UK must end overseas aid spending target, say peers

 
David Cameron chats to a mother of twins at a clinic in Lagos David Cameron's government insists the 0.7% target will mean large-scale improvements

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The government should do away with its commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid by next year, a parliamentary committee has said.

Ministers want to make the pledge, given to the UN, legally binding.

But the Lords Economic Affairs Committee called this "inappropriate", arguing the focus should be on the effectiveness of projects rather than an "arbitrary spending target".

The government said cutting the aid budget would cost lives.

Critics of overseas aid say too much of it is being siphoned off by corrupt regimes.

They also say money is being misdirected, with some countries in the most need of help not getting enough, while others, including India, receive too much.

'Corrosive effect'

Last year, the government promised to end direct help for 16 countries - including Russia, China and Serbia - and focus more on "fragile states" such as Pakistan.

The overall target of spending 0.7% of gross national income was adopted by donor nations - including the UK - at the United Nations, in 1970, but few have reached it.

Start Quote

The British government makes no apologies for sticking to its commitments to the world's poorest people”

End Quote Andrew Mitchell Development Secretary

The government spent 0.56% on aid in 2010 and is planning legislation to make the target legally binding.

The committee warned this represented a "37% real-terms increase".

It argued that this would "wrongly prioritise the amount spent rather than results achieved" and risk "quality, value for money, and accountability".

It also complained that a lack of accountability would "increase the risk of a corrosive effect on political systems in recipient countries".

The committee's chairman, Conservative Lord MacGregor of Pulham Market, said the peers "wholeheartedly" backed humanitarian aid.

But he added: "We were unanimous in our view that legislation for a 0.7% target for overall aid spending is inappropriate, and that the government should reconsider the target itself.

"We believe that development aid should be judged by the criteria of effectiveness and value for money, not by whether a specific arbitrary spending target is reached."

'Safer'

However, the committee welcomed the government's decision to run down aid programmes to some countries and urged an "early exit strategy" from projects in India.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said: "We welcome the committee's ringing endorsement of the tough reforms the coalition government has made to get maximum value for money from British aid.

"The British government makes no apologies for sticking to its commitments to the world's poorest people.

"Spending less than 1% of our national income on aid - an internationally agreed target - will create a safer and more prosperous world for the UK.

"And it will get 11 million children into school, vaccinate 55 million children against preventable diseases and stop 250,000 newborn babies dying needlessly.

"Going back on this promise would cost lives."

 

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  • rate this
    -19

    Comment number 91.

    There are many people in this world who are far worse off than we are in the UK. We have access to free health care, free education, welfare state. We are very lucky to have these things because many people do not have them. People who say charity begins at home should take a good look at how well off we are compared to others. It is our moral responsibly to help others who are less fortunate.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 89.

    Hi have to say I agree with most people below here. Stop sending OUR money to these Countries! Its madness in this climate & one day "if" things get better & we can afford it then maybe send some to those who really need it. Trying to buy friends by being the nice guy is never going to work & remember "charity begins at home" & we need our money spent here at home!!!!!

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 86.

    There seems to be very little debate on this subject. I 100% agree with the majority of posters. Foreign aid should be put on hold until the UK is in a position to re-instate it, and within a figure that does not detrimentally affect the UK's economy.

    Charity work in the UK is amazing, we do care about our international 'cousins' but not while our young, old and disabled are suffering.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 73.

    Aid to India seems ridiculous. As for Aid being robbed by corrupt officials this is not the problem it was in the 70s & 80s when we gave money to monsters in exchange for political support.

    The best work is done small scale working with reputable people in these countries - like the charity Avega in Rwanda. Tremendous stuff is going on there.

    Comparing 3rd world poverty with UK is invalid.

  • rate this
    +18

    Comment number 50.

    Rather than doing things the easy way and giving huge sums of cash (that we dont have) - give advice, provide workers who can help improve living conditions, donate materials, provide logistical solutions. Something the receiver of aid will be able to utilise and allow them to learn how to support themselves and get out of the rut that is relying on handouts from others.

 

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