Today was the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s speech, the day the Government (who write the content of the speech for the Queen) outlines it’s legislative priorities and plans for the next session of parliament. The last parliamentary session from 2010 until just a few weeks ago was one of the longest ever, so speculation in the past few weeks has been rife about what might be included and what would be left out. Whilst the headlines from the speech will be about Lords Reform and the Economy, for those of us interested in international efforts to help support the worlds poorest it was the Government’s surprise reaffirmation of their support for the 0.7% target which was truly surprising.
We have been campaigning and blogging on the importance of the 0.7% target for some time, and thanks to you, our supporters and campaigners not only were we able to give a personal thanks to the most important politicians in UK international development, but we helped persuade the government to become the first government in UK history to achieve our 40 year old international pledge to spend 0.7% of GNI on aid.
However, in the past few weeks there have been a number of papers reporting that the Government would be distancing themselves at this Queen’s speech from their promise to put 0.7% into law. Along with an article in yesterday’s Times that said that the ring fencing of international development assistance would soon be removed, few of us passionate about the UK’s lifesaving aid had much hope for today’s statement.
Whilst today the Government did stop short of a commitment to legislate on the issue, the fact that the Government did mention of 0.7% in the Queen’s speech at all gives us a further opportunity to continue to hold the Government to account and to push for them to keep their promise and put 0.7 in law. The fact it was mentioned at all today is a testament to the hard work of you, our supporters and campaigners who have repeatedly shared with your communities your passion about helping the world’s poorest, and have made sure that our elected officials can’t forget the promises they have made.
As Elisha London, our UK country director has said:
“We fully welcome the Government’s surprise reaffirming of their commitment to the 0.7% aid target in today’s Queen’s speech. Given the Government’s clear promises to enshrine this target in law and the cross party support this enjoys, we look forward to seeing the legislation imminently in this session of Parliament.”
As we have talked about before, we know that when spent well aid can achieve amazing results; for example over the last 25 years, polio cases have been reduced by 99%. With countries such as Australia and Canada cutting their development assistance budgets and breaking their international promises, if we are to reach that final 1% and finally end the debilitating disease of polio, then the UK’s must keep it’s promises on 0.7%.
It is remarkable that this government will for the first time in UK history spend 0.7% of GNI on international development. However, to remove the issue entirely from short term domestic political interests we must use today’s mention in the Queen’s speech to push on and ensure the Government keeps it’s promises to the world’s poorest and puts 0.7 into law.
*image taken from BBC News website