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A Short History of Urban Aid Policy and Programming in the UK

Story timeline| September 2022


In 2020, the UK government announced that it would cut its Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget from 0.7% to 0.5% Gross National Income (GNI). This represents a cut of approximately £4 billion, the single greatest spending reduction in real terms in the history of UK aid. This cut follows on from the most significant institutional changes in UK ODA administration in a generation; the Department for International Development (1997-2020) was merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to form the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). These shifts occur in a context in which the global population is predominantly urban and, with the urban population estimated to reach 68 percent of the global population by 2050, it is likely that poverty around the world will increasingly be concentrated in urban areas.

Urban development has formed a persistent part of the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) activities over the past seventy years. However, the nature of urban ODA policy and programming – the ways that ‘the urban’ has been understood, characterised, and approached – has shifted significantly throughout this period. In this timeline we track the urban trajectory of UK ODA policy and programming against the evolution of the UK’s aid institutions, shifting domestic political priorities, and the global ODA landscape. In doing so we aim to show some of the key turning points in the UK’s urban aid policy and programming and situate recent budgetary and institutional changes within historical context.

Suggested reading time: 25-30 Minutes

Please note: This page is best viewed on a tablet or desktop device, in a new window 

For more information about this story timeline please contact Dr Christopher Yap

Suggested Citation

Yap, C., Marx, C. & Levy, C. (2022). A Short History of Urban Aid Policy and Programming in the UK. KNOW (Knowledge in Action for Urban Equality).

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