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Why the UK government is wrong to cut overseas aid

Here’s everything you need to know about UK aid – what it is, why it matters, and how you can join in prayer and action.

Written by Tearfund | 26 Jan 2021

The original version of this story was published on 25 November 2020. We’ve updated this page with additional information and a new way to take action.

The UK government announced on 25 November 2020 that they would be reducing overseas aid. This will have a catastrophic effect on people living in the world’s poorest communities.

Here’s everything you need to know about UK aid – what it is, why it matters, and how you can join in prayer and action:

What’s happened?

The government has decided to cut the UK’s overseas aid budget from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of the national income. It has not set any timeframe for how long the cut will be in place for.

The cut in aid goes against government promises to keep the aid budget at 0.7 per cent. The commitment featured prominently in the Conservative party manifesto on which they were elected.

Why is overseas aid important?

UK aid has been crucial in transforming communities and saving lives in some of the poorest and hardest to reach places in the world. It is estimated that UK aid saves a life every two minutes.

It has helped provide millions of people with hope for the future by investing in the next generation. More than 11.3 million children have been given access to education, meaning they can build a better future for themselves. UK aid has also provided vaccinations to more than 67 million children in the last five years alone, protecting them against preventable diseases.

The money has also helped 12 million people have access to clean, sustainable energy – meaning they no longer have to rely on dangerous methods to heat their homes or spend their evenings in darkness.

Life-saving support and assistance has also been given to communities devastated by natural disasters, such as hurricanes and floods. With coronavirus, conflict and the climate crisis pushing people further into poverty, this cut could not come at a worse time.

Isn’t overseas aid wasteful?

The money given through international aid is highly scrutinised by independent bodies. There is regular reporting and evaluation on how this money is spent and the impact it has on helping communities overcome poverty.

In an independent report published in January, the UK’s foreign aid department was found to be the most effective, transparent and accountable department for every pound of UK taxpayer’s money.

Negative media stories on international aid distort the broader picture and refer to a tiny proportion of the money. There is overwhelming evidence to show the life-changing work being done with the money thanks to the generosity of the UK.

‘<b>It is estimated that UK aid saves a life every two minutes.</b>’

What effect will the cuts have on vulnerable people?

The World Bank estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will potentially push 150 million people into extreme poverty by 2021.

The suggested cut in spending could potentially see nearly 1 million fewer children a year supported to gain a decent education; 2 million fewer people a year reached with humanitarian assistance; and 5.6 million fewer children a year protected against disease.

It is a matter of urgency that the government is transparent about how the remaining aid budget will be spent and what will be cut, and that it quickly restores spending to previous levels.

What about people living in poverty in the UK?

While it is deeply important to address poverty in the UK, poor communities around the world are even more vulnerable, and have fewer resources to be able to respond. The UK must maintain its commitment to developing countries in bad times as well as good.

Currently UK Aid represents a very small proportion of our national income – just 7p out of every £10 the nation earns. It is possible to tackle both the need in the UK and around the world

What has Tearfund’s reaction been?

Tearfund’s CEO Nigel Harris has responded by saying: ‘People living in poverty are already pushed to the brink of survival every day, this decision by the UK government is a cruel, badly calculated decision.

‘We are called by Jesus to love our neighbours and care for the vulnerable. Our commitment to 0.7 per cent has enabled the UK to have a world leading role in providing life-saving vaccinations, education, access to clean energy alongside humanitarian support for communities impacted by conflict and climate change.

‘The UK is due to host the UN climate talks and G7 Summit next year. How can we be seen as a credible global leader if we cut this vital funding?’ 

We are also asking people to write to their MP to ask them to oppose the cut to the UK aid budget if it comes to Parliament. 

How can I ask my MP to take action? 

Thousands of people across the UK are speaking up in defence of UK aid and writing to their MPs about it. Your MP represents you in Parliament and they care about what you think, so contacting them about this can make a real impact. Your MP may be asked to vote on the cuts if the government brings this to Parliament, so it is important that they hear why it matters to their constituents.

If you’d like to contact your MP about this, you can adapt and use this sample letter. Please do personalise your letter and make it your own. You can find your MP and their contact details here.

We’d love to hear about any response you get. Please share it with us at [email protected] 

How can I pray for this?

  • Pray that the government will have compassion on people living in poverty around the world and restore spending to previous levels quickly.
  • Ask for the UK government to look for opportunities to reverse the decision, and be transparent about how the remaining aid budget will be spent and what will be cut.
  • Keep in your prayers people living in poverty for whom this decision will impact the most. Pray for their protection, and for help to reach them so they are able to overcome poverty.

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Written by  Tearfund

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