The case for aid should have been patriotic, not preachy
Everybody loved the foreign aid budget — apart from the public
When it became clear that the Government was considering a cut to foreign aid, the international development charities made their objections clear. For instance, Oxfam called it a “false economy” that would “mean less money for the poorest communities just when they need it most.”
And yet the cut was made anyway. The hard truth is that it was a political no-brainer. As polling for The Sun shows, the decision has the overwhelming support of the public — with 57% in favour and just 15% against.
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I should declare that I’m among the 15% and utterly dismayed by the cut. Nevertheless, I also think that the charities must shoulder part of the blame.
The standard critique of the well-known NGOs is that they’ve become too big for their boots, paying their executives fat salaries while meddling in politics rather than actually helping people.
However, that’s not my problem with them. Big charities should be professional and be able to pay for effective leaders. Furthermore, if it advances their charitable aims, they should be free to speak out and campaign. If we want a vigorous civil society then we need non-governmental organisations of all shapes and sizes — from small-and-local to big-and-global.
Rather, the real problem with the aid charities is how they’ve deployed their fire power. They scored a great victory when they got Parliament to adopt the 0.7% aid target into law; but they neglected a vital constituency — the British people. By failing to embed support for the target in the wider population, they made it easy for politicians to knock it back down (to 0.5% in this case).
How might the charities have done things differently? For a start, by raising more awareness of just how exceptional the UK commitment to 0.7% actually was. Very few other nations, and no other G7 nations, have matched it. Even at 0.5% we’ll still be more generous than the Americans, French or Japanese. And it’s not just the quantity of aid, but also it’s quality. As Sam Bowman explains here, the UK has led the way in learning from past mistakes.
This is something to be proud of — and thus the case for aid should have been patriotic not preachy. However, that would have meant challenging the liberal, Remainery narrative that we’re a bunch of xenophobic, empire-nostalgists. And I’m afraid our prominent NGOs are incapable of any such thing. I don’t want to stereotype the good folk who staff their London offices, but you’re likely to find more Leave voters on the payroll of the New European.
Of course, this is a sector that going to attract idealistic, earnest young graduates. Which is fine, until it comes to necessary business of reaching out to the rest of society — where, clearly, they’ve failed.
I’m sorry but there is no case, patriotic or otherwise, for this aid. We are literally borrowing money that is handed over to all manner of criminals (our civil serpents being among the biggest criminals) and terrorists, much of which ends up in Swiss bank accounts.
I have read ‘Dead Aid’, and there are many other experts who have stated time and again that all of this aid only creates dependency at best. (Again, our own civill serpents are among the most dependent).
We should help out when there is a natural disaster or famine or whatever. But even then, as we saw with Live Aid, much or most of the aid was sequestered by various war lords.
“We” have given the World the Industrial Revolution,the greatest Empire since Ancient Rome, the Magna Carta and Common Law, Shakespeare, the Rolls Royce, Football, the United States and countless other goodies, and still ” they” want more? Incredible!
Enough is enough, not a penny more!
I agree. I have found from personal experience that giving help to people rarely works.
They are more resentful, than grateful and always want more.
However I was never silly enough to borrow money to give away.
I’m sure plenty of African dictators have bought gold-plated Rolls Royces with the aid money they have commandeered.
Regrettable, even that: with our money, they bought German Mercedes . . .
Well said, Fraser. When you see the list of countries that we GIVE money too, and borrowed money at that, it makes you sad for the thousands of homeless people in the UK. We even give China money. Which idiot started that one?
I am quite happy to give aid to foreign countries that need it . But any accountant will tell you the fastest way to ensure wasted money is to set a spending budget within a time limit. By all means support good projects -but dont tell civil servants to ensure they spend up to an amount by the year end..
I always remembered hearing of a huge famine in the Nagpur region in India long ago from a Priest living there. Huge trains of famine relief arrived and all thought they were saved, but they were full of ‘Shampoo for tinted hair’ and such Western things, donated by Western companies for charity tax relief and to empty the warehouses of un-needed things as they met the definition of relief aid. But still, I imagine they ended up being some use, and the sacks of grains also were included. Aid is funny, it is an iceberg where the top actually hits the needs of the target and the rest is dissipated in many ways.
The thing is, the top bit getting to the right target at the right time is what it is all about. Stop the aid to stop the waste means the aid stops.
