This is a time when we should be reassuring the poorest countries that we will help them through the pandemic. Instead our government is turning its back, Caroline Lucas writesby Caroline Lucas / November 20, 2020 / Leave a comment
It’s taken less than a year for the Conservatives to break their election promise to retain the commitment to aid spending at 0.7 per cent of GDP. But then breaking manifesto promises is becoming something of a habit for this government.
What Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dismissed as “tittle tattle” only two months ago now appears to be government policy. Protecting the aid budget is “a manifesto commitment,” Raab said at the time. “It’s written into law.” Well, we know what this government’s attitude is to international law: it’s there to be broken when it suits its political agenda. And this domestic law apparently exists simply to be repealed. The damage to the UK’s reputation is bad enough. The timing and short-sightedness of this new proposal are even worse.
This totally unjustified cut, reportedly from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent, is precisely what we warned of when it was announced Dfid would be merged into to Foreign Office. And it comes in the midst of a global pandemic which has hit every country in the world, cost more than a million lives and pushed more than 115m people back into extreme poverty. Very few of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which the UK signed up to in 2015, have seen sufficient progress, and the pandemic will likely set things back even further.
This is a time when we should be reassuring the poorest countries that we will stand by them and provide the necessary equipment and vaccinations to help them through coronavirus—not turning our backs. Yet turning its back is exactly what the government is doing, and the impact will be felt in the world’s most marginalised communities.
Parliament’s ability to scrutinise the UK’s aid spending is also being diminished, with the International Development Committee being wound up by Christmas. That’s another pattern of Boris Johnson’s government—limiting parliamentary oversight.
The cut to the aid budget is short-sighted for another reason. While the focus is currently on Covid, scientists, world leaders, even the Pentagon recognise that the biggest threat facing us all is the climate emergency. And every pound spent on new defence equipment is a pound not spent on more appropriate responses, including through the foreign aid budget, to the dangers linked to climate change.
Yet a huge boost to the defence budget, reportedly…