This week, the newly appointed International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt MP, has said that the UK aid budget should be allocated to “issues the British public care about passionately” and that best serve the UK’s “national interest”. She also stated that the UK might cut aid to developing countries that fail to invest in their own people. While All We Can has always asserted that ‘relief and development’ should foster independence and self-reliance, it believes that this can only be achieved through collaboration, understanding and mutual respect.
Since 1981, we have seen the number of people living in extreme poverty in the world halved; UK aid has contributed significantly to this progress. As a global society, we have also seen exciting technological and scientific innovations that allow us to lead longer, healthier lives. Foreign aid has been critical to these evolutions. The UK should be proud of its history of delivering life-changing programmes in some of the world’s poorest communities.
UK Aid is internationally acknowledged for its effectiveness. The Aid Transparency index placed the UK Department For International Development (DFID) in the “very good” category in 2016. However, beyond the plethora of statistics we need to remember the communities around the world that are at the receiving end of foreign aid. All We Can believes that the best way to tackle the injustices in some of the poorest places in this world is to work with these local communities. They already want to ‘step up and take responsibility’, as Penny Mordaunt has indicated will be the criteria of aid in the future.
It is concerning to hear the UK government speaking about aid being dependent on the national interests of our country when at heart of all decisions should be those whose lives will be impacted. UK Aid has rightly been given in the past with a focus on providing people with the basic rights of health, sanitation, education, shelter, nutrition and community and family security. Understandably, many people have concerns about foreign aid when Britain faces so many domestic challenges. However, we know aid works. Not only does it provide a platform for global cooperation, and in turn helps play a role in maintaining a safe and stable world, but it also represents ‘great value for money’. In this context ‘value for money’ is more than simply measuring effectiveness – it is recognising that foreign aid means individual lives are saved as a result. Individual lives are transformed beyond recognition.
In all my years of engaging with some of the poorest people in some of the poorest parts of the world, I am convinced that they have the resources and motivation to find solutions. Occasionally they need a friend to help. Aid has the highest chance of success if resources are put in the hands of local people and local organisations in the communities that they serve. These local people and organisations are often best placed to unlock the potential in their communities. All We Can, in its long-term development work, has assisted local NGOs and churches who want to respond to the needs of their communities that are seeking better health, cleaner water, secure livelihoods, sovereign land management, relevant education and long-term security. All We Can does not dictate the priority needs of the local community, but rather supports local organisations that are community focused. We do this through relational working, as we believe it is collaboration that creates change rather than paternalistic or expedient agendas.
International aid is not perfect, but it is making a huge difference in the world. Good governments want to build countries that are not dependent on charity and handouts, but an economy that will look at the just care of its people and management of its resources. Challenging and thinking about the way we deliver international aid and encourage sustainability and self-sufficiency is right, but we should do so with justice for the world’s poorest communities and the millions who still live in extreme poverty at the heart of the decisions made.
The UK has been a world leader in committing to spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas development assistance. By meeting this global promise agreed in the United Nations every year since 2013, the UK has helped alleviate global poverty and has supported some of the world’s most vulnerable people. All We Can stands alongside many other international organisations in encouraging the UK government to maintain the focus of this spending on providing life-saving assistance and empowering people to raise themselves out of poverty.