Following renewed calls in the media for Britain to rethink its commitment to foreign aid, Simon O'Connell, Executive Director for Mercy Corps said:
Recent coverage of foreign aid and the ensuing debate risks missing the crucial point that helping people overseas is deeply embedded within British society and central to the UK’s position on the world stage. In this inter-connected world, UK Aid provides lifesaving relief whilst helping people, communities and countries get back on their feet, rebuild and progress. This brings value and benefit to us all.
Yet, there is real danger that reported comments by the Secretary of State for International Development could resurface a debate on whether foreign aid has any place at all, as well as give credence to an approach that sees profit take precedence over people, and the alleviation of poverty.
Discussions on the reform of foreign aid should focus instead on transparency about how aid works, the tackling of root causes of fragility – grievances, inequitable growth and weak governance – with greater urgency and scale, and obtaining more value for money for the British taxpayer through innovation, partnerships, and the reduction of duplication and inefficiencies within the sector.
All should have an interest in this, including the private sector who is a crucial partner, but could never replace the incredible value of DFID and other large scale, expert, institutional funders who can spark massive change.
Aside from the overwhelming moral arguments for supporting the world's poorest, suggestions to refocus foreign aid seem at odds with the vision for a Global Britain. Now more than ever, in the context of Brexit, we need to be outward-looking and world-leading. To contemplate diminishing our position on foreign aid feels like a retreat from the world stage.
Notes to editors
With the help of UK taxpayers, in 2018 Mercy Corps was able to:
- work alongside local communities to meet the urgent needs of millions of people facing emergencies in 27 countries around the world.
- provide urgently needed food to more than 1.4 million people in some of the most hard-to-reach areas of the world.
- connect more than 3 million people to clean water and improved hygiene and sanitation facilities during emergencies around the world.
- connect more than 1.1 million farmers to the resources they need to increase their production, feed their families and boost their incomes.
- support more than 142,000 people with job training and sustainable livelihood opportunities.