Overseas development aid saves lives. That’s why, in 2015, UK legislation was passed to ratify the 0.7% aid budget, and why 16 months ago, the UK government promised to “proudly maintain our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GNI on development”.
So why in 2021, when we are facing two global crises – the climate emergency and the Covid-19 pandemic – has the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced swinging cuts to the UK aid budget? A devastating blow to people living in the world’s most fragile states.
While the announcements have lacked transparency, estimates suggest cuts of 40% for girls education, 80% to clean water and sanitation projects and polio funding to be cut by 95%. If 2020 taught us anything it is the importance of access to clean water, control of diseases and mutual support.
We live in an interconnected world where our actions here in Wales can have far-reaching implications thousands of kilometres away and vice versa. Wales has a proud history of global solidarity. In 2006 the Wales for Africa programme was launched by former First Minister Rhodri Morgan. Born out of an expectation from the people of Wales that there should be a Welsh internationalist response to the disasters of the early 2000s including the Boxing Day Tsunami. That tradition continues today. The sector, supported by Hub Cymru Africa is making an enormous impact.
Swansea-based Interburns began in 2006 as a link between health professionals here and in India with the aim of transforming the way burn care is delivered. Since then, it has grown into a global organisation and has led to transformative change. In a study published in the Journal of the International Society for Burn Injuries last year, the burn care provision was shown to have improved across the board as a result of Interburns’ intervention. Work like this should not be ended simply to serve short-sighted ‘British interest’ – an interest that does nothing to address the global problems we all face.
Last year, the Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, assured the Wales Overseas Agencies Group (WOAG) that this is a temporary cut. Only a few weeks ago, during the WOAG Global Development & Humanitarian Aid Senedd election debate, Conservative candidate Calum Davies made clear his understanding that this was a temporary measure also. But this ignores the lives that will be lost now. The sector needs a clear roadmap back to the 0.7% commitment.
This year, the eyes of the world are on this island as Cornwall plays host to the G7 summit in June and Glasgow welcomes leaders from around the world for COP26 – the UN climate change summit. This should be our moment to make bold commitments to a sustainable future, not trashing our global reputation.
Quite simply, people will suffer and lives will be lost as a result. It’s as simple as that. Our partners need clarity. This year, of all years, we need to step up, not step back.