The History of DFID

When then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in September 2020, he signaled the dissolution of the Department for International Development (DFID) after nearly 25 years. Over that time, DFID had won a stellar international reputation, recruited a large and well-respected body of expertise, and made a material contribution to important changes in the global development architecture.

This series, published over 18 months, examines the ways in which DFID enabled the UK to pursue its development objectives, and the department’s contribution to global development over the years of its existence.

Boris Johnson’s decision to merge DFID with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—dissolving a department with a stellar international reputation—was loudly criticized from all sides. It is now generally accepted to have failed, and politicians across parties have been actively considering how to rectify matters. DFID’s experience from 1997 to 2020 is highly germane.

More from the Series

POLICY PAPERS
Progress in Eliminating World Poverty: The Department for International Development 2003-2010
December 14, 2023
DFID’s growing budget, influence, capability, focus, and political support from 2003 to 2010 allowed it, in these years, to make a substantial contribution towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. These years also saw the emergence of a cross-party political consensus that the UK should ...
POLICY PAPERS
Setting the Compass for Eliminating World Poverty: The Department for International Development 1997-2003
October 24, 2023
By 2003, DFIF was one of the world’s most influential international development organizations thanks to a combination of effective political leadership, wider government backing, clear objectives supported by rigorously deployed resources, and large numbers of capable and motivated staff.
Blog Post
History, Signal, Politics and Strategy: Why Labour Created DFID in 1997
June 19, 2023
When Boris Johnson announced the creation of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office in September 2020, he signaled the dissolution of the Department for International Development (DFID) after nearly 25 years. In a new series, to be published over the next 18 months, we will look at the wa...
POLICY PAPERS
Why Did Labour Create the Department for International Development?
June 19, 2023
Looking back on the run up to the creation of DFID in 1997, those involved tend now to tell two somewhat conflicting stories: first that it was simply “in Labour’s DNA” to uplift development and give it a separate voice in government, and second that the creation of DFID was very much about the circ...