Yesterday saw a historic moment, as the House of Lords passed the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, which guarantees the UK’s continuing commitment to spending 0.7% of our national income on international development.
Like many others, RESULTS is delighted, and yesterday joined with campaigners and politicians from all the major parties in a small celebration. We’re holding off on our big celebration until the moment the Queen has added her signature and the Bill officially becomes law (expected in a few weeks). At that stage we’ll be cheering even more loudly, and we hope you will join us. We’ll be sending our supporters more details of how they can take action to celebrate this historic moment shortly, so watch this space!
In the meantime, here are five key reasons why we at RESULTS, and many other campaigners, NGOs, politicians and development workers, are celebrating the 0.7% commitment becoming law.
1. Our leaders are (finally) fulfilling their promise to end poverty
The United Nations agreed in 1970 (45 years ago) that all nations would move towards the target of spending 0.7% of their income on overseas aid. Since then, several countries have reached the target, including Norway, Sweden, Denmark and, as of 2013, the UK.
In passing the 0.7% Bill into law, the British public can see that our political leaders are fulfilling their promise to end poverty. It is a promise that has been reiterated over and over, including in the 2010 General Election Manifestos of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour Party, and in the Coalition Government agreement. Our commitment to 0.7% has allowed the UK to save millions of lives, and ensure millions of children can get an education. With our leadership on development secured in law, we can truly aim for the end of poverty.
2. The timing, and moving the debate on
The Queen will sign the Bill into law just weeks before our General Election on 7th May. With commentators anticipating the most unpredictable election result in a generation, and the chance of different combinations of parties forming a coalition government, it is essential that the UK’s leadership role in international development is secured – this new law can give our partners across the world peace of mind that the British people, and British government, will continue to fight for a world of prosperity for all.
By securing the 0.7% commitment in law, the debate about international development here in the UK can also move on. Putting our promises to the poorest beyond the day to day debates of party politics means policy-makers can focus on how we continue to improve the quality of aid, instead of having an annual debate on whether we intend to stick to our commitments. For too long, the argument has been about figures and quantity of overseas aid.
Now, the public, the media, our MPs and Government can focus on what matters – ensuring that our development programmes are making a transformative difference in the lives of the people who need it most. Here at RESULTS, we don’t pretend that all aid is good, or that all DFID programmes are perfect. It is absolutely right that the British people should expect transparency, value for money and high quality aid programmes that support the most marginalised and vulnerable people in the world. Making 0.7% law will allow DFID to plan better for the long term, to ensure that aid is the most effective that it can possibly be.
3. The UK’s opportunity to influence other countries
The UK has a vital role to play in the negotiations happening right now to agree new ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) to replace the MDGs. Our current government has already made a major mark on the proposals being considered, particularly by promoting the twin goals of ‘ending extreme poverty by 2030’ and ‘leaving no-one behind’ by ensuring no target is considered met unless it is met for all social groups (a significant advance on the national-average measurement of the MDGs).
As the negotiations now reach their crucial final stages before the goals are announced at a United Nations summit in September, the UK can wield its commitment to 0.7% as a demonstration of its commitment to the new SDGs, and as a way of persuading other countries to step up. The UK already does this as one of the leading donors to many vital international initiatives like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and Gavi, The Vaccines Alliance. Through our commitments to these global funds the UK is saving millions of lives, and persuading other countries to come forward in a coordinated, transparent way.
4. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder with our partner developing countries
Increasing the predictability of aid to poor countries helps doctors, nurses, teachers and other providers of services in those countries to plan their work better. By securing our commitment to 0.7% in law, the UK government is saying to our partners that we will be there for them in the long term. We will not walk away: this is vital.
While aid is still essential in reaching some of the poorest and most marginalised, we no longer live in a world where aid from rich countries is the only or even most important approach to the overall development of a country. Rather, we all want developing country governments to strengthen their own capacity to deliver, so that they can build the national systems needed to provide services to their citizens. UK aid investments are helping achieve that by catalysing innovation, targeting the most challenging problems and supporting national governments to prioritise their most marginalised people.
For example, the UK’s commitment to 0.7% has enabled us to be a leading donor to the Global Partnership for Education, which has helped its partner countries to develop national education plans that have helped to get nearly 22 million more children into school, including 10 million girls. GPE coordinates the external help provided by countries like the UK with the necessary leadership and ownership of the partner government.
As a dramatic and tangible example, at last year’s GPE pledging conference, the commitments made by donor countries led by the UK amounted to $2.1 billion for the next three years. That was dwarfed by commitments made by partner developing country governments to increase their own domestic financing for education collectively by the equivalent of $26 billion.
5. Funding the end of extreme poverty by 2030
In September, the United Nations will unveil a new agenda for development, agreed by leaders across the world. It looks likely that the central goal will be to end extreme poverty by 2030. This is hugely exciting, but is it realistic? Crucially, that depends on the world’s leaders committing to the funding needed to end poverty.
Developing country governments, donor countries like the UK, international institutions like the World Bank, the private sector and civil society organisations all need to step up their financing commitments, and find new, innovative and effective funding mechanisms.
That’s what is on the table at a major summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in July – financing for sustainable development. In this context, the UK’s commitment to 0.7% could not be better timed or more essential.
Imagine what could be achieved if every member of the G8 fulfilled the promise to spend 0.7% of their income on international development? Imagine if those governments stood shoulder to shoulder, united with partner developing countries who were committed to strengthening their tax bases and increasing their own budgets, alongside new global initiatives to harness the power of innovative financing and the strength of the private sector?
Then we truly could see prosperity for all, and a world free from poverty within a generation.