London, UK (November 27, 2020) – The Government’s announcement of its plan to cut ODA is sharply at odds with its own rhetoric, and a promise in its manifesto commitment to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) on ODA. On Wednesday, contrary to its manifesto pledge, the Chancellor announced that the UK’s aid spending will decrease from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%. The commitment to spend 0.7% is enshrined in law and is designed to expand and contract the aid budget in line with the UK economy. Abandoning this critical manifesto commitment during a time of global crisis undermines the UK Government’s commitment to playing its part in rebuilding a healthier, safer world.
The brunt of this reduction will be felt by the poorest, most marginalised and most vulnerable. Half of the world’s population is still without access to essential health services, and many people are suffering the consequences of their health needs being neglected owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, with these cuts undoubtedly leading to preventable loss of life. The recent announcement to increase defence spending by the equivalent drop in ODA spending (£4 billion per year) further undermines the Government’s argument that we can’t afford aid.
Historically, the UK has played a prominent role in driving progress for global health and international development. Since 2015, UK aid has helped 15.6 million children get a good education and has saved 1.4 million lives through essential vaccinations. There are countless more examples of where UK aid has transformed the lives and life-chances of the most vulnerable and marginalised. We should be proud of the role the UK has played, working in unity with other countries to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.
This proposed cut is not just a backwards step for global health, but also education. Fewer children will have access to education as a result of the cut, hampering the post-coronavirus economic recovery and future prosperity of the world’s least developed countries. This will directly undermine the UK Government’s commitment to girls' education in a year in which the world is looking to the UK for leadership at the G7, replenishment of the Global Partnership for Education, and COP26.
Now is not the time to step away from our responsibilities to the world’s poorest, and retreat from the very international collaboration and solidarity that the Prime Minister called for at the UN in September. This decision should be reversed.