Chris White MP: Our aid commitment is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do
Chris White MP argues that Britain's aid contributions project the values of the country abroad, while helping the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
As we begin to forge the UK’s role outside of the European Union, the upcoming General Election provides us with an opportunity to project ourselves as an outward-looking nation; one that will continue to keep its promise to the world’s poorest people, championing stability and security both at home and abroad.
British Aid Saves Lives
As a member of the International Development Committee in the last Parliament, I saw first-hand the impact of British aid abroad. In countries such as Rwanda and Burundi, torn apart by conflict that has stunted economic development and left millions in poverty, I saw how British aid has provided education to nearly 400,000 children, delivered mosquito bed nets to protect thousands of families from malaria and has helped rebuild roads, schools and hospitals.
British aid stands up for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, it projects the values of our country abroad. In particular, Britain is a world-leader in humanitarian response – matching the generosity of the British public to emergency appeals, our aid budget ensures we are the first to respond in times of crisis: tackling humanitarian disasters and emergencies in places like Syria and Somalia with life-saving assistance. We can be very proud of our contribution in this respect.
British aid also helps countries stand on their own two feet. In Burundi, our Department for International Development helped establish an independent Revenue Authority at a time when the country’s tax and customs services topped the list of East Africa’s most corrupt organisations. The programme set out to transform the way taxes are collected - and it worked. In a 6-month period that year, revenue collection rose by almost 40% above the level for the same period the previous year, which helped collect millions for Burundi to spend on its own public services.
As long as people are in desperate need of help, Britain will fulfil its moral obligation to save lives and help countries build the strong foundations necessary for creating their own prosperous and sustainable futures.
British Aid Creates a Safer, Stronger United Kingdom
British aid is also a vital pillar of Britain’s foreign policy. Alongside our commitment to 2% defence spending, it enables us to remain a respected and powerful global player, projecting Britain’s influence and values across the globe.
The role that British aid plays in helping those less fortunate benefits us all. The UK helps support democratic elections, promotes projects that have at their core key British values of freedom, justice and tolerance as well as helping to uphold the rule of law. This is not only critical to Britain’s security and prosperity, but is also essential for global stability.
Britain’s commitment to overseas aid has also increased our soft power, strengthening our hand at the UN Security Council, G7 and other multilateral forums. As both Bill Gates and Dr Jim Kim, the President of the World Bank, have said this week, British aid opens up access to high-level global decision makers, increasing our economic influence and securing national security objectives without ever putting our citizens in harm’s way.
Our commitment to our aid budget helps save lives and makes Britain safer and stronger. It embodies the important traditions of delivering prosperity and cherishing individual freedom. And if we are serious about building an ambitious outward-looking approach after we leave the European Union, then continuing to commit to the UN pledge to spend 0.7% of our national income on overseas aid is essential.
I am proud of what our aid budget has achieved and believe protecting Britain’s aid commitment is both the smart and right thing to do.
Chris White is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington