The 0.7 per cent of UK gross national income (GNI) spent on overseas aid provided a lifeline for millions of people. It also demonstrated an approach to global partnership which meant Britain was genuinely a force for good in the world.
And with Covid-19 pushing tens of millions of people all around the world further into poverty, now is not the time to be reducing our aid spending.
Stepping back from our international commitments doesn’t just risk damaging the UK’s global standing as we define our post-Brexit role in the world, it risks doing harm to some of the most vulnerable people across the globe.
Especially as the UK aid budget – set as a percentage of GNI – has already shrunk by several billion pounds due to the current Covid-related economic downturn. Fixing aid spending to the health of the economy is what makes it affordable.
MAG has received UK funding for many years, most recently through the pioneering Global Mine Action Programme (GMAP). Since July 2018 alone this support has meant landmine clearance organisations have released more than 83 million square metres of land back to communities around the world, impacting the lives of more than one million people.
One million may seem like a meaningless statistic but each and every one of those people is a father who can send his children to school, or a mother who can grow food on her land to feed her children, or a son or daughter who has been given a brighter future.
Because as well as reducing accidents, landmine and unexploded bomb clearance means people can grow crops on the cleared land, they can drill wells and access water, and they can build homes, schools and health clinics, lifting them out of poverty.
This is where UK Aid can be at it most effective because until landmines and bombs are removed any other development is severely impeded, many charities can’t deliver partnerships with communities and there can be much less levelling up.
And then of course there is the fear. In Lebanon, where thanks to UK funding MAG and its partners have released over 1.2 million square metres of land back to communities since 2018 alone, there is still so much to do.
British taxpayers can rightly be proud of what the UK has achieved through its 0.7 per cent commitment, and of UK Aid’s legacy as a whole, but we simply cannot abandon the many other communities like Toul around the world who are suffering.
Sixty million people still live in fear of landmines and 60 states and other territories are still contaminated. Fifteen people are killed or injured every day by landmines and unexploded bombs, and that figure is expected to be much higher due to under reporting. Many are children.
Next year sees the UK host the G7 summit and COP26, the 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as taking on the presidency of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. With the climate crisis, conflict, and instability impacting millions of people who have also been affected by Covid, this is a time where the British government needs to be stepping forwards, not backwards.