The Blog

0.7% Towards a Better Future

Through our support for Overseas Aid, Britain saves a life every two minutes and today an overwhelming majority of MPs voted to guarantee it in law. Spending just 70p out of every £100 in tax collected is changing the face of our planet - to the betterment of the world's poorest and yes, to us too.

Oh Britain. It's so rare that we get to boast about being a world leader in anything nowadays. Gone are the days we topped global league tables in important areas like education or health care. Or indeed even Eurovision or any sport that is played on two feet. But today we get one over on Merkel FC, Obama United and Harper Town. This week there is a very good reason to roll out your British flag and sing the National Anthem. And it's for something genuinely altruistic too.

Through our support for Overseas Aid, Britain saves a life every two minutes and today an overwhelming majority of MPs voted to guarantee it in law. Spending just 70p out of every £100 in tax collected is changing the face of our planet - to the betterment of the world's poorest and yes, to us too. Because of UK aid alone, between 2011 and 2014, 10.2 million children went to school in the developing world. That's not just 10.2 million children, that's 10.2 million families and future families benefiting directly from a good education provided by the UK tax-payer. That's 10.2 million future families whose life chances are dramatically improved, whose chances of survival are substantially, astronomically increased.

Overall, UK aid is winning 1-0 every 2 minutes. This year we've seen the UK Government finally match the 0.7% target. A policy proudly proposed by the Labour Party and finished by the current leadership of the Conservatives. That makes us the first G7 country to reach that target more than 40 years after the United Nations challenged every rich country to meet it. And although this will solidify our place at the top of this global league table, it's not one we want to keep without a significant challenge from others.

Today's result is hugely important for two reasons, the first is we'll stop using people's lives as political footballs - it won't be so easy to cut vital lifesaving aid because it's not politically expedient to give it. Second, we can stop talking about how much we spend on aid and focus on talking about how we can spend it even more effectively - in sustainable ways, in ways that protect people and planet, on programmes like Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, which has proven to be incredibly effective by every measurement.

Being able to focus on the quality of aid delivered rather than the price tag it carries matters hugely. It means as NGOs we can get on with the work of life saving delivery rather than insularly campaigning constantly to government every time there's a negative by-line in the Daily Mail. It means we have 100% commitment to make sure the world doesn't need our aid in the future. And tying it to our gross national income is the best of both worlds for us; when we're doing better we give a little more and when the economy is not so good we give a little less.

But this isn't just to the benefit of people in other countries. In a globalised world, a world that's ever more connected - in trade, in diplomacy, in culture and in war - the successes or failures of another country impact on us nationally and locally. And after a year of conflict - in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq - millions of people displaced, millions of lives off track in poverty, without food or nutrition or education or decent health care, we have learned that these challenges are most expensive. In a world facing the challenges of terrorism, eradicating poverty everywhere by 2030 should not only be a global priority but a national priority too, because the prospects of our own children's future rely heavily on the prospects and peace of those in the developing world. If we ignore these issues of poverty, of climate change, of the destabilisation of nation states, we will be hit with a greater bill in the future.

Of course not everyone has that global view. Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, certainly doesn't. He, and his merry band of 3 others, spent the last few weeks writing 75 wrecking amendments to the Bill. What's in those amendments doesn't matter a great deal, Philip was trying to filibuster the Bill. Notwithstanding that a filibuster on any issue is a flagrant disregard for our democratic process, I'd like to know how many of his constituents emailed him and asked him to oppose it or the last time Philip wrote so many amendments.

Fortunately Mr Davies was in the minority and more than 140 MPs from across all parties turned up and saved lives - a truly great day for British politics. Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Labour party finally fulfilled their manifesto promise of 2010. In politics it's rare to be sure whether your hard work, lobbying, policy creation really impacts on people's lives but today we can say that we did. That because of ordinary people and of politicians too, we will continue to save a life every two minutes for the foreseeable future. And we won't stop there, with the freedom the passing of this policy into law brings us, we can fully focus on making sure every penny is spent in the most effective way.

On the year anniversary of the great Nelson Mandela's death, a man who himself committed his time to arguing for greater focus on poverty eradication, and it was he who said - "Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom."

At Global Citizen we believe this generation can eradicate extreme poverty in our lifetimes, and today we took a great step forward towards that goal.

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