After a year of aid scandals, new report lays out a progressive strategy for the UK’s 0.7% spending
- ‘Re-imagining UK aid’ argues for urgent repositioning of aid spending away from ‘free market’ models
- UK aid current strategy accused of ‘benefitting corporations rather than communities’
A new report lays out the case for why a new, progressive vision for UK aid is urgently needed, arguing that it must be re-focused on principles of social justice and the need to redistribute economic and political power in the world.
‘Re-imagining UK aid: What a progressive strategy could look like’ argues that “aid spending has been driven by notions of charity, national self-interest, and an ideological belief that free markets and multinational business can solve the world’s problems,” and lays out eight areas where aid money could be used to achieve long-term, structural, progressive change.
Aisha Dodwell, campaigner at Global Justice Now and co-author of the report said: “The direction of the UK’s current aid strategy seems to be increasingly about using aid money to benefit corporations rather than communities. Promoting free-market reforms and subsidising the private sector not only ignores the fact that development should be about rights, equality and empowerment, it also ignores decades of lived experience about the best economic strategy for a developing economy.
“This report presents a series of concrete examples of positive aid spending to provide the basis of an open discussion on how we could re-imagine UK aid. Taxpayers money could be used a tool to achieving long term structural and progressive change in other countries, building democracy from the bottom up and giving people power over their own lives.”
In the last year, the UK aid budget has been subject to a series of controversies. ‘Free-market’ development consultants Adam Smith International were exposed as attempting to falsify evidence to a parliamentary enquiry, while a major news expose cast critical light on projects being financed by UK aid’s private equity outfit, the CDC group. Senior politicians, alongside a campaign being run by the Daily Mail, have called on the UK’s legal requirement of 0.7% of GDP spent on aid to be scrapped entirely.
Kate Osamor MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development said: "This report is a timely contribution to the national debate about making aid effective. The British public want every pound they pay towards aid to actually tackle global problems and their root causes, and to change people's lives for the better. Instead, this report suggests aid is increasingly subsidising the market and those that stand to profit from it. 'Re-imagining UK aid' urges that it's now time for a new national conversation. I believe that a positive, progressive vision for international development needs to be based ultimately on hope, and the best of British values, and not fear. The Labour Party is committed to forging just such a vision with the wider sector, and 'Re-imagining UK aid' sparks practical ideas about how together we can put social justice principles back into the heart of UK aid."
Chris Law MP, the SNP’s International Development spokesperson, said: “The UK plays a crucial role on the international stage when it comes to tackling challenges in developing countries, however there has been a worrying increase in rhetoric from the Department for International Development about diverting money from the aid budget for other purposes. We echo Global Justice Now's recommendations for the UK government to reverse the trend of aid being viewed through the prism of national and commercial interest, rather than one of tackling poverty and inequality.
“SNP MPs will continue the UK government to uphold its commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on aid, and to ensure that such funding is accountable and transparent.”
‘Re-imagining UK aid’ attempts to steer a pragmatic path between the right wing calls for aid spending to be scrapped entirely, and the defensive development sector that paints an uncritical position of the direction that the UK aid strategy is taking.
The eight areas that the report sets out for aid spending are:
- Strengthening public services: Health and education
- Creating sustainable economies: Tax justice
- Building a democratic economy: Public-public partnerships
- Enabling governments to stand on their own feet: Budget support
- Sparking a renaissance in farming: Food sovereignty
- Tackling root causes of injustice: Gender inequality
- Helping citizens live a life of dignity: Cash transfers
- Creating new international institutions: Multilateral spending