Even when the government takes a step in the right direction, there are problems. To meet the Sustainable Development Goals, we must step up and leadby Angela Smith / November 5, 2019 / Leave a comment
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, is clear: “a much deeper, faster and more ambitious response” is needed if the world is to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The UK has, until recently, been leading the way.
In 2015, the UK became the first G7 nation to enshrine in law a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on development assistance. A Liberal Democrat achievement in government, enshrining the ODA budget in law has helped ensure that those who are most vulnerable receive the support they need. It was a hugely progressive step that we should be immensely proud of. The UK has consistently ranked as one of the world’s largest aid donors, and we should be proud of that fact. Protecting and maintaining our ODA budget is the right thing to do.
But despite the importance of this commitment, since the Conservative party has governed alone, the aid budget has been constantly under attack from senior Tory MPs such as the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, and of course the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. Earlier this year, he endorsed a paper by the Henry Jackson Society calling for extensive, multi-billion-pound cuts to our Overseas Aid budget and for the closure of the Department for International Development (DFID). The paper dismissed the crucial role this budget has played in ensuring sustainable development and lifting people out of poverty.
This ideological shift has had consequences. Earlier this year, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact published its findings on the current state of UK aid from 2015 to 2019. Its conclusion was stark: “The government has clearly signalled its intention to use the aid programme to pursue direct UK national interests, in particular, by helping to position the UK as a key trade and investment partner with frontier economies. While the pursuit of mutual prosperity is not necessarily in conflict with good development practice, the focus needs to remain on building long-term opportunities, rather than securing short-term advantage.” Aid should first and foremost be about transforming people’s lives, not posturing, profit margins and box-ticking.
Even when the government takes a step in the right direction, as with the recent announcement that it will give £1bn of aid funding to create new technology to assist in the response…