Ashleigh Milson


Charities Aid Foundation

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9 May 2017

Today, the foreign aid budget is in the spotlight again, as the Institute of Fiscal Studies warns that poverty reduction in the world’s poorest countries is at risk of being diluted by the government’s tendency to use  UK aid to pursue the national interest. They have found a growing emphasis on ensuring UK firms are benefiting, finding that more than a quarter of the aid budget   was spent outside DFID in 2016.

The IFS’ findings are concerning. The UK’s continuing commitment to meeting the target of spending 0.7% of GNI on aid should be a source of pride for our country. As we prepare to leave the European Union, the size and success of our aid programme should indicate a country that is outward looking and optimistic about our place in a safer and more prosperous world. However, the Institute of Fiscal Studies is right to warn of the dangers of diluting aid with non-aid objectives.

It is welcome that all of the UK’s major parties are seen to be backing the existing commitment to 0.7% spend on aid, but the debate needs to go beyond the number. Using our aid effectively is innately in the national interest. Proactively tackling the underlying causes of poverty and instability is in everyone’s interest and doing aid well can only enhance our reputation and open up opportunities on the global stage. However, this equation only works when our aid is perceived to be, and is actually altruistically motivated. As such, should the boundary between aid and trade or defence spending become blurred, we may actually reduce positive outcomes for the UK.

global giving

Rather than broadening the conception of aid to include wider foreign policy objectives, the government ought to broaden their understanding of aid effectiveness.  CAF’s Future World Giving project has looked in detail at the huge potential of investing in civil society in order to achieve sustainable development. Creating an enabling environment for civil society globally would empower local communities across the world to help create the change that they want to see, and ensure that the world’s poorest are not left behind in development priorities. Exporting these British values is undoubtedly in our national interest. 

CAF has welcomed many of the parties’ commitments to the 0.7% aid expenditure ahead of this general election and we are now calling on the next Government to work collaboratively with overseas governments. When we transition out of our aid relationships around the world, we have an opportunity to build civil society infrastructure and capacity, before we go. This type of aid expenditure would empower donors across the world, leave a lasting lefacyof the UK’s aid programme, and also help the UK to strengthen international relationships with recipient countries.

You can read more about CAF’s Future World Giving Project here

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