Wait, you hadn’t heard yet?
UK aid is the best.
It’s the term used to describe the support delivered by the British government to fight extreme poverty and help some of the most vulnerable people around the world — fighting famine, sexism, disease, and more to create a more equal world.
The Department for International Development (DfID) is a miracle factory, and — despite what the papers say — has changed the lives of millions of people for the better. DfID spends 0.7% of its gross national income on UK aid, and saves a life every two minutes as a result.
Sure, we’ve said this before. But this time we’ve brought friends — and they get just as excited about UK aid as we do.
1. John Cena
Hollywood star, wrestler, and living meme, John Cena has become one of the most famous men in the world since being made the face of WWE.
But what you didn’t know is that he’s a devoted polio campaigner — teaming up with none other than philanthropist superhero Bill Gates to powerslam the disease into the annals of history.
And after 481,000 actions by Global Citizens, DfID announced in August 2017 that UK aid will immunise 45 million children every year until 2020 to eradicate polio forever. Did you really think anybody would argue with John Cena?
2. Angelina Jolie
When Jolie speaks, the world listens. The world renowned actress is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador and special envoy to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees — and has worked with the UK to fight sexual violence in conflict zones.
Jolie opened a global summit in east London on the issue back in 2014, and subsequently visited the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with ex-foreign secretary William Hague, who pledged £6 million to tackle sexual violence in conflict. In November 2017, DfID announced a new UK aid package that would help 750,000 women and girls vulnerable to gender violence, increasing access to life-changing services like legal assistance, health care, and counselling.
Thank you Angelina Jolie!
3. Emma Thompson
Actress, feminist, and humanitarian Emma Thompson is known to freely speak her mind — remember when she turned down a date with Donald Trump?
So when we asked her what she thought about UK aid in May 2017, she was typically straight talking.
“(UK aid) is part of our capacity and our identity in the world, and our connection with all the countries that we’ve been very negatively connected with in the past,” Thompson told Global Citizen. “The least we can do, since we’re not apologising much and certainly not paying compensation, is to honour our commitments to (the sustainable development goals).”
“0.7% is nothing,” she added.
4. David Beckham
Look — everybody knows that nothing will quite beat the free kick against Greece. You know the one: 93rd minute, curled magically into the top left hand corner, sending England to the World Cup by the slimmest (and flashiest) of margins.
But his charity work comes mighty close. The former England captain and Unicef Goodwill Ambassador has raised millions of pounds for dozens of causes, and most recently supported Malaria No More in a global campaign to ask world leaders to fight a disease that affected 216 million people across 91 countries in 2016.
And UK aid is already in the mix: in November 2017 DfiD launched a programme in Uganda that will save the lives of 11,000 children and prevent 989,000 malaria cases.
"That’s amazing progress and proof that the UK’s generosity when it comes to giving aid makes a real difference to real lives,” Beckham said. “We’ve a lot to be proud of."
In April, the Commonwealth Summit is being hosted in London, which will be a huge opportunity to get all 53 world leaders to agree to take even more action against malaria — as well as on a host of other issues like polio eradication, girls’ education, and gender equality.
5. Jon Snow
It turns out that Jon Snow does know something after all — about UK aid.
But it’s nothing to do with Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington (although he’s big on activism too). We’re talking about Jon Snow from Channel 4 News, the anchor who Global Citizen caught up with at the 2017 Conservative Party conference.
“I think [UK aid] is incredibly important,” Snow told us. “I think that every first world country has an obligation to share its wealth and enable people to progress.”
He’s not alone either — if you want to play political presenter bingo, ITV’s Robert Peston is on the same page (if not the same channel).
6. Simon Pegg
The actor, writer, and comedian is an Oxfam ambassador, and joined Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis in standing by the charity in the wake of a scandal sparked by reports of aid workers in Haiti having paid vulnerable women for sex after an earthquake in 2011.
Minnie Driver and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have both left similar positions with Oxfam, which is largely funded by UK aid — although the future of funding is now under threat — but Pegg has spoken out in support of those who will “suffer if everybody abandons the charity”. Jacob Rees Mogg MP has led calls for the aid budget to be slashed in the aftermath of the scandal — but we cannot let that happen.
“This isn’t something that was done by Oxfam — this was done by some morally reprehensible people who managed to infiltrate Oxfam,” Pegg told ITV News. “To punish Oxfam I think is wrong.”
7. Bill Gates
Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has donated so much money to charity we’ve lost track of all the zeroes.
But the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also a massive fan of UK aid — and recently visited Edinburgh to launch a new collaboration with DfID to lift 100 million farmers out of poverty by investing in more nutritious crops.
He even surprised a room full of English schoolchildren who were debating UK aid in London last year — walking out on stage to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”.
"Britain should be praised, not ridiculed, for sticking to this commitment," Gates said in a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in April — two days before he gave the kids the surprise of their life. "It was a well-considered decision that sets an example for other wealthy Western countries. It also is visible proof of the UK's goodwill and humanity.”
"Withdrawing aid would cost lives — which is reason enough to continue it," he added. "But it would also create a leadership vacuum that others will fill, undermining the UK's influence in these regions."
8. Literally every major political party too
You’d be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t many things that every major political party agrees on.
But UK aid is one of them: the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party all agreed in their 2017 election manifestos that the 0.7% aid spending commitment should be maintained — and the Green Party even pledged to increase it to 1%.
So it’s unanimous: everyone who’s everyone in politics thinks it’s important. And they’re dead right.
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.1 to end extreme poverty before 2030. You might be able to tell that we think UK aid is pretty great — in fact, it’s the only way that we’ll be able to meet our goal. Help us out, and take action right here.
Disclosure: Bill Gates is the co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a funding partner of Global Citizen.
Editor's note: This piece has been updated to include a disclosure that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is a funding partner of Global Citizen. We regret the oversight.