Professor James Copestake, Director of the Centre for Development Studies, has joined other leading research institutions in co-signing a letter from the Development Studies Association (DSA) to the UK government. The full statement reads:
The UK government’s decision to reduce our UK aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of gross national income represents a betrayal of our longstanding commitment to the world’s poorest people.
The timing is abysmal. The pandemic is reversing decades of progress in reducing global poverty and this cut means that the poorest people will now be denied over £4 billion of what has been amongst the world’s best-targeted package of aid spending. Now is the time – amidst the threats of pandemic and climate change – to signal a renewed commitment to the international cooperation required to deal with these fundamentally global problems. Throwing the UK’s full weight behind efforts to reduce poverty, share vaccines widely and address climate change is not just the right thing to do but is clearly also in the national self-interest. Instead, this cut diminishes the prospects of meeting the SDGs and diminishes our legitimacy to play a leading role in these processes, including with regards to G7 leadership and convening of COP26 next year. We understand the domestic fiscal challenges, but the reason the International Development Act sets this commitment in law is precisely to insulate our aid commitment from domestic policy priorities. While we welcome debate about the political economies of aid, this is not the time to waver from our commitment to make a difference to some of the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in low income countries.
We are also deeply concerned by the announcement of such far-reaching decisions before the conclusion of the UK Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Foreign Policy and Development, which will now report next year. This suggests that decisions are being taken on narrow political grounds with insufficient public deliberation and reference to evidence.
The Development Studies Association urges the government to reconsider this punitive cut to UK aid. It calls on MPs from all parties to oppose the legislation required for these cuts to be enacted. Successive governments – Labour, Conservative-Liberal Democrat and Conservative– have invested heavily in building the UK’s reputation as a global leader in international development, with real benefits for poverty reduction. This government should not throw away these hard-won gains without a full and open discussion of the alternative pathways that remain available to the UK to play a leading role in making the world a more just, safe and sustainable place.