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FCO-DFID merger: strategic focus and effective leadership key, report says

23 July 2020

The Foreign Affairs Committee today publishes its Report into the FCO-DFID merger. Today’s Report highlights that creating the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office from two departments with their own culture will require strong strategic direction and leadership from the beginning.

For the new FCDO to manage its extensive responsibilities effectively, a comprehensive strategy, effective leadership and clarity on the reasons behind key decisions are also needed.

The Report sets out the main areas in which the FCDO should define and communicate its strategy and leadership structures.

Openness to outside expertise and transparency of aid spending

An openness to outside expertise and transparency of aid spending will ensure the new Department is delivering on its purpose. The Committee notes historical disparities in the transparency scorings between the FCO and DFID and recommends that the new Department aims to excel in international transparency. We also argue that the FCDO should coordinate Official Development Assistance (ODA) spending across different Whitehall departments.

Staff retention must be a priority

The Report states that the upcoming merger risks weakening the cultures of each department, raising the possibility of losing highly skilled staff who have helped to build the UK's reputation as a leading provider of aid.

The Committee asks clarity from the Government on how it intends to retain staff with valuable expertise and on the ways in which staff will be assigned in the new Department. The Report also recommends that in-country projects should continue be led by in-Post staff with local expertise in order to maximise the effectiveness of both the UK's diplomatic activity and its development projects.

Chair's comment

"Cooperation will determine the success of the merger. For the new FCDO to manage all of its responsibilities effectively the new leadership will need a strategic outlook that builds on the strengths of the staff.

Urgent responses are needed to global challenges from dealing with the departure from the Covid emergency, the need to build new alliances and the response to climate change so the new department will have no time to settle in. They’ll also need to show that our commitment to international aid still delivers. We’ll need an integrated and strategic approach to foreign policy, including the UK's leadership roles in 2021.

That will demand more clarity from the Government. From bringing together the different cultures, to ensuring highly skilled and well-respected experts are not lost as a result. This merger is an opportunity to use the best of each department as a springboard to a stronger foreign policy delivering for the British people, if done right.

We need to learn from similar mergers across the world, to ensure our place on the world stage and our international reputation are enhanced and that we continue to deliver aid to the world leading standard we have done for decades."

Further information

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