British government aid drops the idea of development

Global Justice Now (GJN) is a democratic social justice organisation working as part of a global movement to challenge the powerful and create a more just and equal world. They mobilise people in the UK for change, and act in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south.  

Among other campaigns the organisation raises awareness of the British government’s approach to development, aid and debt. In December 2021 Daniel Willis of GJN wrote of a change in the British government’s idea of development with an email communication to GJN members and supporters. The communication is given below and we are grateful to GJN and Daniel Willis for their permission to reproduce this in The Violence of Development website.

It is rare that we include in this website items and articles that do not relate specifically to the region of Central America, but the issue of development is so crucial to the Central American countries that we decided that it warrants a mention here.


British government re-brands ‘development aid’

Global Justice Now, December 2021

Key words: development; aid; CDC Group; British International Investment (BII); climate finance; private sector projects.


The UK government has rebranded its development bank, currently known as CDC Group, as British International Investment, moving yet more aid money away from where it’s needed most.

CDC always had a dubious track record when it came to tackling poverty. Now, the government has even dropped “development” from its name, and with it any pretence that it will use the bank to close inequalities.

Along with development organisations and trade unions, including CAFOD, Christian Aid, the National Education Union, TUC and Unison, we have written an open letter to the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss outlining our concerns.

Redirecting aid

In November [2021], we reported that the UK development bank, CDC Group, was to be rebranded as British International Investment (BII) early next year.

Instead of focusing on tackling poverty and closing inequalities, BII will prioritise giving money to for-profit businesses in the private sector, particularly to projects and sectors where the UK is set to benefit financially.

After the £4 billion cuts to aid this year, more money for BII will also impact other areas of aid spending and could lead to even harsher cuts next year.

Development funds should not be used to generate profit for rich countries and corporations, but to redistribute wealth to support the world’s most marginalised communities.

Not a suitable vehicle for development or climate justice

In recent years, we have raised numerous problems with CDC’s business model and how it has supported private hospitals, colonial palm oil plantations, and a range of projects that have nothing to do with development.

It seems that British International Investment will continue in this vein by investing only in private sector projects and by distributing some aid money via private equity funds. But these bankers and financiers don’t know the first thing about tackling poverty.

Similarly, BII will receive a bigger portion of the UK’s international climate finance spending. This means that grant-based climate finance that the global south is calling for will be reduced in the coming years.

It is as clear as day that BII is not a suitable vehicle for meeting the UK’s international commitments on climate change or development.

In solidarity,

Daniel Willis
Finance campaigner at Global Justice Now


[1] UK accused of abandoning world’s poor as aid turned into ‘colonial’ investment, Guardian, 21 December 2021

[2] Aid sector and unions condemn launch of British International Investment, Global Justice Now, December 2021

[3] Briefing: Making CDC work for people and planet, Global Justice Now, November 2019