This week, the UK’s International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt has sparked concern among charities by reportedly saying that it’s “unsustainable” to fund UK aid with taxpayers’ money.
UK aid is Britain’s contribution to the work that is being done all around the world to end extreme poverty — by empowering women and girls; helping children access education; and making sure people have clean water and enough to eat, among other things.
And it’s outlined in British law that the UK will spend 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on international development — which in 2017 amounted to about £14.3 billion.
Mordaunt reportedly said the government’s department for international development (DfID) should be focused on fundraising rather than spending, and that more private funding could be part of the 0.7% target.
She's also reported in the Guardian to have said that development spending should be more in line with the UK’s strategy on national security — including defence and counter-terrorism.
She expanded on the reports from the week in an op-ed for the Sun on Sunday, writing: “We should also recognise that although UK aid does some amazing work, continuing as we are is not going to deliver all we need to achieve a target to end extreme poverty by 2030.”
Mordaunt uses the column to outline how British savers and pensioners could play a part as investors, to “create jobs in Africa and Asia… [and] help lift millions out of poverty.”
“Such investment funds could also create opportunities for British savers and pensioners to earn a return and do good in the world: another win-win,” she continues. “Finally, we must not solely rely on hardworking people’s taxes to fund good projects.”
“We should always try to find corporate or philanthropic co-funders for the projects we think will make a difference,” she added.
In light of the ongoing assault on UK aid from some high-profile figures, as well as some areas of the British media, it has caused concern among pro-aid MPs as well as charities that the UK’s world-leading record in international development could face being undermined.
“I hope this is incorrect,” said Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, quoted by the Independent. “The 0.7% commitment isn’t simply about charity. Spent properly, foreign aid makes the world safer, more sustainable, and more stable. It benefits us all.”
UK charities have also been speaking out, highlighting that given the current and future global challenges we’re facing, the UK aid budget remains “as critical as ever.”
“Stepping back from our aid promises would be lose-lose,” said Toni Pearce, Oxfam GB’s head of advocacy. “It would damage the UK’s standing in the world and deprive the world’s poorest people of a vital lifeline.”
Downing Street has reaffirmed its commitment to the 0.7%, with a spokesperson saying: “The commitment which we have to foreign aid is set down in statute.”
“It remains unchanged, there are no plans to change it,” they added. “The secretary of state has discussed publicly that she is looking at the aid process and making sure the money from taxpayers is being used in the most efficient way and gets the greatest contribution.”
When Mordaunt was first appointed to her role as head of DfID, we asked all our Global Citizens in the UK to send her an email about why they valued UK aid.
And we think your answers were just brilliant. Here are some of our particular favourites, from among the well over a thousand that we received:
1. Cameron W.
“In the last couple of weeks I’ve visited a solar irrigation plant in a southern region of Malawi, partly funded by the UK government, and it was the biggest sign of development in terms of farming and huge fold increases regarding yield.”
“And this is just one of the many thousands of impacts UK aid has. We live in a world where investment in people and their wellbeing should be a main priority and the UK should be proud of what they do to help.”
2. Stella W.
“Please continue to support UK aid — it helps to reduce inequality around the world.”
3. Rhia D.
“UK aid is helping to make the world a more equal place for everyone. Sure there are issues right here, but nothing compared to the inequality of suffering nations around the world. Please continue to help us globally reach an acceptable quality of life.”
4. Philip S.
“Congratulations for your appointment as secretary [of state] for international development. I'm sure you will feel proud to play a part in this country's admirable record in development assistance to the poorer countries of the world. Our global reputation is enhanced by the work we do in this area.”
5. Hilary P.
“UK aid does so much good throughout the world; it makes me proud to be a British citizen.”
6. Alison P.
“Many British citizens and taxpayers are proud of our commitment to the aid budget. Please respect the situation of poorer UK citizens and taxpayers by spending the overseas aid where it will most effectively encourage the poorest to help themselves improve their life chances; access to clean water, education for both boys and girls.”
“UK aid is vital in helping people who most need it overseas, such as refugees, victims of natural disasters and wars etc., as well as to help prevent diseases, and help girls all around the world receive education.”
8. Natasha C.
“Helping other countries all over the world with basic human rights & freedoms, such as healthcare, safety, and education (particularly for girls), will always be the right thing to do. I don’t feel it’s morally right to turn our backs on people who are suffering for a host of reasons, when we can do our bit to help and improve their lives.”
9. Dr. Ben M.
“As a researcher on neglected tropical diseases, I have seen the enormous beneficial impact UK aid has had on these conditions. I hope the future of UK aid and its contribution to poverty alleviation worldwide is never compromised due to grossly distorted reporting in the tabloid press.”
“UK aid saves the lives of the most vulnerable, especially women and girls, the disabled, and the elderly. Let's ensure that we target beneficiaries by making funding decisions based on needs and not political priorities!”
11. Yusuf D.
“I am writing to you today as an EU citizen but also as a Global Citizen who is proud of UK aid and the impact it has around the world and Africa where I myself originated.
“Its undoubtable that UK aid and development work saves children from communicable diseases, educates millions of poor children, and supports girls to have a better life. As a new secretary of state, I call on you to do everything possible to protect UK aid.”
“Above all, you have to make sure that it should only be used for the alleviation of poverty, inequality, and exclusively human suffering.”
12. Arthur A.
“We are a group of islands but we cannot survive by being insular. Global problems are our problems.”
13. Stephen T.
“I am delighted to hear that you will be taking up the cause of the much less well off than us. Today I am doing my bit from Maidstone, Kent, in assisting Kenyan villagers learn how to fit chimneys to their huts to get smoke out of their cooking spaces. Thanks for facilitating our aid in reaching those who really need it.”
14. Rod M.
“I've volunteered in Nepal and seen DfID projects at first hand: it works!”
15. Andrew M.
“Congratulations on your appointment! Please speak up for the UK aid budget which is under attack at the present. It makes a huge difference when resources can be utilised to tackle quite preventable diseases such as Noma. Just returned from Ethiopia where this hideous affliction still kills people, especially poorly nourished children.”
16. Catherine P.
“The support provided by the UK aid budget makes me proud to be a member of this community. Please continue to uphold the value of the budget to ensure that poverty overseas is eradicated.”
“UK aid to fund education for children in deprived areas of the world and tackle preventable diseases is vitally important to me. All children should receive these things. Please continue to fund these vital services.”
18. Geoff W.
“Welcome to your new post. I hope that you will protect the aid budget for which we have fought for so many years, and which is so essential to delivering hope and life to so many of the poorest communities throughout the world.”