Lib Link: Shas Sheehan Government must defend DFID’s autonomy and expertise

Enshrining the 0.7% GDP for international aid provision in law was a brilliant Lib Dem achievement brought about by former Lib Dem Secretary of State Mike Moore.

Now it is coming under threat by Tories who have always opposed it. In an article for Politics Home, Lib Dem peer Shas Sheehan writes a blistering defence of it.

Enshrining in law the UK’s aid commitment was a hugely progressive step. But it has been haunted by years of attack from Conservative MPs such as former and current DFID Secretaries Priti Patel and Penny Mordaunt. The latest person to take aim at this life-saving budget is Boris Johnson.

Boris’ backing of the paper Global Britain: A Blueprint for the 21st Century is shameful. The paper calls for a severe, multi-billion-pound cut to UK’s Overseas Aid budget and closure of DFID. It shrugs off the fact that this budget has played a major role in the fight to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable development across the world. It dismisses the fact that it has helped to transform people’s lives and lift many out of inhumane conditions.

Far from positioning post-Brexit Britain as a global player regaining its place on the world stage, slashing the UK aid budget and threatening our place in the OECD’s forum of major international donors instead paints the UK as an inward-looking island no longer in step with the realities of the contemporary world. As Save the Children have said, the UK is an International Development superpower but these suggestions risk that. Brexit is already threatening our seat at the top table, we must not allow Conservative whims to threaten it further.

Just over a week ago, another prominent Brexiter Tory, the Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt suggested that the Government’s development spending should become more reliant on private sector investment and philanthropy. But the role of aid shouldn’t be to keep business happy or be about profit margins and returns. Aid is about unconditional assistance aimed at ending poverty and conflict, tackling climate change, and promoting human rights and sustainable development. Heaven forbid that we return to the bad old days when scandalous incidents such as the Pergau Dam arms deal for aid could happen.

However, using the expertise that DFID possesses to leverage in greater investment from the city and develop mechanisms to harness the goodwill that the British public shows to those less fortunate than us is a different matter, and will help us realise the trillions of dollars that will be needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

That is a different concept and one that I would support, and I might add, gives even more weight to the argument that protecting the DFID’s autonomy together with its commensurate expertise is paramount.

You can read her whole article here.

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One Comment

  • British international aid should be administered with conditions attached. Such as improving the human rights of LGBT communities worldwide.
    If foreign governments are unwilling to comply then International aid can be withheld. There should be limits to the UK’s generosity.

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