Clegg to push aid goal at UN summit
Nick Clegg has vowed to tell the leaders of the world's richest countries to "step up to the plate" and deliver on promises to boost aid for the developing world.
The Deputy Prime Minister warned some states were guilty of "backsliding" on pledges as he prepared to fly to New York to represent the UK Government at United Nations talks on meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Agreed by 192 UN member states a decade ago, the MDGs include the eradication of extreme poverty; universal primary education; promotion of gender equality; cutting child mortality by two-thirds; combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases; environmental sustainability; and a new global partnership for development.
The UK is one of the few donor states to have lived up to its commitments under the MDGs on issues like eradicating extreme poverty and cutting infant mortality. Aid agencies are worried however that a failure of political will in other rich countries may mean the UN missing its 2015 deadline for delivering the ambitious targets.
Mr Clegg, who cut short his attendance at the Liberal Democrat conference in Liverpool to attend the US talks, said: "We have taken a lead as a Government: we have said we will honour our promise, even in these difficult times, to provide 0.7% of our national wealth for development.
"I want to talk to other world leaders and say: look, you've got to step up to the plate as well. There is a lot of backsliding going on.
"I do not think Britain should be holier-than-thou about this but I do think we need to say 'look, even though we have a lot of problems at home, the long-term challenge of creating a world where you do not have these grotesque inequalities of wealth, it's in our own interests to help those countries'. If we want to deal with terrorism, environmental degradation, migration, we have got to do it and honour the promises."
Mr Clegg defended the Tory-Lib Dem Government's decision to protect aid spending from the severe public spending cuts being imposed across most other Whitehall departments.
He said he understood why voters at home would question why foreign countries were getting priority, but told Sky News: "Not only is it the right thing to do morally...but also it is in our interests.
"If you want to deal with terrorism, extremism, if you want to stop people upping sticks and moving across continents and coming to settle in Europe and here, you have got to make sure the circumstances are better for them."