On Wednesday 15 November the Secretary of State published an article in The Daily Telegraph, which has been reproduced below.
I believe in aid. I believe in the power it has to end disease, hunger and extreme poverty, to build strong economies and to help the world’s most vulnerable people live lives of dignity. Aid also allows us to influence and shape the world around us.
Alongside our world-class defence and diplomacy, it provides the greatest return on investment for the taxpayer’s purse: to head off trouble before we have to intervene militarily or to handle a crisis, and to create opportunity, peace and prosperity.
I believe the public knows the power of aid, too. They understand the benefits it brings: how eradicating deadly diseases like Ebola protects us here at home, how the provision of education and economic opportunities around the world can stem migration. And they feel a moral obligation to help nations rife with poverty and poor health.
The British people have a global outlook, they are generous, and when they see suffering and injustice they are motivated to act. Aid workers I worked alongside in Romania were teachers from Biggin Hill.
A handful of volunteers from my local patch, the Solent, are providing psychiatry services in Africa. Across the length and breadth of the UK – in charity shops, faith groups and community groups – people are giving up their time to raise funds, support refugees and alleviate poverty.
People want to know: What are you going to do with my money?
People want to know: What are you going to do with my money? How do I know you’ll spend it well? How will this improve the things that matter? This is the level of clarity and transparency we must achieve. That is not always easy: not least because of the complexity of funding relationships and the long-term nature of what we do.
But the barriers must be overcome if we wish to maintain the means to act decisively in the UK’s and humanity’s interests. For it is not politicians and legislation that ultimately protect our world-leading commitment to aid. It is the trust of the public that their money is being spent wisely.
These achievements belong to the British people
UK aid is immunising 80 children a minute against polio. It is getting food, medicine and shelter to people fleeing violence in Burma.
With the Prime Minister’s leadership, it is taking on the scourge of modern slavery. And it is giving Syrian children the chance to go to school.
There are people who are alive because of British aid, people who can walk and see because of our aid, and children who can read and write because of aid. We are building health systems and helping countries to grow so that they can stand on their own two feet.
These achievements belong to the British people. They belong to the taxpayers who fund these life-saving efforts, to our amazing NGOs, and to the great British humanitarian heroes who risk their lives to help others.
We must provide the public with confidence
But as well as pride in these outcomes, we must provide the public with confidence in how we achieve them. The question we face is whether people would choose to donate to DFID, as they do to so many other organisations working overseas.
So I will build on the work of my predecessor when it comes to driving value for money. DFID has made a start on opening up funding to a wider range of partners including smaller charities. And it has increased its focus on economic development and sustainable programmes.
But we can go further still. We must harness the energy of the UK science and technology sectors, whether in the use of cutting-edge technology to transform the way we do development, or drought-resistant seeds to boost food production, or new vaccines to wipe out disease. We must leave no-one behind, including by putting disability at the heart of our agenda.
And as we leave the EU we must seize every opportunity to champion democracy and human rights, expand trade with developing countries, and build competitive markets to end poverty.
Our objective – helping the world’s poorest while furthering UK strategic interests – will only be achieved by spending 0.7 per cent of GNI well.