Cafod criticises report calling for massive overseas aid cuts
Boris Johnson: 'It is time to join so many of our friends around the world in believing in a truly global Britain.'
The Catholic Church's aid agency Cafod has criticised a report calling for a multi-billion pound cut in the UK's overseas aid budget.
The report, "Global Britain: A Blueprint for the 21st Century", with a foreword by former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, argues among other things for the closure of the Department for International Development.
It is written by Bob Seely, a conservative MP and member of the foreign affairs select committee, and James Rogers of the Henry Jackson Society think tank, which published the report. It has been fed into a Foreign Office review on a post-Brexit Britain.
Neil Thorns, director of advocacy at Cafod, said: “The aid budget exists to tackle poverty, and the causes of poverty. In a world of growing inequality, increasing humanitarian crises and the deepening impacts of climate change, the aid budget is an expression of our common humanity, recognising we exist on one planet.
"The UK is recognised as a global leader in part because we do not tie aid to UK’s self-interests. If Boris Johnson and Bob Seely think that changing how we spend the aid budget will benefit our global influence when quite the opposite will be the case. The aid budget should not be used to play politics, it is a rich gift and a sensible long-term investment recognising we all co-exist and depend on one planet. Just because the aid budget is not currently spent this way is not a reason to push it even further away.”
Global Justice Now also condemned the report, which is intended to feed into a Foreign Office review of Britain’s global role after Brexit.
It proposes broadening the legal definition of what constitutes aid, and demanding that it makes a financial return.
Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: “The authors of this report don’t seem to realise that Britain no longer rules the waves, or indeed a quarter of the world. All the imperial delusions of Brexit have been bundled together into a single document.
"Yet beneath the grand fantasies is a real project which would effectively abolish Britain’s international development programme.
“Over the last decade we’ve increasingly seen aid used as a tool for promoting British business – helping big business get a foothold in African markets, setting up private schools, and trying to promote the City of London as the financial centre for the developing world. These proposals would entrench this hijacking of the aid budget and turn it into a fund for the projection of British power globally."
In his foreword, Mr Johnson says: "It is time to join so many of our friends around the world in believing in a truly global Britain – a project that is totally consistent with this country’s history and instincts. The authors identify three great campaigns for global Britain – free trade, freedom from oppression, and freedom of thought – and it is hard to disagree.
"They make some keen observations about the change in the threats that this country faces, notably the growth in new subversive techniques, especially in Russia (a specialism of Bob Seely). They outline some of the opportunities we could seize, with some creative thinking about improving our already strong relations with the 'anglosphere'.
"They make the important distinction between countries with whom we share values, and countries with whom we share interests, and note that they two groups are by no means congruent. The authors are to be applauded for some radical thinking about reform of Whitehall, so as to make far better use of our overall overseas spending, and to ensure that these vast sums do more to serve the political and commercial interests of the country. This is an original and important contribution to the debate, and will give food for thought – and encouragement – to all who believe in a global Britain."