Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid

This Thursday a thousand people from around the UK will be come to Westminster to lobby their MP on international development over a cup of tea.

International aid

By Jenny Ricks, Head of Campaigns at ActionAid UK

With the attention grabbing headlines on overseas aid spending coming thick and fast in parts of the media, it seems nobody wants to hear a good news story on development.

This Thursday will see a very different kind of debate. A thousand people from around the UK will be coming to Westminster to lobby their MP on international development at Tea time for change.

Over a cup of tea, they will talk to their MPs about solutions to global poverty and the role the UK must play.

Organised by six of the UK’s largest development agencies – including ActionAid – it’s the first time since the election many MPs have heard, face to face, from their constituents on international development issues.

So what will their agenda be? Yes, it will include aid – a thank you for sticking to our 40 year old promise of spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid by 2013 despite the changing economic landscape, and making that commitment law. The kind of aid that has helped enrol 46 million more African children in school in the last decade and given life saving access to free healthcare for one and a half million mothers and children under five in Sierra Leone.

Campaigners have fought long and hard for these commitments, and there is a firm cross party consensus on aid that David Cameron has staunchly defended in recent weeks, most recently at the G8.

But supporting development does not end with aid. Although it is essential now, aid on its own it will not end poverty. That’s why the conversations on Thursday will be about ‘justice’ – because this means tackling the root causes of poverty. Supporters will be talking about how we must help developing countries end their dependency on aid and stand on their own two feet.

Key to that discussion is tackling the tax dodging of multinationals that costs developing countries more every year than they receive in aid and shining a light on the payments companies make to governments. These issues aren’t just relevant in developing countries. As we’ve seen with the UK Uncut protests against Vodafone and Topshop, they’re of vital importance at home too.

There are signs that politicians are starting to get the message. Recently, Hillary Clinton convincingly set out the US agenda on the need for developing countries to build up their own tax bases at the OECD.

Promisingly, in May we also saw the announcement that the tax authorities in five African countries are to launch an unprecedented investigation into giant brewer SABMiller following an ActionAid report which found that the multinational avoided millions of pounds of taxes in Africa every year – depriving those governments of enough money to educate a quarter-of-a-million African children.

We’re looking for more on tax as part of the coalition government’s development agenda.

George Osborne said at the Conservative party’s 2009 conference:

“We will also target tax evasion and off-shore tax havens.”

We need to hold him to this promise and push for greater international progress on country by country reporting on tax compliance, at November’s G20 summit.

Strangely enough, progress on more long term changes to end poverty may be the way to silence the critics of overseas aid. It’s the conversation politicians can’t afford not to have with their constituents.

Tea time for change, Thursday 9 June, 11am-4pm, Central Hall Westminster; visit www.teatimeforchange.org.uk.

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11 Responses to “Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid”

  1. Malcolm Evison

    RT @leftfootfwd: Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid http://t.co/8O50Kdp

  2. Ed's Talking Balls

    I think most people are, in principle, in favour of aid.

    But, just as with charity, people want to see their money going to worthy causes and being used well.

    The problem is that people are well aware that money has been going to China and Russia (although that has, belatedly, been stopped) and that it is still going to countries with nuclear and space programmes, such as India. That’s a PR nightmare, particularly during a period of domestic austerity.

    To compound matters, one of the arguments in favour of aid, i.e. that it helps prevent terrorism and boosts the UK’s international profile among recipient countries, is not borne out when one looks at Pakistan. Bin Laden was there all along.

    Even if aid were better targeted, I’m certain people would still find it objectionable that the aid budget is being ringfenced while defence, education etc are not.

    Given that the 0.7% figure is resented by many, arguing for an increased figure is going to be a tough sell.

  3. Tea Time for Change

    Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  4. Will Tucker

    Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  5. Jenny Ricks

    RT @leftfootfwd Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  6. Ben Niblett

    RT @leftfootfwd Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  7. Tea Time for Change

    RT @leftfootfwd Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  8. Glen Tarman

    RT @leftfootfwd Time to go beyond 0.7 per cent on aid: http://bit.ly/lCgk7m writes @ActionAidUK's @Jenny_Ricks @TeaTime4Change

  9. Nigel Fairbrass, SABMiller

    We agree with Tea Time for Change’s assertion that aid alone will not bring an end to poverty. In fact, we would argue that creating sustainable enterprise and employment is the most effective solution. For example, for every person we employ in Ghana, another 20 jobs are supported in the wider value chain. This is just one part of our socio-economic impact in Ghana, which is described in a report we have launched today. Read the report here: http://www.sabmiller.com/index.asp?pageid=75

  10. Becki

    @Ed’s Talking Balls – I agree, arguing for an increased percentage of international aid would be a tough sell – which is why no-one’s arguing for an increased percentage of international aid. This article states that the Tea Time for Change campaign included a ‘thank you’ for sticking to the promise of 0.7% aid, and encouragement to make it the law… never was there mention of raising the figure.
    In fact, that’s not the point of this article at all – the point is that more money is lost by tax avoidance that is given through aid. The campaigners at Tea Time for Change yesterday were lobbying their MPs not for more aid spending, but for UK and EU legislation meaning greater transparency in global and corporate trade. The ‘beyond’ of the headline refers not to the 0.7% target, but the idea that the UK can just give money and hope that that’s enough.

    It’s not.

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