Mordaunt sets out vision for international aid

12 Apr 18

UK overseas aid will be diverted away from “governments who can afford to, yet choose not to, invest in their own people”, international development secretary Penny Mordaunt has said.

In a speech setting out an approach to aid based on involving the private sector and serving British as well as recipients’ interests, she said 89% of Britons believed that helping developing nations was right, as “they've learned through much experience that the best place to stop evil is where it starts”.

Mordaunt said some people rightly believed “that if we can tackle global poverty and deliver the global goals and benefit the UK into the bargain, then we should”.

She dismissed as “perverse” the view that goals could be delivered only in the recipient nation or that it was “less worthy” to also benefit the UK.

Mordaunt said public concern about overseas aid spending stemmed from “a lack of trust that we are spending their money well”, adding that the 0.7% of national income devoted to overseas aid should be used so that it “could not be better spent”.

She said aid spending should focus on Africa “where the heavy lifting is yet to be done” and on “tackling those man-made crises which now absorb most of the global effort to alleviate suffering and are a block on development”.

Governments in recipient countries “cannot simply outsource funding their public services to donors indefinitely”, Mordaunt said.  

She said free trade and job creation was “the most reliable bringer of peace”, and a new trade offer would be developed to bring down barriers to trade for emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

Mordaunt added: “To those who say the private sector has no place in development, I say: ‘Do you want to deliver the global goals or not?’”

Turning to financial crime, Mordaunt said the UK would “develop a new area of co-operation to stop illicit financial flows that pick the pockets of the poor in Asia and in Africa”, and work with the National Crime Agency “to ensure there are no hiding places for illicit flows”.

Commenting on Mordaunt’s remarks, Oxfam's head of advocacy Katy Chakrabortty said: “Many countries are shirking their duties on the provision of public services, as Penny Mordaunt rightly notes. Average spending on health and education is far below the levels needed to meet global goals for getting all children into school and ensuring healthy lives for everyone.

“Yet we also know that many developing countries, even those with growing economies, are deprived of resources they need to pay for schools and hospitals. Developing countries lose an estimated $170bn every year due to tax dodging by wealthy companies and individuals.”

She said the UK had a responsibility “to crack down on the money that flows into UK tax havens”.

Graham Gordon, policy director at overseas aid charity Cafod, said: “It is positive to hear that all international aid from any government department should be focused on eradicating poverty, with an emphasis to leave no-one behind.

“Further, it is also reassuring to hear that developing countries receiving UK aid will not be required to spend the money on UK goods and services or undertake certain security assurances.”

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