Fighting to Save UK Aid

In the two-decades since 1999, the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has fallen by more than 1 billion people. Yet, for the first time in twenty years, this progress has reversed, sharply.

The Covid-19 pandemic had shaken the world, with the loss of millions of lives creating economic hardship, hurt and suffering across all nations. While 2021 brings new hope, with vaccinations programmes beginning to ramp up across the world, the daily struggle to overcome the consequences of the pandemic will be felt by millions, if not billions, of people for years to come.  

According to the UN Development Programme, the Covid-19 pandemic could push 207 million people back into extreme poverty by 2030, due to the severe long term impact of the pandemic. As Melinda Gates recently stated, it “has magnified every existing inequality in our society – like systemic racism, gender inequality, and poverty.”

She further argued that “ultimately, it’s our choice as a global community whether we face another lost decade,” to repair the damage caused by the pandemic, or not.

It is therefore disappointing that now is the time the UK Government chooses to break its manifesto commitment, and cut UK aid spending from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP, leaving millions to fall further and deeper into poverty. This decision should be reversed.

Combined with cuts announced earlier this year, this will mean the 2021 aid budget will be around £4 billion (30%) smaller than it was in 2019.

As Results grassroots volunteers across London, we remain committed to our shared belief that together we can use our voices to influence political decisions at the heart of Government that will bring an end to global poverty. 

As we begin 2021 several of our volunteers have shared their personal reasons for why they believe in the campaigns and ideals of Results and we urge anyone interested in joining our campaign to contact us at: https://www.results.org.uk/join-action-group 

Amy – Vauxhall

Every Monday at 6pm, I shut my laptop on work and boot up Zoom. The call connects me to my 8-year-old mentee for an hour of talking, listening and learning. She has unbound enthusiasm for everything we discuss during that time, from maths homework to personal development tasks and even the Egyptian Gods. Last week we drew our names in hieroglyphs. 

As a youth mentor at the Baytree Centre, a social inclusion charity for women and girls based in Brixton, I’ve come to understand that positive change takes time and investment. Dismantling structural barriers to women’s and girls’ empowerment and supporting them to live successful, healthy lives away from poverty is not a short-term programme that can be done on the cheap.

This is why the proposed cut of the UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% deeply concerns me. 

Overseas aid plays a vital role in addressing fundamental injustices in wealth and power across the globe. For women, aid can be the lifeline that provides them with practical needs, such as income and assets. It can also provide them with the strategic tools to unite and mobilise, remove institutional discrimination and tackle harmful social norms.

These programmes are needed, now more than ever, as women and girls are some of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. A reduction in the aid budget could cut or damage their opportunities in the future and deny the humanitarian support that some women and girls rely on. 

In the long term, a cut to the international aid budget could also put the focus on prioritising aid programmes with lower costs and outcomes that are easier to measure – such as economic ‘empowerment’ – over more complex, long-term goals, like addressing damaging social norms. 

These concerns have already been outlined, in April 2020, by the National Audit Office which stated that DFID’s approach to gender equality programmes risked prioritising low costs and easier-to-measure outputs over addressing more complex, longer-term goals.

It is highly likely that a smaller aid budget will result in the further prioritisation of easier-to-measure outputs over those high cost, complex programmes needed to dismantle the structural barriers which keep women around the world disempowered and in poverty.

Given that the core purpose of aid is poverty alleviation, ensuring that gender equality aid programmes remain effective is essential. To achieve this, the UK aid budget needs every penny it can get. 

Tilda – Hackney South and Shoreditch.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating not just for the UK, but for the whole world. 

With our third lockdown ongoing, a struggling economy and thousands dying each week from Covid-19, it is easy to adopt an inward-looking view, one where we fail to acknowledge and recognise our position within our global community. 

For people in the poorest parts of the world, the pandemic has  added another pressure to their already struggling health systems and public services. They are having to manage this pandemic on top of a prevalence of preventable diseases, as well as secondary effects such as malnutrition and lack of access to education for children. 

The proposed cuts to the aid budget will only save the government £4 billion pounds; this is a tiny fraction of government spending but has the ability to make a considerable difference on the lives of millions of people who are at risk of immense suffering. As one of the richest countries in the world, 

I believe that the UK has the moral duty to reverse these cuts, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

Although the pandemic has been one of the biggest crises faced by our generation yet – with the oncoming effects of climate change we are only set to experience bigger ones, in the forms of further epidemics, extreme weather conditions, food shortages and rising sea levels and the world’s poorest will be most susceptible to this due to a large number of factors. 

UK aid can assist in education and the implementation of infrastructure to provide these people with sufficient climate resilience and as a country who has continually profited off climate deadly industries and actions, I believe we have a moral duty to provide the world’s poorest with resistance against the effects. 

Although the pandemic has been a horrific tragedy, it has also offered us an opportunity to completely restructure and rebuild our priorities, not just within the UK but as an international society. The cut to the International Aid budget will not only throw away this opportunity to help those in the poorest parts of the world but will also hugely impact our ability to take sufficient action against future climate induced threats. 

Daisy – Hertsmere

Following the disastrous year of the pandemic, I believe that now more than ever it’s essential that we protect the UK’s foreign aid spending. After the first truly global pandemic of recent history, the importance of a cold supply chain in order to ensure vaccines are safely delivered across the world has never been more clear. In my role working with highly vulnerable, disabled and shielding individuals at Scope, those who have been unable to safely leave their homes or see family for nearly a year, I have seen firsthand the importance of vaccinations to individuals who truly need them. 

We’re a nation with aspirations to be truly global, hosting the upcoming G7 summit and having chaired the 2020 summit of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, as part of our commitment to the UN’s sustainable development goals. We were one of the original six donors to Gavi, the vaccine alliance, demonstrating our commitment to vaccinating and thereby protecting children in the world’s poorest countries.

Having finally experienced a pandemic on our own doorstep, we should use this opportunity to learn what real need feels like, as an impetus for doing more. While this year has destabilized us economically, investing in vaccination also has huge potential economic returns, as recently reported by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation – investing in global health organizations aimed at increasing access to vaccines created a 20-to-1 return in economic benefit.

Foreign aid is the strongest arm of global Britain, and it makes no sense to weaken it. 

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