07/12/2012 11:53 GMT | Updated 06/02/2013 05:12 GMT

No More Aid

'We don't need an aid budget of 0.7% of national income any more.'

That's what I'm hoping we'll be able to say in future. But there's no way it's going to happen unless we tackle corruption, once and for all.

We all know that it's one of the biggest barriers to aid effectiveness, a primary concern among the UK public when considering whether and how we should respond to global poverty, and a major obstacle faced by thousands of hard-working local community organisations in poor countries.

It's easy to see that it's a huge problem. Clearly, it's not an easy one to solve, or we'd have it done it ages ago.

Partly, it's because there's something in all of us that would justify getting away with something when no-one's looking.

That's why we commissioned an 'honesty poll' to mark Anti Corruption Day (9 December); to make the point that it's not as easy as it looks. The numbers of people who admit that they wouldn't say anything if they were given too much change (50% of working adults in the UK) or if a double refund appeared on their bank statement (49% of UK working adults) speak for themselves: it's a toughie and, if we think no-one will find out, it's easier to convince ourselves it's OK.

And that's the crux of the matter.

Because if no-one ever finds out, it's much easier to justify corruption at all levels; big things and little things.

And we're talking about some pretty big things, around the world.

If we added together all the money lost to corruption in developing countries, we'd have far more than the amount we and other countries together spend on aid.

Our best estimate, which we've used in our Unearth the Truth campaign is that, every second, £3,000 is lost to corruption in Africa alone. A huge amount that could build so many schools, roads and hospitals, educate children, save lives and help people start businesses and feed their families.

But, as long as it remains hidden, no-one can call governments or companies to account and ask that it is used to meet the needs of people who live in those countries. That's why, I presume, David Cameron has called it 'tackling poverty at its roots'.

If we could find this hidden money, name it, call people to account for it and make sure local communities are safely and easily able to take part in the decisions about how it is spent, we'd have a more free, safe and fair world.

Like, for example, passing EU transparency legislation for oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay in communities where they operate. This could release billions of pounds to be used for development.

And we could together agree that the days of 0.7% are numbered.

Because, one day, we will no longer need to live in a world of donors and beneficiaries.

Instead, we will live in a world where everyone, wherever they live, can actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives and futures. Where everyone lives in a community that is empowered and has organised itself to make sure all the people have the basic services they need. Where money gained from a country's natural resources funds education and healthcare in that country. Where community groups like churches, which are among the world's most powerful grassroots networks, bring people together to agree and work together to achieve a safe, healthy, productive and sustainable future for their village, town or city.

But that's a long way off yet. And the path that will get us there costs money. It costs money to build the capacity of governments to collect taxes; to resource communities to understand the information that governments and companies produce about the services they are entitled to ask for; to educate children and adults to form a skilled workforce.

That's why our 0.7% should continue to be spent on work like that of Tearfund partner Eficor in India, who run the Poor Area Civil Society programme funded by DFID which monitors the national rural employment guarantee scheme to fund 100 days of work for each person currently living in poverty. That's a great way to spend aid money; empowering local communities to make sure their government deliver on the work they've committed to do.

We won't achieve this overnight, so let's not remove our aid commitment just yet. In fact, let's hold tighter to our promise and hold our neighbours in Europe and the US to account in delivering on theirs, and let's use the money wisely to build resilience to disasters, help people adapt to climate change, hold governments to account about monies paid to them and make sure that all the resources given in good faith to tackle poverty are used as such.

Let's stick with 0.7% and refuse to waver until we are absolutely certain that we are advancing, little by little, one battle after another, in the fight against poverty. And, together with our brothers and sisters in every single country around the world, let's win it.

Then, we won't need 0.7% any more.