single due diligence assessment at headquarters level, stripping back the burden for local programme teams. We will ensure that teams have access and support in using the fastest and most efficient commercial procurement routes

  • empower our senior responsible owners (SROs) to apply proportionality, a principle of the Programme Operating Framework, to how we manage our ODA programmes so that smaller projects have the agility necessary to exploit opportunities and operate efficiently, while ensuring at the same time that large programmes have appropriate controls and oversight

  • build the capability and professionalism of our SROs and programme teams to ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge, backstopped by access to high quality advice. Expand our programme training to ensure effective on-the-ground delivery, led with the highest standards of diplomatic expertise and development professionalism. Our programmes will be more agile in response to the pace of geopolitical change.

  • make our online Aid Management Platform system more efficient and more automated, so we can provide the right information on our portfolio, while enabling teams to spend more time on delivering results for the beneficiaries of our programmes

48. We have created a Director General position within the FCDO responsible for our humanitarian and development work – a senior champion for the commitments in this strategy and the capability we need to achieve them.

Put people first

MIFUMI Movement Builders discuss domestic violence in Tororo, Uganda. MIFUMI, the largest women’s rights agency operating at grassroots level in Uganda, received a Jo Cox Memorial Grant to deliver a 36-month project in Uganda to support service provision and peer support networks for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence and mobilise communities to tackle violence against women and girls. Credit: Oyo Paul Mileke/MIFUMI.

49. Those who benefit from our work must have a voice in what we do, and how we do it. The difficult reforms and good policies that drive progress must be locally owned. Our country partnerships will be anchored in our respect for the rights of our partners to self-determination. Our support will strengthen their sovereignty.

50. We will continue to lead on safeguarding against sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment (SEAH). We will use our convening power to improve standards, identify perpetrators and support survivors and victims.

Allocate aid to achieve our goals

51. The UK government remains committed to the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 and to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on ODA once the fiscal situation allows.

52. The government will continue to monitor future forecasts closely and, each year over the period, will review and confirm, in accordance with the Act, whether a return to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA is possible against the latest fiscal forecast.

53. A return to 0.7% will allow us to scale up critical elements of our new strategy, including on climate and nature, as well as our ability to invest in countries.

54. We expect to allocate aid where it is most needed and effective, use aid to bring in more money to development, and amplify this with the ideas that cost little but go far. We will:

  • channel the majority of our ODA towards low-income countries where there is a clear commitment to progress. These countries are the least able to finance their development through taxes, borrowing or investment. We will continue to support the global goal of providing at least 0.2% of our gross national income (GNI) to the Least Developed Countries

  • work more with middle-income countries (MICs) who are central to the achievement of global commitments. In these contexts, we will bring together investment, trade, expertise, technology, science and diplomacy to drive long term reform and change, working in partnership with host governments and citizens. We will draw on ODA only as necessary in MICs

  • target our work in Fragile and Conflict Affected States (FCAS) to address the drivers and causes of crises. We will draw on our combined diplomatic, defence and development capabilities. We will work both to prevent conflict, including tackling new threats from malign actors, and to reduce conflict and violence, including through diplomacy, sanctions, and peacekeeping. We will ensure all our work takes account of its impact on the causes and effects of conflicts

Work together across government

55. This strategy sets the direction for all of the UK’s development work. The FCDO will oversee the cross-government efforts to deliver the strategy.

56. To support implementation and drive coherence across the whole of the UK Government:

  • our Ambassadors and High Commissioners will be accountable for cross-government objectives in all countries where we work

  • we will refresh the HMG-wide governance framework to provide oversight, monitor implementation, measure progress, share learning, identify opportunities for collaboration and drive coherence

  • we will draw upon the expertise of the private sector, civil society and academia to advise and challenge us on implementation

57. All ODA spending departments will remain accountable for the expenditure of their ODA and will report on progress in implementing this strategy and the SDGs in their annual reports and accounts.


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