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.