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Exclusive: A joint commitment to our neighbours overseas

19 May 2017

To mark Christian Aid Week, the leaders of the three main political parties write exclusively for the Church Times on the importance of international development


Theresa May
THE United Kingdom can be proud of its record as an international aid superpower. We were the first G7 country to meet the UN target of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international development, and our work is an example to the world.

Our commitment to helping the most disadvantaged people in the world says something important about Britain. It says that we are a kind and generous country that will never turn its back on those in need. We will always meet our commitments to the world, and particularly to those who desperately need our support.

It is also in Britain’s clear national interest to act before problems overseas grow and threaten us here at home. Disasters, conflicts, and diseases do not pay attention to national borders. That is why, if I and my team form the next UK Government, the 0.7 per cent commitment will remain, and we will look at how to spend that money in the most effective way.

As the UK forges a new role for itself in the world outside the European Union, we will seize the opportunity to build a truly global Britain. Our work in the field of international aid will be a major part of that effort.

UK Aid is a badge of hope for so many around the world, bringing light where there is darkness, and hope where there is despair.

From alleviating the suffering of refugees from the crisis in Syria, tackling the scourge of famine around the world, and building a viable and stable Afghanistan, to fighting malaria, responding to natural disasters, and leading the world in the battle to eradicate violence against women and girls — UK aid is saving and improving lives around the world.

That is a record of which we can all be proud, and one which as a country we must build on in the future.

Theresa May MP is the Prime Minister


Jeremy Corbyn
WE HAVE heard a lot about Britain in the general election campaign — about our place in the world, particularly in light of Brexit, and about British values.

A British value that I have tried to live my life by is that we look out for those less fortunate than ourselves. I believe that there is a simple moral case for it, and the morality of continuing our support for the most impoverished people on the planet is unarguable.

Or, at least, it should be. Sadly, there are those in the Conservative Party, not least the International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, for whom international development seems to invoke some kind of moral terror, balking at the notion of giving to the most needy.

This stands in contrast to the thousands of churchgoers organising events and fund-raisers during Christian Aid Week. This is not because they think that Britain should be doing less, but because many feel that we should be doing more.

As part of our proposals for an ethical foreign policy, a Labour government will never undermine the duty we have to help developing nations to build their economies, root out corruption and tax evasion, and lift people out of poverty.

We should lead the world in making a positive contribution towards the world’s poorest, and we should be proud to provide people across the globe with a sense of dignity and humanity.

There are those who try to claim that, in these times of so-called austerity, we have no choice but to pull up the drawbridge and only look after our own.

This is completely wrong: we know that austerity is a political choice. Britain is one of the richest countries in the world; so it is not a question of whether we have the resources, but whether we have the political and moral will to use them in the interests of the many and not the few.

But it is also wrong because the debate between overseas aid and domestic policy is bogus. The two are not mutually exclusive. We can transform our own society and help others to transform theirs.

Not only this, but we should use our global influence to focus on the root causes of mass impoverishment. I want Britain to be a world leader in creating job opportunities, encouraging renewable-energy schemes, and improving governance, and, in turn, to reduce the need for aid in the first place.

Emboldened by sensationalist and downright immoral newspaper headlines, the Secretary of State has suggested using our aid budget as leverage for post-Brexit trade deals. Labour would never be so morally bankrupt as to play politics with our human duty to help those in need.

We have to ask ourselves: what kind of country do we want to be? One that is insular, cynical, and dominated by corporate greed, or one that is committed to building positive relationships and improving the lot of the world’s least fortunate?

We must defend the values that we hold most dear, and treat our global neighbours as we would expect to be treated ourselves, if the roles were reversed.

Jeremy Corbyn MP is the Leader of the Opposition


Tim Farron
INVESTING money in reducing and eradicating poverty around the world should never just be seen as an international obligation or a security measure. It is, and always will be, a moral issue, coming from our gut sense of compassion, and our belief that we cannot sit by and ignore the injustice of a world of such inequality and poverty.

As Christians, we recognise that this gut reaction comes from more than just our own thoughts and feelings; it also comes from a sense of being called to love our neighbour, wherever they may be; whether in the next-door flat or the other side of the world; in a favela in Brazil or a village in Ghana. There is an inner part of us that knows that this injustice is wrong, and knows that we must be part of the solution.

We owe a huge amount to the many faith-based organisations and missionaries who have led the way on being the solution — often partnering with local people or churches to get alongside those suffering — to meet their needs.

But, with more than 1.3 billion people worldwide currently living in extreme poverty, it is essential that the Government plays its role, too. Government spending is always a question of priorities. We have many needs of our own in the UK — and I have recently announced my plans to add a penny on income tax to fund our over-stretched NHS and protect schools funding, for example — but it would be wrong to fail to recognise how our standard of living and opportunities compare with many of those in great need in other countries.

I was incredibly proud when we passed a Liberal Democrat-led Private Member’s Bill committing Britain to spending 0.7 per cent of national wealth on foreign aid during the Coalition years.

This must continue. But we must not think that simply committing to funding means that our responsibilities towards those in poverty have been discharged. The way that we respond to those in need goes beyond this: it’s how we treat people, it’s in welcoming refugees, and it’s being prepared to work together with other nations.

We must always be relational, remembering that behind the statistics are people — our brothers and sisters — whom we may never meet, but are still called to love.

Tim Farron MP is the Leader of the Liberal Democrats


This year, Christian Aid marks 60 years of Christian Aid Week, and is inviting people to join them in standing in solidarity with refugees around the world. You can help to change the lives of refugees who are fleeing conflict and crisis by donating online at www.caweek.org, by phoning 08080 006 006, or by texting “GIVE” to 70040 to give £5.

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