Why UK development leaders are calling on the government to drop its point-scoring DFID merger

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Thursday 18 June 2020 15:27 BST
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Boris Johnson announces disbanding of DFID as Starmer accuses him of 'distractions'

The Development Studies Association, the UK association for all those who research, teach and study global development issues, and heads of UK development studies centres, call on the government to reconsider its proposal to merge the Department for International Development (DFID) with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).

As Covid-19 underscores our global interdependence, it is clear that the good of the UK will not be served by narrow conceptions of national self-interest. The pandemic has shown that our global health system is only as strong as its weakest link. Now is the time for deepening and broadening global cooperation, not retreating behind quick-win nationalism that trades long-term security for short-term gains.

DFID’s focus on directing UK aid towards poverty reduction is a critical asset, which has both brought important relief to some of the world’s most vulnerable people and also earned Britain global recognition as an able and trusted development partner. Parliament’s own International Development Committee only last week highly commended DFID’s achievements and called for it to remain as a standalone department.

At a time when the government has committed itself to “follow the science”, we call on the government to listen to the combined global development expertise that our association represents and reverse this decision which has such potential to harm some of the world’s poorest people, further undermine the autonomy of DFID and the effectiveness of UK aid, reduce our influence on the world stage, and leave our country ultimately more exposed to global fragilities and uncertainties.

Sarah White, (outgoing) president of Development Studies Association, University of Bath
Sam Hickey, (incoming) president of Development Studies Association, University of Manchester
Dan Brockington and Dorothea Kleine, Sheffield Institute for International Development
Laura Camfield, School of International Development, University of East Anglia
Grace Carswell, Department of International Development, University of Sussex
James Copestake, Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath
Susan Fairley Murray, Department of International Development, King’s College London
Jonathan Fisher, International Development, University of Birmingham
Jean Grugel, Interdisciplinary Global Development Centre, University of York
Claire Heffernan, London International Development Centre
Zoe Marriage, Department of Development Studies; Hannah Bargawi and Elisa Van Department of Economics, SOAS University of London
Khalid Nadvi, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester
Peter Robbins, Development Policy and Practice, Open University
Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, Department of International Development, University of Oxford
Ken Shadlen, Department of International Development, LSE
Mei Trueba, Global Health department, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Michael Walls and Julio Dávila, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit, University College London

Test and trace failings

Anthony Magee (“The coronavirus tracking app is set up to fail – as a tech analyst, I can tell you exactly why”, Voices, 17 June) points out a number of limitations of the test and trace app.

Another one is that a substantial part of the population does not use smartphones.

Many older people tend to use old-fashioned telephones, mobile or otherwise.

If they do use the internet at all, it is likely to be through a computer, which means some of the most vulnerable to the virus are likely to be invisible.

The problem may become compounded by the tendency for the professionals, often younger people, to regard the latest technology to be generally more useful than old-fashioned (aka well-established) methods of doing things.

Cole Davis
Norwich

It now appears our world-beating test and trace app may not be ready until December and is now only an insignificant part of what the government calls a comprehensive test and trace programme, being only the cherry on the cake and now not even oven-ready. This is despite the likes of Grant Shapps telling us it’s “the best possible way to help the NHS”. The latest in a long line of pathetic excuses is that the public would be “freaked out” by the use of this sort of technological approach.

The thing freaking me out is that it is obvious this government really has not got a clue how to handle the current crisis in the interests of the public and will use any amount of spin or distortions of the truth to try to convince us otherwise.

G Forward
Stirling

We should be harder on digital giants

Worrying signs at The Independent. Hints that Facebook (as per Nick Clegg’s recent admission) is moving in the right direction ( There are hopeful signs that Facebook is starting to understand its power”, Editorial, 18 June) are based on your defeatist notion that if Facebook stops the most egregious abusers and the worst fake news pushers, then they will simply go to another platform.

While this may have some credibility, it is a Petainist approach. It reminds me of the way that corruption was viewed in defence and aerospace some years ago: “If we don’t do it, then the French will” (or, now, the Chinese and Russians).

Governments and organisations like Facebook and Twitter should make it as hard as possible for fake news to appear on their sites. The fear that it will go elsewhere should be welcomed. Let them, but make it harder and harder to occupy the spaces where most may be influenced. As with corruption, fake news will never be eradicated, but the aim must be to make it harder and harder to exist. It is much like a virus, to make a more urgent comparison. We have choices: allow it to make its way through the population, like in Brazil, and affect everyone; contain it somewhat, like the UK; aim to eradicate it where possible, like in New Zealand. Most would, if given the non-political choice, choose the latter. So should we, the governments of democratic states and companies like Facebook and Twitter (and those running to take their business). Please, no Petainism to mark 80 years since Charles de Gaulle spoke of freedom for France from his base in London.

Jeff Kaye
Address supplied

Teaching the truth about colonialism

The debate in recent days about whether the statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College should be removed highlights the importance of a thorough and well-rounded education. Why not teach local history and the basics of colonialism in schools, so young people know more about British history and the context behind these significant cultural figures? It was only at university that I learned about some of the unsavoury aspects of the British empire and discovered my town’s local history by reading independently.

Following the Second World War, statues relating to Nazi Germany were taken down, but the past was not forgotten. By prioritising teaching about the past, rather than warped memorabilia in the form of statues, we can learn from history without having to commemorate these figures

Jack Crockford
Address supplied

Protesters call for removal of Cecil Rhodes statue in Oxford

Boris Johnson is a clever man

Your correspondents Peter Jackson and Derek Reynolds see Boris Johnson as talentless and a charlatan. There is much in his record to support such views. However, Johnson has been clever enough to write two books one more serious and well-received, on Churchill, and the other even he might care not to remember, with a title mentioning 72 virgins; a thriller with its final scene in Westminster Hall. This second book might lead readers to question his political judgement, but Johnson is clearly a clever man.

JM Wober
Address supplied

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