When I worked in a partnership we considered charitable donations- but the decision was made – rightly- that giving to charity was a personal matter not something that the firm should do on a partner’s behalf. Perhaps the Govt could learn from this ? I
Back this spring UNICF, UN Children’s aid said 1.2 million third world children will die of poverty causes by Western Lockdowns causing reduced economic activity. Remember, there is not a safety net in the worst poverty lands. Have you seen children starving? I have.
Saving a dieing old person in the West from covid apparently kills a couple third world children. But what ever, hoard your money you Scrooges! Keep your foreign aid to pay for layabouts to get free phones in UK, good for you!
Perhaps those who are so concerned about the shortfall could increase their own donations to the UK charities involved in these fields, rather than taxing their neighbours in order to do so. No? Thought not.
“”No? Thought not.””Snide a** hole. I gave to a direct charity for 12 years when I was very poor and young. $20 a month for a small school in South Central India. At the time this was a burden to me, living rough myself, but I tended to think it was my duty, and also that it gave me the karma which allowed me to survive a life which was not very safe.
An odd thing is poorer people are easier at digging into their own pockets to help others down, a lesson I learned over and over being in the poor world. They know how it is. Now I am much better off I find I no longer give to structured charity – something I feel bad about, but it seems to be how it is. I am fine and comfortable and so I forget how precarious life is hell when it tips to the bad side.
Do you have to be so vulgar?
What had Jeff Evans done for you to respond so uncouthly with “Snide a**hole”?
Have you ever been to the Black Country, the Potteries, the South Wales Valleys, Teesside et al and imbibed the sheer poverty and desperation in these areas?
Yes, but those places don’t have their own space programs, so they are not eligible for British aid.
You just have to wonder what planet these liberals are on. The 4 and a bit countries which give the same or more as a percentage of GDP are Norway, Sweden, Denmark ,Netherlands and Luxembourg, All have an appreciably higher GDP per capita than the UK, Lux is number one. All are in the top 20 of world current account surplus balances = real wealth, eg Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. The UK is in the bottom 20 of countries with CA deficits. This is a country which hasn’t run a surplus since 1984!
Back in 2011 Peston reported that the UK’s aggregate debt were the biggest in the G7, 5 times GDP, god knows what the multiple is now. BOE Quantitative Easing will reach Â£875 billion, obviously a fancy term for printing money.
If the upshot of systemtic economic weakness plus covid plus Brexit is systemic economic collapse that should come as no suprise.
And yet liberals are falling over themselves to borrow money to give away! The Duke of Wellington once said that there was nothing stupid in the world as a gallant gentleman, liberals have long assumed that “distinction”
Oh yes, and the biggest recipient of this borrowed
largesse is Pakistan – why’s that then? Are are any passing liberals up for a discussion on Danegeld? Not that they will have heard of it of course.
Because you spend on yourself like a drunken sailor does not mean giving to the poor is immoral! It means you ethically must give to the poor as you live beyond your means like a glutton!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Maybe you could tell us why Pakistan deserves aid money.
After all, it has enough money to develop and maintain its own nuclear-weapons arsenal.
Spot on. Plus military arms and some have nuclear power as well (not power stations!). The whole charity business in the UK is a scam.
Sheer poverty Bullshxt!
You missed Cornwall from your list. (watch “Cornwall”, with Simon Reeve, on BBC)
I missed a lot of areas – I saw Simon Reeves on the subject of Cornwall, excellent programme
Foreign aid has often been couched in terms of soft power. As in, using the aid to keep influence in these countries. If it’s influence you want, you’re better served speaking in a language that is understood across the world, and that’s force. Money buys people, but they’ll soon betray you to the next highest bidder. When your foot is on their throat, they can’t.
“When your foot is on their throat”.
An excellent choice of words, if I may say so. Well said.
‘The Great Game!’ How soon you Brits forget how the real world has always worked! A few thousand British Redcoats did not keep India sending back money to Britain and buying British industrial revolution goods!
Now China is master of it and Britain staggers around like a drunk sot in the embassy party giving out all the secrets and losing influence by the day.
I couldn’t agree more, ‘our’ day is long gone.
I am slightly puzzled by your comment ” a few thousand British Redcoats did not keep India sending back money to Britain…..”
