First and foremost, overseas aid works. Since 1990, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved.
UK aid aims to reach people living in some of the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world. It saves lives, reduces poverty and helps build a better world for everyone. From the locust invasion that ripped through East Africa earlier this year, destroying food sources and livelihoods, to the Beirut explosion in August, to reducing the number of deaths in children under 5 through a long-term project, the UK has provided lifesaving aid when people need it the most.
UK aid also has strict reporting arrangements in place ensuring best value for money for the taxpayer. These structures also guarantee that aid reaches the poorest people. It is not only crucial in times of crisis and disaster, but in the long-term fight against poverty and the injustices that hit the poorest people hardest.
Putting aside political contentions opposing the cut, such as reducing British influence across the globe, which Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence select committee, said will "allow China and Russia to take advantage" by moving quickly to fill the "vacuum", it also means that less support will be going to those who need it most. It is estimated that the reduction in the aid budget could cost over 100,000 lives, as people lose out on life-saving support.
What’s more, Dominic Raab has stated that he intends to focus on countries where there is greatest alignment between the UK’s development, security and economic interests. This could mean what aid remains is not spent as well as it could be, on helping the world’s poorest people build a better life out of extreme poverty.
In light of the announcement of cuts to the UK's Official Development Assistance (ODA), Danny Harvey, Executive Director of Concern Worldwide (UK), said:
Rather, 0.7% supports people living in already fragile places to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic – especially where health services are weak and overwhelmed. It enables communities to get their livelihoods back, to sell in the markets, to rebuild their lives.
This cut to aid also weakens the UK’s global leadership position. With the UK poised to take over the Presidency of the G7 and to host COP26 next year, to renege on the commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people diminishes the UK on the global stage.
We believe that it is critical that UK aid is well spent and focused on the poorest and most vulnerable people. We call for the government to commit to spending at least 50% of the ODA budget in fragile and conflict-affected states - where 80% of the world’s poor are forecast to live by 2030 – and to ensure aid is spent on programmes which have the greatest impact on lifting people out of poverty, such as health and nutrition, education, social protection and building resilience to conflict and climate change.
Fundamentally, no one is safe until we are all safe and we will continue working to ensure support reaches those who need it most.