Britain has a proud history of providing support for people to lift themselves out of poverty around the world. Today, we celebrate part of that history as we reflect on the law, passed exactly one year ago, that enshrined in law our commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on fighting global poverty.
UK aid transforms lives
Thanks to British aid, girls go to school, mothers survive childbirth, and women work their way out of poverty. 11 million of them in fact – nearly half of them girls – have been supported to get an education over the last five years alone. Million of mothers and babies survive childbirth – with 5.1 million births taking place safely with the assistance of nurses, midwives or doctors. And almost 70 million people, including 36 million women, have been able to access finance to help them work their way out of poverty.
And these are just a few examples of how our support is transforming millions of people’s lives for the better. We’re also a world leader in providing humanitarian assistance to people suffering from natural disasters or conflict. Over 13 million people have been reached with emergency food assistance – including 5.5 million women or girls – and the UK is one of the biggest providers of humanitarian aid to the Syrian crisis.
The fight for a fairer future isn’t over yet
All of which has helped contribute to the halving of extreme poverty the world has seen over the last fifteen years. We are making progress, but there are still lots to do. Our progress is threatened by runaway economic inequality as the gap between the richest and the rest has widened dramatically. Unless we reduce that gap, developing countries will struggle to pay for the services and support we need to truly make poverty history.
Oxfam continues to push other countries to follow the UK’s lead and hit the UN target for aid spending. We also campaign to reduce extreme inequality. We are calling for the closure of tax havens which are at the heart of this inequality crisis. Every year, the poorest countries lost $170bn of funds they could spend on public services to tax dodgers who head straight for the secrecy of tax havens. All governments, including our own, can help to end them.
As the World Bank’s President says, tax dodging is “a form of corruption that hurts the poor”. That’s why we’re calling on the Prime Minister to get tough on tax havens, including the UK’s crown dependencies and overseas territories, at the global Anti-Corruption Summit that he’s hosting in London in May.
So much more work lies ahead of us in the struggle to end global poverty. But today let’s reflect on the passing of this historic law as well as the decades of campaigning by Oxfam supporters and the leadership of politicians across the political spectrum. Whether you wore a white band during the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005, or picked up the phone to your MP in 2015, you should take today to be proud of your positive impact on the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.