That is precisely what happened and profit and plunder was the result. Hurrah!
Again, I agree, the ‘dog eating’ Chinese think it is their turn. They are mistaken, and our ‘prodigal son’, the United States will have to deal with them, as I am sure they will, in due course.
The Red Coats policed, but the people subjected themselves to British rule by consent. The military did not coerce compliance to keep the flow of wealth going back to Britain.
The Chinese the same, military not needed to keep the resources flowing, just an illusion of the deal being a benefit, which the Chinese manage well by small, but well placed, monies spent in country.
(although the British colonies were two way streets, they did bring great social good in, as well as bringing wealth to UK, mostly by trade.)
“the people subjected themselves to British rule by consent”.
In fact only after they had been thoroughly conquered, and even then they needed a further ‘lesson’ during the Mutiny.
We also skilfully used the tactics of Divide and Rule, as shown by the debacle on our precipitous departure in 1947.
Patriotism, but now you’ve jumped ship, not a good report.
“A few thousand British Redcoats did NOT keep India sending back money to Britain and buying British industrial revolution goods!” Surely a typo? Otherwise nonsense, that is precisely what happened, and much pleasure and profit was the result.
As a traveller to India in your youth, you must have felt immensely proud of Britain’s achievement there, or did you not notice?
This is very true
China is economically colonizing the third and second world, not by force, but buying corruption. Soft force, and remarkable cheap! Like how they owned the WHO for a few million!
They just find the guy who can give resource extraction license, pay him off, put in ports, roads, plants to refine, and bring in Chinese operators, builders, and drivers to make it all, put the cost against future royalties for the minerals, and bingo. They haul off the resource, pay the debt they ran up building the infrastructure to extract it, use 100% Chinese labour to do it, and the gov guy gets a few million! The nation gets no jobs, little royalties after the debt which china built with Chinese labour and materials…..
No need for force! And when they default China grabs the lands like they did the port in Celon!
Meanwhile the West is destroying its self and its young peoples future on lockdowns which cost more death than save, and taking the eye 100% off the Chinese ball. The West is so self loathing it is doomed.
Most of this aid should be curtailed hence forth-to name just two countries- India and Nigeria – both rich enough to pay for their own infrastructure and benefits – or maybe India’s idea is to ship all their poor inhabitants off into space .
Anyone passing BAE Ratheon Jets in Chester should look and count how many Â£50 million each – private jets are maintained at the site for virtually all african and indian states.
We are one of the most generous countries when it comes to giving aid. Look at how much is raised by the annual charity telethons and when disasters strike other countries.
We do, however, draw the line at borrowing money to give to countries which don’t even try to do better by their people. Imagine how much money has been trousered by despotic leaders, whilst their people still starve. We can give aid by way of our expertise and train people to do the work themselves.
Of course charities are up in arms, because this has been a very lucrative market for them, but it’s time to stop their gravy train.
I do not mind charities paying good money to their top people.
But what I do object to, is the Government giving money to charities.
Which then preach to us and use part of the money to pay themselves.
“For a start, by raising more awareness of just how exceptional the UK commitment to 0.7% actually was. Very few other nations, and no other G7 nations, have matched it. Even at 0.5% we’ll still be more generous than the Americans, French or Japanese.”
Does the author have such little self-awareness that he does not even stop to consider that the average member of the public might feel the UK should be as generous as the U.S., France or Japan in giving its taxpayers’ hard-earned monies to the rest of the world but would not want the UK to more generous than comparably situated countries.
The UK gets nothing in return for foreign aid. If anything the resentment of the governments and populations of those countries receiving it has increased even more.
First, one should not give charity for the thanks returned. One gives charity from decency, and that you are despised for it does not change that. Second is this %ifying of charity is a weird thing. Private charity is also an issue which should be mentioned alongside the gov charity as a national giving, and where I believe USA catches up, and what is classified as charity (aid) is often not aid at all, but some other thing all together. Children’s fund still is one I like, PETA not so. NGOs, very dubious mostly.
I was surprised to find out that Britain’s foreign aid was comparatively generous. I have been taught to believe that Britain and its people are morally inferior to virtually every other country.
No, that’s the French.
And it’s not just the quantity of aid, but also it’s quality…………the UK has led the way in learning from past mistakes”.
