Justine Greening eyes new approach for UK aid

Justine Greening, U.K. secretary of state for international development, greets schoolchildren during her visit in Kenya. Greening underlined the importance of development budget in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. Photo by: Noor Khamis / DfID / CC BY-NC-ND

Justine Greening has said meeting the United Nations’ target of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid is the right thing to do  and the majority of the British public agrees.

In a poll commissioned by advocacy group ONE, 41 percent of surveyed British adults think it is just right for the government to push through with its plans to spend 1.6 pence in every pound of government spending on foreign aid. Twenty percent of respondents even think government spending on aid is “too low.”

Sixty-three percent of surveyed adults, meanwhile, thought the government planned to spend more than 20 percent of its budget on foreign aid. This, however, is not surprising. Some respondents to a poll in September on Irish aid also thought Ireland spends more than 1 percent of GNI.

In her speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Greening underlined the importance of the United Kingdom’s development budget — to the children in Kenya who could be the next Steve Jobs or Tim Berners Lee or women who need medical care to survive childbirth or work opportunities.

Maintaining aid is “not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do,” she said. “This is not only good for the people of the countries concerned, it’s good for us in Britain. It matters for our security too.”

Greening reiterated her intention to build on Andrew Mitchell’s work as development secretary. But she said “we need to not only carry on this work, but also speed up its pace.” She highlighted the need to invest in “what works” to have the “biggest impact,” focus on transparency, and put her department at the “heart of the technology debate.”

“I’m going to take a new approach to ensure that every pound we spend has the biggest possible impact possible,” she said. “And yes, thatwill mean stopping some programmes, where I don’t think they are working. And putting the money elsewhere.”

As for value for money, Greening said she wants to bring that focus to the European Union.

“I don’t think it’s right that the EU still gives money to those countries higher up the income scale, when we’ve taken the decision to target the poorest,” she said.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.