UK’s foreign aid – A huge wake up call for Australia

ON FRIDAY, September 12, the House of Commons voted to progress a bill bringing the United Kingdom a step closer to having laws that commit 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) towards international aid.

This is truly historic for the UK but in stark contrast to Australia’s aid level, which is less than half this, and falling.

What is especially impressive is that a predominantly Conservative British government – in the middle of a slow recovery from a dramatic financial crisis – not only managed to reach 0.7% but will likely preside over it being enshrined in law to lock this commitment in for the foreseeable future.

In contrast, Australia’s aid has declined from 0.35% of GNI to 0.32% of GNI in the last two years.

“This is a huge wake up call for our own Government and other political parties that it can be done.

“Wouldn’t it be inspiring to see this type of cross-party support here?” RESULTS International (Australia) CEO, Maree Nutt, said.

While the UK bill is a private member’s bill, members of all political parties in the House of Commons showed very strong support for the objectives and provisions of the bill.

“It’s disappointing that here in Australia successive governments have backed away from what was a bipartisan commitment to reach 0.5% of GNI by 2015-16. This would not have been possible if the commitment been legislated,” Ms Nutt added.

The UK was contributing only 0.32% of GNI in aid in 2000 (the same as Australia’s current level of aid), and the sustained growth in the UK’s aid since then demonstrates what is possible with political vision and commitment.

“The current cross-party support for maintaining the level of aid through legislation is a tribute to the consistent work of global poverty campaigners in the UK, not least our colleagues at RESULTS UK,” Ms Nutt said.