Patrick Grady: We must not use recession as an excuse to cut global aid
The Cabinet reshuffles at Holyrood and Westminster last week should not distract us from the huge challenges facing both administrations.
And the responsibilities in front of Justine Greening, at the Department for International Development, and Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s new international development minister, cannot be overstated.
For the first time in decades, the number of people going to bed hungry at night is increasing – nearly one in seven of the world’s population. The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund’s work with some of the poorest people on the planet bears witness to the huge difference that aid can make. This can often mean the difference between life and death for many, but the aid also helps many more become self-sufficient and free from poverty in the long term.
The UK government must stick to its commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international development – and it must spend this money effectively.
Even in a time of recession, we cannot ignore the needs of the poorest in our global community and the current aid budget must not become an easy target for cuts.
In Scotland, there has been a commendable cross-party consensus on the maintenance and use of the International Development Fund to fight global poverty, and on setting ambitious goals to tackle the emissions which cause climate change, which is hitting the poor first and hardest.
But combating global poverty cannot just be about the work of individual ministers or departments. Action is needed across and between governments to overturn unfair international trade practices, reduce the impact of ever-rising global food prices and deal with the onset of climate change.
The UK government reversing its opposition to a “Robin Hood tax” on large financial transactions, which could raise billions to help combat poverty at home and abroad, would be a good start.
SCIAF wishes Mr Yousaf and Ms Greening well in their new posts. Their success or failure will be measured in terms of thousands of lives saved – or lost.
• Patrick Grady is the advocacy manager at the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund
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