The Lords anti-0.7% report is misguided, misleading and out of touch


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Sam Bacon is a campaigns officer at the Global Poverty Project

There’s been much talk today about a new report from the House of Lords select committee on economic affairs calling for the UK’s target of spending 0.7% of GNI to be abandoned.

As I have blogged about previously, and as the #powerofpoint7 hashtag demonstrates, there is much public support for the UK providing lifesaving aid, clearly showing this report to be out of step with much public opinion.

Department-for-International-Development-UK-aid-parcels
But more than that, as Bill Gates, UNICEF UK President Lord Ashdown, Oxfam, Save the Children, the ONE Campaign, WaterAid, Christian Aid, World Vision UK and the VSO have already said, the calls from this report would not only endanger the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people, but they are quite simply misleading and wrong.

Contrary to one of the report’s primary assertions, the internationally agreed 0.7% target is not an arbitrary figure; according to the United Nations it is the figure needed to ensure that globally there is enough funding to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals and provide essential support for 1.4 billion people to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

Thanks to the One Campaign’s recent report, and a DFID statement after a recent Global Poverty Project campaign showing public support for the 0.7 target, we know that honouring our country’s promises to the world’s poor will mean:

• Over the next few years more than 60 million children will be vaccinated against preventable diseases (more than the entire UK population);

Nearly 78 million people will be able to access the basics needed to start a business and get on the path of lifting themselves out of poverty;

• With 99% eradication, polio is now left in only three countries in the world and over the next few years our aid could help fund efforts to get it out of these countries and end polio and its debilitating effects for good.

 


See also:

Budget 2012: The consequences of failing to hit the 0.7% aid target laid bare 21 Mar 2012

International development: The UK’s most popular ‘unpopular policy’ 20 Mar 2012

New report justifies aid to India and other Middle Income Countries 24 Aug 2011

An open letter to David Cameron on the importance of the 0.7% target 17 May 2011

Campaign launched to commit UK to spending 0.7% of income on development aid 3 Feb 2010


 

These results are simply not achievable if as a country we follow the committee’s report and walk away from the international aid commitments we have made.

However, it is important to be clear: calling for a commitment to spend more on aid does not mean how it is spent or what it is spent on is a secondary consideration. Only when aid is spent effectively will it achieve real results and make a difference for millions of people.

The report is quite simply wrong when it misguidedly suggests the 0.7% target encourages a move away from a consideration of value for money and transparency in our aid spending; we need both quantity AND quality in our efforts.

As Eric Gutierrez, Christian Aid’s senior governance adviser, has made clear:

“In Scandinavian countries, where the 0.7% threshold has been achieved, the discussion has shifted away from how much to give, to focus instead on how well it could be used.”

Anyone who is interested in supporting the 1.4 billion people in extreme poverty as they work their way out of poverty is also deeply passionate about tackling corruption and increasing transparency in the aid and money that is given.

The most effective results in ending extreme poverty and helping save lives will come if NGOs and partners in the developing world know that our commitments will not waiver and funding streams will be maintained until the end of projects. Maintaining 0.7 per cent allows this, and so helps us reach our ultimate goal of supporting people to a position out of extreme poverty and to no longer be in need of aid.

The chair of the Economic Affairs Committee has said putting the 0.7% target in law, as all three mainstream political parties support, “would deprive future governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at home and abroad” – but it is precisely for this reason all parties support it.

Putting the target in law removes the politics from the issue of helping stabilise communities and save lives, and prevents short term domestic interests stopping our long term international commitments. To see the end of extreme poverty, this type of cross-party agreement on 0.7 per cent is critical.

Today’s report was a backward step in the process of giving a hand up, not a hand out, to the world’s poorest people.

 


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  • CoopLynda

    We are making progress towards the MDGs. It mustn’t stop now. If corruption is seen as the problem, then education in developing countries is the way forward and making sure our financial systems don’t aid those who exploit the system. Penalise the corrupt not the poor. The 0.7 target is a commitment we have to keep

  • Tom_Stevenette

    Completely agree Sam – only confirms my perception that the lords are a wholly conservative on British politics, let’s hope they don’t get their way for it will negatively impact many vulnerable people.

  • http://twitter.com/vlhooper Leanne Hooper

    Well said Sam! I completely agree that how much is spent is not to be separated from how effectively it is spent and that anyone interested in ending extreme poverty is also deeply invested in tackling corruption both here and abroad.

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  • Scott Chandler

    I completely agree with you Sam we must continue to give aid and we must also be accountable to where it is being used and that it is being used effectively.

