Preet Kaur Gill, the Member of Parliament for Edgbaston and Shadow Minister for International Development, writes in the Guardian how uncertainty and the falling pound are jeopardising aid that millions of people worldwide rely on.
"Since the 2016 referendum we have all learned a lot more about the depth of the relationship between the UK and the EU; whether it’s joint cooperation on research, or the potential impact of leaving the EU on agriculture exports.
When considering the effects of Brexit, parliamentarians have focused their attention on our constituencies and the country as a whole. International development has only raised its head in discussions of post-Brexit trade deals.
Last year, the Labour international development team visited Brussels to meet MEPs and European development organisations. We discussed the implications of Brexit and what it could mean for the £1.5bn of official development assistance the UK spends through the EU every year.
Now, with an extension to article 50 agreed between the UK and the EU’s 27 member states, it’s a good time to look at how Brexit is already affecting the world’s poorest, as well as the vibrant, thriving UK international development sector – and what we should do about it.
This is not just a theoretical exercise: millions of people around the world rely on the work of British development organisations and the Department for International Development (DfID). Without them, people would be pushed into extreme poverty, or left unvaccinated against diseases. They would be unable to go to school or would have no support in mitigating climate change in their communities.
The government’s botched Brexit negotiations have already seen a fall in the pound, resulting in funding shortfalls for overseas projects that force organisations to scale back their ambitions, and potentially limit their impact.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, a programme to support local ownership and management of natural resources has had to reduce activities to cope with the drop in the sterling exchange rate.
As for many other sectors, the uncertainty has meant that NGOs, charities and civil society organisations have had to spend time trying to prepare for different outcomes and impacts with their hands effectively tied behind their backs.
The UK’s innovative and influential development sector organisations have significant expertise in delivering assistance and emergency aid to vulnerable people. Even with the extension, there is a lack of firm commitments for them to continue accessing funding for programmes and projects in the future.
The EU is planning to overhaul how its aid budget operates by bringing it into the EU budget from 2021, and it is unlikely that non-member states will be able to continue to participate as they do now.
So, even if the government wants a cooperative accord covering overseas development assistance and seeks to continue close collaboration with the EU, including helping to fund EU development programmes after 2020 (when the UK’s current commitment to funding the European Development Fund ends), it may not be able to.
The UK’s commitment to development is recognised worldwide and Britain is respected for setting the agenda on humanitarian and development issues within the UN. We must ensure that this does not become another casualty of the government’s disastrous Brexit deal.
DfID must think about how it wants to work with others, how it wants to influence the course of international development and where its engagement and expertise can have maximum impact. The Labour party has set out the new direction in which we’d like to take international development to reach a world that works for the many, not the few.
We need a global development agenda that challenges a system that degrades the environment and perpetuates the causes of poverty and inequality. The UK should be at the forefront of these efforts as a progressive, outward-looking, global leader on international development."
You can read Preet's article on the Guardian's website here: www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/may/01/uk-commitment-develop...