The British government has been accused by NGOs and trade unions of “chasing colonial post-Brexit fantasies” at the expense of the world’s poorest.
They urge Liz Truss to keep aid focused on poverty reduction rather than geopolitical manoeuvring.
The groups criticise the rebranding of the UK’s development investment arm, which will see the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC) become British International Investment (BII) next year.
“This new strategy and name change appears to repurpose BII as an institution that focuses solely on private-sector investment and profit-making, rather than development goals and poverty reduction,” write the 12 organisations, including Global Justice Now, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod) and Unison.
“Rather than investing in general job creation and projects with only the most tenuous relation to poverty reduction, in the hope that the economic benefits will trickle down to the world’s most marginalised communities, UK aid must retain a strong poverty reduction mandate … and support decent job creation to retain its international credibility,” they said.
Increased funding for BII will “almost certainly lead to catastrophic cuts to other, grant-based areas of aid spending”.
“Ultimately, this means that more UK aid will be directed to projects, countries and sectors that provide an economic benefit to the UK, rather than to the world’s most marginalised communities,” they add.
Unison’s international officer, Mark Beacon, said: “Ministers shouldn’t be channelling the diminishing aid budget into the private sector. They must instead fund quality public services to reduce global challenges such as poverty and inequality.”