Tuesday June 14, 2016

MPs vigorously defend life-saving UK aid

MPs spoke eloquently about the real impact UK aid is having around the world. Over the last five years this includes:

– 11 million children supported through school

– 60 million people given access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions

– 28 million children under five and pregnant women supported through nutrition programmes

– More than 5 million births took place safely with the help of nurses, midwives and doctors

– More than 13 million people were given emergency food assistance

While over the last 15 years, 47 million bed nets have helped lead to malaria deaths falling by 60%.

Diane Abbot MP (Shadow Secretary for International Development) spoke about her first-hand experience of UK aid effectiveness when she visited Somaliland with Islamic Relief and the Muslim Charities Forum in April.

“I saw evidence of the drought that is sweeping across eastern and southern Africa. Anyone who says our money is being thrown away should see, as I saw, the starving people who have lost their livelihoods because their livestock has perished. They are dependent on the aid funds that come from overseas.”

Rupa Huq MP (Ealing Central and Action) spoke passionately about how UK has supported women’s empowerment.

“A strong reason for keeping the 0.7% commitment is that it has particularly helped women. Women have been lifted out of poverty. That has been particularly apparent in Bangladesh, where Muhammad Yunus has helped to provide microfinance for women’s start-up businesses.”

The debate was called in response to an online e-petition started by John Wellington from The Mail on Sunday which questioned the necessity and effectiveness of ODA. It received over 100,000 signatures and called for aid to be reduced and given on a case by case basis. However such an approach was rejected as unstrategic and unworkable, as it did not allow for long term planning required to build the resilience of developing countries and tackle complex issues like climate change.

Commitments to increasing accountability and transparency for DFID and its implementing partners were discussed. Former Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell MP, spoke about how the government has increased accountability for aid spending over recent years.

“DFID is one of the most transparent, if not the most transparent, departments in Whitehall, and it is precisely to promote the necessary openness that in 2010 we set up the Independent Commission for Aid Impact.”

MPs also addressed concerns about balancing poverty needs at home with those globally, stressing the decision should not be either/or but both/and. As Stephen Doughty MP, who sits on the Intentional Development Select Committee, commented:

“I am in favour of supporting charities and those tackling poverty in my constituency, such as food banks, but I also support providing life-saving drugs to people dying from Ebola or HIV across the world. That is not a zero-sum game—we can do both.

“On balance, we are far better off being in there trying to deal with the root problems and consequences than not engaging at all and pulling up the boundaries and saying – none of this matters and none of it affects us.”

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