Data analysis highlights the human cost if thousands of overseas projects lose funding
Mon 23 Aug 2021 07.00 EDT
Experts have warned of “devastating” consequences of the UK’s foreign aid cuts after Guardian analysis revealed the UK is cutting funding at a time when major recipient countries are at risk of becoming more politically unstable.
Thousands of activities providing life-saving support are being cut due to the government’s decision to reduce aid spending to 0.5% of gross national income.
Guardian analysis of the five largest recipients of these aid activities shows that four countries – Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria and Ethiopia – score worse in a “fragile states index” today than they did 15 anni fa, while only one country, Pakistan, had become less politically fragile.
These cuts – at a time when recipient countries are facing increases in fragility – have led to warnings of further economic damage, regional instability and increases in violence.
Initiatives that have been confirmed as cancelled include an education scheme for child labourers in Bangladesh, a conflict resolution project in Nigeria and a programme aimed at preventing violence against women and girls in Malawi, according to global development news outlet Devex, which has tracked the cuts.
But the proposed scale of the foreign aid cuts – from 0.7% per 0.5% of gross national income at the same time as the economy has shrunk – means that experts are worried that few areas will remain untouched.
Data from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office shows the scale and breadth of the UK’s 2019 aid spending, contributing to more than 150 countries and covering a variety of sectors.
Mark Miller, the director of development and public finance at the Overseas Development Institute, warned: “No area of spending has been spared. Even in so-called priority areas, large cuts are being made.”
From assisting terrorism victims in Nigeria and tackling epidemics across the African continent to providing shelter to Rohingya refugees and aid to desperate Syrians, government data shows how the £15bn budget was spent in 2019.
The combined effects of the cut and the contraction of the UK economy in the wake of the pandemic are expected to lead to an overall reduction of 31% for development aid.
It has led to concerns about where these cuts would fall, con gender equality expected to be hit.
The foreign aid budget was committed to more than 6,000 development activities in 2019, and Pakistan, Ethiopia and Afghanistan received the most funding. A large proportion of funding goes to regional or multinational activities.
The funding is also committed to supporting UK overseas territories, including the Pitcairn Islands and Montserrat, as well as the UK’s subscription to international agencies such as the World Health Organization, although it is expected that such international obligations will continue to be upheld.
Many top recipients of bilateral aid are former British colonies, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria and a number of countries in east Africa.
Other recipients include Yemen and Syria, which have been blighted by civil wars in recent years.
While the majority of donor countries in the OECD failed to achieve the 0.7% target in 2020, six nations committed a higher proportion of their gross national income than the UK: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germania, Luxembourg and Turkey. Sweden topped the list, spending 1.14% of its GNI on foreign aid.
Overseas development aid is used to provide health services and clean water, combat malnutrition and support refugees in some of the poorest countries in the world.
il cancelliere, Rishi Sunak, said sticking to the long-term UN target – and Conservative manifesto pledge – of giving 0.7% of gross national income was “difficult to justify” at a time of record borrowing.
Tom Hart, a senior research fellow at the ODI, disse: “There is no doubt that the UK aid cuts will have devastating consequences. As Andrew Mitchell MP has calculated using the FCDO’s own reports, the cuts will imply 100,000 preventable deaths, many of these among children.”
Edward Laws, a senior research officer in the ODI’s politics and governance programme, warned of regional stability if the UK cut foreign aid to the countries that are becoming more fragile. Egli ha detto: “if poorly managed, a prolonged reduction in non-humanitarian assistance could lead to a fiscal contraction and its attendant consequences, which would likely fuel domestic and regional instability. This is a particular concern for Afghanistan, given its high levels of aid dependency. In the longer term, the cuts could undermine local actors who are trying to build resilience against the drivers of fragility and violence.”
A spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office said:“The UK is a world leader on international development and one of the largest aid donors in the G7.
“This year we will spend more than £10bn around the world to provide urgent humanitarian support to those who need it most, get more girls into school and support the international recovery from Covid-19.”