Aid charities have accused the government of “turning its back” on vulnerable people after the government confirmed it will cut international development spending.
The chancellor Rishi Sunak used yesterday’s Spending Review to announce that government funding for foreign aid will fall from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%. The move came after weeks of speculation that a cut was likely.
Sunak said that he did not intend the cut to be permanent, but gave no indication of when funding might be restored to the higher level.
Bond, the umbrella body for development organisations in the UK, said that the government was “turning its back” on the most vulnerable people in the world.
Stephanie Draper, the chief executive of Bond, said: “This is a tragic blow for the world’s most marginalised people, and many questions remain as to when and how the decision will be made [on] when we will return to 0.7%.
“The amount we spend on aid has already declined this year and this significant additional cut will cost lives.
“Millions are being pushed into poverty due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We should be stepping up our support, not reducing it. We hope MPs from all parties will stop this from happening on our watch.
Bond added that “today's announced u-turn on a manifesto commitment sees the UK turning its back on the world's poorest, despite knowing that no one is safe from this or future pandemics unless we are all safe”.
Danny Sriskandarajah, the chief executive of Oxfam GB, said that the move represented “hasty short-term politics”.
Sriskandarajah said: “Cutting the UK’s lifeline to the world’s poorest communities in the midst of a global pandemic will lead to tens of thousands of otherwise preventable deaths.
“At a time when hundreds of millions of people are hungry and decades of progress against poverty is under threat, today’s decision is a false economy which diverts money for clean water and medicines to pay for bombs and bullets.
“The fact the government has taken this decision before its own long-awaited Integrated Review is complete shows that this is hasty short-term politics not sensible long-term strategy.”
He added: “The prime minister should reverse the cut at the first possible opportunity.”
Oxfam GB received around £49m in funding from the Department for International Development (DFID) in 2018-19, according to its latest annual accounts. DFID was merged with the Foreign Office earlier this year.
WaterAid: UK international standing is reduced
Tim Wainwright, the chief executive of WaterAid, which received £3.8m in DFID funding in 2019-20, said: “Only weeks ago, the government reaffirmed their manifesto commitment and promise to the world’s poorest people.
“This u-turn sees the government not only turning its back on those least able to cope with the impact of Covid-19 and climate change, but also reducing our international standing just at the moment when we are redefining global Britain on the world stage.”
Wainwright added: “In the last five years alone, every tax payer has helped to bring clean water and better sanitation to 62 million people.”
The Small International Development Charities Network said: "Now is not the time to walk away from those in need."
Rishi Sunak said the Treasury would only consider restoring previous levels of aid spending "when the fiscal situation allows".
One aid expert at a UK charity said they did not believe "there is a chance in hell of it being restored under this government".