The Conservative Party’s new policies on international aid and development reveal some welcome modernisation of its thinking on world poverty – but significant gaps remain, Christian Aid says today.
The party’s goal of eradicating world poverty, set out in the Green Paper it launched today, is a welcome echo of Christian Aid’s Poverty Over drive – also launched today.
‘We are pleased that David Cameron has decided to personally engage with the subject of international development and that he is committing to the necessary minimum of spending 0.7 per cent of UK Gross National Income on foreign aid,’ says Melanie Ward, Christian Aid’s Senior UK Political Adviser.
‘David Cameron must be clear that the sole purpose of these funds is poverty eradication. Funding specifically to deal with climate change must be additional.
‘While the Conservatives now officially share our vision of a world free from the scourge of poverty, we believe that the party’s plan for realising it currently lacks some vital steps. To build a better world, we must tackle the fundamental causes of poverty, including huge existing inequalities of wealth and power. The Conservatives need to address their blind spots and explain how they would do this.’
On specific aspects of the Conservative Green Paper, One World Conservatism, Christian Aid says:
Poverty: It is vital to recognise that poverty will always be with us, until the systems that make and keep people poor are tackled. The Conservatives have not yet fully articulated their understanding of what causes and sustains poverty.
Aid: the Conservatives are right to say that aid flows must be predictable and effective, with progress measured in areas such as health and education. However, it is important that the measurement of outcomes does not distort funding decisions – there is a risk that short-term, micro projects get undue support because they are easier to evaluate than large-scale, long-term work for social change.
Climate change: the Conservatives’ recognition that climate change is a major problem for poor countries is welcome, as is their desire to ensure developing countries are effectively represented in negotiations. However, we would like to see the party expand on its ideas for mitigation - what needs to be done to prevent further climate change - and to set out a vision of how poor countries can continue to develop in a low-carbon future.
Transparency and tax: We welcome the recognition that ‘transparency is the best way to fight corruption’ and that good governance must be supported. The next step is for the Tories to accept that this applies to tax revenue as well as to aid. Widening poor countries’ tax base is a crucial means by which citizens can hold their governments to account and the only long-term route out of aid dependency.
Vouchers: Christian Aid is concerned about the proposal to issue aid vouchers to individuals in poor countries. This may exacerbate aid dependency and undermine the development of basic services such as health and education. Vouchers would break the link between citizens and the state and effectively remove governments’ responsibility to provide services for their citizens. Vouchers will, in the long term, jeopardise development.
Cross-departmental co-operation within the UK: this is welcome and should allow other government departments to participate in the achievement of a poverty-free world. For example, the Treasury and Department for Business Innovation and Skills have important roles to play in tackling structures that reinforce global poverty. However, any suggestions that DFID’s budget could be diverted to support the priorities of other departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, are deeply worrying.
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Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the life they deserve.