Can I refer Peter Franklin to the article I wrote on Conservative Woman last week, that shows real life examples of the shocking waste of our money on ‘foreign aid’ -https://www conservativewoman co uk/foreign-aid-is-a-shocking-waste-of-money-and-i-should-know/
I do agree with foreign aid. Like an awful lot of people in the UK I also donate to charities working in some of the poorest regions. I know a lot of great work is done but I do wish there was transparency on what percentage of the money ends up in the overseas bank account of the kleptocrats. I know it’s a cost of getting access and I would still support foreign aid and I would still donate but I would like those who steal from these funds to be called out publicly. Also there is very little that is secret in this world so it would be helpful to know which banks and their overseas subsidiaries warehouse the money that is stolen.
The real problem of foreign aid is that it doesn’t go far enough! Sending a load of money to a desolate land and expecting infrastructure and a stable society to suddenly pop up overnight, is lazy and delusional.
If you really care that much, have a little skin in the game and go over there your self, to teach the locals some skills etc.
Unfortunately the latter method is now frowned upon, as it classes as colonialism…
There are still Catholic missionaries devoting their lives in Africa.
For the most inspirational stories read how the WHO built the world’s leper colonies (when it was run by an American) across the world using USA Mid West Missionaries. They put them through med and dental school fast right after divinity school, shipped them one way to their lingering death to die serving the Pacific lands lepers! Then there was no cure and working in the colony meant one would catch it eventually, and then move from the staff side of the camp to the patient side. NO vacations home as it could not be brought back! No marriage and family! Just service and a lingering death among foreign people in a miserable place and climate! AND they never lacked bright young people to step up, ship off, and do it! God was real then.
“Teach a man to fish”?
The British public dislikes foreign aid – the public in the “aided” countries are barely aware of it.
UK once had an Empire, we should be dam proud of our Empire, unlike the Spanish, Russian, Chinese etc we generated most of the successful nations people want to live in today, fantastic job. Even USA was made by our Empire!
It was the first one ever to spend money to free slaves instead of to make them as had been done from the begining of time.
1945 Marxist landslide, while the Marxist Empires of Russia and China were expanding the Marxists in Westminster got rid of ours in a catastrophe for all mankind, puting mankind back centuries! We have no sovereignty over the nations Europeans would need to have sovereignty to fix them. On the other hand the nations which absorbed the Imperial ethos Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, UK steam ahead but nations like Rhodesia, for example, “the breadbasket of Africa” now need 3.5 billion dolars in food aid for “decolonized Zimbabwe”! The Marxists in our universities even want to decolonize themselves instead of decolonizing the Marxists from everywhere and giving way to merit, and then yes the world will be off again to greatness.
What point is there in making the corrupt in Zimbabwe richer?
There should be NO foreign aid, not only to Zimbabwe but to enemy alien nations like China and Pakistan!
We shouldn’t take in to the UK either the failures of the Marxist decolonization, if they changed their mind about independence then that is tough, they shouldnt have listened to the Marxists or perhaps they should head for the Marxist paradises of China and Russia.
WHAT IS REALLY WRONG IS THAT A BUNCH OF RICH PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO RIGHTS TO GIVE AWAY WHAT IS OURS, SHOULD BE GIVING OUR MONEY AWAY WITHOUT ASKING US FIRST!
WE NEED OUR MONEY IN THE UK, THERE ARE PEOPLE IN NEED IN THE UK WHO SHOULD GET OUR MONEY, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO GIVE IT AWAY IN MANY OCASIONS TO CORRUPT FOREIGNERS.
The biggest problem with this cut is that by making a small reduction it annoys both sides, those like the author who feel no reduction should be made and also those who wanted the aid budget gone completely. Better to come down firmly on one side than try a compromise that pleases no one.
“However, that’s not my problem with them. Big charities should be professional and be able to pay for effective leaders.”
Yes, if the leaders focused on effectively doing their job and not on spreading the gospel of woke.
I once knew an arms dealer, who said that the quickest way to improve Africa was to stop all aid, immediately. What she meant was that her business was oiled in part by so much foreign wealth ending up in the wrong hands.
