Mar 21st, 2013 11:26 AM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
This post was initially published on NewStatesman.com
Martin Luther King may have been right to say that the moral arc of the universe bends towards justice, but he also knew that such a virtuous long-term curve would not be achieved without a lot of daily hammering, heaving and shoving.
Today, after the Chancellor confirmed that Britain will become the first G8 country to reach the 43-year-old 0.7% target for international aid as a share of national income, it feels like one of those moments to step back from the hammering and see the shape of the arc.
I admit: I didn’t get into global campaigning to achieve the 0.7 target. But I quickly realised it was one necessary step along the road towards a goal that really is worth fighting for: an end to extreme poverty. And I also confess it has taken longer than I thought it would.
From the first tentative promises to “begin to reverse the decline” in the aid budget made by New Labour in 1997, to the strong leadership of Blair and Brown in 2005 to get other countries behind bold aid targets and a package of other measures, and the remarkable commitment of David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg since 2010 which has taken this issue out of party politics… it’s been a long road. But today, we can look back and see just how far we’ve travelled.
The arguments remain, of course. There are those who say 0.7 is unnecessary, arbitrary and unaffordable. But as ONE estimated last year, by reaching 0.7, British taxpayers will put 15.9 million children in school, vaccinate 80 million children against life-threatening diseases, provide safe drinking water for 17 million people and help 77 million get basic financial services, like bank accounts and credit, enabling them to work their way out of poverty for good.
And is 0.7 per cent an arbitrary target? Only in the sense that 70mph is an arbitrary speed limit on the motorway. We can argue about the detail, but the point is that it’s about right.
As for affordability: it’s 7 pence in every ten pounds of national income. As a proportion of government spending, it is dwarfed by almost everything else. A person earning £30,000 a year contributes about £67 a year to aid, and around £6,595 to everything else. Even in tough times, this is small change that makes a very big difference – and when told the facts about the size of the aid budget, six out of ten people say it is about right or not big enough.
Looking ahead, there are challenges. As the aid budget is pegged to the size of national income, each time the nation’s wealth is revised downwards, aid goes down too. In today’s announcement, £130m was cut from the proposed increase in aid. The Department for International Development can probably just about absorb a hit like that, but it’s a reminder that while the British economy continues to suffer, the world’s poorest people share the burden. And to provide real certainty now about future aid commitments, the right thing to do would be to enshrine the 0.7% target in law, as all three major parties have promised to do in this parliament. The coming Queen’s Speech would be the right time for the Coalition Government to make good on that promise.
Finally, the UK must use this moral authority and political muscle for all it’s worth as they host the G8 this June. The Prime Minister has a great vision for what he can achieve with his G8 presidency. With the necessary political drive, he could help unleash a transparency revolution, so that ordinary citizens have the information they need to hold their governments and others to account, turning resources into results in the fight against extreme poverty. And with other leaders, he can make critical commitments on agriculture and nutrition, putting political weight and financial support behind African-led country plans.
With these two steps in 2013, that vision of an end to extreme poverty will be more achievable than ever. And today will be remembered as a memorable milestone on that historic journey.
Mar 20th, 2013 2:14 PM UTC
By Claire Hazelgrove
We’ve just seen the Chancellor keep the UK’s aid promise in his Budget speech, meaning that the UK will now hit the UN’s long-held target of spending just 0.7% of national income on aid. Congratulations!
Thanks to UK aid, we really could now see 16 million more children in school, 17 million more people gain access to safe drinking water, and 45 million more people having their say in freer and fairer elections from 2011 to 2015 – being able to sit in the driving seat themselves.
This wouldn’t be possible without ONE members. Thank you.
Within just 17 days, 9,258 ONE members in the UK sent a letter to their MP, asking them to do all they could to urge the Chancellor to keep the aid promise. They held meetings with MPs up and down the country – from South Shields to Brentford – and they listened.
Not only that, but hundreds of supporters from many different organisations dressed up as George Osborne to make a splash in Westminster on the eve of the Budget.
But before the Chancellor sat down, critics were already talking down today’s massive achievement. Our work isn’t done yet. In tough times, it’s not always easy to picture just how hard things are for those living in extreme poverty, and we should be so proud today of our part in making this happen.
Help us celebrate – share this graphic on Facebook.
Mar 19th, 2013 11:11 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
Something very strange happened in London this morning. Rumours started circulating on Twitter that the UK Chancellor, George Osborne, was being spotted all over the city.
Hundreds of George Osbornes were seen on the tube, on bikes, jumping out of black cabs and even coming down the River Thames on boats. They were all heading towards Westminster and the heart of UK Parliament.
Tomorrow, the real George Osborne will announce the UK Budget. ONE members, as part of the Enough Food for Everyone IF coalition, have been campaigning to make sure that he keeps a long held promise and commits to spending 0.7% of national income on overseas aid.
