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Demand to drop aid 0.7 per cent a ‘betrayal’ says Christian Aid

March 29 2012 - Faulty reasoning lies behind a demand from the House of Lords economic affairs committee that the Government drop its commitment to give 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income in overseas aid, says Christian Aid.

The committee’s proposal betrays a promise made more than 40 years ago to the world’s poor, and backtracks on the moral imperative of combatting extreme poverty.

The committee, in making the call yesterday, stressed that it was not opposed to humanitarian aid. But it said increasing the aid budget to 0.7 per cent would wrongly prioritise the amount spent rather than results achieved, and would make reaching the target more important than ensuring the spending was effective.

‘The committee’s view that reaching the figure would prioritise spending over results is wrong,’ said Eric Gutierrez, Christian Aid’s senior governance adviser. ‘In Scandinavian countries, where the 0.7 per cent threshold has been achieved, the discussion has shifted away from how much to give, to focus instead on how well it could be used.

‘The committee also failed to understand that money spent in aid on development projects now can help minimise the amount spent on humanitarian aid in future. It is estimated that for every £1 spent on preventing disasters, £4 is saved in responding to them.’

New research, added Mr Gutierrez, showed that 0.7 per cent amounted to 1.6 pence of every pound of government spending. If implemented, it would put 15.9 million children in school, provide more than 80 million children with vaccines, ensure 5.8 million births take place in a safe environment, saving the lives of over 50,000 mothers, and provide better nutrition for nearly 10 million people.

‘The UK has long been seen as a leader in international development, and maintaining the pledge to deliver on the 0.7% target, which all major parties have signed up to, will enhance our ability to lead on broader questions of international development policy by joining the group of countries that meet the 0.7 per cent threshold,’ he added.

‘Academic analysis of aid shows that a key determinant of impact is predictability. Aid is notoriously unpredictable, with commitments made and then unmet, and frequent reversals over time rather than steady flows to individual countries. Delivering on the promise to enshrine this target in law will in itself increase the predictability of UK aid, and therefore supports greater impact. We should all welcome this.’

Tackling corruption is always important, he added, but the report ignored the huge efforts the Department for International Development was already making in that direction. 

The committee’s demand, meanwhile, for an early end to aid for India ignored the level of need that existed there. The stark reality, said Mr Gutierrez, is that in emerging economies, growth’s benefits are often shared unequally, out stripping the anti-poverty efforts of newly wealthy countries.

Today, 75 per cent of the world’s poorest, living on less than $1.25 a day, are in middle income countries, with India alone home to a third of those most desperately in need – almost one billion people.

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Further Information from Andrew Hogg on 0207 523 2058/ ahogg@christian-aid.christian-aid.org or call duty press phone  44 (0)7545 501 749.

Notes to Editors:

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