Restore UK overseas aid as soon as possible

Dear [Name of MP]

I am writing to ask you, please, to keep up the pressure on the government not to cut the proportion of our Gross National Income (GNI) that the UK spends on Overseas Development Assistance (aid). If it is not possible to prevent this cut temporarily, please press the government to restore our aid commitment as soon as possible.

Millions of us were thrilled when the Make Poverty History Campaign in 2005 saw commitments across the political spectrum to take the UK to spending the target (agreed at the UN in 1970) of 0.7% GNI on aid. (Making the target a proportion of our GNI recognised the fact that the aid would fluctuate according to our ability to pay.) It was even more important when the government delivered on this target in 2013 and then enshrined it in law in 2015. Since 2013, UK aid expenditure has been widely recognised (such as in the Aid Transparency Index) as one of the best in the world for effectiveness, transparency and accountability.

Now the government has announced a reduction to 0.5% GNI (avoiding parliamentary scrutiny by not changing the law). This, along with our lower GNI, means a reduction of £4.5 billion, or 30% relative to 2019. In comparison, our defence spending (2.1% GDP in 2019, already above the 2% NATO target) will, according to the Centre for Global Development, rise by £6bn pa to over 2.4% GDP.

The size and the speed of the aid reduction are causing terrible suffering.

  • £40m was given in 2020 to core support to UNICEF, working with the world’s poorest children: the cuts are likely to reduce this to £16m (meaning, for example, about 5.3m fewer children being immunised and about a 40% reduction – from £672m to £400m – in support of girls’ education).
  • According to a recent leaked government memo revealed by Sky News, almost all (80%) of the funding for clean water and sanitation projects has been cut – particularly worrying in the contribution that hygiene makes to combating the spread of the pandemic.
  • Yemen – a country with the most devastating conflict, with terrible humanitarian suffering and on the brink of famine – has had its aid cut by 60%.
  • The Global Polio Eradication Initiative – which has been at the forefront of eliminating 99.9% of polio cases worldwide – has had its funding cut by 95%, risking resurgence of this terrible disease.

The Chancellor has said that the UK aid budget would return to 0.7% GNI “when the fiscal situation allows”. Please could you ask the Chancellor to clarify the criterion and likely timescale for reinstating UK ODA to 0.7% GNI. Since the Office of Budget responsibility (OBR) expects the economy to return to its 2019 size by 2022, please urge the government – showing the global leadership it has promised and promoting ‘global Britain’ – to reinstate our aid programme to 0.7% GNI next year.

Your sincerely

[Name and address]


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