30 March 2015International Development
Across the world around 1 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day –this is the global measure of extreme poverty. The good news is that this has more than halved over the past 25 years, the slightly more sobering aspect is that there are now around 2.8 billions who live on less than two dollars each day –still a crippling level of poverty.
Over the past forty years the prominence of international development in political debates has significantly increased. One key feature to this shift has been the role of the church in campaigning for increased and better aid and drawing attention to the issues that affect the poorest across the world. The UK recently fulfilled its pledge to provide 0.7 per cent of GDP for overseas development assistance, and this threshold has now been enshrined in law.
Over the last year tackling the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been the priority for international development departments across the globe as well as for aid and humanitarian relief charities. While the number of new cases has declined public health concerns are likely to have a greater prominence than before.
With the level of aid established in law attention is now likely to focus on how that aid is spent and ensuring its effectiveness. Outside of West Africa the countries which have received the most aid in the past year are Bangladesh and Pakistan, and concerns have been raised about the protection of religious liberty in Pakistan and whether the UK's development spending should be made conditional on seeing improved protection of religious minorities.
Warfare in Syria and Iraq as well as continued violence in South Sudan has led to further humanitarian crises which have required ongoing intervention and support. Likewise natural disasters create emergency aid requirements –such as the impact of the cyclone on Vanutu.
Organisations including Tearfund are campaigning for politicians to meet the target of an 80 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 as set out in the 2008 Climate Change Act.
The Conservatives pledged to spend 0.7 per cent on foreign aid, and as part of governing coalition met this threshold, however the government did not introduce legislation to enshrine this level of spending. In this election they have said they would uphold spending 0.7 per cent on foreign aid.
The Greens would increase foreign aid spending to 1.0 percent of GDP within five years.
The last Labour government saw overseas development assistance rise from 0.26 per cent to 0.56 per cent of GNI. In this election they have said they would establish a Centre for Universal Health Coverage to provide global support to help countries provide free healthcare.
The Liberal Democrats along with the Conservatives delivered increased aid spending to reach 0.7 per cent for the first time. A backbench Liberal Democrat MP introduced a Private Member's Bill to make 0.7 expenditure part of the UK's law.
UKIP have said they would cut foreign aid spending by 90 per cent.
Questions for consideration
- How will each party ensure that development spending has the greatest possible impact on improving the lives of the poorest?
- Should countries with poor human rights records and in particular protection of religious minorities continue to receive UK aid?
- What measures will best address our changing climate and help protect the poorest communities from the impact it is having on them?
- How can aid spending help prevent future public health crises having the same devastating impact as the Ebola virus?