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Promoting international development is in UK’s own interest, says Bishop of St Albans

17 December 2021


A double-deck tram in Hong Kong displays an advertisement promoting the upcoming Legislative Council election, which is due to take place on Sunday

A double-deck tram in Hong Kong displays an advertisement promoting the upcoming Legislative Council election, which is due to take place on Sunday

PROMOTING international development makes sense for the UK economically, the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has told the House of Lords, while encouraging overseas students to come to Britain was a “win-win”.

The arrival of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, was “a powerful and topical reminder that there is only one world and only one human race”, he said. Helping other countries to flourish and thrive would, he continued, “increase their health systems, address things such as the pandemic we currently face and even begin to address some of the issues of economic migrants, so it is vital for us.

“Apart from it being morally right, it will make economic sense for us as well as helping us address many issues.”

Speaking on Thursday in a debate on government plans to launch a new international development strategy in 2022, Dr Smith said that the immediate issue was addressing the pandemic, which could be with us for six or seven years. Britain should help to provide vaccines, try to license vaccine production in other countries, and work to overcome vaccine hesitancy.

“We in the Anglican Communion are seeking to work with our overseas links, providing teaching materials in local languages, led by local community leaders, to try to overcome vaccine hesitancy.”

Other, longer-term issues that the UK needed to invest in to “develop our historic role in the world and play our part in building a stronger, calmer, more just and more peaceful world” included supporting democracy and the rule of law. “Many of the problems that we face have come about because of conflict and poverty, and because there is no investment whereby people are committed to making their own country thrive and flourish,” he said

“Sometimes, this is because of endemic corruption. So, in the long run, these things are vital to any strategy we have for leading the world by example. It is vital that we continue to stump up and provide observers at elections, and that we seek to work for the international rule of law.”

Promoting fair trade, tackling fake news, and expanding education were also important objectives. It was extraordinary that the UK seemed to be making it more difficult for people to come to study in Britain. “That ought to be one of our major engagements,” he said. “Not only are we able to train people, and it is a win-win when they come here, but many of them then go back to their own countries and they will be the key people — the doctors, the politicians — making a real difference in their own communities.

“We are not going to be able to compete in many aspects of manufacturing, because they are costly, but we can contribute hugely to education, not least by training more doctors, for example, so that other countries can deal with the terrible pandemic that is ahead of us.”

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