I’ve worked and travelled around 12 countries and haven’t seen any evidence of British ‘Aid’, nothing. The Japanese and French are by far the most visible with metro systems in Cairo, bridges over the Suez, water treatment in west Africa, both supposedly British areas of interest. And then there’s USAID and various German charitable/govts agencies everywhere. When we went to the British embassy queens birthday do in Baghdad they didn’t even know we were just south building 3,000 houses. The only half British firm there that day was Shell.
There’s one thing our govt are world beaters at, wasting money, blowing there own trumpet using there PR pals and causing trouble with the likes of the White helmets.
Why is Egypt so frisking useless that it cannot build its own bridges and metros? Why were you building 3,000 houses in Iraq? Can’t they build their own houses? For many years it has been obvious that the whole thing is crazy.
I had always heard that the 0.7% was the highest proportion in the donor nations, but now I hear from the BBC that it is lower than the proportions given by Germany and France. I suspect that this is just a typical case of the BBC trying to make us feel small but would be glad to know the answer ? Has anyone the correct information ?
I think that the 0.7% figure was the highest.
The 0.5% is lower than the German figure of 6%, but only slightly lower than France.
So the BBC was wrong. Oh well
It is an imaginary number. Is the pension cost of the aid workers included? How much of it is spent on the endless traveling about, hotels, flights, vehicles and so on of all and sundry. What are the costs and what the actions they fund. It is all an imaginary number really. Is much of it really just a jobs program for British Humanities graduates? It is all very weird.
I am still trying to get my head round how the finances of a country work and more relevantly in this case how international finance works. Is our international aid budget paid for in actual pounds or in the local currency we have left over after other transactions are completed? If it is the latter then great, if the former then thats not so great as we are taking on debt to continue to live a lifestyle we can’t really afford.
I think the saying charity begins at home expresses the overriding principle to take care of one’s own family, before caring for others so as not to become a burden to others yourself.
International Aid = poor people in rich countries give money (or goods soon turned into money) to rich people in poor countries.
So…….the argument for maintaining the budget is political too? Nothing about the work that’s done with the money?
The aid budget is set as a percentage of GDP for a reason; that is, the budget rises of falls with economic growth and activity. The aid budget would have shrunk automatically, and therefore I don’t support the reduction to 0.5%.
The reduction is only a “MERE” FOUR BILLION QUID! What planet do these people live on?
Aargh… (well done Unherd) – an easy article to flush out the BTL knee-jerk reactionary comments haha. Shame that Peter Franklin constructs a flimsy argument that blames the charities for the current cut – it was brought about by the government and i have to say I still don’t understand their motive apart from the false economy of saving a few quid (yes, I exaggerate for effect) The soft power argument behind aid is compelling – or do we want China to hoover up all the goodwill in developing countries, with the consequent influence in multilnational fora, UN bodies, and trade delegations and the like? As well as having prime access to mineral resources?
The UK is regarded as being a leader in how to deliver aid that furthers democracy and undermines despotism. Aid and development stems economic-migration, the push for which will intensify without a better sharing of resources. It happens all over the world – throughout Africa, Asia, and South and Central America – here we only see a fraction of the real migration-tide
The argument that charity begins at home is very often made by those who see domestic welfare as being over-generous, they do not really want to transfer the aid budget to our social security or housing budget.
And I do have a plea for my fellow Brits (most of whom are not xenophobic Empire-nostalgists) – there is a huge need out there in poorer countries for assistance, for basic health care, for food-security, for shelter, for human dignity, and this need is heightened in a global pandemic.
The plaintive cry that we cannot afford 0.7% of GDP, from a country as wealthy as ours, sadly just sounds heartless and mean.
Roy, this article attracts the post likes to all the ones I disagree with, and the down votes to the ones I agree with. Liberalism is evil, and it is the philosophy of the day. No duty and sacrifice I think all should have some understanding of Kipling, one of the world’s best writers, EVER. He had such a genius for the epic poem he was published at 14 with a book of it – and the truths of the East, and mankind, are in his writings.
Times change, and Liberal correctness rules with a tyrant hand, but I quote his poem, ‘The White’s Man’s Burden’, which google will supply in full.
“Take up the White Man’s burden –
The savage wars of peace –
Fill full the mouth of famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch Sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to [email protected]
“there is a huge need out there in poorer countries for assistance, for
basic health care, for food-security, for shelter, for human dignity,
and this need is heightened in a global pandemic.”
You do realise that you’re describing the plight of THOUSANDS of homeless in Britain?
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