THE Government’s newly published Strategy for International Development, tying aid spending to the UK’s commercial interest, fails to recognise the UK’s responsibilities towards the wider world, and does not tackle global poverty, Christian Aid has said.
Mutual benefit is at the heart of the strategy, published on Monday, described by the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, as “about unleashing the power of people and countries to take control of their own future”. She said: “We will strip back bureaucracy, give greater autonomy to Ambassadors and High Commissioners, and focus on a more responsive development offer for developing-country partners.”
The Government promises to prioritise people in greatest need. Its four priorities are to: “deliver honest and reliable investment; provide women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed; provide life-saving humanitarian assistance; take forward our work on climate change, nature and global health”.
Global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the pandemic are acknowledged to have pushed millions into poverty. The strategy emphasises: “While supporting the principles of freedom, democracy and self-determination, our development partnerships will tackle the causes of instability, conflict and human suffering.
“This will give citizens in these those countries a greater stake in their own future and yield dividends including removing some key drivers of irregular migration.”
Defence, diplomacy, and development activities should be “mutually supportive wherever there are implications for international development, and this strategy will enhance cross-departmental coordination. It gives a clear signal to our partners about what they can expect from the UK offer and how this will strengthen in future.”
The Prime Minister has promised to double the UK’s International Climate Finance (ICF) contribution to at least £11.6 billion between 2021 and 2026. The Government will “develop innovative approaches to tackle climate change and protect nature. . . We will harness the world-leading science, technology, research and policy experience the UK has to offer to accelerate progress towards these goals.
“Our approach to International Development will be as a patient partner that champions openness, predictability and the rule of law.”
There will be a shift towards country programmes and “more and closer bilateral partnerships that support countries to succeed as open, free nations”.
The Government remains committed to returning aid spending to 0.7 per cent of gross national income — the Official Development Assistance Target (ODA) — “when the fiscal situation allows”.
Christian Aid criticises what it describes as the funnelling of a reduced international-aid budget towards trade and security interests at the expense of the world’s poorest people. Its interim director of policy, public affairs, and campaigns, Karimi Kinoti, said: “For the increasing number of people facing conflicts, hunger, the impact of the climate crisis, and the aftermath of the pandemic, this so-called International Development strategy offers scant hope.
“We welcome the UK’s commitment to ending violence against women and girls. However, if the UK is to get serious, ministers must restore the international aid budget, deliver debt cancellation and a strategy that empowers local people, including compensating communities on the front line of the climate crisis.”
World Vision UK welcomed the references to areas such as climate change, global health, and conflict, but called on the Government to reinstate urgently its aid budget to be able to realise its own vision of international development.
The charity’s chief executive, Mark Sheard, said: “This intent needs now to be backed by substantial concrete commitments to make sure that it becomes reality, and that children in the world’s poorest and most fragile places are not further left behind. It is not good enough to merely state that the UK Government is committed to these areas — there must be action and accountability to back it up.”
Read more on the story from Paul Vallely, and in our leader comment