UK aid spending target closer to becoming law

A UK-funded humanitarian plane arrives in Cebu, Philippines to deliver aid to Typhoon Haiyan survivors. Photo by: Simon Davis / DFID / CC BY 

Foreign aid advocates in the United Kingdom breathed a sigh of relief as an overwhelming majority of lawmakers under the House of Commons agreed Friday to enshrine into law the U.K. government’s foreign aid spending commitment.

With 146 votes in favor and only 6 against, members of the parliament supported a proposal that aims to keep U.K. aid spending at a minimum of 0.7 percent of gross national income no matter the economic tide or changes in leadership in years to come, unless a future government decides to take on the long and arduous process of repealing the proposed law.

NGOs hope that the bill will move fast and receive the same support at the House of Lords, where it will undergo scrutiny next, before the U.K. general elections in May 2015.

Although the proposal now seems to have enough bipartisan support, this hasn’t always been the case in the past. In 2012, the British Parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee published a report recommending the government not enact such a law, arguing it “wrongly prioritizes the amount spent rather than the result achieved” and that doing so would only “deprive future governments of the flexibility to respond to changing circumstances at home and abroad.”

Foreign aid advocates disagree.

“It will be a major incentive for other countries to do the same” and allow the U.K. Department for International Development to do better long-term planning and “ensure that aid is the most effective that it can possibly be,” Steve Lewis, head of global health advocacy at nonprofit RESULTS, said in a statement.

Currently, only four countries — Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom — are meeting the 0.7 percent of GNI aid spending target, although a recent AidWatch report raised concerns on the quality of some of these countries’ aid spending, which are increasingly including costs such as migration that is not counted as official development assistance by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Dutch aid, which has previously met and exceeded the 0.7 percent target, is now declining.

The move comes within six months of the general elections, but took four years after the coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron promised to enshrine the target into law in 2010. Previous attempts to legislate the 0.7 percent target have led to disappointment, and were even preceded by the gender equality law passed early this year.

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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.