Bobby Dean is the Senior Public Relations Coordinator for Restless Development. Following the recent media reports criticising the UK’s spending on foreign aid, he outlines below why we should fight for its continued existence.
I work in the international development sector and I’m writing a blog to advocate for the money the UK gives to foreign aid. Shock, right? But hold on – this is important and I’ll be quick. No hyperbole here – the UK’s compassion is at stake. Here’s five reasons why you need to fight for it:
- The media are attacking foreign aid
Did you pick up the Mail on Sunday yesterday? Around 1.3million people did and they saw this campaign to end foreign aid:
This is one of the UK’s biggest selling newspapers, its 1.3million readers compares with roughly 180,000 people that picked up The Observer (The Guardian’s Sunday paper), and it’s essential that we make the case in favour of aid to them.
This is the second week running the Mail has called for an end to the UK’s foreign aid commitments and nearly 200,000 people have signed a petition backing it.
- It’s not just the media that is concerned about foreign aid
Hopefully the above point proves that we cannot just dismiss the Mail on Sunday’s story. But, in case you’re the sort of person that likes to do that, it’s worth underlining that actually a big proportion of the UK population are concerned about spending on foreign aid too.
A recent survey claimed as many as 53% of the UK public would like to see the foreign aid budget cut. We need to change a majority, not minority, of the public’s perception of aid.
- The UK can afford it.
So we’ve cleared up that there’s a lot of concerned people. But maybe they’ve got a point? We are in dire economic times after all, right? Well – sort of.
We are in contextually dire economic times. Contextual to ourselves. Not the rest of the planet. Don’t get me wrong it’s tough for people in the UK right now, but it’s tougher for people around the world. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- There are 193 countries in the world.
- Together we all make roughly $77.8 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- The top five countries alone make $57.4 trillion, or 73% of the world’s GDP.
The UK is the 5th richest economy in the world. We are part of a top five that makes three times as much as the other 188 countries combined. As one of the world’s richest nations, we have a responsibility to lead by example and fight poverty worldwide. And how much of our share do we give? Just 0.7%.
Ask yourself this. If you were down to your final £100, would you give 70 pence to somebody more in need than you? That’s what we do.
- Aid works
Maybe the answer to that last question was something cynical like: well it depends if I know somebody is going to steal most of it from them or if they’re just going to waste that 70p.
That would be a clever extension of my analogy, designed to highlight the claims that majority of foreign aid is either lost to corruption or simply doesn’t work. Or in other words: the Mail’s central claims.
Both claims are wrong. Yes of course corruption and waste exists in some of the poorest countries in the world and we work very hard to stop it. The very specific claims that the Mail made are in fact mostly untrue. But the bottom line is that foreign aid works and what is lost is minimal. Here’s some of our latest successes:
- It’s easy to fight back
So there’s a lot of people concerned about foreign aid. When putting into context what the UK has and what it gives to the rest of the world, it seems pretty illogical to stop it. We also know that this small contribution makes a massive difference.
Foreign aid may not be perfect and it may only be part of the solution – but it absolutely needed and we should be proud of the UK’s contribution to the world.
So how can we start winning the argument?
Well that’s the easy bit. Here’s a handy list of things you can do:
- Talk about the positive impact of international development with your friends and family. Whether it’s at the dinner table, down the pub or in the living room watching the news – you can make a difference by reminding everyone of the progress we’ve made over the years.
- Email your MP. It’s the politicians that ultimately decide what we do with the UK’s budget. Find out who your local MP is here and drop them a line to tell them what you think.
- Share this blog. If you like it, pass it on and get others to do the same!
- Shout about it on social media. I know not everybody likes to get all preachy on their timelines, but this is important. Simply share this graphic (below) to spread the word about how a little goes a long way.