| Published: October 14, 2023 9:31:20 p.m.
It is indeed rare that the source of the most critical verdict on a particular government policy is the minister in charge of the very policy which falls far short of what is desired and what the government is committed to. previously, according to Arab News.
Andrew Mitchell, the British Minister of State for Development and Africa, whose responsibility is to maximize the benefits of British humanitarian aid – and who is known for not mincing his words – has published a report which reveals the devastating consequences of his own government’s deep commitment. cuts in its foreign aid budget.
Even more worrying, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office report admits that the effects of cutting official development assistance will be severe across all areas of development, but that the worst effects will be on aid programs. help women and girls.
Not so long ago, the UK was considered a global development power. No more. It was Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, while in charge of the country’s finances during his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer, who reduced British spending on foreign aid, allegedly on a temporary basis, by 0.7 percent of gross national income to 0.5 percent. The reduction represented a saving of around £4 billion ($5.1 billion) per year, intended to be used to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the national economy.
This decision is perhaps understandable, given the strain on the UK economy due to the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis, but it nevertheless hardly justifies harming people whose existence even depends on the financing of aid programs.
Cuts to UK aid mean that since 2020 the number of bilateral aid programs has been significantly reduced, hindering the aim of fostering greater equality. The analysis by Foreign Office officials reads like a horror show in which death, devastation and loss of human potential are guaranteed.
For example, it appears that the UK has, for all intents and purposes, given up on Afghanistan by cutting its aid to that country by 76%. It thus abandons some of the most vulnerable women and girls in the world, on whom the Taliban have imposed severe restrictions that violate their human rights “and (them) systematically erase from public spaces”. Cuts in British aid now leave them without access to essential services such as health services and education.
In Africa, there are fears that thousands of women will die during pregnancy or childbirth as a direct result of aid cuts, and that 200,000 of them face the prospect of unsafe abortion. .
There is something unbearably casual about decisions to cut foreign aid. After all, those who suffer from it do not vote in the donor country’s elections, much less express their opinion on government policy in opinion polls.
Reducing support for the most vulnerable is probably the most popular solution among Conservative politicians and their supporters in the UK, second only to deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda or incarcerating them on floating detention barges.
But this is a short-sighted policy, devoid of vision or real plan; and not just in light of the obvious moral and ethical imperative to help those who need it most. Cutting aid to low-income countries only exacerbates their economic, social and political woes. This can only serve to destabilize them further, which in turn undermines our own national interests, including security concerns and the prevention of radicalization. It also hinders our access to natural resources, reduces the chances of trading with economies that are growing instead of declining, and affects our ability to jointly address the challenges resulting from climate change and global health issues.
It’s no wonder Sunak’s announcement of aid funding cuts, made while in Boris Johnson’s government, was described by five former British prime ministers – John Major, Tony Blair , Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Theresa May, three of whom are Conservatives. – as a “strategic error”.
The target for high-income countries to spend at least 0.7 percent of their gross national income on aid was set by the United Nations General Assembly in 1970. More than 50 years later, only five countries – Sweden, Norway,
Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands have consistently met or exceeded this target. The UK first took this step in 2013, under a legal obligation to comply.
It remains to be seen whether Sunak’s “temporary” measure, which the Treasury has said will be repealed by 2028, will turn into a permanent measure, although Labor has promised to reinstate the 0 bond, 7 percent after what currently seems likely his return to power in the next general election, scheduled for January 2025.
Although foreign aid to developing countries is not without negative side effects – and debates over whether or not it creates a culture of dependency and the misuse of some of the funds leading to corruption are not invalid – its overall contribution to the well-being of developing countries is not without merit. both the donor country and the recipients are undoubtedly of inestimable value.
If the richest countries are serious about achieving all or most of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which include ending poverty and hunger, creating jobs, ensuring health and well-being of all, universal education, gender equality and hygiene, water and sanitation for all – then foreign aid is an absolute necessity.
Most importantly, this should not be considered charity. In some cases, foreign aid comes with the condition that part of the money be spent in the donor country; this strengthens the relationship between donor and recipient, but also helps prevent political instability caused by radicalization and unwanted mass migration, as well as their effects on donor countries.
Opposing foreign aid cuts does not mean ignoring the economic difficulties that many developed countries currently face, nor the domestic political implications that many politicians are too afraid to confront for fear of scaring voters. .
However, even when these cuts are temporary measures, they still have immediate and devastating effects on vulnerable people, and it is impossible to simply restart aid programs later at the point where they were abandoned. Instead, many projects will be forced to start again from a worse situation, amid a more wary local population.
Foreign Office analysis suggests that in Yemen, for example, cuts to the UK aid budget mean half a million women and children will no longer receive healthcare, leading to in many cases death. In South Sudan, the lives of tens of thousands of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are in danger. Those who survive will miss out on essential vaccines, leaving a harmful long-term legacy.