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Britain ‘plans to slash foreign aid to war-torn countries by up to two thirds’

The Government is planning to slash hundreds of millions of pounds in foreign aid to countries in conflict zones around the world, according to a leaked document.

Figures obtained by the openDemocracy website reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have discussed cutting aid to Syria by two-thirds – from £137million pledged last year to just over £45million this year. 

British aid to Libya could fall by 63 per cent in 2021-22, while assistance to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could decline around 60 per cent.

In South Sudan, where millions currently face a devastating famine, British aid is set to drop from £110million to just £45million. 

The UK plans to cut aid to some of the world’s most conflict-ridden countries by up to two thirds, according to a leaked document.

Tory MP Andrew Mitchell called for a vote on the proposed aid cuts, while Sarah Champion of the Labour Party accused the Government of ‘turning its back on some of the most vulnerable people in the world’.

A Government spokesperson said the ‘seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions’, and further decisions on individual aid programmes were still to be made. 

Figures obtained by the openDemocracy website reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have discussed cutting aid to Syria by two-thirds. Pictured, Dakhaniyeh in Damascus

Figures obtained by the openDemocracy website reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have discussed cutting aid to Syria by two-thirds. Pictured, Dakhaniyeh in Damascus

Figures obtained by the openDemocracy website reveal that senior Foreign Office officials have discussed cutting aid to Syria by two-thirds. Pictured, Dakhaniyeh in Damascus

British aid to Libya could fall by 63 per cent in 2021-22. Pictured, Benghazi

British aid to Libya could fall by 63 per cent in 2021-22. Pictured, Benghazi

British aid to Libya could fall by 63 per cent in 2021-22. Pictured, Benghazi

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the House of Commons

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the House of Commons

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab in the House of Commons

Prime Minister Boris Johnson came under fire this week for slashing the UK’s pledged support for aid in Yemen from £164million last year to £87million this year.

Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) spending, which includes governance, health, education, conflict, infrastructure, social development and humanitarian aid, is expected to fall sharply from next year.

At last year’s Spending Review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the UK would reduce its aid budget from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of GDP. 

British aid spending fell significantly last year, which Mr Johnson said was caused by the effect of the Government’s Covid-19 measures on the economy.     

In this week’s Budget, the Foreign Office had its departmental budget cut from £12.7billion to £9.9billion. 

Pressure from Tory backbenchers for a vote on budget cuts has grown in recent days, with former International Aid minister Andrew Mitchell arguing that such a move would damage the UK’s global standing. 

‘Nothing like what is being suggested here should be considered until Parliament has given its express consent, which I rather doubt will be forthcoming,’ Mr Mitchell told openDemocracy. 

Sarah Champion MP, chair of the House of Commons International Development Committee, said that the scale of the budget cuts being considered by government led her to ‘fear for the future of UK aid’.   

Assistance to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could decline around 60 per cent. Pictured, the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia

Assistance to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could decline around 60 per cent. Pictured, the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia

Assistance to Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo could decline around 60 per cent. Pictured, the SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia

In South Sudan, where millions currently face a devastating famine, British aid is set to drop from £110million to just £45million. Pictured, Bor on January 26, 2014

In South Sudan, where millions currently face a devastating famine, British aid is set to drop from £110million to just £45million. Pictured, Bor on January 26, 2014

In South Sudan, where millions currently face a devastating famine, British aid is set to drop from £110million to just £45million. Pictured, Bor on January 26, 2014

‘The government must explain the rationale for any cuts and be held accountable for the decisions it will take.’

Preet Kaur Gill, shadow secretary for international development, said: ‘This is a devastating reminder of the real world impact the Government’s politically motivated decision to abandon its manifesto commitment on aid will have on the world’s most vulnerable people.

‘Cuts in support to countries in the midst of multiple humanitarian crises would cause devastation; leading to some of the world’s most vulnerable people to starve, stretched healthcare systems to collapse and access to clean water stripped away.

‘Make no mistake, people will die. Callous cuts like this signal a retreat from the world stage and will make us all less safe. This is not Global Britain.’

Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesperson Layla Moran MP told openDemocracy: ‘These shocking revelations are just a preview of what’s to come and tell us everything we need to know about the Government’s priorities.’ 

A Government spokesperson said: ‘The seismic impact of the pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take tough but necessary decisions, including temporarily reducing the overall amount we spend on aid.

‘We remain a world-leading aid donor and we will spend more than £10billion this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change and improve global health.’    

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