Saturday, 5 April 2014
Shhh . . .0.7% aid target achieved.
"Whisper it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon" but the UK has finally reached the target of devoting 0.7% of our GDP to aid development in the poorest countries.
We originally signed up to this target, set by the OECD, in 1969. At the time I joined a campaign, largely organised by the churches, to gather signatures for a petition to urge the government to meet the target with the utmost dispatch. In those pre-internet days gathering signatures was a bit of a slog but we worked together to try to achieve, I think, a million. This was only the second example in the UK of ecumenical co-operation in the post-war period: the first was an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the cinemas opening on Sundays.
In our area we proudly gathered in one of the local parish churches to present our bit of the petition to our MP, Sir Alfred Davies Devonshire Broughton, (Labour), who commended us for our zeal but told us not to be too idealistic because he had personally seen the gold-plated bedstead of some African president..
Whereas the achievement of most government targets is trumpeted from the rooftops, publicity for this one is reduced to a report of a Tweet from Nick Clegg in tiny column at the bottom of page 16 of yesterday's Guardian. Such discretion is presumably for fear of upsetting Tory backwoodsmen, many of whom are not so keen, and boosting the followership of Farage, who believes that the money would better be spent on sorting out our own floods.
The "gold plated bedstead" grumbles continue, with someone pointing out that some of the money is actually spent in this country, on "global citizenship lessons in Scottish school" and the government department responsible for administering the aid, DfID, has received an "amber warning" from its watchdog that there should be much more impartial analysis of the effectiveness of its projects. Neither of these criticisms is quiet as disconcerting as the Thatcher government's spending the aid money on building an airstrip big enough for military aircraft in the Falklands should the need arise, or on the construction of the uneconomic Pergau Dam in Malaysia in exchange for an arms deal.. We are moving on.
After 45 years of campaigning on this topic, I am pleased and proud that the UK finally joins that tiny band of countries. Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark and Luxembourg, who form the élite G0.7 club.
And hats off to David Cameron for facing down his xenophobes and letting it happen.