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‘When the British Public See Suffering, They Act,’ Says UK’s New Development Secretary

Penny Mordaunt, the UK’s new Secretary of State for International Development, has set out her vision to “prove that Britain can be proud of its aid.”

In an article written for the The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday, Mordaunt said she believes in aid and “the power it has to end disease, hunger and extreme poverty.”

Take action: Tell Your MP Why You're Proud of UK Aid — and Call on Them to Make it as Effective as Possible

“The British people have a global outlook, they are generous, and when they see suffering and injustice they are motivated to act,” Mordaunt said. “Across the length and breadth of the UK — in charity shops, faith groups and community groups — people are giving up their time to raise funds, support refugees and alleviate poverty.”

Read more: 8 Things You Need to Know About the UK's New Secretary of State — and Why You Should Care

The Secretary of State said the public should be proud of what British aid has already achieved, for example, helping to end polio by immunising 80 children a minute against the killer disease. Over 481,000 Global Citizens called on world leaders to end polio, and your demands were heard. In August this year, the UK demonstrated its continued leadership on the issue and committed £100 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative — a public-private partnership that aspires to end polio once and for all.

“But we can go further still,” she added. “We must harness the energy of the UK science and technology sectors, whether in the use of cutting-edge technology to transform the way we do development, in creating drought-resistant seeds to boost food production, or in vaccines to wipe out disease.”

Read more: UK Aid Makes Britain, and the World, a Safer Place

Renewing the Department for International Development’s commitment to “leave no-one behind,” she also promised to put disability at the heart of her agenda.

And all of this was underpinned by her commitment to drive transparency and value for money.

“People want to know: what are
​ ​you going to do with my money?​ ​
How do I know you’ll spend it well,” Mordaunt said, explaining that such transparency can be hard to demonstrate because of the complex funding structures that underpin overseas aid spending, and that impact takes time to demonstrate.

“But the barriers must be overcome if we wish to maintain the means to act decisively in the UK’s and humanity’s interests,” she continued, “for it is not politicians and legislation that ultimately protect our world-leading commitment to aid. It is the trust of the public that their money is being spent wisely.”

Read more: The UK Just Pledged to Immunise Up to 45 Million Children Against Polio

And the British people do support the life-saving work carried out by the Department for International Development (DfID), according to the latest research.

In a recent poll, 58% of the British public said that tackling poverty in developing countries should be a main priority for the British government, and 77% believe it’s a moral obligation. As far as we’re concerned, Penny Mordaunt has one of the most important jobs in the UK government, and today’s announcement is very much welcomed.

Global Citizen strongly supports DfID’s agenda to ensure that UK aid is as impactful as possible, and always with the ultimate objective of ending extreme poverty worldwide. You can join us by taking action here.