The UK Aid Programme: what is it and why it matters

The UK Aid Programme: what is it and why it matters

On Monday 3rd December, BPFG’s Student Ambassadors, Saffron Hill and Imogen Kirwan organised an exciting panel on ‘The UK Aid Programme’ as part of the University of Exeter’s Politics Summit. This panel event was co-hosted by the University’s Politics society, PPE society, Conflict, Peace and Security society and the University of Exeter’s Diplomatic Hub. The discussion was chaired by BFPG’s Imogen Kirwan.

Panellists for this event were:

Judith Smith, Founder, Buturi Project

Professor John Heathershaw, Associate Professor, Director of Impact, University of Exeter

Professor Neil Adger, Professor of Human Geography, University of Exeter

Professor Myles Wickstead, Visiting Professor, International Relations, King’s College London

The panellists provided valuable insights into how the UK aid programme encompasses a far broader spectrum of issues than one might have previously thought. Judith Smith, founder of the Buturi Project, explained why prioritising education should be a fundamental aspect of the UK aid programme. She highlighted how this could help to increase social mobility for young people. Judith stressed that the UK aid programme should aim to have a long-term purpose as much as a responsibility to respond to immediate crises.

Professor John Heathershaw described the role of security concerns in aid spending, explaining how overlapping conflict prevention and development directives can be problematic. He stressed that whilst security and development have connections, each area is distinct and the UK aid programme’s objectives should not be conflated with that of its defence programme’s goals. Professor Neil Adger clarified that the term ‘security’ in policy making has been progressively developed to include sub-state problems following the September 11th terrorist attacks in the U.S. Every day insecurities such as sexual violence, should also be considered as security issues – that the UK aid programme can help solve.

The discussion provided a useful insight into how the UK aid programme is changing. Judith Smith emphasised how the organisation of the aid programme is increasingly helping to foster dialogue between government and citizens. Suggestions on how the UK aid programme might be improved were also offered. Professor Adger argued that aid initiatives involving technology are required to provide solutions which would be appropriate for the local context.

For the latter half of the event, panellists responded to key questions from the audience around how the UK’s aid strategy could be improved. Building on audience discussion about the 0.7% of GDP aid spending target, the panel agreed that whilst the percentage may originally have been arbitrary, it now serves a useful purpose in providing an efficient amount of spending for UK aid. Professor Myles Wickstead drew on a recent BFPG report proposing a 3% spending target for securing UK international interests. He argued that this umbrella figure would be helpful for carrying out UK obligations as well as securing Britain’s global role. Furthermore, Professor Wickstead also suggested that not only is the 0.7% figure useful for the UK, but that it also needs to be adopted by every country in order to confront global challenges such as climate change. This tied into the other core theme of the Summit: why the UK aid programme matters. Collectively, the panel agreed that solutions to worldwide problems required a worldwide response.

Overall, the first Exeter Politics Summit proved to be highly interesting and engaging. The summit was successful in providing not only clear explanations of what the UK Aid programme is and why it matters, but also in engendering a forum for discussing these issues. This event was part of the first of a series of events that BFPG’s Student Ambassadors will organise over the course of the academic year.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of the BFPG. The BFPG is an independent not for profit organisation that encourages constructive, informed and considered opinions without taking an institutional position on any issue.
The UK Aid Programme: what is it and why it matters
Will Sowter

William Sowter is a Student Ambassador for the British Foreign Policy Group. He is an undergraduate studying History at the University of Exeter. With a focus on postwar global politics in his studies and having interned in the international charity sector, he is interested in the intersection of long term foreign policy and development.