Will he do the heroic thing and make us proud?
Or will the promise fall flat at the last minute?
Hundreds of campaigners, supported by thousands more who have sent letters and lobbied their MPs, have today sent a very clear message to leaders that we want to see them keep the aid promise.
UK aid could mean 16 million more children are in school and 80 million more are vaccinated from life threatening illnesses by 2015.
Ending global poverty is still a big IF, but tomorrow we could be a big step closer.
There’s still time to get behind our campaign. Send a tweet to George Osborne’s office, asking him to keep the aid promise.
— Enough Food IF (@EnoughFoodIF) March 19, 2013
Mar 14th, 2013 12:48 PM UTC
By Michael Healy
As the budget season approaches, commentators are lining up to offer the government and particularly the Chancellor their advice on how he should go about slicing the pie come 20th March. The latest in a long line is Lord Ashcroft and Ian Birrell who argued on Conservative Home and in the Guardian, respectively, that the time has come to end the ringfence on the aid budget.
The upcoming budget represents an opportunity for George Osborne to meet the 0.7% of GNI international spending target on international aid. If he announces his intention to keep this pledge (which appeared in each of the major parties’ manifestos) the UK will be the first G8 country to reach the target, and just the sixth country in the world to do so.
Lord Ashcroft argues that aid is “ineffective”, yet if this target is reached the difference it will make to millions of lives around the world is incredible. Between 2011 and 2015, British aid will vaccinate over 80 million children – one child every two seconds – saving 1.4 million lives. British aid has also ensured that 5.3 million more children have received primary education between 2010 and 2012.
Mr Birrell’s article also ignores the successes of aid and chooses to focus solely on the fact that some aid projects fail. Aid is at its best when it works with governments, civil society and the private sector to help people pull themselves out of poverty. An example of a now booming business idea that is encapsulates this is M-Pesa, the mobile money service from Vodacom, seed-funded by the Department for International Development. You’d think it would be the sort of thing that Mr Birrell would be shouting about from the rooftops.
The UK is an undisputed world leaders when it comes to international development, something of which we should all be proud. Around the world the UK is synonymous with compassion, transparency and good practice when it comes to our development work.
Lord Ashcroft also suggests that the Prime Minister has indicated that some aid money may be diverted to the Ministry of Defence. As we’ve pointed out elsewhere, this is incorrect, and is in danger of creating a false and unhelpful debate of “defence vs aid” spending.
Lord Ashcroft has implored David Cameron to lift the ringfence to “show he is listening”. Just yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron said “I believe we shouldn’t break a promise we made to the poorest people in our world”. Mr Cameron has showed that he is listening. He is listening to the ONE and IF campaign members who have been lobbying their MPs telling them about the importance of reaching 0.7; he is listening to the 28 CEOs of British business who wrote to the FT this week explaining the importance of aid to emerging markets; and he is listening to the millions of people around the world who are lifting themselves out of poverty thanks in part to British aid.
Mar 6th, 2013 12:30 PM UTC
By Helen Hector
If you picked up the Observer on Sunday you will have seen that we’ve just launched a new report that looks at the progress made in fighting extreme poverty since the historic pledges made at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005.
If you were part of the incredible Make Poverty History movement that helped secure those promises on aid, trade and debt, this is what it has helped achieve.
Our report has got a lot of people talking – so we’ve pulled all the highlights together here if you want to catch up with the conversation. Get ready to scroll!
Mar 4th, 2013 4:43 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Today’s guest blogger is our February Member of the Month, Stuart Whinney. He went along to chat to his MP about the UK keeping its promise to spend 0.7% of national income on international aid as part of our Scandal campaign.
Visit my MP you say? Let me check my schedule…
A bumper sticker, made famous in the US, paraphrases the sentiments of Mahatma Ghandi when it says ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. Despite being stuck to the rear-end of a gas guzzler, it’s an inspiring statement from an inspirational person, one that knew a thing or two about self-sacrifice.
As a reader of the ONE blog, I’m sure you will have already bought into this type of sentiment…ONE’s own tag line ‘Actions. Speak. Louder.’ springs to mind. But (and there’s always at least one but), finding the time to help can be hard work when ‘changing the world’ isn’t your day job.
Work or study deadlines, family commitments, domestic chores to name but a few, make it difficult. When you look down your own ‘to do’ list, I’m sure it’s just as long, meaning our free time is a precious commodity, one to be treasured and not given up lightly!
So where, I hear you ask, would I find the time to squeeze in some campaigning for ONE? Like meeting your local MP ahead of Budget Day on 20th March and asking them to lobby George Osborne, making sure the UK sticks to its 0.7% commitment on aid? With similar issues in mind (and Ghandi’s’ words ringing in my ears), I rejigged my own diary last December, making the time to visit my local MP on behalf of ONE and other advocacy groups I supported.
