With violent conflict on the rise, now is not the time to cut foreign aid

The UK government has announced plans to cut billions from its overseas aid budget to help cover the costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has cost more than a million lives and devastated countries’ economies, including in the UK. However, with the pandemic pushing millions of people into extreme poverty and the risk of instability and violent conflict rising, now is not the time to go back on a critical Conservative manifesto promise to “proudly maintain” the UK’s 0.7% aid commitment.

The loss of this commitment will undermine hard-won gains in development and peace, and divert vital resources from local peacebuilding efforts. With the majority of the world’s extremely poor living in fragile places, these efforts are crucial not only in preventing or mitigating violence but in assuring national security.

They are also needed to ensure that COVID-19 responses themselves - from emergency healthcare to future recovery interventions, including vaccine delivery - reach the most vulnerable, by helping decrease mistrust between citizens and states, address inequalities and bridge divides that can fester in fragile societies.

The government must maintain its focus on peace at a time when cross-boundary challenges such as COVID-19 and climate change are likely to threaten our shared security, which is only as strong as that of the world’s most vulnerable. Evidence has repeatedly shown that investing in sustainable peace is more cost-effective than dealing with the consequences of war and conflict. Cutting back our aid commitment now harms Global Britain’s ability to pursue its national security priorities and advance development goals held in common – all at a much higher cost later in ‘blood and treasure’.