THE BLOG

Why We Should All Celebrate Committing to a 0.7% Aid Budget

10/03/2015 10:05 GMT | Updated 09/05/2015 10:59 BST

It feels like the election campaign has been running for months. The halcyon days of the rose garden press conference are a distant memory, as the coalition partners trade blows and attempt to apportion credit and blame for the past five year's achievements and failures. With the rise of Ukip, the SNP surge, and the outcome of the general election the most uncertain in decades, the stakes are high and politics feels fractious and combative.

But away from the spotlight, parties from all sides of the political spectrum have been quietly collaborating on one issue - international development. The coalition partners and the opposition have worked together to support Michael Moore's private member's bill to enshrine the commitment to the UN target of spending 0.7% of national income on international aid. Only six MPs voted against the bill at its second reading in the Commons, with record numbers from both sides of the House staying in London to support it - despite the vote taking place just before Scotland's Independence Referendum. And today, peers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Bill, meaning that it will now become a law.

Why have the three main parties put aside their differences to ensure this bill could pass? Was it brand detoxification for the Conservatives? Was it part of the Lib Dems' differentiation strategy? Were Labour backing it whilst secretly hoping it would fail so they could hail the return of the 'nasty party'? I've heard all of these arguments put forward to explain each party's support for the bill. But I think there is a simpler explanation - because politicians of all stripes believe we should keep our promises, and do our bit to alleviate poverty and suffering.

Despite our economic difficulties, the UK remains one of the world's largest economies, and there is a deeply held belief among British politicians that we can and should use some of our resources for the benefit of less fortunate people in less favoured places. Aid has played a critical role in many of the world's development success stories, such as the near-eradication of polio, and the halving of the number of children dying before their fifth birthday - from 12.6million in 1990 to 6.3million today. UK investment in vaccines currently saves a child's life every two minutes. An often repeated, but wonderful statistic - and one which is a source of pride for many politicians.

Now that our 0.7% commitment has been enshrined in law, we can finally move the debate on from how much we should spend on aid to how we can ensure our investments are effective and lead to transformative, sustainable change for people in the poorest countries.

When trust in politicians is at an all-time low, we should take comfort in the fact that the parties worked together to keep a promise that featured in each of their manifestos in 2010. As we approach the end of this parliament, we have seen politicians put aside their differences to agree what kind of country they want to build in the next. And I for one want to say thank you.

Flora Alexander is head of government relations at Save the Children​