Speak out for Overseas Aid

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Many campaigners around Wales got involved to call on the UK government to commit to the UN target of 0.7% for overseas development aid, as enshrined in law in the 2015 International Development Act.

Sadly, this Spring, the UK Chancellor announced the Government would significantly reduce the budget for international development, arguing that the costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic meant a temporary cut was necessary.

Under the Government’s plans, overseas aid spending has been reduced from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI). It means the international development budget falling by around a third, from £15.2 billion in 2019 to around £10 billion in 2021. The 0.7 per cent target had been met every year since 2013, and enshrined in law since 2015.

Dropping this commitment to aid and development will severely undermine the UK government’s aims of being “a force for good in the world” and undermine our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. UK aid is a commitment to the world’s most marginalised people; it saves lives and builds better futures, as well as tackling climate change and eradicating disease.

These threatened cuts to the UK’s aid budget could not come at a worse time for the world’s poorest countries. The UN projects that 207 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to the severe long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. And, pegging the UK aid budget to the GNI provides a built-in safety mechanism whereby the available budget grows and shrinks with the economy – which would mitigate the necessity for these cuts.

Many campaigners around Wales got involved to call on the UK government to commit to the UN target of 0.7% for overseas development aid, as enshrined in law in the 2015 International Development Act.

Sadly, this Spring, the UK Chancellor announced the Government would significantly reduce the budget for international development, arguing that the costs of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic meant a temporary cut was necessary.

Under the Government’s plans, overseas aid spending has been reduced from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income (GNI). It means the international development budget falling by around a third, from £15.2 billion in 2019 to around £10 billion in 2021. The 0.7 per cent target had been met every year since 2013, and enshrined in law since 2015.

Dropping this commitment to aid and development will severely undermine the UK government’s aims of being “a force for good in the world” and undermine our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. UK aid is a commitment to the world’s most marginalised people; it saves lives and builds better futures, as well as tackling climate change and eradicating disease.

These threatened cuts to the UK’s aid budget could not come at a worse time for the world’s poorest countries. The UN projects that 207 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to the severe long-term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. And, pegging the UK aid budget to the GNI provides a built-in safety mechanism whereby the available budget grows and shrinks with the economy – which would mitigate the necessity for these cuts.

UK aid works: UK aid plays a vital role in improving the lives of people in some of the world’s poorest countries. Britain has a global reputation for the impact and effectiveness of its aid programmes.

Cuts announced to the aid budget will cost lives:

The global pandemic is the biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation, and has already pushed an estimated 150 million people worldwide into extreme poverty. At this crucial time, more international assistance is needed, not less.

It is the right thing to keep our promises. The 0.7% commitment has been the subject of cross-party consensus for 15 years, even through the financial crash of 2008-9. In 2015 all the major parties supported enshrining the target in legislation in perpetuity. The Conservative party restated its commitment to maintain the aid budget in its 2019 election manifesto, and again when the Department for International Development was merged into the Foreign Office in the summer of 2020. Cutting aid would be a breach of promises made to the electorate and to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

UK has been influential in pushing peers to commit to more and better aid – we should be proud of our global leadership. The UK’s commitment to 0.7 per cent has been a catalyst for a step-change in global efforts to support development. At least five members of the G7 are planning to increase aid in 2021. Previously we have been proud of our leadership among peers in our commitment to global aid – now we will drop behind them.

The year we host G7, the Government should establish its role for a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’. In a year when the UK will host the G7, the UN Climate Summits (COP 26) and the Global Education Summit, we should be showing leadership through our continued commitment to international development.

Addressing Global Challenges through International Action is best for the UK. The global pandemic has further highlighted our global interdependence, helping to build safer, fairer, healthier societies where all can thrive is in everyone’s interests. Lifting Covid-19 restrictions on our lives will only be possible when people and countries around the world are free of the virus. Other global challenges, such as climate change, migration and conflict, will all affect the UK and can only be effectively addressed through international action.

The 0.7 % commitment flexes with economic circumstances. Cuts will save less than 1% of the amount borrowed this year. The commitment to UK Aid is expressed as a percentage of gross national income so that it responds to national income and would never be ‘unaffordable’. Aid programmes would have reduced due to the contraction of the UK economy. Although public borrowing is at high levels, because of historically low interest rates, the cost of servicing that debt is at the lowest level since the Second World War, and falling. At the same time as the government announced its intention to cut the aid budget, it set out a plan to increase military spending by £16.5bn over four years. Yet these cuts to UK Aid result in a saving of approx. £4bn – less than 1% of the £450bn borrowed by the UK this year, and as such will have no impact on our deficit.

