When the United Kingdom’s Coalition Government came to power last year we knew that tough economic times would call for tough choices.
But we will not balance our books on the backs of the poor – whether in Britain or around the world.
That is why we have made a commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of the United Kingdom’s Gross National Income as aid. As a result of that decision, we have faced criticism from some who think that aid should be cut.
But I believe that the next four years represent an opportunity to change lives and transform communities across the developing world.
Yet if the world is to make real progress in the fight against poverty in these four years that remain to reach the Millennium Development Goals, we need to ensure that our collective efforts have the greatest possible impact.
That is why my first act as the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development was to instigate a review of all our aid around the world.
That review has looked at where we spend our money, how aid is delivered, and the results we achieve.
Around the world, we will work with fewer countries, where we believe our assistance can have the greatest impact. I am pleased to say that Rwanda will be among them.
On Monday 7th March, Elizabeth Carriere, the Head of DFID’s office in Rwanda will make an announcement about the future shape of our programme alongside with Hon. John Rwangombwa, the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
We will do more to provide the building blocks of a better life: sufficient food, clean drinking water, basic healthcare, and education. We will do more to create economic growth and jobs, working with the private sector to create opportunity.
We will tackle poverty and insecurity in some of the world’s most unstable places. Development can help tackle the root causes of global problems such as disease, drugs, migration, terrorism, and climate change, which matter to all of us.
Over the next four years British aid will make a real difference to millions more lives. We will vaccinate more children against preventable diseases than there are people in the whole of England; we will save the lives of 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth; we will stop 250,000 newborn babies from dying needlessly; we will secure schooling for 11 million children – more than we educate in the UK but at 2.5% of the cost and we will provide access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation to more people than there are in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As part of this global review of aid, we have also taken a hard look at the value for money offered by international organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations. No-one doubts the importance of such organisations to the effort to fight poverty. But we know that they are not all equally effective.
The United Kingdom will no longer provide funding to organisations which do not deliver – instead directing more of our aid to those which do, and pushing them to deliver even more.
Above all, we will be relentless in providing value for money and achieving results. That matters because we need to be able to show our taxpayers that we are delivering with their money, and because we need to ensure that every pound of our aid has the maximum impact for the people we are trying to help. That is why I have introduced a new Aid Transparency Guarantee, and set up an independent aid watchdog. I believe that the United Kingdom is leading the way on aid transparency, and I am encouraging others to join us in this effort.
Aid spent well has the power to improve millions of lives. I am proud of what British aid is achieving, and I sincerely believe that working together, we have an opportunity to transform the life chances of millions of people around the world.
Andrew Mitchel is UK ‘s Secretary of State for International Development