This is a response to the public comments received on The Coalition: Our Programme for Government on international development. Thanks to all of you who commented.
Many of you asked why, in the current economic climate, the Coalition Government remains committed to meeting the internationally agreed target of spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid by 2013. The case for aid is strong and we believe dropping this pledge would be a serious mistake for a number of reasons.
First, it’s morally right. This country has a long and proud tradition of helping those less fortunate than ourselves. We believe British people want to act to help change a world where every year 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday; where one in eight women in Sierra Leone dies giving birth; or seventy-two million children miss out on primary education. The overwhelming generosity of the UK public towards Haiti earlier this year shows that despite hardships faced at home, people still care about the world’s poorest.
Secondly, promoting global prosperity is firmly in Britain’s national interest. In Afghanistan, our development aid is helping bring about political progress, complementing the work of our military to bring much-needed security. More broadly, the relationship between poverty and instability in parts of the world important to Britain is clear. A more prosperous world is a safer world and, whether we are dealing with global pandemics, climate change or conflict, we will spend much more in the future if we only deal with the symptoms, rather than address the causes upstream.
Delivered effectively, aid can work miracles: we have eradicated smallpox and reduced polio from 350,000 cases a year in 1998 to under 2,000 today. The number of people on life-saving treatments for AIDS has increased from 400,000 in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. But if we are asking the country to give more, it is our responsibility to ensure 100 pence of every pound is spent wisely. Value for money must be central to everything we do. The Department for International Development (DFID) is creating an independent organisation to monitor and evaluate how our aid is spent, and has introduced a UKAid Transparency Guarantee to make our aid fully transparent to citizens both in the UK and in recipient countries. And we will continue to take a zero tolerance approach to corruption in our work.
Many respondents also questioned why we give money to seemingly rich countries, and they are right to do so. We are ending our aid to Russia, and the Secretary of State has decided to stop our development aid to China as soon as is practical. We will look carefully at our aid to India, bearing in mind that 20% more people live on less than $1.25 a day in India than in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Meanwhile, we are reviewing all our other country programmes, as well as our aid spent through multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and the United Nations, to ensure taxpayers’ money has the maximum impact on poverty.