I’m pleased to report meeting my MP was great, she made me feel welcome, listened to and was interested in my opinions and agreed to take action on my behalf. I can’t guarantee all MP’s will be as receptive – party politics is often a fickle business, but it is an MP’s job to listen to and represent their constituent’s opinions, and that’s you.
Influencing our politicians remains one of the best ways to make positive change happen, meeting them in person is often the first step in building a relationship that gets stronger over time.
The importance of gaining political support reminds me of the new Spielberg movie Lincoln. I was profoundly struck by the incredible and unwavering commitment Lincoln showed to passing the 13th amendment and ending slavery in America forever.
Truth is, we can’t all be the next Abraham Lincoln, or Mahatma Ghandi for that matter. But, all of us do have the potential and opportunity to change things for the better, if we decide to make the time and commit to take action. I know the team at ONE will there to help and support you all the way, if you do!
I started with a quote made famous by an American invention (the bumper sticker), so I’ll finish with a quote from one of America’s most famous inventors. Thomas A Edison once said, ‘opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work’ – an uncomfortably accurate observation I think, but one that offers us all encouragement to look at our own busy schedules, free up some time and be the change we wish to see in the world.
Inspired by Stuart to visit your MP? We really need your help in the next two weeks to make sure MPs publicly support the promise to increase aid spending in the UK Budget.
We’ve made it really easy – get stared here!
Mar 4th, 2013 11:41 AM UTC
By Joseph Powell
This post was original published in the New Statesman.
Sometimes good news isn’t boring.
Since 2005, when hundreds of thousands of people marched on Edinburgh ahead of the G8 in support of the Make Poverty History campaign, child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is down by 18 per cent and 21 million more children are in school.
African leadership, with financial support from the G8 and other donors, has delivered a remarkable success story that far too few people know about.
Our new report Summit in Sight: The G8 and Africa from Gleneagles to Lough Erne shows that this progress has not happened by accident. African leadership has helped the region to grow by an average of 5 per cent GDP for the past eight years, increasing the resources that governments have to spend on health and education.
It was also a deliberate decision by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to put African development issues at the top of the agenda for the Gleneagles summit in 2005 and to give it the political attention necessary to deliver a strong agreement. Eight years later there is an extra £7bn in development aid going to sub-Saharan Africa every year from G8 countries, and the agreement on debt relief has wiped out £22bn. Like all ventures, some of this aid fails but the vast majority improves the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, for example by paying for 5.4 million more people to access anti HIV/AIDS treatment.
In the UK, this commitment to extra funding has continued under the coalition government and in this month’s Budget, George Osborne can make good on the UK’s promise to assign 0.7 per cent of national income to the aid budget from 2013. It would be the wrong time to abandon this promise and it is to the government’s credit that the UK is continuing to lead by example within the G8.
While significant progress has been made, that is no reason for complacency. Hunger in Africa has barely decreased since 2005 and despite increases in GDP, inequality remains a severe challenge. African governments and citizens will be the primary drivers of change and the G8 should support that by agreeing an ambitious package on transparency and tax at Lough Erne this summer.
It should make progress on giving citizens the information they need to hold their leaders to account and hasten the day when aid is no longer necessary. It should also follow through on its 2012 promise to work with African governments to lift 50 million people out of poverty through investments in agriculture.
This requires the G8 to start by getting its own house in order. David Cameron should secure a commitment from all countries to lift the veil of secrecy on company ownership by putting the names of the ultimate beneficial owners into public registries. This would crack down on shell companies, lifting the veil of secrecy that shrouds illicit financial flows out of Africa.
Cameron should also get agreement for all oil, gas and mining companies listed in G8 countries to report the payments they make to governments around the world, on a project-by-project basis. Finally, to ensure this progress in transparency translates into accountability, and ultimately improves the lives of people living in poverty, urgently needed support should be found for supreme audit institutions, revenue authorities and anti-corruption champions.
These are not simple wins for any leader – the reforms challenge vested interests and the systemic causes of poverty that have kept power out of the hands of the many for too long. Cameron must invest time and political capital if he is to emulate the Labour government’s achievements at Gleneagles. His “golden thread” theory of development is potentially transformative if translated into real policy progress on hard issues in June.
The galvanising effect of the 2005 G8 commitments has helped deliver an extraordinary eight years of progress. Now this government must show they are up to the task.
Mar 3rd, 2013 10:20 AM UTC
By Claire Hazelgrove
There’s a scandal on the horizon that you really should be aware of. Overseas aid could soon subject millions more kids to homework.
I know. The fact that 16 million more children could go to school by 2015 because of UK aid and the generosity of the British people shocks me too – and there are bound to be some up in arms IF it happens.
