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Petition Revoke Government cuts to global health research

We urge the government to reconsider the decision to significantly reduce the Official Development Assistance (ODA) funds for global health research and development. The decision to suspend the commitment to invest 0.7 per cent of GNI on ODA must be subject to full Parliamentary scrutiny.

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Many gains in the fight against COVID-19 are from scientists whose jobs are now threatened by UKRI budget cuts. The termination of ongoing studies will undermine years of investment, and affect the health of the most vulnerable globally. Jobs will be lost in the UK and overseas, and there will be a severe impact on the capacity to train future scientists. To abandon research on global health issues undermines the blueprint of a ‘Global Britain’ and will have a devastating impact on UK science.

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Government responded

This response was given on 22 April 2021

The Government remains a champion of global health research and recognises the importance of the UK’s contribution. The reduction in ODA for this year is a temporary but necessary measure.

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The Government has had to take the tough but necessary decision to temporarily reduce the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance (ODA). As the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out to Parliament on 25 November 2020, the seismic impact of the Covid pandemic sees the UK facing the worst economic contraction in three hundred years and a budget deficit of almost £400 billion – double that of the 2008 financial crisis. As we respond to the health and economic emergency caused by Covid, the Government has acted decisively to safeguard the public finances.

The UK remains a global leader on international development, with an ODA budget on track to exceed £10bn this year. We continue to spend more on international aid, as a proportion of our national income, than the majority of the G7. UK ODA will continue to serve the primary aim of reducing poverty in developing countries and we remain committed to the ODA rules set by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. We will return to our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on ODA when the fiscal situation allows.

Throughout the business planning process, we have ensured that every element of the FCDO’s ODA spend brings maximum strategic coherence, delivery impact and value for taxpayers’ money. Our ODA will be allocated to support the world’s poorest tackling the global challenges of: climate change and biodiversity; Covid and global health security; girls’ education; science, research and technology; open societies and conflict resolution; humanitarian preparedness and response; and trade and economic development.

At the Spending Review in November, the government announced £14.6bn to invest in R&D across government in 2021/22 and 6% of UK’s ODA spend to be ring-fenced for R&D.

The UK continues to invest in health R&D. We are proud of the tangible technological, health, policy and social breakthroughs on development outcomes achieved by the UK’s world class scientific and research sector, including the first recognised Ebola vaccine, rapid diagnostics for COVID-19, and the development of more effective child-friendly interventions against malaria.

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office

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