THE Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, not to cut the international aid budget at a time when an “economic pandemic . . . is killing as many people” as the Covid pandemic.
There have been strong hints that Mr Sunak will announce in his Spending Review on Wednesday a reduction of the amount that the Government commits to spend on aid from 0.7 per cent of the country’s gross national income (GNI) to 0.5 per cent (News online, 20 November).
In an interview with CNN on Monday, Archbishop Welby said that “one of the great moral and ethical achievements of this country and cross party over the last ten years has been the commitment to 0.7 per cent of gross national income in giving in international development.”
He continued: “Cutting back from that when 150 million are falling into poverty around the world, where the economic pandemic is as bad as the Covid pandemic and is killing as many people, just goes straight against the things we believe and the things that really matter to us.
“And it goes straight against our Christian heritage: the teaching of Jesus Christ that your neighbour is the one whose needs you know, who you can reach out and help. We know these needs, we are one of the best in the world at meeting them. It is not a moment to cut.”
The Archbishop went on to say that the 0.7 per cent target was “right in and of itself, and it’s also right in dealing with Covid, because we won’t deal with Covid anywhere unless we deal with it everywhere — and therefore the ability for vaccines to be distributed, for nutrition, for education, for communication, which our international aid effort is so good at.
“Those are things that are in our own interest as well, and it’s also a way of firming up the international order, the rule-based order, and of confirming us as a reliable long-term partner and friend who should be traded with, worked with, who can be trusted. Everything is in our interest and in the interest of the most needy. And, for that reason, it’s bad for us, it’s bad for them. . . The severe cutbacks will only benefit one living thing, and that’s the Covid virus.”
Christian Aid’s UK Advocacy and Policy Lead, Jennifer Larbie, said on Tuesday: “Cuts have consequences. Cutting the UK aid budget will have consequences for the world’s poorest. This is not just about the compassion of our country: it is about justice.
“It will result in people not accessing vital health care during a global pandemic; people going hungry; in fewer children being educated and their already limited choices being further diminished.”
Christian Aid was among 185 organisations to sign an open letter last week, which said that any cut in the £15-billion UK aid spend would be “a significant threat” to development, and could “seriously jeopardise” the UK’s long-term global anti-Covid-19 efforts.
Read a transcript of the Archbishop’s interview here.