Call for deeper aid commitment from British government

By agency reporter
December 2, 2008

Progressio, formerly the Catholic Instititute for International Relations, has welcomed the British government’s repeated promise to deliver 0.7% of gross national income in development aid to the world's poorest countries, but says much of the world's vital development work depends on rich nations' willingness to follow through on long-term commitments to developing nations.

"As rich countries meet at the Financing for Development Conference in Doha this week, there are very real fears that the downturn will lead to serious cuts in global overseas development aid", says Progressio's Policy Manager, Tim Aldred.

He adds: "We know that times are tough, but it is vital for rich nations to honour their pledges to the millions of people who are still living in poverty."

Malawi - where Progressio has recently opened a new development programme - is a case in point. One of the poorest countries in Africa, it has recently seen food prices spiral, with many smallholder-farming families in Malawi now struggling to eat two meals a day.

“Add to this an HIV and AIDS pandemic that has devastated and plundered many of the development gains made in Malawi in previous years, and it’s easy to see why we cannot afford to lose a penny of international support", says Progressio's Malawi Country Director, Lloyd Simwaka.

Yet, despite these significant challenges, there has been “real progress” on the ground in Malawi as a direct result of British funding, Simwaka says. He points to the fact that the UK government and its people have helped millions of people realise their civil and political rights, leading to a more accountable and responsible governance system with fairer policies that benefit the most vulnerable.

“We are happy, too, that our country has moved from having a serious food deficit – which saw five million people go hungry in the famine of 2001 – to becoming a net food exporter, with the 2008 maize harvest the highest on record”, says Simwaka.

“Subsidized seeds and fertilizers have helped boost harvests and income at the household level for more than 1.7 million farming families, lifting over a million out of poverty. While the subsidy program may not be the silver bullet for the global food crisis, it has bolstered food security and freed people from hunger. And it has given people hope.”

Tim Aldred concludes: “Despite these clear improvements for the people of Malawi, which show the real difference development aid can achieve on the ground, it is the poorest people, like those in Malawi, who will suffer most in the economic downturn. If monetary commitments fall victim to the financial crisis, there will be grim consequences for global poverty."

The UK's Department for International Development (DFID) plans to give a minimum of $140 million (£91 million) in aid to Malawi each financial year from 2007/08 to 2010/11. See DFID's website here. DFID Secretary of State Douglas Alexander repeated the UK’s commitment to the 0.7% target at the Doha conference last weekend.

Progressio is an international organisation working for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty. It has been leading the way on practical international development issues for more than 40 years and currently has more than 90 development workers based in 11 developing countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Progressio is the new name for the Catholic Institute for International Relations.

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