March 20, 2013 by Caroline Maxwell
500 IF Campaigners #SpottheGeorge in Westminster on Tuesday 19 March.
Source: Craig Philbrick, Tearfund.
After the buzz of 500 campaigners in Westminster donning George Osborne masks yesterday (scary but true), and not to mention years of calling for the UK to meet its promises on aid, Budget Day has finally arrived.
As MPs gathered in the Commons to hear the Chancellor’s announcement, aside from the usual political posturing and jeering, there was an air of expectation unlike any other Budget. The atmosphere could even be felt outside the ‘corridors of power’ as campaigners waited with bated breath. For Tearfund it meant huddling around the nearest TV and we were not disappointed on news about international aid.
Today proved to be a momentous occasion to go down in history books as the day when the UK Government finally met its international aid commitment. A day of which the great British public should be proud. Ok, so we won’t get the bunting and flags out as we did for the Olympics or Royal Wedding – nonetheless today is a cause for celebration – we’re the first G8 country to achieve the target.
It was the World Council of Churches who first recommended a target figure for aid, in 1958, a recommendation taken on by the UK in 1970. Since then, Christians across the world and in the UK have been in the vanguard of campaigning for it. After 40 years, we have now reached our pledge of giving 0.7 per cent of our national income to the world’s poorest.
It is not very British to praise the Government, but it should be commended for sticking to its foreign aid manifesto pledge. Whilst aid is a small slice of government spending, any commitment is not to be sniffed at in tough economic times. As the Archbishop of York said today ‘We shouldn’t have to choose between international aid and tackling poverty in the UK. It’s a false choice. Loving our neighbour means showing love and generosity not only to the people down the road, but also to our neighbours wherever they live in the global village. When the poor and vulnerable are left behind then we are all worse off as a society, as a nation and as an international community.’
Our aid commitment will boost investment in agriculture and nutrition to tackle the scandal, which sees nearly 900 million people – one in eight of the world’s population go hungry. It means people like Farasi, a 70-year old woman living in a rural village in Zimbabwe, can now not only feed herself and her grandson, she can also send him to school by selling the extra crops she has been able to grow through sustainable farming methods. ‘There is no more hunger because of this way of farming,’ she says. ‘As we get surplus we give to others who are poor and do not have enough food’.
Farasi a grandmother and farmer in Zimbabwe. Source: Clive Mear, Tearfund
While we can celebrate this achievement we know that aid alone cannot end poverty and hunger. Existing revenues from tax and investment also needs to be harnessed. That’s why the ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF‘ campaign will continue to call for issues such as greater transparency in tax revenues, in land deals and in government budgets so that ordinary people can hold their governments to account in how money is spent. It is why Tearfund is also calling for greater transparency in extractive industry revenues so that spending can be targeted where they are most needed.
Tamsin Greig, Tearfund supporter and fan of the IF Campaign.
Source: Clive Mear
As well as ensuring that the poorest people in the world can share in the proceeds of growth, through eradicating corruption, communities also need to be resilient to the risks of climate change. Tearfund is calling on governments to identify new money, outside of aid budgets, to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, for example through a shipping emissions levy, so that poor families like Farasi can still feed themselves in a changing climate.
So as the frenzy of the Budget dies down and the news agenda moves on the real job continues to ensure that aid is used effectively. Tearfund is actively speaking out on this issue so that every penny spent reaches those who need it. The UK is leading other donor countries, not only in its commitment but also the fact that DFID is one of the most scrutinised government departments. We owe it to the widow who lost her spouse in conflict, the unemployed farmer who lost his livelihood due to climate change, the child suffering from diarrhoea who cannot access safe drinking water – and the millions of others like them so that their stories can be transformed for the better.