In March 2015, just over nine years ago, the then-UK Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Spring Budget.

In a moment of history applauded by the world, Osborne pledged help for the world’s poorest and those in war zones by safeguarding the UK’s spending on Official Development Aid (ODA).

ODA is funding, provided by governments of wealthy nations to developing countries, and is an essential tool for assisting those living on the frontlines of climate disasters and humanitarian crises. The money goes towards things like improving access to water, healthcare and high-quality education, protecting biodiversity, and combating the climate emergency.

Back in 2015, the world was faced with a worsening refugee crisis and humanitarian crises in Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, and more. 

In a vow to meet the country’s moral obligation to the world’s poorest, Osborne used his spending review to change how the budget was spent, as the government acknowledged that “aid spending has sometimes been controversial at home, because people want to know that it is squarely in the UK’s national interest.”

This was no coincidence. For months, Global Citizens including the likes of One Direction had been calling on the chancellor to officially commit through law to maintain the UK's important commitment of sending 0.7% Gross National Income (GNI) to international aid, a target set by the United Nations in 1970.

Advocacy efforts paid off — and the aid budget was left intact.

But then, in 2021, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government made the decision to cut ODA from 0.7% to 0.5%

The consequences have been disastrous. The Malawi Violence Against Women and Girls Prevention and Response Programme was canceled. Female empowerment projects in Nigeria and Afghanistan were closed. Peace-building work in South Sudan ended. Education programs were cut. Around 72 million people were expected to miss treatment for neglected tropical diseases. Specialist work on conflict prevention lost millions allocated to the Middle East. Over 40,000 Syrian children lost out on an education as a direct result of the cuts. The list goes on.

Today, poverty and hunger are increasing. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in 2022, 691–783 million people in the world faced hunger, 122 million more than in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 345 million of those people are facing acute levels of hunger, including starvation. That’s five times as many people as the entire UK population. 

Meanwhile, conflict is on the rise, millions are displaced, and international law is disregarded with impunity. Not a single country in the world has achieved gender equality and there are even places, such as Afghanistan, where girls now have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers did. 

Yet, when Chancellor Jeremy Hunt brandished that little red suitcase in front of 11 Downing Street today to announce the spring budget, he and his government made exactly zero commitments to international development and global solidarity whatsoever.

But we can’t give up. While the budget might be set, there are many ways to unlock funding for international development.

The budget confirmed the extension of a windfall tax on oil and gas firms by 12 months. Following oil and gas companies’ record profits in 2022, the surcharge was introduced by Rishi Sunak when he was chancellor as a way of funding help for households facing rising bills as energy prices soared. Some of these funds could be diverted towards those who are facing the harshest consequences of the climate emergency.

The UK needs to embrace international solidarity mechanisms and innovative funding options for global public good and stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable communities in low- income countries. Take action today, and tell the UK Chancellor we can't risk putting these problems off any longer.


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