UK aid alleviates poverty and contributes to sustainable development around the globe. It is widely seen as highly effective, and UK aid programmes are among the most transparent in the world. Most people in the UK believe that we have a moral duty to stand alongside people in developing countries, and in 2015, we signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), promising to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Aid won’t achieve that by itself, as big global changes are also needed, including reduced inequality, fairer economic systems, and action on climate change. Yet since 1990, nearly 1.1 billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty. Now, this progress is hugely at risk because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and could be reversed.
Official development assistance (ODA) from donors such as the UK has made a big contribution to the social and economic development of many countries. Yet many people believe that aid doesn’t make a difference. Fuelled by attacks on international development in the media, scepticism is putting the future of UK aid at risk. This could threaten vital development programmes such as nutrition and immunisation programmes, inclusive education, and the fight against infectious diseases.
UK aid has:
- Supported immunisation of over 56 million children, saving 990,000 lives, between January 2015 and December 2017. The recent UK pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance will help immunise up to 75 million children over the next five years.
- Helped immunise up to 45 million children against polio whilst saving £2 billion globally by 2035 in costs saved treating polio.
- Reached 60 million people, including children under 5, women of childbearing age and adolescent girls through nutrition programmes from April 2015 to March 2019.
- Supported over 14 million people to gain a decent education between April 2015 and March 2019.
Poverty is not just about a lack of income, but about access to essential services and a say in one’s future. Ensuring that everyone in the world has access to these services, including the most marginalised people, who are often “left behind”, is also at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals.
UK aid must remain focused on reducing poverty, improving the lives of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, and not just boosting countries’ economic growth without guaranteeing that these gains will make a material difference to those most in need.