G20: Cameron and Blair urge Boris Johnson to rethink foreign aid budget cuts


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Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to pare back the annual commitment from 0.7 per cent of national income to 0.5 per cent in next week’s spending review.

The cut would mean a saving of about £4 billion a year – which, proponents say, could be pumped into mitigating the domestic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, speaking ahead of this week’s virtual G20 meeting, Mr Cameron said: “Abandoning the 0.7 target for aid would be a moral, strategic and political mistake.

“Moral, because we should be keeping our promises to the world’s poorest. A strategic error, because we would be signalling retreat from one of the UK’s vital acts of global leadership.

“And a political mistake because the UK is about to chair the G7 and important climate change negotiations.”

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the former Conservative leader added: “I hope the PM will stick to his clear manifesto promise, maintain UK leadership and save lives.”

Mr Blair, meanwhile, said foreign aid – and the 0.7 per cent target – had been a “great British soft power achievement” and that it had saved millions of lives in Africa by reducing deaths from malaria and HIV.

The former Labour leader said: “It’s enlightened self-interest. Neither the challenge of climate or Covid-19 can be met without Africa. Nor can those of extremism and uncontrolled immigration. To change it is a profound strategic mistake.”

The interventions came after Boris Johnson had already been urged to rethink the plan in a letter signed by 185 development and humanitarian charity leaders including Save The Children, Greenpeace UK, and Unicef UK.

“Now is not the time to renege on our promise to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income on aid and development,” they wrote.

“Stepping back from our international commitments is not the solution and risks damaging the UK’s standing globally as we define our role in the world post-Brexit.

“A u-turn on your manifesto commitment twould signal we are a nation willing to balance its books on the backs of the world’s most marginalised people, many of whom are dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on top of existing hardship.”

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman responded to the letter by drawing attention to the fact that the legislation enshrining the 0.7 per cent target in UK law explicitly acknowledged it might not always be met.

www.independent.co.uk 2020-11-21 13:05:46

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