Belfast Telegraph

International Development Bill: It's not charity but delivering political and social stability which benefits us at home and others abroad

By Naomi Long

The inspirational Anne Frank is quoted in her famous diary as stating ‘No-one has ever become poor from giving’.

It is precisely that recognition that helped me decide to back the vital International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Bill, which is due to receive its third reading in the House of Commons today.

It is designed to enshrine in law a commitment from the British Government to provide 0.7 per cent of gross national income on aid. The importance of the Bill is such that it remains vital despite austerity measures elsewhere and compliments work I have been carrying out as an MP, showing global responsibility is just as central to our lives as local concerns.

Such aid truly changes things and improves lives around the world on a daily basis. Since 2011, British aid has provided 43.1 million people with clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions.

As a former civil engineer, I know just how crucial the lasting impact can be. At the last count, there are still over 800 million people who can’t access clean water and 2.6 billion without basic sanitation such as a safe toilet. Consequently, far too many people are dying needlessly, with diseases resulting from diarrhoea still being the biggest killer of children under five in sub-Saharan Africa.

With the right treatment and facilities provided by the enshrined-in-law aid, these illnesses could be almost entirely eliminated. As women and girls still shoulder most of the responsibility for the collection of clean drinking water from wells in developing countries, the aid would have the added effect of improving education, as females will be freed from this arduous daily chore and can attend school instead.

Once the Government’s aid commitment is regulated, it will remove time-consuming arguments about how much aid we should be giving and instead shift the emphasis on how the 0.7 per cent is best spent to give the greatest amount of help.

It is not a matter of charity but rather delivering social justice, equality of opportunity, and political and social stability which benefits us at home as well as others abroad. In an increasingly interconnected world, challenges overseas affect our day-to-day lives. Need does not stop at borders: neither should we.

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