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The UK kept its promise to the world's poorest, now it’s time for Europe to do the same

You speak to any average person in the street about politics and the vast majority of them will have nothing positive to say. In fact, a survey taken earlier this year in the UK showed that politicians are less trusted than estate agents/realtors, journalists and bankers. But no matter what you think about politicians, there is no denying that they have the power to change the world for the better.

And that’s what happened a year ago today. On March 9, 2015, the UK House of Lords passed a Bill that would commit to spending at least 0.7% of the gross national income on international aid and development. So no matter what, the UK would always fulfil its promise to help the world's poorest.

This couldn’t have happened without global citizens from around the world.

The Turn Up Save Lives campaign brought over 25 organisations from across the UK together, all with one aim- make sure this Bill became law. For this to happen, campaigners needed to make sure that at least 100 MPs turned up to vote for the Bill. But campaigners couldn’t do this alone. Only with supporters from all the organisations, including global citizens like you, could this effort succeed. 

Many of you tweeted MPs, some of you hassled them with emails and others wrote letters that demanded they voted for this bill. And it worked.

Despite a small but extremely vocal minority, the bill passed every stage in the House of Commons and then went to the House of Lords to be voted on. At this stage the bill could still have failed, but because of the support and commitment shown by campaigners, MPs and Peers, it passed with no problem at all.

Celebrated as a special moment for the world's poorest, it was hoped that the UK’s legislative commitment would inspire other countries to follow suite and meet the 0.7% target. Unfortunately, the opposite happened.

Last year, the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two unfolded and millions of people, fleeing war and persecution, made their way to Europe in a hope of a better life. Governments across Europe struggled to cope with the influx of refugees, with many using their international development budgets to pay for internal refugee costs.

In 2014, even before the refugee crisis escalated, nine countries spent more than 10% of their aid funding on refugee costs in their own countries. In 2015, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark spent at least 25% of their international development funds to cover refugee costs. That number is expected to rise in 2016.

All of this means that less money is available for life-saving aid programmes.

It is only right that governments across Europe and the rest of the world do everything they can to help refugees, but it should never be at the cost of the the world’s poorest. Funding for international development transforms people's lives everyday, and to use aid money for internal costs takes away help from those that need it the most.

Last year, Global citizens campaigned to ensure the UK kept its promise to the world’s poorest. But the fight isn’t over, and if we are to see the end of extreme poverty by 2030, global citizens need ensure that all of Europe doesn’t forget its promise.