UK Secretary for International Development Finally Speaks Out About the Future of UK Aid
Here’s what you need to know.
Priti Patel, the UK’s recently appointed Secretary of State for International Development, has set out her vision for the country’s aid budget.
In a statement published in the Daily Mail newspaper, she highlighted her priorities, placing a renewed emphasis on spending aid in the “national interest” as well as protecting the world’s poorest.
“Britain – with its strong reputation on aid around the world – is in a unique position to ensure that across the globe, aid is being used effectively, in a way that delivers for our national interests,” she said.
“The system needs reform – and Britain can lead the way in delivering it.”
Fighting Global Challenges
Patel’s statement highlights some of the achievements of UK aid, from helping to halve deaths from malaria in 15 years, to delivering life-saving vaccines to children around the world or providing emergency relief in response to crises like Ebola or the Syrian Civil War.
Her words emphasise a renewed intent to fight global challenges through the UK’s respected aid programme.
“I want to continue the leadership that has been shown on tackling the scourge of corruption, which keeps people poor. I want to build on the great work that has been done on things like immunisation, tackling killer diseases, and ending the scandal of human trafficking and modern slavery.”
Importantly, Patel reaffirmed her commitment to spend 0.7% of the country’s national income on overseas aid, in line with the Conservative manifesto pledge in the 2015 general election.
The Secretary of State’s announcement does reveal a renewed emphasis on the national interest. She claims that her department will work to combat “the global challenges that affect the UK - like creating jobs in poorer countries as to reduce the pressure of mass migration to Europe.”
Patel also confirmed that developing trading partnerships around the world would be a key priority in the wake of Brexit.
“We must seize the opportunity of leaving the EU to expand free trade with those who need it most, to boost investment in the poorest countries, and to forge new alliances with the world’s emerging economies.”
UK-India strategic partnership discussed during meeting with Prime Minister Modi pic.twitter.com/vIyxpAljiO— Priti Patel (@patel4witham) August 13, 2016
Waste of money?
Patel’s statements have caused a stir in the debate on UK aid. Anti-aid campaigners have welcomed her announcement, emphasising the Secretary of State’s claim that: “The aid budget isn’t my money, or the Government’s money. It’s taxpayers’ money – your money.”
“It rightly infuriates taxpayers when money that is intended for the world’s poorest people is stolen or wasted on inappropriate projects. I am infuriated,” she said.
When questioned on these strong words by the International Development Committee in Parliament on Wednesday 14 September, she cited instances of money being spent to pay for activists to attend conferences, or to a cult-like organisation in Malawi.
Yet, while there are improvements to be made across all government departments, the positive impact of UK aid on lives around the world cannot be ignored. UK aid helps girls like Chouk regain their childhoods after being forced to flee their homes, whilst saving millions of children from infectious diseases through its ambitious vaccine programme. Between 2011 and 2015, UK aid helped immunise 67.1 million children through Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, beating its target of reaching 55 million children.
This incredible work is worth defending.
What you can do
Priti Patel has a vital role to play in protecting the UK’s aid programme at a time of national uncertainty. In her first 100 days in office, she will outline the priorities for the years to come. Almost 10,000 Global Citizens have emailed Priti Patel so far, calling on the Secretary of State to continue the UK’s life-changing work by prioritising girls’ education, tackling deadly diseases like polio, and protecting the UK’s aid budget to ensure it reaches the most vulnerable.
“My department is incredible in the work that it does,” said Patel, in her remarks to the International Development Committee.
While Patel’s statement suggests a commitment to continuing these efforts, the country’s dedication to fighting poverty around the world must be unambiguous. There is still work to do to ensure the UK keeps its promise to the world’s poorest.