The UK is a proud leader in international development. From the commitments made to Africa at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles in 2005, to the present government enshrining 0.7% of UK national income to overseas development aid in the International Development Act, the UK has shown they are committed to helping those in extreme poverty.
However, only around 30% of the UK aid budget goes towards the least developed countries.
That’s why, if I Were Prime Minister, I would ensure that most of UK aid is focussed on the countries that have the least.
The United Nations has categorised 48 ‘Least Developed Countries’, otherwise known as ‘LDCs’. Almost all LDCs have the highest poverty rates in the world with, on average, half of their population living below the poverty line. This means that citizens survive on less than the equivalent of $1.25 per day in the US, which equates to about 80p, a Cadburys Fruit and Nut bar or 4 visits to the toilet in your local train station.
Not only do LDCs have the least wealth, they are also those most reliant on foreign aid. In general, aid accounts for more than 70% of income in LDCs, and governments are very limited in their capacity to mobilise domestic resources. In 2012, governments of LDCs had an average of £116 to spend on each citizen for the whole year; in the UK that figure is £8,788 per person- keeping us safe, healthy and educated.
However, despite the evidence of a greater need and a greater value for aid in LDCs, since 2010 donor governments have reduced the proportion of aid to going to LDCs. This leaves only a third of global aid currently reaching those who need it most. This trend is projected to continue unless political leaders take concerted action to reverse it. If I were Prime Minister, I would make the concerted action and guarantee at least 50% of UK aid was directed towards LDCs.
LDCs are worth the investment as they have made considerable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – the set of international development targets agreed by all UN states in 2000. Since 1990, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has halved in LDCs, and the number of children enrolled in primary school had risen from 50% to 75% in 2010.
With new global development goals being set this year, it is vital that we do not overlook LDCs but ensure their needs are at the heart of the development agenda.
If I were Prime Minister I would make certain that the UK plays their part in supporting poorer countries, helping them to achieve both the Millennium Development Goal targets and the new global goals by focussing UK aid to where it is most needed and where it will have the greatest impact.