Letter: Aid cuts make poor pay for recession

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Sir: We are concerned that the threatened cuts in the Government's expenditure on overseas development are to occur at a time when living standards for the poor have been declining throughout much of the Third World. In addition to causing immediate hardship, these cuts are likely to damage efforts to achieve long- term sustainable development.

Non-governmental organisations have often proved more effective than official channels at directing resources to the poorest people. UK-based NGOs work in partnership with grassroots movements to support local initiatives aimed at improving living standards. Support for community participation has helped build an increasingly vigorous democratic culture. This is likely to be undermined if the backers of local groups are forced to withdraw, as they will be obliged to do if the cuts go ahead.

Placing the burden of the current recession on the poorest and least powerful is unacceptable. Levels of funding for development programmes have already been seriously hit by the fall in the value of the pound. The Government should not, therefore, target spending cuts at those organisations which help to provide support for grassroots initiatives in developing countries.

Yours faithfully,

DENIS HAWES, Catholic Institute for International Relations; KATHY OLIVEIRA, Skillshare Africa; DAVID GREEN, Voluntary Service Overseas; PEDRO GONZALEZ, United Nations Association International Service


20 October