Stand up for UK aid

Britain can be really proud of the aid that it gives to people around the world, says CARE International UK chief executive Laurie Lee

Stand up for UK aid

We believe that fighting extreme poverty around the world is both the right thing for the UK to do, and something for the UK to be proud of. UK government funding of overseas aid is good for the world’s poorest people, and good for Britain. That’s why CARE has consistently spoken out to:

  • keep the aid budget focused on helping the world’s poorest people

  • support the UK’s legally-binding commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid

  • use UK aid and global leadership to make progress on the biggest challenges facing the world, such as gender inequality, climate change and humanitarian crisis.

CARE’s vision for UK aid

On 1 September 2020 the UK government’s new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was launched. Earlier in the year, CARE supporters reached more than half of all MPs through a petition calling on the UK government to ensure that aid continues to help the world’s poorest people and those most vulnerable to crisis around the world.

As the new department establishes priorities for UK foreign policy and aid budget, CARE will continue calling for the focus of aid spending to remain on the world’s poorest people, and for high standards of aid spending to be maintained. We are also calling for a continued focus on gender equality and tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges such as the climate crisis. This will be crucial in the global response to COVID-19, and other humanitarian crises like those in Yemen and Syria.

Read more about our priorities for UK Aid and the new FCDO:

What difference does aid make?

It would be difficult to convince the more-than-one-billion people who have now escaped extreme poverty that ‘nothing has changed’. For example, thanks to UK aid, over the past four years 11 million children have been able to go to school for the first time. More than 62 million people now have access to clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions. And millions of people have started to earn a living through small businesses and farming projects assisted by UK aid.

It’s a simple fact: UK aid is making a difference to the lives of the world’s poorest people.

If aid is working, why do we need to keep giving it?

Likewise, it would be difficult to convince the 1.2 billion people around the world who still live on less than £1 a day that no more needs to be done. A lot has been achieved: for example, since 1990, the number of children dying before their 5th birthday has more than halved. But what about the other half? In 2018, an estimated 5.3 million children aged under five died – with roughly half of those deaths occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. There’s still a lot that needs to be done.

How can we ensure aid reaches the right people?

UK aid, when delivered through DFID, was consistently rated highly for the quality of its aid spending. In 2018, DFID ranked third for transparency out 45 global aid donors in the Aid Transparency Index. Meanwhile the Foreign Office was ranked 40th. We are calling for the new FCDO to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent where it’s meant to be spent: on reducing poverty for the world’s poorest people.

Independent scrutiny of how the UK government decides to spend aid is important, and why we continue to advocate for the retention of the Independent Commission on Aid Impact. What’s more, UK aid is also actively helping to support ordinary people living in the poorest countries to hold their governments to account for how they spend money.

What does aid have to do with anti-racism and decolonisation?

As a global society, we need to recognise that global poverty and inequality is in large part a result of colonialism built on the slavery and exploitation of black people, indigenous people, and people of colour. The #BlackLivesMatter protests in 2020 show that there is also a widespread and deeply felt desire for change, and that many people believe that this moment must be seized as a turning point.

At CARE, we are committed to doing all we can to achieve a world of hope, inclusion and social justice, where poverty has been overcome and all people live with dignity and security. Racism is utterly abhorrent to CARE’s values. We recognise that more needs to be done, and we need to play an active role, to decolonise aid. This would make sure that those who aid is intended to support have power and agency over how it is delivered, and the expertise and priorities of communities is what drives the approach.

Read more: #BlackLivesMatter: Statement of support by CARE International UK

What’s so magical about 0.7%?

The 0.7% figure is not an arbitrary number; it is an internationally agreed amount, based on UN calculations of the amounts needed for poor countries to successfully develop, which the UK and other countries committed to over 50 years ago. The UK government commits other spending in line with similar international targets, such as the 2% of GDP spent on defence as agreed within NATO.

What does the law say?

Public support over the years has led to cross-party consensus that meeting the 0.7% commitment is both the right thing to do, as well as being in our national interest. Aid can boost economic growth and political stability around the world – and it is surely in our own national interest to live in a more peaceful, stable and prosperous world.

Parliament agreed in 2015 to make 0.7% legally binding to ensure that the UK’s long-term commitment to tackling global poverty could not be undermined by short-term political changes or local political events. And it makes good business sense too. The predictability of aid to poor countries helps doctors, nurses, teachers and other providers of services in those countries to plan their work better, and means that our government can make smarter long-term investments in aid programmes.

Why should we give more than other rich countries?

UK aid policy reflects the view of the majority of UK citizens. The British are a generous people, even in hard times committing to local, national and international charities. Each year, the UK public donates millions to Comic Relief (£63.5 million in 2019) and whenever a disaster strikes, the British people are incredibly generous with their response.

The UK isn’t the only country to give 0.7% in aid, but it is true that we are the first country in the G7 to do so. But surely this is something to be proud of.

The President of the World Bank said that the UK’s commitment to development raised the estimation of the UK in the eyes of the developing world. We are justly recognised as a leader in international development – a country that keeps its word and follows through on its promises.

Why must we give so much overseas aid when people are living in poverty at home?

7p in every 10 pounds – is it really so much? As a proportion of government spending, the amount we spend on aid is dwarfed by almost everything else.

No-one is saying that we don’t need to tackle poverty and support people in need at home – we do. But as the 5th richest country in the world, the UK can do both. We have a moral obligation to keep our promises, in bad times as well as good.

Read more

Find out more about aid at the website of Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development.