Overseas Aid: Aid package stays true to £9bn promise made at G8

Increases in international aid announced yesterday by the Government will enable Gordon Brown to keep promises given to Bono and Bob Geldoff at the Gleneagles summit on doubling support for Africa.

Aid will rise by 11 per cent in real terms over the next three years to more than £9bn in 2010.

That will enable the Government to more than double the total multilateral and bilateral aid devoted to Africa between 2004 and the end of the decade, fulfilling a pledge given by Tony Blair and Mr Brown at the Gleneagles G8 summit in July 2005. The declaration of ambition was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks on London on the final day of the summit, and there have been accusations that Russia and Italy are among the countries now dragging their heels.

The money will also be directed at tackling climate change both by providing more funds for disaster relief after droughts or floods and by creating more sustainable economies. The total British overseas aid budget will rise to £9.1bn by the end of the decade amounting to 0.56 per cent of gross national income.

Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, said this will keep Britain on track to achieve the UN target of committing 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid by 2013.

The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, said in his statement that it had been to the "lasting shame" of Britain that under the Tories in the 1990s, aid to developing countries fell by almost a quarter. In 1997 when Labour took office, the total budget was £2bn but that had risen to a current total of £5bn.

Romilly Greenhill, senior policy analyst at ActionAid, said: "Increased funding to fight poverty is clearly welcome, particularly in this tough spending round. Now the challenge is to ensure that this is all real aid – all new money delivered where it's needed most: health, education and well funded, well delivered public services."

David Mepham, Save the Children's Director of Policy said he welcomed the substantial increase in the Government's development aid to the world's poorest countries. "The challenge now is to ensure that these extra resources lead to real and lasting improvements in the lives and life chances of children, by reducing levels of child mortality, improving levels of nutrition, protecting children against violence and abuse, and through better access to education, healthcare and other essential services."

Treasury officials said aid was working – 26 million more children were now in school in Ethiopia and Bangladesh, fresh w ater was available to nearly 2.5 million more people in India, Pakistan and Iraq, and free health care was being provided to five million more people in Zambia.

In addition to doubling aid to Africa, the Government's was to concentrate on Millennium Development goals by providing £8.5bn for education to 2015 and £1bn for the Global Fund for Aids, tuberculosis and malaria; helping poor countries increase their rate of growth by raising support for aid for trade to £409m a year in 2010; and providing £800m towards tackling climate change.

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