Protecting overseas aid budget is in our national interest

Guest writer Adam Short, of the Young Fabians, argues that the ring-fencing of UK aid in the spending review is right and in the country's interest.

Our guest writer is Margaret Dantas Araujo, a member of the Young Fabian Livelihoods and Resource Security policy development group; the culmination of this project is the Young Fabian pamphlet, ‘The New Generation’, launched last night in the House of Commons by former international development secretary Douglas Alexander

It is right because during these austere times we have a moral duty to help the world’s poorest people and it is in our interest because it plays an important role in making the world a more stable and prosperous place. But that’s only half the story. The coalition has proposed a significant shift of focus in the aid budget towards failing and conflict-affected states.

This approach risks ignoring the fundamental dilemmas of resource scarcity that underlie the real development challenges of the coming decade: the carbon intensive growth that underpins current development gains, the high inequalities present in many middle income economies and the huge increases in urban poverty.

Progressive development policy must begin with these dilemmas in mind, bridging development, environmental and distributive concerns. Failing to address these issues or the series of interdependent, systemic challenges they relate to – energy and food security, jobless growth, climate change, global governance – will leave the UK and developing countries more, not less vulnerable.

The most powerful way that the UK can lead in a changing world is by example. Domestic action towards sustainable development strengthens the moral and political foundations needed for a global role as catalyst and reformer, impacting positively upon the environment and the world’s most vulnerable.

Cutting investments in UK renewable energy as the coalition government has done is short sighted and in the long run increases Britain’s dependence on energy imports and undermines our international efforts. Why should other countries invest in renewable energy if we do not?

The UK’s economy should be synonymous with sustainable products, design and construction, clean energy and technology, ethical consumers and attractive, green cities. These would be the true green shoots of a balanced British recovery and it is vital therefore that this moment is used to press for a new, greener, more equitable path to growth in Britain and overseas.

The UK should push for the G20 to broaden its sights from the immediate and much needed reform of the global banking and financial system towards green and equitable growth. Currently, $70 trillion is held by investment funds ready to invest.

Such investment could help the least developed countries leapfrog dirty development by building low carbon energy infrastructure – such investment could spur growth by investing in communications systems, such as broadband, that encourage entrepreneurship by enabling people to connect market information and local knowledge, enhance opportunities for civil society organisation and help in the provision of efficient and effective basic services.

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