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23 January 2024 - International Development Committee - Oral evidence session

Committee International Development Committee
Inquiries FCDO and disability-inclusive development, UK Small Island Developing States Strategy

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Start times: 2:00pm (private) 2:15pm (public)

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IDC questions minister for development Andrew Mitchell

On Tuesday the International Development Committee will hold a two-part session with FCDO development minister Andrew Mitchell, closing oral evidence in two of its current inquiries: FCDO and disability-inclusive development and the UK Small Island Developing States Strategy

Meeting details

At 2:15pm: Oral evidence
Inquiry FCDO and disability-inclusive development
Minister for Development & Africa at Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
At 3:00pm: Oral evidence
Inquiry UK Small Island Developing States Strategy
Minister for Development & Africa at Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

At 2.15pm: FCDO and disability-inclusive development

People with disabilities throughout the world - approximately 1.3 billion people, or 16% of our global population - are less likely to have a job or complete education, more likely to experience poverty and poor health outcomes, and are at greater risk of violence, stigma and discrimination. These factors are exacerbated in lower- and middle-income countries.

People with disabilities are twice as likely to be poor and are impacted by two to four times more by climate change, while also finding it more difficult to access aid provided in climate crises. Women with disabilities face greater exclusion, with up to 70% experiencing sexual abuse before 18 years of age.

An estimated 240 million children live with disabilities worldwide, with one in sixchildren experiencing significant disability. They are twice as likely never to attend school, three times more likely to be underweight, and four times more likely to experience physical violence.

But while the UK has historically been an international leader in advancing the rights of persons with disabilities internationally, the FCDO’s own analysis shows its deep aid cuts since 2020 have disproportionately hit marginalised groups including people with disabilities, with a direct and detrimental impact on their lives, livelihood and wellbeing. Last year, only 35.4% of bilateral aid projects had a disability inclusivity element, while only 0.7% were focused primarily on disability inclusivity.

The Committee will question the minister on how the FCDO will now begin to restore what has been lost to people with disabilities in FCDO aid programming, and how it will begin to demonstrate how it will improve the value and impact of a reduced aid budget. When will the department truly include people with disabilities in formulating its aid programming aimed at them?

At approximately 3.00pm: UK Small Island Developing States Strategy

Small Island Developing States are among the world’s most vulnerable countries. Bearing the brunt of climate change, they have been hit by increasingly extreme tropical storms, the destruction of marine habitats, and sea level rise. The latter poses an existential threat for lower-lying SIDS, whose inhabitable land faces obliteration by the end of this century.

The UK Government’s launch of its Small Island Developing States strategy 2022-26 represents a gradual, wider UK re-engagement with these states. Over the course of this inquiry, SIDS-based activists, academics and policymakers have told this Committee that they welcome the UK’s renewed focus.

But inquiry witnesses have emphasised that SIDS need committed, long term partners and stable funding to begin to address their challenges. Whilst valuing the UK as a partner, they have expressed concern that more immediate global contingencies – the latest war or disaster - risk diverting the UK Government’s attention away from the slow-burn crises that SIDS are facing, with potentially catastrophic consequences for SIDS.

Witnesses have repeatedly highlighted climate finance as a key area of concern, in particular that the amount currently provided by the UK and other donors is insufficient and the nature of the finance that is available does not align with SIDS’s needs. The UK Government has pledged £11.6 billion in climate finance between 2021/22 and 2025/26 and has delivered £3.2 billion of this in the first two years; but there are questions as to how much of this has been made available for SIDS, who often struggle to apply for and absorb international funding. In 2019/20, for example, Oxfam estimates a meagre 0.3% of UK climate finance was dedicated to SIDS.

Whilst the UK committed £60 million of funding to the new loss and damage fund at COP28, this money is drawn from previously announced pledges, rather than being new and additional. Furthermore, witnesses have told us that UK funding for some development programmes in SIDS is allocated on annual cycles; without predictable funding streams it is difficult to embed lasting positive change.

The SIDS strategy is a step in the right direction. But will the UK Government translate its good intentions into the concrete, measurable, long-term outcomes that Small Island Developing States badly need?


The Grimond Room, Portcullis House

How to attend