But that’s a big IF, and it depends on us. For decades campaigners like you have been pushing our government to deliver on their promise to hit the UN’s target of spending just 0.7% of national income on aid – less than a penny in the pound. The Chancellor’s Budget on March 20th will be a decisive moment for this campaign.
You can do something simple to help right now by adding your name to the letter that we’ll send to your MP, asking them to urge the Chancellor, George Osborne, to continue Britain’s proud leadership in helping the world’s poorest lift themselves out of poverty.
You may have seen the stories in the media talking down the great results that aid has achieved, but the reality is that UK aid has been helping to change millions of lives. With the end of extreme poverty in sight, this one last push is very much worth it.
In the last two years alone, UK aid has helped 5.3 million children start primary school, and if the Chancellor stands by his promise, we could see a child vaccinated every two seconds between now and 2015 thanks to the support of the British people. This is surely something everyone can get behind.
It’s up to us to make sure that our MPs know the full story, and in turn do what they can to urge the Chancellor to do what’s right. We’re working with over 140 organisations as part of Enough Food for Everyone IF to help make this big IF happen.
Mar 3rd, 2013 10:00 AM UTC
By Helen Hector
How much do the British public know about the amount spent on international aid? Do they think it should be cut or increased? We hit the streets to find out.
Faced with the facts, most people think that spending just 0.7% of national income on aid is a good idea. It’s less than 1p in every pound , and when you think about how much of your own cash you donate to charity, you might discover you’re a lot more generous that that yourself.
The UK government made a promise over 40 years ago to hit this aid target, and we think its about time they kept it.
Help us in the final push to make it happen, by taking one minute to sign a letter to your MP, asking them to urge the Chancellor to announce the pledge will become law in his March Budget.
Feb 21st, 2013 2:43 PM UTC
By Adrian Lovett
This blog originally appeared in the Huffington Post
The aid debate in the UK at the moment needs one of those furniture labels: “highly flammable – keep away from naked flame”. If you go near it with anything at all combustible, you’re likely to get burnt.
There’s a big question over whether David Cameron’s reported comments on the way back from his India trade mission, in which appeared to suggest using more aid money for military spending, actually amounted to much. But in the fevered pre-budget climate in Britain, they have caused excitement and alarm.
The fact is, channelling aid money through defence budgets on any scale would quickly hit a large brick wall in the form of the internationally-agreed definition of Official Development Assistance (which Downing Street have made clear the prime minister does not want to change). As Alex Evans points out in his blog on Global Dashboard, the rules as to what can and cannot be deemed ‘aid’ (or Overseas Development Assistance – ODA – as the wonks call it) are pretty strict. The only spending that would be allowed through the MOD on peacekeeping or security is the sort of spending that the Department for International Development is undertaking already (human rights, rehabilitation of demobilised soldiers, mine removal etc.). Indeed, DFID is currently ranked as the most transparent and effective development department in the world and the UK’s security-focused aid spending was recently ranked as above average by the Center for Global Development; above the likes of the United States, Netherlands and Sweden.
However, while in truth there is little chance of Mr Cameron diverting a large amount of aid money to pay for defence, the way his comments have been seized upon risk setting up a false debate, with those backing aid spending and those backing defence spending at each others’ throats.
Look at the numbers. As our neat little tax calculator shows, a UK taxpayer earning £30,000 per year will pay £7,065 in tax. Of that, £67 will go to the aid budget and £403 towards defence. That leaves £6,595 for everything else. A proper debate about government spending should surely recognise that pitching defence spending against aid is like robbing a pretty hard-up Peter to pay an even more impoverished Paul. If you want to find where the money is in the UK budget, you don’t go to aid and you probably don’t go to defence either.
As for relieving poverty in countries hit by conflict: everyone who has worked in development knows it is hard, but it can be done. The DFID is right to look more closely at this, as the secretary of state Justine Greening promised to do when she set out her thinking at a ONE event two weeks ago.
Reducing poverty through effective aid bolsters the UK’s strategic and foreign policy interests. For relatively small amounts of money the UK is able to play a key role in some of the most vulnerable and unstable parts of the planet. As former chief of defence staff Lord Stirrup has argued, “Helping people in these areas to self-reliance… to lift themselves out of poverty and to counter ignorance, will reduce the risk of conflict”.
The UK government is showing global leadership in meeting the UN target to spend 0.7% of income on development in the year that we host the G8. Transparent aid, monitored for effectiveness, has had an enormous catalytic effect. Globally, extreme poverty has halved and child deaths dropped by more than 40% just two decades. The day when aid is no longer needed is getting closer. To turn away now would be in nobody’s interest.
Follow Adrian Lovett on Twitter: www.twitter.com/adrianlovett
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
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