Our international neighbours

Author: Martin Brown

Our international neighbours

In one of its final actions before the general election, parliament passed the International Development Act 2015, which commits UK governments by law to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. CAFOD’s Martin Brown looks at the government’s record on international aid.

The parable of the Good Samaritan is one of the most famous stories Jesus told, with many non-Christians also familiar with it. But how much can it be applied to international politics? 

The teachings of Christ are meant to permeate every tier of society and every aspect of lives, but is it realistic for countries to be the Good Samaritan on the international stage?

In a recent statement about the general election, the Catholic Bishop's Conference of England and Wales said: “We rightly have ties to our own families and communities, but are always called by the Gospel to a wider solidarity with others and to help build a society based on love and justice, where decisions are always made at the most appropriate level.”

In the past few years the UK joined a small handful of countries which spend 0.7% of their GNI (Gross National Income) on international aid. The coalition government faced down some vocal opposition to this amount of spending, but thanks to support from all sides, it is now enshrined in law.

While some have been highlighting that ‘charity starts at home’, the Bishops of England and Wales have affirmed that it doesn’t end there. Their recent statement went on to say: “As members of one human family, the richer nations such as ours have a duty to help the development of poorer nations.”

Climate Change

It is not just how much is spent on aid that is important, there are other related issues too.

Climate change is the single biggest threat to reducing poverty. People living in poverty are most vulnerable to climate change, which threatens food availability, clean water sources and the health and livelihoods of millions of people.

The record of the government on climate change is patchy despite David Cameron’s statement in 2010 that he wanted it to be the greenest government ever.

While there were some positive moves such as the fourth carbon budget and the government’s involvement in getting an EU deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, there have also been some measures that have led people to question its green credentials: the government’s support for fracking, abandonment of duty rises in petrol and an on-going energy policy that is still very dependent on fossil fuels.

Just because the general election has now passed, your involvement in politics needn't be over for five years. Why not join CAFOD in Westminster on 17th June to lobby your MP on climate change?

  • Martin Brown is CAFOD manager for Arundel & Brighton diocese.

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