“At a time when we are having to make difficult decisions, we must not and cannot balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest.”David Cameron on becoming Prime Minister (2010)
During the last election, we were promised that we would continue to invest – and it should be seen as such – 0.7% of GNI in international aid. That was a manifesto commitment. There are many people who will have considered that, especially given what foreign aid achieves.
The likes of Nigel Farage would have you believe that international aid is largely money being sent and used by corrupt dictators in the developing world. In actual fact, this money is spent on water cleaning projects, absolute poverty starvation relief, access to medicines, vaccinations, neonatal technological advancements.
We invest the money in preventing climate change policies. Founded in 2008, Britain has contributed £2bn into Climate Investment Funds. The UK is the largest contributor, having invested £2 billion (almost $3 billion) of the $8 billion disbursed to projects that reduce emissions, support clean growth, build climate resilience and protect forests.
The technology is incredible, with solar investment being made in Morocco (which you can see above). Algeria, Chile, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mexico, the Middle East and North Africa Region, Morocco, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine and Vietnam all benefit from this. But most crucially, in these countries – many of them war torn, many run by corrupt regimes – DFID and the Climate Investment Funds are the people who oversee that these projects are implemented properly. It is an objective fact that if climate change projects across the world are supported, then Britain benefits — because every human being benefits.
UK ICF contributes to reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources (such as solar, wind or geothermal), promoting low carbon alternatives to wood for domestic cooking, and reducing deforestation.2020 UK Climate Finance Results, page 7
The rationals amongst us accept that climate change is a global emergency. By reducing this investment, Britain is abandoning part of its global responsibilities. We don’t just have a responsibility here at home to tackle climate change; in those countries that cannot – or will not, due to ill rule – make their own impact, we have to help.
DFID also invests a lot of money in initial infrastructure requisite for trade, not aid, programmes. These develop businesses in the poor world. If, as a country, we are truly going to be ‘Global Britain’, then why are we cutting these programmes? Why on Earth is it a good idea to reduce investment in future business when we are not even certain that we will get a deal?
And finally, we turn to the point – at least, from my perspective – about what international aid is all about: Saving lives, providing access to clean water, poverty relief, access to medicines and access to vaccinations.
To touch solely on one, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaccinations for All published this report. I encourage you to read all of it, but I will quote some of the most fundamental elements of need:
No child should die from diseases that can be prevented. Immunisation has proven the test of time as one of the most successful and cost-effective global health interventions of our time – averting an estimated 20 million deaths and 500 million cases of illness in the decade of vaccines, from 2011 to 2020. Vaccines not only save lives but are central to global health security and are a fundamental component for achieving several of the United Nations Sustainable DevelopmentThe Next Decade of Vaccines: Addressing the challenges that remain
Goals. The UK has been a world-leader in global immunisation efforts and without UK support these remarkable achievements in immunisation would not have been possible. UK funding has helped immunise 76 million children against vaccine-preventable diseases, saving 1.4 million lives globally.
towards achieving vaccinations for all (page 3)
On the issue of national security, the Department for International Development is responsible, in part, for counter-terrorism – especially abroad (the clue is in the name). Here, we see why that is crucial in war-torn states in which we have had involvement:
The conflict in Syria poses serious risks to UK interests, including the stability of the wider region, migration, and counter-terrorism. DFID plays an important role in delivering the UK’s overall strategy which seeks to end the conflict and bring about an inclusive political settlement that will reduce these risks. DFID’s investment to meet humanitarian needs and to strengthen Syrians’ ability to withstand the impact of the conflict is both the right thing to do and is in the UK’s national interest.DFID Syria Crisis Response (Including Turkey)
All in all, we have seen this country retreat into populism. This is dog-whistling to red wall seats that the Tories gained in the last election: Those MPs whose seats have lesser-educated voters, those who harbour resentment towards immigrants, and those who do not understand – or do not care – about how this form of policy-making can affect not only the impoverished, but themselves.
But the point is that we need to be doing a lot more, and certainly not less. £10bn sounds like a lot, but compare the rest of your Income Tax statement that you get in April, and it’s tiny. We should remain proud leaders of our legacy in this respect, and we should always protect the most vulnerable in the world. Indeed, it is in our interests to do so, as outlined above.
To retreat now is to admit that we want to be a country that is not, contrary to what the Government signals, a Global Britain: But the inverse; one which is nasty, one which steals from people, and one which balances the books on the world’s poorest.