It’s not very often that I can say I feel ‘proud to be British’, perhaps it’s because I work for an international organisation and ‘Britishness’ is generally avoided, by me at least!
But last week I was at the Department for International Development’s Whitehall offices the day after the budget. It really struck me how extraordinary it is for this government to hold fast to its decision to commit 0.7% of the budget to aid. This is a huge achievement… and it means even more in this current “climate”, literally, the media are telling us this week that the current cold weather could send us into a ‘triple-dip recession’.
So although international NGOs like Practical Action are always banging on about what the development priorities should be and how the money is spent, this does seem like a moment to step back and say “Congratulations Britain! You have a government that deserves a big pat on the back”.
It’s not just the government of course. The whole country can take some credit for this momentous decision. Apparently when we have the aid budget explained to us, six out of ten people in the UK say it is about right or not big enough.
99.3% of our national income is spent on our own priorities like healthcare, education or the economy. Perhaps this makes the 0.7% spent to end extreme poverty seem pretty reasonable. Nevertheless we will be the very first G8 country to achieve the aid target, a target that was set 43 years ago.
The UK are showing real leadership during their presidency of the G8. Our Prime Minister has a great opportunity this June so let’s get behind him and bring some of the national pride and excitement we had with the Jubilee and the Olympics into the events of 2013 and to our country’s role in most important challenge ever.