I take pride in the UK’s pledge to spend 0.7% of its income on aid to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable and to save millions of lives each year. Such assistance saves children from horrific diseases, educates millions of children and empowers girls to have the best possible lives.
However, it is vital that we support both the spirit and the letter of this pledge. I am therefore concerned that the national aid strategy published in 2015 established the national interest as a purpose for aid. I am further concerned that securitisation and militarisation of the aid budget have become normal.
For example, in 2016 aid spending on the £1 billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund increased by £27 million. That was spent mainly through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on support for the military and police in places such as Bahrain, Ethiopia and Syria. This spending receives no scrutiny from DFID or Parliament’s Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy, making it difficult to measure its impact. The Government’s use of ever greater portions of the aid budget to fund departments that cannot spend aid effectively or transparently will only undermine public confidence in the remarkable impact that it has.
At the June 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto that was not only committed to continuing to spend 0.7% of gross national income on official development assistance, but also to developing a targeted development agenda based on social justice and poverty reduction. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to call for the central moral purpose to be restored to our international development policy and to put the needs of the world’s poorest before short-term national interest when spending our aid budget. We must ensure that our aid is used to eradicate poverty and reduce global inequality by driving serious, systemic change.