On September 12th, MPs will debate whether to enshrine the Governments commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid into law. This blog posts from RESULTS Campaigns Manager, Dan Jones, outlines what the bill could achieve and how you can take action to ensure its advanced.
Politics is not always business as usual. Our UK Parliament usually debates and votes on policies and laws put forward by the Government. But every year, a few lucky MPs get drawn out of a hat and have the chance to put forward ‘Private Members Bills’ (PMBs) on a cause close to their heart (although the Party leaderships get their say one imagines).
This year, second out of the hat was Lib Dem MP and former Scotland Secretary Michael Moore, who has put forward the ‘International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill’ (1). Moore’s Bill would enshrine in law a UK Government spend of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) every year on aid for developing countries.
What this Bill Could Achieve
Engaged citizens are right to want to know if their generosity is really having an impact. The answer is an emphatic yes. UK development aid has a huge impact globally, including saving a child’s life through immunisation every two minutes for the cost of a cup of coffee. Over 10 million children every year have the chance to go to school because of UK citizens. Since 1990, along with other donors, we’ve helped to halve the global child mortality rate, saving over 6 million lives.
And the UK public, despite the protestations of a section of the media, do seem to be aware of the impact of their generosity. Recent research by ComRes has revealed that a level of 0.7% is supported by the majority of the UK public, and that they recognise the importance of development in achieving long term self-reliance and the realising of potential in developing countries.
Legislating for 0.7% would move the debate forward, away from amounts to the best way to use this development aid. It would make funding amounts more predictable for our partners, allowing better planning and value for money. As a percentage figure, it would also allow flexibility when times are hard. For more on why this Bill is such a great chance for development, please visit www.turnupsavelives.org.uk.
This is a great chance for all three main Parties to meet their Manifesto pledges to enshrine UK levels of development aid in law. And it’s not an increase in spending – we’ve already met the 0.7% target in spending. Instead it would secure this level for the future, after a 40-year wait to see it realised. We first committed to this target in a 1970 UN General Assembly resolution, but in the following 40 years only Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands reached this level. Praise is due to the current Government for their 2013 Budget, which marked the first time the UK had met the 0.7% target, and made us the first G8 nation to get there too.
What is the State of Play
However, the introduction of a Bill on 0.7% has been conspicuously absent from the Government’s Queen’s Speech announcements and we’ve had to wait for a Private Members Bill. After 40 years, we think Parliament should seize this chance to secure the UK’s commitment to development. David Cameron has now signalled the Government will support Moore’s Bill (2), and it has been welcomed by Labour’s Shadow Development Secretary Jim Murphy.
It’s not going to be an easy task however – there is a section of the media, and of Parliament, who are strongly ‘aid sceptic’, and though research shows they are the minority (?), they are vocal and do have influence. On a more practical note, the next step for the Bill – its ‘second reading’ – falls on a Friday morning when many MPs would normally be in their constituencies, and the Bill needs a hundred MPs to attend the session to move forward.
How You Can Make a Difference
Over the next few weeks, we’re encouraging constituents all over the country to contact their MPs and ask them to attend and support the Bill on September 12th. For a full list of the different ways you can do this, check of our September Action on the RESULTS website.