Cuts to development education may increase public scepticism

First posted on Left Foot Forward.

Monday saw the first cuts at DfID were announced by the new Conservative administration, as new international development secretary Andrew Mitchell announced that projects designed to raise awareness of development issues amongst the UK public are to be scrapped.

He said:

“I’m surprised that Labour ministers thought these projects were the best use of British aid.”

Yet he has simply listed the projects to be cut without listing any explanation for their original rationale. DFIDIn fact, development education in the UK has been an important part of DfID’s programme from it’s creation. As we have reported previously, DfID’s first White Paper in 1997 established the Building Support for Development programme (BSD) which addressed the need for an:

“Increased public understanding of our global mutual dependence and the need for international development.”

Stalls at music festivals may sound frivolous, but they are a tool many development NGOs use regularly in order to engage with the UK public to raise support for their work and their campaigns. Is training nursery school teachers so that they can make children aware of the world they live in from an early age such a bad idea?

This follows articles in The Times and by the right-wing think tank IPN criticising the spending of aid in the UK, reported here previously. In DfID’s first White Paper the then Secretary of State Clare Short stated in the foreword the need for:

“An informed public opinion [to] help ensure that the UK plays its full role in generating the international political will necessary to meet the international poverty eradication targets.”

In the current climate the public naturally wants to see value for money from all public spending – but that cannot be used an excuse to cut development education, a key tool in generating that political will amongst the public.