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OpinionHealth

UK Aid Makes Britain, and The World, a Safer Place

Picture: Sgt Neil Bryden/RAF

Being British, there are a lot of things to be proud of. We have excellent tea — Lancashire, not Yorkshire, of course. And for such a tiny island, we’re not too bad at athletics. But is UK aid something to be proud of in the same ilk? Well, the short answer is yes.

Here’s the slightly longer answer.

The arguments are always the same. Charity should begin at home. What’s the point, nothing ever gets better? These are ludicrous statements that are wrong.

Charity may begin at home but it certainly shouldn’t stop there. And, simply put, development isn’t charity. UK aid puts millions of children through an education, who in turn, start businesses. That builds strong economies which creates stable governments. These businesses and governments then trade with the UK, building a prosperous world for us all. This is a very crude way of explaining the benefits of UK aid but it’s true. UK aid builds stable, trading partners.

Another example of how aid works for the people of the UK is polio. Polio is a disease that hasn’t been seen in the UK for over 30 years now but whilst there’s even one case of polio in the world, children everywhere are at risk. The recent announcement from the UK Government of £100m of new funding for the eradication of polio will give us a clear roadmap to the end of this devastating disease. Not only is UK aid helping to end this disease because it’s the right thing to do, it’s keeping children everywhere - including those in the UK - safe.

As for nothing getting better, tell that to the 16 million people walking around today that would have otherwise been paralysed from polio. It was UK aid that helped keep them safe. Nothing gets better? Since 1990, the world has halved the amount of people living in extreme poverty; an achievement that has saved millions of lives. In the same amount of time we’ve also halved the amount of children that die before the age of five. The progress is real, and with the political will and determination, we can see a world free from poverty, from inequality, from suffering, by as little as 2030. The Global Goals can and must be delivered.

The elephant in the room is corruption. Opponents of aid have long stated that money sent overseas to help developing countries just props up corrupt officials and that until this practice is shut down, we should cut the funding to these country. Well the sad fact is that yes, corruption does happen in developing countries (actually in ALL countries) and sometimes aid money ends up in the wrong hands, but this isn’t enough of a reason to stop aid altogether. That just punishes the poorest twice over.

DfID has a long term mission to tackle corruption in developing countries, investing in localised research to ensure it’s effectiveness. Tackling corruption is an integral part of UK aid, and DfiD is working hard to ensure that our money helps those that need it the most.

UK aid is not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. A stable, more prosperous, disease free world is in all of our interests. So yes, we can be proud of our tea, and our incredible athletes. But absolutely, we should all be proud of UK aid.