London, UK (13 July 2021) – RESULTS UK is dismayed that today, Members of Parliament voted to reject a return to spending 0.7% of our Gross National Income (GNI) on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), adopting such strict fiscal criteria that most likely mean the UK will never again fulfil our promise to the world’s poorest and most marginalised people.
Bringing a motion before the House of Commons at a mere day’s notice, the Government has won a vote that gives a technical definition of when a return to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA as prescribed the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 would occur. Until yesterday it had not specified what that means in practice.
The Government’s new conditions (that “on a sustainable basis, we are not borrowing for day-to-day spending and underlying debt is falling”), if applied retrospectively, would have only been met once in the last 20 years, and have never been met sustainably by any UK government. The most likely outcome from voting to implement these effectively impossible-to-meet conditions is a permanent reduction in ODA spending and a de facto abandonment of the 0.7% target as enshrined in law.
RESULTS UK Executive Director Aaron Oxley said:
“This is a dreadful day for people around the world living in poverty and facing injustice. Despite the best efforts of many MPs of all political parties who showed solidarity and compassion, today, the UK Government has set out firmly where it stands on this vital moral commitment by setting a test that is, for all practical purposes, impossible to meet. Make no mistake: this was a political decision, not an economic or technical one.”
“With half the world’s population still without access to essential health services, and with the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, the reduction of UK aid from 0.7% to 0.5% has meant that this year alone hundreds of thousands of additional preventable deaths are inevitable, and this will continue year on year unless and until we deliver on our promise. This is a massive decision - millions of lives literally hang in the balance, once you factor in how the knock-on effect of the UK effectively saying ‘0.7% is never affordable’ could affect other donors.”
Since 2015, UK aid has helped 15.6 million children get a good education, reached more than 50 million women and children with nutrition interventions, 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.
On 25 November 2020, the Chancellor announced the Government’s plan to cut ODA to 0.5% of GNI, breaking a promise in its manifesto to spend 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income (GNI) on ODA. 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.
Information on the impact of the cuts has been sparse and the Government’s announcements lacked transparency, but analysis of the available figures showed an overall reduction in ODA spending of some £4.5 billion, from around £14.5 billion in 2019 to £10 billion this year. Some vital areas of development spending were hit disproportionately hard, for example, a 95% cut in funding for polio eradication, and a 40% cut to global education spending, despite Government statements that this is a policy priority.
When Will the Fiscal Situation Allow More Aid Spending in the UK? Sam Hughes and Ian Mitchell, Center for Global Development, 20 April 2021, https://www.cgdev.org/blog/when-will-fiscal-situation-allow-more-aid-spending-uk
Callous and short sighted." What do the aid cuts mean for global health and education? Tom Guha, RESULTS UK, 30 April 2021 http://www.results.org.uk/blog/%E2%80%9Ccallous-and-short-sighted%E2%80%9D-what-do-aid-cuts-mean-global-health-and-education
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RESULTS UK is a movement of passionate, committed, everyday people who together use their voices to influence political decisions that will bring an end to poverty. For more information please visit www.results.org.uk