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The UK government’s strategy for international development

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

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.