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Sarah Champion MP: “A double whammy against the global poor”

16 May 2022

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has today published its long-term plan for UK aid, the ‘International Development Strategy.’

The Chair of the International Development Committee, which scrutinises Foreign Office spending on aid, Sarah Champion MP, said:

"This scant document is little more than a rehash of existing slogans when what the aid sector needs is vision.

“The Foreign Secretary's strategy has two main thrusts. It advocates aid for trade - linking the provision of aid to access for UK goods and services. And it says more of our money should go on direct government-to-government spending rather than spending through international bodies such as the United Nations.

“I fear that adds up to a double whammy against the global poor.

“We all want our exporters to do well and to create jobs in the UK. But aid for trade is dangerous. It can distort the core, legally-stipulated purpose of our assistance - which is to support the poorest and most vulnerable whether in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa or in Ukraine. Supporting the poorest in the world should not be conditional on a trade deal or agreeing to investment partnerships. The UK has rightly been hugely critical of China for such an approach, so I fail to see why we are following down the same road. It is depressing and disappointing that the UK would devise a strategy like this.

“Promoting bilateral aid over multilateral programmes might have advantages in some circumstances. For example, it can be more efficient by cutting out the middleman. But multilateral partners like the UN tend to be the first on the ground in humanitarian disasters and the last to leave. This Strategy suggests shifting a significant amount of our spending away from multinationals without a clear assessment of the impact. That’s risky and may face legal challenges. The Government must be sure the poorest and most vulnerable benefit from such a shift. If bilateral aid simply follows trade, the second punch of the double whammy kicks in - the poorest will lose out again.

“I commend the government for its focus on women and girls. They are often the most vulnerable of all the global poor and support for them is often overlooked. The government has a legal duty to consider gender equality in UK aid spending; the needs of women and girls should be embedded in all our investments and not just be an ‘add on.’ Nothing is mentioned in the strategy about replacing the £1.9 billion in funding that would be required to restore spending on gender equality to the level it was in 2020, before the big government cuts to our aid budget.

“With a reduced aid budget, it becomes ever more important to make sure every penny of taxpayers’ money has a positive impact. Our Official Development Assistance allocation is legally designated to reduce poverty and my committee will redouble its scrutiny to make sure the government adheres to that”.

Foreign Secretary of appear before Committee

The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, will be appearing before the International Development Committee at 2.30 PM on Wednesday, May 18. MPs on the Committee hope to question her on a range of topics, including the International Development Strategy and Ukraine. Read further details here.

Further information

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