'Love' is what motivates us – International Development Secretary makes the case for foreign aid

Posted On: 
5th October 2018

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt spoke at Save the Children’s annual Conservative Party conference reception. 

Credit: 
PA Images

All across the globe, children are dying from preventable causes, missing out on education due to poverty or gender, suffering from violence, exploitation and neglect, and are vulnerable in times of crisis. However, there is hope.

“Over the last ten years there has been an extraordinary progress in international development – with poverty levels more than halved and child mortality falling from 12 million to less than 5 million.”

Speaking to a packed fringe event at Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, this was the positive message delivered by the CEO of Save the Children Kevin Watkins at their annual evening reception.

Mr. Watkins said that this progress goes to show that “aid does work” and “plays an extraordinary role in driving those achievements.”

Speaking alongside the CEO was International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat MP, and ConHome editor Paul Goodman.

Penny Mordaunt thanked Save the Children and all foreign aid workers for what they do.

She said that when it came to foreign aid “the British people have been unfairly mischaracterised” as anti-aid, when in fact “the British public really care.”

Tom Tugendhat MP agreed saying: “The British people recognise, quite rightly, that our security our safety and indeed our prosperity is based on the fact that we understand that development is important for all our futures, and not just a gift for those in need.”

This support for foreign aid is true even when you look at the Conservative party specifically, the editor of ConHome said.

He revealed that ConHome polls their “Tory readers” regularly about aid and the results show that there is “incredibly strong support” for emergency humanitarian aid. He admitted that support wanes when it comes to development work, but “ultimately the support is basically there.”

Tom Tugendhat said that such support makes sense, as he would argue “very strongly that Save’s work is fundamentally Conservative.”

He continued saying: “Because what it does is build on the concept of the rule of law, it builds on the idea of duty, and it builds very strongly on the idea of internationalism. I think this is really speaking to what is modern Britain and speaking to what is modern Conservatism”

However, despite all this support there are daunting challenges ahead.

Mr. Goodman warned that despite the 0.7% being in law, the past few years of turbulent change - citing Brexit and Trump - have shown that “public attitudes can change very fast.”

“While in the end, the sheer nobility of the work you are doing will win out, these are very tough and challenging circumstances,” he said.

Tom Tugendhat added to the point, warning: “The rule of law is a challenge as almost never before around the world. We are seeing some of the ideas that we thought were agreed, for example the responsibility to protect that was agreed in the UN in 2005, that too is fundamentally challenged. It is challenged by both the left and the right.”

He called for all MPs to work together to promote the ‘responsibility to protect’ not has a Conservative or Labour idea, but as a British one.

The MP continued: “There are other challenges too. As we look around the world and we rethink the way people do international negotiations, we go away from – as we heard the President of the United States arguing the other day – we go away from multilaterism and towards nationalism.

“Many of the arguments that sustained international development are being challenged. There is a rise again of the Westphalian principles.”

He said that the Government has to continue to press the message that “we all have duty to one another”.

The International Development Secretary said it is also important to remember why the British people give to those in need.

“I think we ought to say that [love] is what motivates us. That is what motivates the actions of the British public and we should be proud of that. The Conservative party does not have a monopoly on that. But I think that we are seeing now a different type of politics, one not motivated by love, one motivated by hate. And I think whatever party we belong to, we must stand up against that.”

The Save the Children CEO said that a concept that was very much integral to this message of hope was the idea of a ‘global Britain’.

He said: “Whatever differences there may be on global issues, there is a bipartisan sense that Global Britain is a concept that really matters.

“It is about being a Britain that is outward looking and not insular. It is about a Britain that is not acting in pursuit of narrow commercial advantage or narrow strategic interest, but a Britain that is committed to global leadership and international cooperation and multilateralism on some of the great challenges of our day. Confident enough to project its values to the outer world – and there is no greater value in public life then a commitment to the least advantaged in society.”

He added: “If we can’t remake the world for children and provide them with opportunities for education, provide them with protection against killer diseases, provide them with protection against people who bomb them or obstruct medical care, it diminishes us as a global community.”