On Friday, the Department for International Development (DfID) published a draft Overseas Development Assistance Bill. This bill marks a milestone for the international development movement. This makes the UK the first country in the world to enshrine in law the guarantee to meet the UN’s aid target of 0.7% of national income.
Writing passionately in The Independent on Friday, the Prime Minister made clear the argument for pursuing the aid target, despite the constraints put on the UK’s finances by the recession:
“Without diminishing the suffering the global recession has caused many families in the well-off world, there should be no doubt that in poorer countries it has been the grim difference between life and death.”
The challenges that this mission faces are great. Pledging to give aid is a noble and vital act and should be a cause for celebration, yet it is not the end of the story. Against the backdrop of increased need in the developing world due to the global recession, put simply, how will the UK pay? New methods of raising money must be considered. Although substantial revenues can be raised through bond issues and donations, as the Prime Minister explains, we will have to be innovative. A global financial transfers levy would be one way of raising significant amounts of money and the International Monetary Fund is looking into it. This suggestion is not without opposition and there will have to be comprehensive debate on its merits, but on the path to achieving the global poverty promise our thinking will have to be radical.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the need for investment in the future, especially through education, and the paramount goal of building the capacity of developing countries to “grow their own way out of poverty”. Pointing to the UN Poverty Summit this September, the Prime Minister outlines his belief in the need for a global strategy with specific national targets for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Concluding the article, he says:
“In conscience and in our own self-interest, for their sake and ours, we dare not fail. We must act now to give the entire world back its future and its hope.”
The new draft bill is a progressive step for international development, but it needs public support too, in order that political arguments do not undermine it. To show your support for the fight against global poverty, or to find out more, please visit Labour’s new campaign to display public support for tackling poverty, www.globalpovertypromise.com.
By Tim Nicholls