Ukraine crisis shows Sunak’s sums no longer add up

The increasing fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows the rationale for keeping the cut to UK aid is out of date and the return to previous levels must be accelerated, according to anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign.

With the biggest European refugee crisis since 1945, rocketing food prices as a result of the conflict, and the wider economic aftershocks felt around the world, it will no longer be possible for the UK to meet its strategic priorities or international obligations within the reduced aid budget.

UK aid has been continually squeezed since the decision in 2020 to cut the budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income. The crisis in Ukraine has added yet more pressure on the already reduced budget, as essential humanitarian aid is sent to help people in the conflict.

“We’re in a different place to when the aid budget was first cut” said ONE’s UK Director Romilly Greenhill. “Since the Chancellor announced the cut in 2020, circumstances have changed, and the justification that was used then no longer holds.

“The Government cannot deliver on its own agenda at the current budget, and with more and more spend being added, UK aid is being stretched to breaking point. It’s pushing existing anti-poverty work out.

“The Chancellor has said he wants to return to 0.7% of national income in aid by 2024/25 – we simply cannot wait that long, and we need to see this timetable accelerated.”

Multiple humanitarian emergencies, as well as the controversial decision to include the cost of COVID19 vaccines shared with other countries within the UK’s ODA spend, have stretched an already reduced budget.

It means that people in the world’s poorest places are having life-saving support withdrawn as the British Government includes more areas of spending while not reinstating the 0.7% commitment.

The timing of the intervention is key, given the International Development Strategy – laying out how the UK will approach the global fight against poverty – is expected imminently, and the Chancellor will be giving the 2022 budget announcement.

Analysis conducted by ONE before the invasion of Ukraine mapped the significant impact of the aid cuts on the world’s poorest people. It is likely that these numbers will be even worse once the spending implications for providing humanitarian support to Ukrainians is taken into account.

The analysis ‘The Impact of the aid cuts’ uses the most up-to-date sources to assess the human cost of the decision to lower the aid budget. Among the findings it showed:

  • Nearly 4 million fewer girls will have access to a decent education
  • 5 million women and girls will no longer have access to family planning methods
  • 11 million children under 5 and women will be at risk of malnutrition

It also found that aid to low-income countries had been slashed, while some middle income countries – including China and Brazil – saw the proportion of aid they received rocket (see NTEs for full tables).

Greenhill continued, addressing the significant overlap between global challenges which require concurrent responses: “We’re seeing a convergence of crises that mean you can’t just pick and choose which problem to deal with in a vacuum.

“Conflict in Ukraine is already pushing up wheat prices, which in turn hits those in Africa facing food-insecurity the hardest, all while many of these people are having essential nutrition programmes cut.

“It’s absolutely the case that people fleeing violence in Ukraine need to be supported and people facing famine in East Africa need to be supported. But by keeping our aid budget unnecessarily reduced, the UK is not in a position to do both, it’s forcing itself into a situation where it has to choose between people in crisis.”

ENDS

Tables on the impact of the cuts are listed below:

UMICs and MICs allocations- Table A

Country  2020-21 ODA (£) 2021-22 ODA (£) Annual growth rate
Brazil 110,000 7,784,000 6976%
China 2,167,000 13,650,000 530%
India 41,494,000 55,287,000 33%
Indonesia 11,632,000 14,200,000 22%

LICs and Fragile States allocations- Table B

Country  2020-21 ODA (£) 2021-22 ODA (£) Annual growth rate
Ethiopia 240,527,000 107,550,000 -55%
Rwanda 40,809,000 23,780,000 -42%
Somalia 121,149,000 71,200,000 -41%
South Sudan 135,347,000 68,400,000 -50%
Yemen 220,583,000 82,400,000 -63%

 

Sector 2020-21 (£) 2021-22 (£) % change
Climate and Environment 330,812,000 214,418,000 -35%
Education, Gender & Equality 382,956,000 209,756,000 -45%
Health 1,158,572,000 915,706,000 -21%
Humanitarian 546,564,000 277,824,000 -49%

As Table D demonstrates below, this will have a huge impact on people’s livelihoods:

  • Nearly 4 million fewer girls will have access to a decent education
  • 5 million women and girls will no longer have access to family planning methods
  • 11 million children under 5 and women will be at risk of malnutrition
  • 3 million people will no longer have access to humanitarian assistance
  • 54 megawatts of clean energy will no longer be generated as a result of International Climate Finance support

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