    Most governments in Africa are either socialist in nature or highly corrupt dictatorships or both. In either event they prevent people from pursuing their own economic interests and acquiring property in a free market. When people are denied the ability to exercise their right to property the incentive to work is taken away. When governments attempt to interfere with the natural workings of the market labor and capital and resources can not flow to where demand for them exists, thus normal wealth producing economic activity fails to occur and poverty results.
    TO SUM IT UP ALL – AFRICA IS NOT POOR, IT IS POORLY MANAGED!

    We as a society must do all we can to weed out corruption and government mismanagement in developing countries (esp Africa) allowing the ‘people’ to lift themselves out of poverty and become self sustaining.

    I delivered 5 talks to a total of 130 Year 7 pupils today and here’s a few comments/messages that they wrote the Prime Minister; they fit well here:

    ‘You take our money with the taxes but you spend most of it in the UK, we are alot better off than most other countries, spend it on them. Help them’

    ‘If you know what is happeening to these children then why don’t you do alot? The people of England give enough of our hard earned money while you still don’t do alot. Why should so many people die a day whilst we don’t help. More governments money needs to help further. Get the message around. Help their countries governments and see what is happening and make a difference’

    ‘Would you like to see a child die? Well I wouldn’t and now is your time to act! But you won’t, you all bothered by increasing the price of stamps but there are people out there suffering of no water, homes to live. You need to change this!’

    ‘Dear Mr Osbourne, we hope to help people in Africa because they don’t have any food or clean water. Could you spend some of your £520,000,000,000 budget every year for some clean water and an extreme poverty’

    ‘Do you know how much a pie is in Greggs? What do you spend tax on?’

    Just thought I would share some of these messages with you, I think there all the more promient now!

    Talking to another 130 Year 7’s tomorrow…

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  • Littleshoehorn

    Here Here Sam. I’m really let down by the report released today. I feel it indicates a general lack of understanding on the issue of extreme poverty. Keep going man!! xxx

  • Anonymous

    Oh, misread.

    Thing is, I don’t have a problem with the current budget but a major increase right now is irresponsible.

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  • Roger

    Well said. Btw – is it just the Tory lords saying this or do Labour lords say such things too?

  • Scott Chandler

    0.7% in international aid is nothing compared to the money that was used to bailout the banks the major parties responsible for economic situation we are in. The government should stay committed to the 0.7% as without it, we would be withdrawing the lifeline of so many of the world’s poorest, this cannot happen, there is still 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty and this shouldn’t be the case in the 21st Century.

  • Anonymous

    At a time when people are starving in *this* country, a large *increase* in the foreign aid budget isn’t something I can support.

  • Ed’s Talking Balls

    ‘there is much public support for the UK providing lifesaving aid, clearly showing this report to be out of step with much public opinion.’

    I’d imagine it’s very much in step with public opinion.

    When you refer to a previous blog post, I presume you mean this one?

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2012/03/international-development-uk-aid-popularity/#disqus_thread

    In the comments thread, I linked to a poll which showed widespread disapproval of the policy. As far as I’m aware, this position hasn’t changed. Certainly, all those I’ve spoken to about it are against it.

    Just when I was beginning to think the House of Lords was completely out of touch (cf. proposed amendments to the housing benefit cap), it has at least proved that it ‘gets’ some issues.

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  • Scott Chandler

    I have been speaking to many of my African friends in recent days as can be seen from a previous comment, I just wanted to share some more thoughts after discussions with you. The problem across Africa is the victim mentality – the tendency to shift blame for their problems from their selves to other people (colonialists, leaders, the west, etc) while their problems are largely domestically generated and the demands to solve them are locally articulated, the framework of discussing the solution is always a textbook theory developed out of the experience of other countries, publications of solutions generated by Harvard, Cambridge, Yale, ”solutions” offered by World Bank, IMF, etc which are completely different from the local circumstances, and more often, a complete misdiagnosis of problems . Part of Africa’s predicament is born of this persistent mismatch between demands and solutions. According to my African Friends the people need to take responsibility for themselves. They need to empower their own people. External assistance is okay. But they need to begin with their own solutions. One of my Ugandan Friends is one of those who has pledged to be one of the problem solvers for the continent after realizing that as a continent people are so good at problem identification, but so pathetic at problem solving. Only Africans can save themselves he says.

    (some of these aren’t necessarily my views but ones that I have listened to, but some make alot of sense)

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  • Neil

    It is essential that the government and any other future government upholds their commitment to 0.7% aid for developing countries therefore I would strongly support this commitment being put into law.

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