On Thursday 11th March, the UK government announced dramatic and imminent UKRI financing cuts. The consequences of the decision are far-reaching for the health and wellbeing of some of the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised members of our global community, and for the creation of the next generation of young researchers in ODA-recipient countries and in the UK, individuals whose skills will be essential if we are to find solutions to the many challenges facing our world.
The government must urgently reconsider this decision. An open letter, addressed to Rishi Sunak and Dominic Raab, has been signed by over 3300 people and organisations working around the world on global health research calling for these funding cuts to be reversed. Signatories include 93 pre-eminent global organisations working in the global health sector and over 2300 individual researchers from more than 100 Universities and research institutes in the UK, joined by more than 700 members of the global health community from all regions of the world.
The open letter is being coordinated by Professor Sarah Hawkes and Professor Kent Buse - for any queries please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
18 March 2021
Rt Honourable Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Dear Mr Raab and Mr Sunak,
Subject: Cutting UKRI Funding is unacceptable and counterproductive to UK and global interests
We are writing in response to the letter issued by the UKRI on 11th March 2021 informing UK higher education institutions that it would be reducing the allocation to UKRI ‘significantly’ in light of the UK government’s decision to suspend its Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment to 0.7% of GNI.
As people employed in UK academic institutions working on global health and as their research colleagues, partners and collaborators across the globe, we, the undersigned, urge the government to reconsider this decision. The consequences of the decision are far-reaching for the health and wellbeing of some of the poorest, most vulnerable and marginalised members of our global community, and for the creation of the next generation of young researchers in ODA-recipient countries and in the UK, individuals whose skills will be essential if we are to find solutions to the many challenges facing our world.
We are of course well aware of the impact of COVID-19 on people and economies, and understand that difficult decisions are having to be made as the UK builds back better and fairer in the coming years. However, we are dismayed that the people likely to suffer most from the decision announced on March 11th are the ultimate beneficiaries of UKRI-funded research programmes - which address some of the world’s most complex and challenging global health problems. Cutting back on this research agenda damages the capacities of all of us to provide evidence for tackling these complex challenges and changing the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalised in every society, including in the UK. Critically, the COVID-19 pandemic has made amply clear the interdependencies across our world. We well understand that health risks and vulnerabilities are shared globally, as are the solutions being developed the world over to address emerging health threats.
The United Kingdom has been a global leader in research that has helped improve lives and livelihoods for millions of people around the world. The report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health, published in February 2020, recognised the UK’s leading position in health research within the G7 group of countries, and highlighted the substantial benefits realised from collaborative, interdisciplinary research in global health, including in the fields of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), maternal and neonatal health, and mental health. Solutions identified through research in these and other health areas bring benefits to people everywhere - including the UK itself.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on deep-seated inequalities within and between societies. Cutting back on our global ODA commitments and thereby resulting in loss of funding for research that seeks to close these gaps and create resilient societies, is, we believe, a false economy. COVID-19 has exposed the interconnectedness of countries and in so doing reinforced the need and urgency for collaborative research on what are ultimately shared problems. The long-term impact both to the health and wellbeing of the world’s most vulnerable people, as well as the reputational damage to the UK in its quest to be a truly global partner, will be multi-generational.
We urge you and your departments to reconsider this decision and to reverse the decision taken by the Government in November 2020 to suspend the commitment to invest 0.7 per cent of GNI on ODA and restore the UKRI ODA budget. As you may be aware, a recent poll by the British Foreign Policy Group found that within the suite of foreign aid and development activities, spending on health (and vaccinations) attracted the highest level of support from the British public (76% were in favour of spending in this area). The research undertaken by British universities in collaboration with our partners worldwide is crucial to ensure that investing in this area continues to both support innovation and achieve maximum impact.
Given the uncertainty to current and planned global health research collaborations, we all look forward to hearing of a positive outcome to this matter soonest.
Professor Julia Buckingham, President, Universities UK
Lord Crisp, Co-chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health
Preet Kaur Gill, Shadow International Development Secretary
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng, MP, Sec of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, CEO UKRI
Dr Dan Poulter, Chair, All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Health
Professor Christopher Smith, UKRI International Champion