Wealthy UK overseas territories will be allowed to receive foreign aid after the government secured a “significant” change to international rules.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) will now include richer countries that have been affected by natural disasters on a list of nations deserving of aid.
It comes after the UK government urged other developed nations to change the rules, pointing out that Caribbean countries damaged by hurricanes last year had not received official assistance because they were deemed too wealthy.
The British overseas territories of Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and the British Virgin Islands were significantly affected by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, but concerns were raised about current aid rules after the UK was not allowed to use its aid budget help the islands recover from the physical and economic damage caused.
Under the new rules, countries that suffer a natural disaster will be added to the list of nations eligible for official development assistance (ODA).
After successfully lobbying for change, Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary hailed “a major victory” for the UK.
She said: “The British public are strong supporters of providing help in the wake of disasters, including long-term reconstruction.
“They want to help people, especially when they are from nations we have close ties to.
She added: “Not being able to pay for that help from the aid budget, because a nation’s economy was doing well, before a hurricane, earthquake or other disaster hit, was illogical and had to change.
“Britain has never fallen short in our support of countries in need – either through sending aid, our Armed Forces or reconstruction support. This significant rule change means that in future we may be able to use our aid budget to pay for that longer term, reconstruction support.”
Under existing rules, the OECD says countries whose gross national income is higher than the $12,055 (£9,400) per capita threshold set by the World Bank are ineligible for aid.
As countries get wealthier and cross the threshold, they are removed from the list, leaving them dependent on other types of funding if they are hit by a natural disaster.
Anguilla and St Kitts and Nevis were both taken off the OECD’s list of eligible countries 2014, while the British Virgin Islands was removed in 2000 and the Turks and Caicos in 2008.
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