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Tue, 26 January 2021

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Government is chipping away at our development progress when we should be championing global Britain

Government is chipping away at our development progress when we should be championing global Britain

Cuts to programmes will not only prevent communities from accessing basic healthcare and clean water, but they will inhibit the power of these communities to take the lead in their own development, writes Sarah Champion MP. | PA Images

3 min read

We could be facing up to £30bn less on development over the next five years. The UK is unlikely to feel any economic ‘boost’ as a result of these cuts, but the impact on the world’s poorest will be devastating.

In the last three months government has closed the dedicated development department, slashed £30bn of development spend, is looking to legislate for an aid reduction, and has removed ‘poverty reduction’ as a tenet of the government’s aid framework.

The Government has been relentlessly chipping away at the extraordinary development progress made by the UK since 1997 at the exact time when we should be focusing on building upon the standing our commitment to Aid gives us on the world stage.

Let us not forget, however, that it is the world’s poorest and most vulnerable that will be hit the hardest by this shift. This became apparent during our recent evidence session on the impact of cutting the aid budget. 

In real terms, with shrinking GNI coupled with the ‘temporary’ reduction of UK aid to 0.5% of GNI, we could be facing up to £30bn less going on development over the next five years. Now is simply the worst time to be doing this – with the World Bank estimating that an additional 100 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.  

The real-life impact of these cuts alone on the world’s poorest will be devastating; with almost one million children not in school and 105,000 deaths due to a failure to vaccinate against preventable diseases. Cuts to programmes administered by small civil society organisations will not only prevent communities from accessing basic healthcare and clean water, but they will also inhibit the power of these communities to take the lead in their own development.

‘Poverty reduction’ is missing as a clear commitment from the government’s aid framework

What makes the cuts harder to stomach is the fact that we have heard evidence that the UK is very unlikely to feel any ‘boost’ in our economic situation as a result of these cuts. It was a purely political decision, trying to get some more points and public approval from aid sceptics.

Even if this is a temporary cut as the government will have us believe, why on earth go down the route of changing primary legislation? This certainly makes the intention appear less ‘temporary’ and more ‘permanent’.  

Despite the many arguments to keep the UK aid budget at 0.7%, what is astonishing is ‘poverty reduction’ is missing as a clear commitment from the government’s aid framework. Surely this should underpin all aid as it has for nearly 20 years. Helping the world’s poorest is widely supported in the UK. So, it is unfathomable that an explicit reference to it is missing from the government’s tweaked aid framework.

It certainly makes you wonder what the Government’s intention for development actually is going forward.

We hoped we would find out when the long anticipated Integrated Review finally concluded. But with DFID merged, the 0.7% target abandoned, and poverty missing from the new aid strategy, plus the Prime Minister planning to spend £16 billion on cyberspace cadets, real space cadets and gun drones – sadly, I don’t think there is anything left to reveal.

 

Sarah Champion is the Labour MP for Rotherham and chair of the International Development Committee.

Read the most recent article written by Sarah Champion MP - Sexual exploitation in the aid sector remains 'rife' and needs urgent action

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