Theresa May is standing up to pressure to cut the UK aid budget — pledging that she will not abandon Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid.
UK aid funding has come under increased pressure following revelations around Oxfam workers having paid prostitutes for sex while on a humanitarian mission following the 2011 earthquake in Haiti.
Aid critics, including in the media and politics, are using the allegations to support their anti-aid agenda. For example, the Sun's comment piece calling for Oxfam's to be "stripped" and the overseas aid budget "ditched."
“We are committed to the 0.7% target and it is a legal obligation,” a Downing Street source told the Guardian, referring to the fact the UK’s 0.7% aid target is enshrined in UK law.
Prior to the 2017 general election, May also backed the 0.7% target — which means 0.7% of the UK’s annual national income, and amounts to about £13 billion — saying it “remains and will remain.”
“I’m very proud of the record we have, of the children around the world who are being educated as a result of what the British taxpayer is doing in terms of international aid,” she said at the time.
Stephen Twigg, chairman of the international development select committee, also spoke out in support of the UK aid budget, and called on others to do the same.
He pointed out that while the issues of protection, safety, and security need to be taken seriously and urgently addressed, it should also be remembered sexual abuse is a broader problem across all sectors, including politics, the media, and Hollywood, reported the Guardian.
“This isn’t something inherent for aid; this is about the abuse of power and needs to be rooted out if committed by aid workers as by anyone else,” said Twigg, whose committee will see representatives of Oxfam when parliament returns next week.
“Clearly we are in an environment in which people were already calling for reductions in aid spending,” he continued. “We need to stress that Oxfam and others do amazing work, and if the money was to be reduced, what would be hit?”
“Would they stop work to help the Rohingya in Bangladesh?” he asked. “Or to help deal with the tragic consequences of natural disasters? Or stop supporting Syrian refugees?”
It comes days after Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is one of the most outspoken critics of overseas aid spending, delivered a petition of 100,000 Daily Express readers who believe the aid budget should be cut.
Rees-Mogg insisted that, as the government “cannot be certain that all the money is being well spent,” they should drop the target.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals, to end extreme poverty by 2030. UK aid is a vital tool in that fight, and we believe we should be proud of our long track record as a world leader in overseas development assistance. You can join us by taking action here, to let your MP know that you’re proud of UK aid, and call on them to help make it as effective as possible.