Review of aid spending sees poor nations cut adrift

Britain is to cut off aid to some of the world's poorest countries in an overhaul of development spending set out yesterday by the Government.

Burundi in central Africa, where the economy was shattered by a recent civil war, and the Saharan nation of Niger are among the countries from which UK funds will be withdrawn. Both are judged to be among the world's 10 poorest countries.

Taxpayers' money is to be targeted instead on war-torn nations such as Afghanistan and Somalia in an attempt to improve world security.

Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, announced that aid would be phased out for 16 countries, also including Angola, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Julian Oram, head of policy for the World Development Movement, attacked the decision to focus money on a smaller number of unstable nations. He said: "The securitisation of aid is a real concern."

Justin Byworth, chief executive of World Vision UK, said: "We want to reach the neediest people on earth with assistance and development and this stops us doing it."

But Mr Mitchell argued: "We are dealing with parts of the world where people are doubly cursed – not only because they live in extreme poverty but also because they live in very conflicted societies."

The Government has committed itself to meeting the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid by 2013, with total assistance due to rise from £7bn to £11bn by 2015.

Mr Mitchell announced the Government would end aid worth £50m to four United Nations organisations, including the International Labour Organisation, which he accused of failing to spend public money prudently. Another four, including the UN's cultural arm, Unesco, will see funding cut unless they "improve performance".