CULLOMPTON, United Kingdom — Britain has a crucial role in the fight against global poverty. In 2015, the U.K. Government committed to the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty, inequality and the impacts of climate change by 2030. Its Official Development Assistance (ODA) aids the development of low to middle-income countries; it “delivers programs that promote economic development and welfare in these countries which contribute to building friendly knowledge and understanding with the U.K.” In an interview with The Borgen Project, the long-standing MP for Exeter, Ben Bradshaw spoke about Britain’s role in fighting extreme poverty.
Who is Ben Bradshaw?
Ben Bradshaw has been the Labour MP for Exeter, Devon consistently since May 1997, when he won the seat from the Conservatives. Prior to being the local parliamentary representative, Bradshaw worked as a journalist reporting on events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism in East Germany and Germany’s reunification.
His key roles, as he outlined himself “are to represent [his]constituents, to be an ambassador for [his]part and not to bring [his]party into disrepute.” Bradshaw serves on the Ecclesiastical Committee which considers measure issues by the Church of England’s General Synod and gives advice on them and on the Transport Committee. MPs also typically have their own areas of special interest and Ben says that his are “equality issues, as the first openly gay MP selected and elected.” In the 25 years that he has been MP, Ben thinks that the transformation of education in Exeter, along with the transformation of local children’s life chances.
Why Should Britain Help?
By 2030 nearly 600 million people will be suffering from extreme poverty. In the interview, Ben said that he thinks that “Britain and other developed countries have a moral imperative to help global economic development and alleviate poverty.” He says that “we have a very strong self-interest in tackling poverty around the world because it’s poverty that often drives waves of migration from poor countries to the rich countries.”
There is a moral imperative to reduce suffering and with the stage of development Britain is in, it has a duty to help. However, it is also in its practical interest to increase the foreign aid budget, making Britain’s role in fighting extreme poverty not just morally right but a worthwhile investment. By investing in less developed nations, “Britain could develop emerging markets,” close trading links and encourage those nations to engage with the internal community.
What Is It Already Doing?
Ben Bradshaw described how the U.K. is a part of various schemes that are “very important in terms of international development.” These schemes include “supporting educational projects, particularly the education of women […], help with environmental and agricultural projects, projects to help other countries develop their own and become more efficient climate emergency abatement projects in countries.”
One such example of this is its International Climate Fund (ICF), which “will help poor countries to protect the lives and jobs that are most at risk from climate change” and “support poor countries to adapt to farming to a changing climate, protect precious water resources and help poor people cope with more frequent extreme weather events.”
What Else Could Britain Do?
However, in Britain’s role in fighting extreme poverty, there is more that it could be doing. When asked what he thinks the current U.K. government could be doing that it is not in the fight against global poverty, Bradshaw said that “[he]thinks it should restore the legally binding 0.7% target for GDP. It was a mistake for it to abolish the self-standing independent development department.”
Bradshaw is referring to the U.N.’s target for countries to spend 0.7% of their GDP on Official Development Assistance. The Conservative government reduced this to 0.5% in 2020 because of a need for more money for domestic needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the first time since 2013 that Britain did not meet this target and even though there are predictions of returning to the U.N.’s proposed 0.7% in 2024-25, it could reduce it even more before returning to 0.7%. This reduction is a representation of Britain reducing their support but Bradshaw said that he “wouldn’t be at all surprised if we did” when expressing his thoughts on the 0.7% target.
The Ability to Help Eradicate Poverty
Britain as a developed nation has the ability to help eradicate poverty on a global scale. It will play a key part in the ongoing fight against extreme poverty. Ben Bradshaw is just one MP who has influence in Parliament and as he said “it was one of the legacies of the Labour government to ensure that international development, poverty alleviation, was not subsumed as a policy interest to foreign policy or defence policy.” In the interview, Bradshaw shed light on what the U.K. government is doing, should do and why it should be doing it. It is a moral and practical necessity of the parliament and Britain’s role in fighting extreme poverty will be monumental.
– Ruby Wallace