On Tuesday morning, my dad and I made our way down to London with one aim to mind; to remind George Osborne to secure 0.7% of GNP to international aid. Along with 500 other campaigners, we arrived in Westminister wearing scarily-realistic George Osborne head masks and congregated in the shape of an IF. News crews arrived and intrigued commuters looked on from their bikes as we posed for photos on parliament square. The stunt was a success, and by 9.30am we had changed out of our costumes and headed back to our day-jobs. The wait was on to see if Osborne would respond to our
demands to end global hunger.
By Wednesday afternoon we were able to relax in the knowledge that Osborne had delivered his promise and the aid budget would be fixed at 0.7%. Despite a few concerns raised by hardliners, the reaction from people committed to ending world hunger was hugely positive and seen as a step in the right direction by the government.
But what exactly does this decision tell us about the power of campaigning and what it means for people living in poverty?
For campaigners, it proves that politicians do consider the demands of the electorate when making decisions. Supporters of Oxfam and Enough Food IF have been campaigning tirelessly for 40 years, and yesterday their perseverance paid off. There is a long way to go until we can say that we’ve overcome poverty but this is evidence that continuing to put pressure of decision makers is an effective way to make change.
For the international community, committing 0.7% of GNP to aid is a wake-up call to rich nations that that even economies facing the toughest austerity measures have room for aid in their budgets. Britain’s commitment has already inspired Canadian MP Mark Eyking to demand his government follows suit. There’s hope that that a similar attitude will be adopted by the remaining G8 nations as delegates prepare from this year’s negotiations led by David Cameron in Northern Ireland.
And finally, the driving force behind this and every other campaign is Oxfam’s commitment to people living in poverty. Ben Phillips, Oxfam’s head of UK campaigns, said “This decision to meet Britain’s aid promise won’t just change lives, it will save lives. Millions of children in poorer countries will now survive illnesses, go to school and have enough to eat because of the difference that Britain has made today”. The lives of 16 million children will be affected by the aid that will be delivered, showing that this decision will make
a truly significant difference.
So, in spite of attempts to reduce the aid budget by noisy backbenchers, the voices of campaigners have been heard loud and clear. As a result, development programmes can rest assured that they have the financial security to continue creating lasting solutions to the injustice of global poverty.