The Moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (URC) have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in response to reports this week that the government is preparing to cut the international aid budget.
In the letter, they express their “strong concern” that the government may “break its manifesto pledge and abandon Britain’s long-standing commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on international development.” They point out that aid programmes were already going to be cut significantly because the economy has shrunk this year, and urge the government to maintain Britain’s aid commitment in the current spending review. A copy of the letter can be read below.
On 20 November, members of the URC’s Mission Council unanimously passed an emergency resolution objecting to the reported cut. It affirmed that Mission Council “believes that a commitment to the poorest in the world should not be an optional extra but at the heart of our country’s responsibilities, especially in the context of a global pandemic and a climate emergency.”
Members of URC churches have been urged to contact their MPs about the issue. Find your MP’s contact details
The URC has been a long-standing advocate for the principle that the government should devote 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. It first passed a resolution on the subject in 1973. The aid target was first advanced for international consideration by the World Council of Churches, in 1958.
International charity Christian Aid has also warned that “slashing the aid budget would be a backward, unnecessary and unjust step.” Chief Executive, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said: “It is less than a year since the Conservative manifesto specifically committed to 0.7% aid spending. As Desmond Tutu said, ‘A promise to the poor is particularly sacred’.”
Simeon Mitchell, the URC’s Secretary for Church and Society, commented: “The Prime Minister recently implied that spending on international development is somehow not in the national interest. As the current pandemic illustrates, the world is increasingly interdependent. In the context of the great contemporary challenges of climate change, migration, terrorism and conflict, helping to build safer, fairer, healthier societies where all can thrive within the boundaries of the planet is surely in everyone’s interests.”
Letter to the Chancellor from the URC
Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP
Chancellor of the Exchequer
21 November 2020
International Development Budget
We are writing on behalf of the United Reformed Church to express our strong concern atreports this week that the government is preparing to break its manifesto pledge and abandon Britain’s long-standing commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on international development.
The Mission Council of the United Reformed Church, when it met yesterday, unanimously affirmed its belief that a commitment to the poorest in the world should not be an optional extra but at the heart of our country’s responsibilities, especially in the context of a global pandemic and a climate emergency.
Aid programmes were already going to be cut significantly because the economy has shrunk this year. The net effect of slashing the aid budget to 0.5% of GNI would be to reduce the figure further, to less than 60% of last year’s budget, at a time when people in poverty around the world are facing additional pressures.
We urge you to maintain Britain’s 0.7% aid commitment in the current spending review.We look forward to your response, and assure you of our continued prayers.
Revd Clare Downing and Mr Peter Pay (Moderators of General Assembly, 2020-2022)
Download a copy of the letter (PDF| 164kb)
21 November 2020