UK Government official visit celebrates Malawi climate project which has recently had funding cut

12 August 2021
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The UK Government’s climate adaptation czar, and former Secretary of State for International Development, visited Malawi last week. This week the FCDO published a video of Anne-Marie Trevelyan visiting a successful climate resilience project in Malawi, funded by the FCDO, called Promoting Sustainable Partnerships for Empowered Resilience (PROSPER). It is now reported in the media that the UK Government had cut all its funding for this project’s implementing NGOs, allegedly ending support to nearly 1 million Malawians, before the visit took place and the video was made.

Watch the FCDO video here
Read the Devex report on the cut funding

In the video, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, walks around fields under a union jack umbrella, and says: “[It’s] fantastic to have had the opportunity to see the whole PROSPER project … a fantastic effort. Really, really proud that U.K. aid has been able to work with NGOs and the local council to make this possible,”

It is reported that United Purpose, one of the NGOs implementing the programme, submitted a statement to the International Development Committee saying it was told the NGOs’ contract “would be terminated due to UKAid cuts.” U.P. stated, “more than 200,000 households, covering 900,000 people, will feel the impact of this cut on their lives, livelihoods and their ability to feed their families.”

The U.P. statement said the project’s closure budget had not been agreed by FCDO by May 29, leaving United Purpose unable to enact “meaningful implementation” on the ground and raising questions about how the cuts were carried out.

The SMP has raised this matter with the FCDO in Malawi, seeking clarification. We have been told that UK Aid has made cuts across all its programmes in Malawi, except those in girls’ education, as a result of the decision to no longer meet the UK’s 0.7%GNI aid commitment, and that this includes the PROSPER programme. However, the FCDO states that PROSPER has some continuing UK funding to run until 2023.

We have also contacted United Purpose but have not yet received a reply. United Purpose have previously stated: “The [U.K. aid] cuts are falling unfairly on the NGO sector, who work with the most marginalised poorest communities in the most fragile contexts.”

While keen to acknowledge that some UK Government funding for this programme is continuing to 2023, the SMP expresses strong concern at the seeming disconnect between government messaging at times and the realities for those involved on the ground. We feel the video should have made clear that the FCDO was in the process of actively cutting all its funding for the current delivery NGOs, if this is the case.

We struggle to reconcile how, as a country, we can renege on promises we have made to the developing world, especially where these have been set in statute and firmly embedded in manifestos, and also then claim to be global leaders in this same space.

We had similar concerns when at the recent Global Education Summit, the UK Government called on other countries to pledge £4bn of funding to support education in the developing world, while we have ourselves broken our own aid pledges, by over £4bn a year. It is reported that this is the first time in history a country has both hosted a major education financing conference and at the same time cut its own funding for education.

We want to be clear, the SMP strongly supports the FCDO’s outstanding work in Malawi. It changes lives for the better and all those involved in this inspiring work should be applauded for their tireless efforts. All we hear of the PROSPER programme is that it is achieving fantastic things and is exactly the sort of investment we should be making as a country to support our friends in Malawi adapt to a changing climate.

But there is need for greater transparency and honesty around the aid cuts. We need to listen to those on the ground who have been hit hardest by this policy decision (a political and moral choice, not an economic necessity, we believe) and honestly reflect the realities. We need to be transparent about what is being cut and what impact this will have, instead of simply waving the flag harder and faster and hoping no one notices.

As part of civic society, and a longstanding friend and partner of the UK Government, it is right that we express concern when we feel public messaging does not accurately reflect events on the ground.

We are committed to accurate and fair reporting and will continue to update this article as further information arises. We especially welcome those impacted on the ground in Malawi to share their views and experience, which we endeavour to share openly. Contact: David@scotland-malawipartnership.org.