Opinion: Why the UK should keep its promises on international aid

The best use of aid for International Development has been a controversial topic recently, with rows over the need for aid to India spilling onto the front pages – many of them spectacularly ill-informed on both sides. That issue is complex – but at least you can rely on Liberal Democrats to think about it carefully. In 2010, I chaired a policy working group on international Development, which argued that the UK should focus on supporting good governance, sovereignty and accountability to the poor, so that countries could move away from aid dependency. As India has all of those, we argued that aid to India could stop now. However, with more people living below the poverty line in India than the whole of Africa, the counter-argument is also strong. In the end an amendment from House of Commons International Development Select Committee Chair Malcolm Bruce, calling for aid to continue for now, was supported by conference.

What all Liberal Democrats agreed on, though, was the importance of meeting the UK’s long-standing commitment to increase aid to 0.7% of Gross National Income. Debates about rising powers like India must never distract from the real need that continues to exist in many parts of the world – nor from the huge, immediate, beneficial impact that UK aid can have on people’s lives.

A report published yesterday by ONE, the anti-poverty campaigners, spells out for the first time the impact that the UK could have over the next four years if we maintain that commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on aid. By 2015, UK aid is expected to put 15.9 million children in school, provide over 80 million children with vaccines against life-threatening diseases – saving an estimated 1.4 million lives – and ensure 5.8 million births take place in a safe environment, saving the lives of over 50,000 mothers.

These results are truly staggering, and there are many more in the full report. Liberal Democrats should be proud to be part of a Government that will finally deliver on a forty year old promise. In tough economic times this is even more impressive and, as the research shows, by not cutting aid off to some of the poorest people in the world the UK will be changing lives for the better.

Aside from the moral argument, at times like this well-spent aid is good for Britain too. It helps create stability in fragile states and builds future markets for British companies. On Wednesday, when the Chancellor is expected to restate the trajectory to 0.7%, Liberal Democrats should celebrate

* David Hall-Matthews is Chair of the Social Liberal Forum

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Quite right. I liked this stat from their website (re. UK): “The amount of edible food thrown away each year is worth £12bn – still more than the entire aid budget will be after reaching 0.7%”.

  • we have promised to meet the 0.7% target in every manifesto, so now we are in Government we must keep the promise. It is a promise we can keep and, it will bring benefits to the Uk in the longer term by helping to develop markets with whom we shall be able to trade in the future.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarJonathan Maltz 13th Nov - 6:18am
    Unless we are willing to stand down in around 70-80 Labour held seats where the Labour candidate is strongly pro remain, and Labour is willing...
  • User AvatarPete Tanner 13th Nov - 4:35am
    A big well done and many thanks to Nick Harvey from his old constituency in North Devon. We have fond memory’s of Nick as a...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 13th Nov - 12:14am
    Correction. Shoud say above - As a rule of thumb projects need to be able to generate a minimum of £1.50 in the form of...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 13th Nov - 12:07am
    Arnold Kiel gets to the crux of the matter when he writes "Public investment works if it triggers the deployment of private capital, but not...
  • User AvatarMartin 12th Nov - 11:52pm
    I see that Peter Martin's economics requires an autocratic and dictatorial, isolated system.
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 12th Nov - 10:43pm
    The £50m 'Remain Bonus' (splendid notion!) will need some rather careful figuring out of how it can be spent on 'public services and tackling inequality'....