Saturday, April 20, 2024
NewsUK launches development blueprint in Addis amidst budget cut concerns

UK launches development blueprint in Addis amidst budget cut concerns

The government of the United Kingdom has launched a roadmap for its international development agenda for Ethiopia, marking the first roadmap in sixteen years and the first since Brexit.

The UK Embassy introduced its agenda, titled “International development in a contested world: ending extreme poverty and tackling climate change,” during an event attended by Nick Dyer, undersecretary for the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and senior Ethiopian officials including Semerita Sewasew, a state minister of Finance. 

The UK aims to reboot its development activities in Ethiopia via a renewed emphasis on bringing in foreign funding and a focus on research to combat climate change, along with aid programs.

“The challenging environment requires reconsideration about how we deliver development impact and considering more carefully the operating environment in which we are working” said UK Ambassador Darren Welch.

Dyer observed that geopolitical policies, such as those surrounding Russia and Ukraine, have added to the developmental hurdles brought on by COVID-19, conflict, and climate change.

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The European conflict has had a knock-on impact on countries like Ethiopia, raising commodity prices and the cost of living, said Dyer.

“People might accuse the UK, saying ‘you only care about Ukraine and Gaza,’ but we say no; we care about all the countries in the world, and that is why we are doubling our bilateral support. Because it is important to have certain relationships and partnerships that benefit everybody, not just a few,” he said.

The Undersecretary indicated the UK’s development plan centers around leveraging efforts and convincing international financial organizations to use more of their capital on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss in developing countries.

The UK government has unlocked USD 200 million from an underspending investment program, according to Dyer.

He disclosed his government is working with the Bank of England and UK tax authorities to facilitate a partnership with the Ethiopian government aimed at improving tax collection and monitoring systems.

Dyer highlighted the UK’s commitment to investing in building the capacity of local organizations, saying partnership aid is not the answer. He believes the solution lies in changing systemic policy and ‘building partnerships.’

Dyer commented his office is thinking hard about how to change requirements for access to funding for those who seek it.

State Minister Semerita said manmade and natural problems have made it “difficult” for the administration to carry out the reforms it promised.

“We find ourselves in a place where bringing in lots of actors and experience, including civil societies and the private sector, has become vital. We have to be systematic in our approach to unlocking resources in every sector,” she said.

Semerita hopes to see more platforms that enable capacity-building from the UK government.

“A good partnership requires understanding context and the ability to see the different views of each partner, and it also requires compromise,” said the State Minister.

Tinebeb Birhane, ActionAid country director and vice president of the Ethiopian Civil Society Council, called for investment and focus on policy issues and conditions enabling the accessibility of funds.

Tinebeb indicated the various kinds of foreign investments and funding previously availed, including commercial grants, were complex and unapproachable for small organizations, such as those working with the youth or with issues of women’s rights.

Tinebeb recommended a rethink on the importance of considering the feasibility and balance of the models of funding to be offered by the new UK roadmap.

“We are concerned about the growing overseas development budget cuts, not only by FCDO, but also by other development partners, as country demand is very high and the budget remains very low,” said Tinebeb.

She observes that previous “draconian” civil society laws and the associated legal difficulties have changed, saying the door for funding civil society organizations is no longer closed, yet not opened wide. Tinebeb believes more funding partnerships can unlock the potential.

The ceremony marked the first time a UK development roadmap was unveiled outside of the United Kingdom.

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