12 years ago at the UN Millennium Summit, all 190 UN nations re-stated their commitment to work towards spending 0.7% of their countries income on international aid to help end extreme poverty.
The UK has been one of just a few countries to stick to this commitment. On March the 21st, the British Chancellor George Osborne will present his annual budget to Parliament. He will lay out his plans for the economy at a time when unemployment is still rising, the Eurozone is in continued difficulty and consumer confidence remains low. On the face of it, keeping this commitment to aid looks like a hard task.
And of course, this comes just weeks after the news that an opposition politician in India claimed that India neither wanted nor needed British aid. This lead to discussions of whether spending part of the little money we have as a country on international development is still a justifiable option. The government is under pressure to cut our aid budget, and with it, withdraw a lifeline to millions of the world’s poorest people.
While the government of India may be signing contracts to buy new military jets, 300 million people in the country continue to rank amongst the world’s poorest people. And more than this, regardless of how we feel about India, India is not the sole recipient of UK aid.
Whatever spending decisions the Chancellor decides to make, and however tough the current economic climate may be, we know that few people in this country will be left to try and live on only a pound a day. Yet across the world, for 1.4 billion people this is reality – trying to manage their food, heath, rent and travel all on the equivalent of just a pound a day (the definition of extreme poverty).
International aid can have an incredible effect on saving lives; the number of children dying before their fifth birthday has more than halved in the last 50 years, and since 1990 international aid has helped lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty. Our aid has contributed to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, helping to save at least 4,000 lives every day, and has saved an estimated 7.7 million lives in 150 countries.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell have repeatedly said that as a country we would not ‘balance the book on the backs of the world’s poor’. All three mainstream political parties committed to the 0.7% target before the last election, and it features in the coalition agreement; yet it is at risk in the 2012 budget.
That’s why today we are asking people to take action and contact their MP to tell them they believe that aid spending is important. We’re asking MPs to ask questions at the next International Development Questions on March 14th to ensure this government understands that taking money away from the world’s poorest option is not an option in this budget.
The government spends money on what it believes to be priorities, and without a vocal appreciation of the importance of aid and people standing up to protect it, we are in danger of losing it. So please, click here to take action and show your support for the 0.7% target, and ensure the Chancellor knows this isn’t a budget he can cut.