UN relief chief criticises UK’s reduced overseas aid spending

Martin Griffiths said Britain should offer more money to help the world’s poorest.

Sophie Wingate
Thursday 01 December 2022 15:47 GMT
UN relief chief Martin Griffiths said ‘money counts’ (Alamy/PA)
UN relief chief Martin Griffiths said ‘money counts’ (Alamy/PA)

The UK has not given enough in foreign aid, the UN relief chief said as he appealed for more funding to help the world’s most vulnerable.

Martin Griffiths said “we would like to have seen more” in overseas aid spending from Britain, stressing that “money counts”.

Rishi Sunak was criticised for slashing the foreign aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of national income when he was chancellor in the wake of the hit to the economy from the Covid pandemic.

It was meant to be a temporary reduction, but Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in his autumn statement ruled out a return to the higher spending target for several more years.

Mr Sunak has also overseen a redirection of overseas aid to programmes within the UK, with more now spent on housing refugees at home than on humanitarian assistance for poor developing countries.

Asked if the UK was offering enough globally and paying what it had promised, Mr Griffiths told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Well, we were promised 0.7% of course.

“That was brought down very quickly to 0.5%. And now it’s less than 0.5% if you think about it as an overseas aid budget.

“So to that extent, no, we would liked to have seen more according to those earlier promises.”

The UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief co-ordinator praised Britain for providing analysis of humanitarian needs and policy issues in poor nations.

“That’s continuing and that’s terrific,” he said.

“But of course, money counts. If we can’t put money on the table for places like Somalia, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic and so forth, well, all the analysis in the world won’t make a difference.

“So we need money.”

On the funding of hosting Ukrainian refugees from the existing UK aid budget, Mr Griffiths said: “It’s true that the needs of refugees in Britain are significant, are humanitarian, should be met.

“But we would obviously prefer that that’s not taken out of the 0.5% aid budget which is already reduced from where it was before.”

The UN has launched an appeal for a record £42 billion in aid funding for next year, as climate disasters and the Ukraine war have caused humanitarian needs to soar around the world.

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