UK government funding cuts to the world’s largest international non-governmental organization are a ‘punch’ after a successful £ 450million partnership over 10 years, according to a director.
Asif Saleh, executive director of Brac Bangladesh, said the cuts would leave hundreds of thousands of girls without education, millions of women and girls without access to family planning and hundreds of thousands of people in extreme poverty without support.
Saleh’s comments followed announcement on Friday that the UK would spend an additional £ 430million on girls’ education in 90 countries over the next five years. The announcement, made at the G7 summit, prompted accusations of hypocrisy. Sarah Brown, president of the global children’s charity Theyworld, called the funding a “drop in the ocean” given the scale of the global education crisis and the “brutal cuts to the budget of international aid ”.
Evidence submitted by Brac to the International Development Committee’s inquiry into aid cuts described the aid withdrawal as “catastrophic” for the tens of thousands of people in Bangladesh who live on less than a dollar a month. day.
“The dramatic fall is completely unexpected,” Saleh said. “It’s like a punch in the guts. We did not anticipate that this would be a complete withdrawal from the partnership. From a commitment of £ 200million over five years to absolutely nothing, this is a mistake.
About 16 million Bangladeshis have fallen into extreme poverty since the pandemic, and the World Bank estimates 150 million more people in the world will be in extreme poverty by 2021 because of the Covid-19.
With British support, Brac ran the largest non-formal school program in Bangladesh, from which 12 million children graduated. A world famous program, the ‘graduation model’, has also been developed with the help of the United Kingdom. It has lifted 2 million households out of extreme poverty in the country and is used in Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Honduras and Peru.
Saleh said that while he expected a reduction, Brac’s alignment with the government’s stated priorities – girls’ education, poverty reduction and tackling the climate crisis – made him hope that some of them would continue.
Figures calculated by Save the Children put cuts in aid to education between 2019-2020 and 2021-2022 at 36%, from £ 821million to £ 528million. Humanitarian aid and water and sanitation will be cut by around 45% and 47% respectively.
The withdrawal of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) from the Brac Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) will result in a “dramatic reduction” in the programs underway since 2011. The SPA has helped 110 million people in Bangladesh, with 4 million of children enrolled in its schools who actively seek out girls and children with disabilities.
Brac’s programs have also been cut in other countries, Saleh said.
“There have been programs that have been closed with 90 days notice,” Saleh said. “We are trying to fill in the gaps. Our health program continues because of the Covid. Our ultra-poor graduation program, our education program, is being cut. I have to make some tough calls. When I can’t start schools, when I have to stop programs to reduce child marriage, for these people it will be considered a betrayal.
Saleh said FCDO officials in Bangladesh had advocated for “phase 3” of the partnership, with additional funding from Australia and Canada. But last month Saleh was told that nothing would be available for 2021-2022.
FCDO chief economist Rachel Glennerster considered the Brac model a ‘best buy’ in terms of development, according to a report by the Independent Commission for the Impact of Aid, in 2018. The report found that consultation with partners “confirms progress in delivering results that match UK priorities, at scale, in the right places and with the right target groups”.
“The UK has supported a global organization from the South that has provided and provided transparency,” Saleh said. “Taking it off so abruptly sends the wrong message. The UK should not give up on the incredible reputation it has built for itself as a global development power. Great Britain has been a great friend. It required a thoughtful response. These are the lives of the people.
The Guardian approached FCDO for comment, but were unable to respond in time for the publication.