I am opposed to the Government’s decision to cut aid — especially during this global pandemic which is widely recognised to have caused widespread human suffering and created challenges for national economies all around the world. In fact, it has become increasingly clear to many that the covid-19 crisis requires a global plan of action to support national efforts.
I believe, as do many others, that we have a shared responsibility to help those who are least well off both in this country and around the world. Significant public health, sanitation and education initiatives are supported by the UK’s aid money. The Government have argued that the cut to overseas aid spending is necessary because of the impact the covid-19 pandemic is having on Government finances. However, I am aware that many are questioning the Government’s management of public money particularly regarding the outsourcing of the national covid-19 response to the private sector. Further to this, it is my understanding that the established commitment is to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on overseas aid, which means the commitment will already be lower in years where our national income is lower.
I want our Government to work for peace, justice and the eradication of poverty internationally. I would like to see international aid being used for vital programmes tackling climate change, which in my view remains the greatest threat we all face, and which will require unprecedented coordination and cooperation internationally. Just as I support a fair transition to a green economy in the UK, through a Green New Deal that creates high-skilled, unionised and well-paid green jobs, I also support efforts to enhance this transition internationally. Another critical objective that our international aid should be much more focused on is the eradication of gender discrimination. Millions of women worldwide face violence, unsafe working environments, low pay, no social protections and the unbalanced burden of unpaid domestic work. Working to truly empower women with access to education opportunities, legal protections and financial equality can make a big difference to their lives and to the eradication of poverty internationally. I want to see our Government doing much more to achieve these aims.
I was elected on a manifesto that recognised “the need to address historic injustices and will reset our relationships with countries in the Global South based on principles of redistribution and equality, not outdated notions of charity or imperialist rule.” And committed to a “standalone Department for International Development, with an aid budget of at least 0.7% of gross national income”. I am proud to reiterate those commitments now.
Rather than cutting aid funding, in my view, we should be cancelling the often deeply damaging levels of debt for low-income countries in the Global South. The levels of debt facing many low-income countries are invariably so high as to significantly undermine those countries efforts to fight this pandemic and control the spread of the virus. I believe that the UK has a particular responsibility to address this given the historic role of the British Empire and given that 90% of publicly traded loans to African governments use UK law. As such, I support calls for an Overseas Loan Transparency Act which would establish a compulsory register of overseas loans to put an end to the practice of secret, often exploitative, loans exacerbating the debt crisis faced by the Global South.
In my view, one of the lessons we should take from the Covid-19 crisis is that we are in an ever more interconnected world and that means that more than ever before that improvements in the health and wellbeing of people in other parts of the world has direct positive benefits to people in our country as well.
I have written to the Chancellor and am awaiting his response. Alongside this, I have signed Early Day Motion 1194 tabled by Chris Law MP; which calls upon the government to maintain their 0.7% Aid commitment as enshrined in law by the International Development Act 2015. You can read the motion here.