One of my first jobs was with Tearfund, a leading UK charity working to end poverty around the world. I met fellow development workers and the people whose lives were changing for the better, and was inspired to support Jubilee 2000’s campaign for debt relief for the world’s poorest countries. British aid can be a truly powerful force for good, as we saw last year after a cyclone destroyed 90% of Beira, Bristol’s twin city in Mozambique.
Some say that charity starts at home. That’s a perfectly valid point of view, and a sentiment which people will no doubt have added sympathy for in times as tough as these. But Bristolians will struggle to believe that is the approach of this Government, who just weeks ago refused to feed hungry children in Bristol and across the UK during the October half-term.
Like the Prime Minister dissolving the Department for International Development within two months of taking office, cutting international aid is a short-sighted and backward step. The current legislation sets our contribution at 0.7% of Gross National Income: rising when the economy grows, and falling when it contracts. In the midst of a crisis like the current pandemic, that makes sense – but the Government has instead chosen to cut aid spending by almost three-times the forecasted fall in the UK’s economy.
Nor is this a party political issue. Government Ministers who understand the economic logic of ‘aid then trade’ have resigned over this. A Conservative former Secretary of State for International Development has warned that these cuts risk pushing more people into extreme poverty and – by reducing childhood immunisations and scaling back healthcare investments which stop women from dying in childbirth – contributing to 100,000 preventable deaths around the world.
Through international networks like the Mayors’ Migration Council and Global Parliament of Mayors, and in partnership with the C40, we work together with cities from every continent to tackle common challenges. For a city like Bristol – with nearly 100 languages spoken and home to communities hailing or descending from places all over the world – the global is often not just local but personal and so, for many Bristolians, this announcement will be too.