As we look ahead to 2021, these four events could decide the fate of millions of the world’s poorest people.
2021 is set to be a difficult year. Covid-19 is continuing to reverse years of progress made on global poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition, while the UK government’s proposed cuts to spending on foreign aid threaten to take away life-saving support for the most vulnerable people, just when it is needed most.
However, world leaders will meet at several important international conferences and events in 2021, offering opportunities for the UK government to play a leading role in galvanising crucial support for emergency responses to Covid-19, health, education, climate change and nutrition. Here’s a quick guide on some of the key moments coming up this year.
On 25 November 2020, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced cuts to the overseas aid budget, ending the UK government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on foreign aid. In 2021, the government will be seeking to introduce legislation to officially change the commitment from 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI; a reduction of almost a third.
We don’t know for sure, but we expect the draft legislation (known as a bill) to be introduced any time from March onwards. It would then take some months for the bill to be debated and voted on by MPs and peers before it can become law. During this process, the bill could be amended or even voted against, meaning that it would not become law.
It is estimated that the reduction in the overseas aid budget could cost over 100,000 lives, as people lose out on life-saving support. We are particularly concerned that the cuts could deprive millions of people of access to humanitarian assistance, vaccinations and clean water. Funding for nutrition programmes could also be drastically cut, a decision which would have serious knock-on effects for both global education and health outcomes.
We are coming together with other NGOs to challenge the proposed legislation. Our aim is to get as many MPs as possible, particularly Conservatives, to vote against it. That’s why we’re briefing MPs, with examples from Concern’s programmes, on how UK aid saves and improves lives. Closer to the time, we’ll be contacting our supporters and asking them to email their MPs on this issue. For those who are keen to be involved in the campaign to save aid, you can sign up here for online campaigning training, which will be held in February.