Minister scraps decades-old ‘UK Aid’ logo to rebuild reputation in international development

A UK Aid label attached to boxes - Stefan Wermuth/PA
A UK Aid label attached to boxes - Stefan Wermuth/PA

Britain is to drop its decades old “UK Aid” brand in favour of a new “UK International Development” logo in a bid to convince the public that overseas spending is not just about charity.

The International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell made the announcement as part of a speech in London on Wednesday where he sketched out an ambitious vision encompassing everything from conflict resolution and poverty reduction to women's rights and climate change.

The minister also announced plans for a new “international volunteering service” under which young people will be able to apply to do good work overseas.

However he added he was not going to reopen the debate about the UK’s development spending, which has been cut from 0.7 to 0.55 per cent of GDP, or challenge the fact that more than a fifth of it was now going to housing irregular immigrants in hotels in Britain.

To do so would “open pandora's box – something I do not want to do”,  he said.

The new UK International Development logo is underscored with the inscription “Partnership. Progress. Prosperity” and will be used from now on all new development programmes.

It is intended to demonstrate that “UK development is broader than aid, and is ultimately about working with countries by building mutually beneficial partnerships”.

Mr Mitchell added: “Placing partnership at the heart of the UK’s offer shows that, at its core, international development is not about charity, handouts and dependency. It is about listening to our partners and working together to advance our shared objectives”.

The new UK International Development logo - Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office
The new UK International Development logo - Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

The new logo was revealed as the minister stood up to speak at Chatham House in London but the screens on which it was shown immediately started to flicker, prompting quips about a department that has lost much of its budget and staff in recent years.

However, the minister's speech was nothing if not wide-ranging and ambitious.

He said he would champion and take forward all seven priorities the Prime Minister set out in the refresh of the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy last month.

These are: reforming the global financial system, making global tax systems fairer, delivering clean, green infrastructure and investment, improving global food security, making the case for “open science”, preventing the next global health crisis and putting women and girls at the heart of all development.

Although Mr Mitchel had originally opposed the closure of the old Department for International Development (Dfid), he said its merger with the Foreign Office could now increase its clout.

International development could now be better aligned with the country’s national interests and made to punch above its weight despite the reduction in spending power, he said.

“The future of development relies on us working alongside countries as partners, rather than them being dependent on aid budgets.”

Improving influence and impact

Using the “entire Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office global footprint, the UK will work with other countries to advance shared aims that benefit us all, like security and economic growth, recognising the need to tackle poverty and climate change together”.

Mr Mitchell added that Britain was lobbying hard to make the international financial system more responsive to developing countries' needs, allowing debt restructuring and giving better access to capital, so they can “drive their own development”.

Other initiatives included a new programme designed to get six million more girls into school by improving education spending in low and lower middle-income countries.

In a bid to “link the British public to the UK’s development work”, the department would also commission “a new international youth volunteering programme”, similar to the former International Citizen Service, he said.

He added that he wanted to see public support of foreign aid spending increase from from the current 50 per cent to 70 per cent over time.

International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell - James Manning/PA
International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell - James Manning/PA

Reaction to the speech was mixed.

Ian Mitchell, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, said: “The minister’s speech today signals the coming of an approach that is a far cry from the chaos of recent years.

“A move from ‘aid’ to ‘international development’ is an encouraging sign of modernisation alongside a welcome refocus on poverty reduction. These reforms have the potential to improve the UK’s influence, impact and reputation; and could even begin to restore the cross-party consensus on development.

“But unless minister Mitchell is able to persuade the chancellor to shift his position on funding hosting refugees out of the aid budget, these plans will come alongside further cuts.”

However, few could doubt the minister’s passion. “It is frankly obscene that in the 21st century and in our world of plenty, children are today slowly starving to death,” he said.

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