We can ensure all aid is spent on tackling global poverty. It is vital when talking about the amount of aid spent that we also focus on the quality of that aid too. Unfortunately, there have been media headlines highlighting ‘bad aid’ – involving abuse, fraud and mismanagement. These media stories can contribute to declining public trust in UK aid. But this should not mean that we cut the aid budget. Instead, it means we should improve the way we spend aid. The 2002 International Development Act already enshrined in law that all aid spending must be spent on tackling poverty, and this should remain the focus for UK aid.

Government decision to cut budget unlawful. While the budgetary commitment of 0.7% was enshrined in law, the 140+ negative news articles and countless MP expressions of concern have put pressure on the government not to bring forward any legislation to change the exiting law for 0.7%. This is positive news! However, the government has concluded that a temporary cut to 0.7% is permitted, with a return to 0.7 when “the fiscal situation allows” – arguably legally debatable. Furthermore, decisions about the cuts are being taken at speed, without proper consultation or analysis and without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

Writing a personal email or letter is more impactful than signing up to an online campaign. It’s more likely to elicit a personal response and they’re more likely to respond to your requests for action. One well-written personalised message is worth a hundred identical emails or letters and shows your MP that you can deeply about this particular issue.

Identify your MP

Find out who your MP is and all their details via: members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

You’ll need to know:

  • The name of your MP
  • Which political party they represent
  • Their contact details
  • Their correct title; do you address them as Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr, Sr, Rt Hon?

A list of their voting record, spoken contributions and questions in Parliament.

Know your MP’s record

It’s helpful to do a bit of background research (which is all presented alongside their contact details) on the above website. You can see if they have made any statements on UK Aid or Official Development Assistance (ODA). Some MPs are very supportive, others less so, but many will not have an opinion and will be open to hearing more about it.

Send a letter or email

MPs receive masses of correspondence daily, so it’s helpful to make yours as snappy and to the point as possible; making it easy for them to quickly read it and digest what you are asking them to do.

Spend some time crafting your email to include the key points:

Your address (at minimum your postcode)

Introduce yourself and why you are interested in the issue of the cuts to the UK Aid budget. Talk about your voluntary work or your experiences working overseas. Mention previous correspondence you might have had with them, or past actions they have taken on your behalf.

What’s the problem? Tell them why are you concerned. You might include some of these talking points (more info above):

  • UK aid works
  • Cuts announced will cost lives and be felt across generations
  • The global pandemic is the biggest humanitarian crisis in a generation
  • UK Aid budget has had cross-party consensus for 15 years – we should keep our promises!
  • UK has been influential in pushing peers to commit to more and better aid – we should be proud of our global leadership
  • The year we host G7, the Government should establish its role for a post-Brexit ‘Global Britain’
  • Addressing Global Challenges, such as climate change, through international action is best for the UK
  • The 0.7 % commitment flexes with economic circumstances. Cuts will save less than 1% of the amount borrowed this year
  • We can ensure all aid is spent on tackling global poverty
  • The Government decision to cut the budget is, arguably, unlawful
Ask them to do these things:
  • Speak up about these cuts in the UK Parliament
  • Write to the Prime Minister and ask the UK Government to reverse the cut
  • OR confirm when the UK Government will return to the 0.7% commitment
  • Commit to voting against cuts to the budget

Thank you and close. End by thanking your MP for their consideration and express your interest in hearing from them on the matter soon

Be friendly and polite

Let your passion shine through so you can open up a good conversation between you and your MP. This could enable you to build a longer term relationship that they will be grateful for. Let them know why you personally are interested in this and why you feel the issue is important.

Include your constituency address

MP’s are elected to represent you! So make sure you include your address and postcode in any correspondence. Without those details your email will be overlooked.

You don’t need to be an expert

As a constituent you aren’t expected to know the ins and outs of complex issues. The most important thing is to be yourself and explain why you care.

Make it personal

MPs want to hear about what matters to you as their constituent and how their help can make a difference so make sure you include some detail about this in your correspondence.

Tell them how they can help

The first thing an MP will want to know is what you want them to do and mostly, if they can, they will help you or do what you ask. Don’t forget to include an ask in your email. If they reply and say that they will take an action for you, don’t be shy to follow up and very importantly to thank them if and when they do it.

Congratulate yourself!

You’ve taken an important action to help defend UK aid and protect the lives of people around the world. Be encouraged that you’ve taken a step to make a difference and don’t be disheartened if you didn’t get the response you wanted. Just by sending an email you have directly inputted into a collective effort to make change and stop the 0.5 legislation.