Britain’s budget for direct humanitarian aid, which stood at more than £1.5 billion in 2020, reduced to £744 million in 2021, with official developmental assistance funds from the country down 21% overall. This major budgetary shift, in the form of Britain’s foreign aid cuts, could have long-term devastations on impoverished communities across the world that are trying to recover from the pandemic, extreme weather conditions, and now, the consequences of the Russia-Ukraine war.
The United Nations (U.N.) stated on April 13, 2022, that the war in Ukraine could potentially push 1.7 billion people into circumstances of poverty and food insecurity. The slashing of the British budget makes these circumstances only direr as the equivalent of more than one-fifth of the world faces the risk of poverty. Cuts to countries such as Ethiopia (from £241 million to £108 million), Kenya (£67 million to £41 million) and Somalia (£121 million to £71 million) raise concerns for African nations and their respective fights against poverty.
Head of government relations at Oxfam, Sam Nadel, noted that these cuts are occurring amid an array of global challenges, such as war, the pandemic and famine in Africa, which ultimately hinders the ability to adequately address these issues and fight off future devastations.
The Impact of the Ukrainian Crisis
Countries like the United States and Britain are putting the remainder of their foreign affairs budgets toward addressing the crisis in Ukraine. In May 2022, British ministers announced an allocation of £220 million worth of humanitarian aid to Ukraine amid the war, meaning, in the broader budget, the remainder of foreign aid for other nations is smaller than before.
The United States Congress approved on May 19, 2022, an aid allocation of $40 billion for Ukraine, which the United States will distribute through traditional means of aid. This is an all-encompassing budget that includes economic support ($9.4 billion), weapons ($12.5 billion), food assistance ($7 billion) and more. This amount of aid surpasses the amount given to any other individual country in the past decade by the United States and serves as a major shift in the focus of aid distribution. Though U.S. foreign aid only makes up about 1% of the 2022 federal budget, this aid package, so far, exceeds the contributions of all other nations.
Public opinion plays a significant role in the future of foreign aid priorities. One major way that foreign aid can still make it to impoverished nations is through public outreach. By having citizens call their congressional leaders in support of protecting foreign aid and poverty-focused policy, the risk of aid cuts greatly diminishes.
If the public perception of foreign aid goes against putting more dollars into the foreign assistance budget, then the chances of congressmen being able to pass more federal spending become lower. In the current landscape of federal spending, 73% of U.S. citizens believe that foreign aid to Ukraine is either at the right amount or too little, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted in April 2022. In addition, U.S. citizens are wary about using direct military action against Russia with 72% against the use of force. U.S. citizens are well aware of the crisis in Ukraine and are keen on vocalizing their support for certain measures.
The Future of Foreign Aid
Britain’s foreign aid cuts come at a time when the world requires significant assistance. Now more than ever, countries must prioritize foreign aid to nations in crisis. Through public outreach, increased foreign aid allocations and more vocal support, aid to nations in crisis can continue. Through the collective efforts of the international community, the world can recover from the current global challenges.
– Albert Vargas