• Loading

Stick to timetable over aid promise, Christian Aid urges

Christian Aid is calling on the government to keep to its original timetable for passing into law its commitment to give 0.7 per cent of gross national income in foreign aid. 

The Conservative party said in its election manifesto it would legislate to that effect in the first session of a new Parliament. When the Coalition came to power, the Department for International Development said the legislation would be tabled before the present Parliamentary session ends in April.

A series of delays culminated this week with International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell reportedly telling a newspaper that the Government feared a public backlash if it did not first pass legislation that would help Britain’s economic recovery.

While fully understanding the need to help the UK economy, Christian Aid fears that the government may now be moving away from its undertaking to make the foreign aid commitment a matter of law.

There are just 10 weeks left in the present Parliamentary session, with time also running out to include  the legislation in the Queen’s speech in May, which outlines the bills that will be tabled during the next Parliamentary session.

Christian Aid Senior Political Adviser Sol Oyuela said: ‘The government’s decision to ring-fence the aid budget in difficult economic times is commendable,  but it must now make good its promise to legislate to that effect.

‘The UK has long been a leader in international development. Maintaining the pledge to legislate during this difficult economic period will send a powerful signal for other countries to follow that any economic recovery ‘will not be built on the backs of the world’s poor’.

‘In addition, predictability is a key factor in making aid effective. Aid is notoriously unpredictable, with commitments made and then not met. Legislation will combat this.

‘The average UK tax payer’s contribution to the overseas aid budget in 2009 was less than £1 a week. That is not a large outlay considering the very real difference it can make to people battling hunger and disease.’

Ms Oyuela added that the government earned considerable respect when it safeguarded aid from cuts. Since then, however, it has come in for sustained criticism from certain sections of the press unhappy that some aid money is going to emerging economies officially classed as middle-income.

The criticism fails to reflect how the demographics of poverty have changed in recent years. Whereas 20-30 years ago, the vast majority of the world’s poorest people were found in poor countries, today 75 per cent of those in extreme poverty, surviving on less than a $1 a day, live in middle-income countries.    

Notes to editors                                                                                          

For more information call Andrew Hogg on 0207 523 2058/ 07872 350534 or call the duty press officer on 07850 242950

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3.  Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together inhumanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk