LONDON, England — When the UN General Assembly convened in 1970, they outlined the Millennium Goals, which are geared toward assisting developing countries and creating a more cohesive world. One of the goals was to have all developed countries funnel 0.7 percent of their gross national product (GNP) to foreign aid by 2015. As of 2005, 16 of the 22 potential donor countries had already met the goal, or agreed to meet it by the deadline. David Cameron, Prime Minister of Britain, is now acting on this promise, but receiving a great deal of flak for it.
When the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed a coalition government under Cameron back in 2010, they agreed that they would not only meet the 0.7 percent target, but also ensure that it would be legally enforced for future parties to abide by. Since he was made prime minister, Cameron has been adamant about realigning his party’s methods to reach this goal. On June 30, the Liberal Democrats followed through on this agreement by presenting a backbench Private Member’s bill that would require “Britain to [spend]0.7 percent of national wealth on foreign aid.”
This isn’t the first time Britain has made efforts to meet the UN target. In 2013, the government increased aid spending by 28 percent, allowing the UK “to hit its target of spending 0.7 percent of GDP on overseas development.” This increase made Britain the second most generous country with its foreign aid, after the United States.
Given Britain’s previous success in foreign aid distribution, the bigger purpose of this bill is ensuring follow-through in the years to come. Cameron explains that, rather than solely focusing on domestic issues, “we should step up, deliver on our promises to the world’s poorest and help save millions of lives.”
The coalition’s decision has not been entirely well received, with various complaints from the Tory party. Their biggest issue is that Britain has a plethora of its own financial problems to address before the government starts funneling aid to other countries.
Cameron’s response to this criticism centers on a moral obligation to save lives in impoverished nations, lives that are taken by “entirely preventable deaths.” He explains, “We would not stand for that at home. And we should not stand for it anywhere, especially as Britain has the tools, the expertise, and yes, the money, to stop it happening.”
When the UN developed the Millennium Goals almost 35 years ago, they were less attainable given the state of the economies of developed countries. Now, with economies in the developed world almost twice the size they were in 1970, the 0.7 percent goal is much more feasible. Addressing global poverty is possible in a way it never has been, and legislation like that which David Cameron aims to pass is the kind of thing that can change the world.
– Maggie Wagner
Sources: The Guardian, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, Millennium Project