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0.7% aid bill becomes law: why we should all be celebrating

Save the Children campaigners celebrate outside Parliament yesterday.
Save the Children campaigners celebrate outside Parliament yesterday.

As members of the #TurnUpSaveLives campaign, Save the Children has been calling on Britain’s politicians to enshrine in law a commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on international aid.

Yesterday, peers voted overwhelmingly in favour of doing so, and the bill will shortly become law. Our head of government relations, Flora Alexander, takes a look at why the campaign was successful.

As we gear up for the most uncertain general election in decades in May, our political heavyweights have been trading blows, attempting to apportion credit and blame for the pasts five years’ achievements and failures.

But away from the spotlight, parties from across the political spectrum have been quietly collaborating on one issue – international development.

The coalition partners and the opposition have worked together to support Michael Moore’s private member’s bill to enshrine in law a commitment to the UN target of spending 0.7% of our national income on international aid.

Only six MPs voted against the bill at its second reading in the Commons, with record numbers from both sides of the House staying in London to support it – despite the vote taking place just before Scotland’s independence referendum.

And yesterday, peers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the bill, meaning it will now become law.

A promise kept

Why did the three main parties put aside their differences to ensure the bill could pass? Was it brand detoxification for the Conservatives? Part of the Lib Dems’ differentiation strategy?

Were Labour backing it while secretly hoping it would fail so they could hail the return of the ‘nasty party’? I’ve heard all of these arguments suggested to explain each party’s support for the bill.

But I think the explanation is simpler – that politicians believe we should keep our promises and do our bit to alleviate poverty and suffering.

Despite our economic difficulties, our economy remains one the world’s largest, and there is a deeply held belief among British politicians that we should use our resources to help those in less favoured places.

A source of pride

Aid has been critical in many of the world’s development success stories, including the near-eradication of polio, and halving the number of children dying before their fifth birthday – from 12.6million in 1990 to 6.3million today.

UK investment in vaccines currently saves a child’s life every two minutes. It’s an often repeated, but wonderful statistic – and one which is a source of pride for many politicians.

Now that the aid commitment is enshrined in law, we can move the debate on from how much we should spend to how we can ensure our investments are effective, leading to transformative, sustainable change for people in the poorest countries.

We can also take comfort in the fact that the parties put aside their differences and worked together to keep a promise that featured in each of their manifestos in 2010.

As we approach the end of this parliament, our politicians have made a decision that will shape what kind of country they want to build in the next.

I for one want to say thank you.

A version of this blog first appeared in the Huffington Post

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