The Government’s announcement on plans to slash the UK Aid budget is ‘unjust’ at a time when it is ‘never needed more’.
So says Peter Waddup, National Director of The Leprosy Mission, who was one of 187 charity chief executives to sign an open letter to Boris Johnson.
The letter urged the Prime Minister to reconsider cutting the UK Aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income. It called for an international and collaborative response to the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has resulted in 115 million people set to be pushed back into extreme poverty.
Today’s announcement of plans to reduce UK Aid spending to 0.5% of national income breaks the Conservative manifesto promise to protect the 0.7% aid commitment.
It has sparked a cross-party backlash, further inflamed by Mr Johnson’s announcement on Wednesday that there will be a four-year £16.5bn boost to the defence budget.
Former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair warned that cutting UK Aid was a moral, strategic and political mistake.
Yesterday Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby cited Jesus’ teaching on loving our neighbour as being not only those close by us. “We need to heed that message in the tough times as well as the good,” he said.
The 0.7% target was proposed by the United Nations in the 1970s. It was not, however, adopted by the UK until 2005 under Mr Blair’s Labour leadership.
It was met in 2013 under Mr Cameron’s Conservative government. After fervent campaign by charities, including The Leprosy Mission, the 0.7% aid target was enshrined in law in 2015.
Peter Waddup said: “We have had the privilege of putting UK Aid money to work in Africa and Asia. We have seen the life-changing difference it makes to the world’s most marginalised people and their communities.
“Not only is it helping to end global transmission of diseases like leprosy that should not exist today, but it has lifted millions from extreme poverty.
“At a time when millions of people across the globe are now struggling to survive because the global pandemic, UK Aid is a never more needed lifeline.
“As the World Health Organisation has repeatedly said, no country is able to tackle the coronavirus pandemic and its impact alone. ‘None is safe until everyone is safe.’
“Withdrawing the UK’s level of support at a time like this is not only shortsighted but completely unjust.”
The UK Aid budget has already seen a £2.9bn reduction this year as a result of economic shrinkage because of the pandemic.
Peter said: “Since the Aid budget is calculated as a percentage of the total amount of Gross National Income, the 0.7% overseas aid commitment is already a flexible budget that falls when the economy shrinks.
“We are deeply concerned the reassurances given by Boris Johnson to not rip apart UK’s commitment to the 0.7% aid target after the merger of Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development have fallen through.
“While I appreciate the UK is facing real financial challenges, the UK Aid commitment is a very small part of the government’s budget overall.
“Yet it is one that makes a huge difference to Global Britain as a key player in tackling poverty and climate change.”
Photo: National Director of The Leprosy Mission Peter Waddup meets Jegathees who has been cured of leprosy in Sri Lanka.