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The politicisation of humanitarian aid undermines a just future

The Department for International Development with no longer offer UK aid from the British people
The Department for International Development with no longer offer UK aid from the British people

The Government has come under a lot of pressure from business leaders over recent weeks to deliver a green and just recovery post-Covid. But vital for our future as a focus on the climate crisis is, particularly its impact on developing nations, it's also important that we don't lose sight of pure justice issues at this challenging time.

Case in point: the Government's recent announcement that the Department For International Development (DFID) is to be rolled into the Foreign Office. Unnecessary Government brutalism of the worst kind, it will see an end to 'UK aid from the British people' least in its current needs-based form.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was clear on the reasons why...

“aid is a part of foreign policy"

...which in classic Raab fashion completely misunderstands the difference between humanitarian aid and foreign policy. The former is about saving lives because it's the right thing to do regardless of the benefits to us; the latter is purely and simply about furthering our own interests by any means necessary (selflessly helping others is not, if ever, a requirement).

Illustrating this, Boris Johnson justified the dismantling of DFID by saying...

"we give as much aid to Zambia as we do to Ukraine, though the latter is vital for European security"

But to repeat the point, the former is about saving lives whereas the latter is about shoring up our influence in Eastern Europe. Confirming why humanitarian aid should be separated from foreign policy: the objectives are fundamentally different...potentially at odds even.

In fact DFID's own rules, based on OECD guidelines, mean certain types of 'aid' (for instance offering military support to a country like Ukraine) cannot be financed from the humanitarian budget anyway. Not that "middle income” countries like Ukraine would be entitled to aid in the first place under those same rules.

Which probably explains a lot.

And it's not as if we're even talking huge sums of money. Since 1974 the UK government has been signed up to the UN of target of spending 0.7% of GDP on humanitarian aid (even if we only reached this for the first time in 2013). That's 79p out of every £100. It's not a lot really.

So this isn't just about foreign policy. It's symptomatic of the dangerous dogma and iconoclasm that defines the current Tory administration: a desire to break things just for the sake of it...because they don't like them on principle.

And we're already seeing the negative impact on those in dire need during this time of crisis. Funding for scores of life-saving overseas projects has already been stopped, undermining attempts to prevent the coronavirus wreaking havoc in the world’s poorest countries.

As businesses rightly push the Government to pursue a just future, this must be positioned as a just future for everyone everywhere not just the minority here. Particularly so where brands have a global footprint: that's current and future consumers being hung out to dry.

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