UK’s aid decision ‘disturbing’ say church leaders
The world’s poorest people may suffer further as a result of the UK government’s decision to reorganise aid delivery, warn Welsh church leaders.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, they call the merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office “disturbing” and a “retrograde step”.
The letter is signed by the Archbishop of Wales and other church leaders jointly with the international development charity Christian Aid Wales. They fear money will be diverted from aid to the poorest communities and a link will grow between aid and trade. They urge the PM to reconsider or, if not, to ensure the values and integrity of the department are protected.
The church leaders’ letter follows an earlier one to the PM from the Church In Wales’ International Group which criticised the Government for acting against the advice of aid agencies in merging the departments.
In the letter the church leaders say, “The communities and churches of Wales have supported the international development effort in partnership with Christian Aid for 75 years. We do so, not because of any sense of self-interest but because we believe passionately that standing together in solidarity with the world’s poor is an essential element of our Christian Faith. In DfID, we have had a partner worthy of the goal of eradicating global poverty. Losing this partner is both regrettable and disappointing and we believe that the world’s poorest will suffer.”
Cynan Llwyd, acting head of Christian Aid in Wales said, “We were really dismayed to hear of this decision by the Westminster government, especially at a time of such danger for the poorest communities of the world in the face of Covid-19 and the climate emergency. DiFD has been such an important partner in the fight against global poverty over the years. We feel that this good work is now in jeopardy by this reckless decision by the UK government.”
Presbyterian minister and Chair of Christian Aid Cymru, Nan Powell-Davies said, “As one of the richest countries in the world, we believe there is a duty on the UK to help eradicate poverty in the global south.
“But the amount we spend is not the only important point – how we spend is also crucial. DiFD had such an excellent reputation for spending the money well and transparently. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office just doesn’t have this reputation. It concerns us deeply, therefore, that the decision to amalgamate both departments could do real harm to the aid and development work the UK does.”
The joint letter is signed by the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Rev John Davies, Revd Nan Powell-Davies (Chair of Christian Aid Wales), Rt Rev Joanna Penberthy (Bishop of St Davids), Revd Meirion Morris (General Secretary, The Presbyterian Church of Wales), Revd Judith Morris (General Secretary, The Baptist Union of Wales), Revd Dyfrig Rees (General Secretary, Union of Welsh Independents), Revd Dr Jennifer Hurd (Chair of the Cymru Methodist Synod), Revd Christopher Gillham (Secretary, The Congregational Federation in Wales), Revd Dr Stephen Wigley (Chair of the Wales Methodist Synod), Revd Simon Walkling (Moderator, the United Reformed Church National Synod of Wales) and Cynan Llwyd, acting head of Christian Aid in Wales.
International Group's concern
The Church in Wales’ International Group is also calling for the PM to reconsider the merger decision in its letter.
It says, “This seems a particularly inopportune moment to announce a transfer of humanitarian aid money from the world’s poorest countries to those closer to home and with a far higher level of development, simply to serve the UK’s own interests. The UK has been a world leader, as the first – and so far the only – member of the G7 to commit 0.7% of its income to overseas aid; and a unique value of DfID, as attested by numerous experts in the field, is precisely that it is not tied to political objectives. At a time of crisis, when we have all been encouraged by the selflessness of individuals and institutions across our country, the decision to divert aid money with the specific objective of serving our own interests stands in bleak contrast.
“We were, frankly, appalled at the description of overseas aid being regarded as ‘a giant cashpoint in the sky’ by the world’s poor. The shocking level of tax avoidance practised by multi-national companies, shirking their responsibilities to countries where they source their raw materials, employ cheap labour, or take advantage of lax regimes, rather implies that the ‘cashpoint in the sky’ is delivering money from poor countries to rich, rather than the other way round.”