During the 2010-15 Parliament, the UK became the first G7 country to enshrine in law a target to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas aid. It did so with cross-party support. The development and improvements in hundreds of millions of people’s lives that have resulted from this commitment have been a credit to humanity.
Recent questioning of the UK’s foreign aid budget is concerning. It is worrying that while the government has committed to maintaining the 0.7 per cent target, its plans also suggest a shift away from the current cross-party consensus on international development. The government has said it wants to change international definitions of development assistance and, if it fails to do this, to change the law to allow it to use its own definition of development assistance.
I am concerned that this is an attempt to use overseas aid intended for poverty reduction for things such as security and counter-terrorism, and to plug funding gaps in other departments.
The UK must abide by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development definition of aid and use our overseas assistance to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries. Abandoning this global standard would undermine the purpose of the 0.7 per cent commitment and send the wrong message to the rest of the world.
I will continue to defend the 0.7 per cent commitment and to press for the correct use of the international aid budget.