Telegraph (London), June 8, 2013
David Cameron has defended the amount of money that the government spends on foreign aid and said it made him “proud to be British”.
The Prime Minister said that the world should be aiming to save 20 million children from chronic malnutrition by 2020 as he hosted a conference intended to drum up billions of pounds to tackle world hunger.
Graca Machel, the wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela had been due to appear at the conference but flew home to see her husband as he was taken to hospital with a lung infection.
She had been due to address the Nutrition for Growth meeting on Saturday afternoon.
Addressing the conference, Mr Cameron said that Britain was leading the way on aid even through the amount the country spent on aid was equivalent to just 1p from every £1 of tax paid.
The government has faced heavy criticism in recent months after it emerged that British aid was going to relatively wealthy countries.
A sixth of the Department for International Developments budget is also diverted to the EU for its own schemes, which have included £800,000 being spent on building a water park in Morocco while Iceland received £20 million.
Around £5 million was spent in Bangladesh setting up a Question Time style television programme.
Mr Cameron acknowledged concerns that taxpayers money was being spent on aid while the government faces further austerity cuts at home.
“We are the kind of people who believe in doing what is right,” Mr Cameron told the conference in London,” he told the event in London.
“We accept the moral case for keeping our promises to the world’s poorest even when we face challenges at home.
“When people are dying, we don’t believe in finding excuses. We believe in trying to do something about it.”
Mr Cameron highlighted Band Aid, Live8, and Red Nose Day, and the public’s generous response to appeals to disasters abroad.
“It says something about this country. It says something about our standing in the world and our sense of duty in helping others.
“In short – it says something about the kind of people we are.
“And that makes me proud to be British.”
The Prime Minister said it was important to continue providing aid to developing countries even while people back at home were having to tighten the purse strings.
Britain was “out in front” in reaching the target to give 0.7% of GDP because of the “kind of people we are”, he insisted.
He said: “We understand that if we invest in countries before they get broken we might not end up spending so much on dealing with the problems whether that’s immigration or new threats to our national security.
“So yes, Britain will continue to lead from the front. We are one of the few countries in the world to meet our promise to spend 0.7 per cent of our Gross National Income on development.
“And as part of this commitment, we will use that money to play a full part in the battle to beat hunger.
“If others play their part too, the commitments that the UK is making today could help 37 million children fight malnutrition by getting the right food and the right care.
“If these children grow up healthy, they will increase their earnings by 10%.
“And at what cost per taxpayer? Not even as much as 1p a day. And more broadly, if you take our whole commitment to 0.7% then for every £1 you pay in tax, just over 1 pence goes toward our aid budget.
“That’s a good investment.”
Mr Cameron admitted many people feared the problem of hunger was “never going to be solved” and more needed to be done.
“The truth is if we carry on doing things in the same way, they will be right,” he warned.
“But because we have the track record and because we have kept our promises we have earned the right to say that we should do things differently.
“We will never beat hunger just by spending more money or getting developed nations and philanthropists to somehow ‘do development’ to the developing world.
“It has to be about doing things differently. Different in terms of business. Different in terms of science. Different in terms of government.
“It’s all about helping those in developing countries take control of their own destiny.”
The Prime Minister was addressing fellow leaders, businessmen, and foundations as they try to hammer out ambitious targets.
Campaigning groups hope that an extra $3 billion of funding for direct nutritional interventions between now and 2020 can be agreed.
Bill Gates and Danny Boyle are set to address a protest rally to coincide with the London meeting, which comes ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.
The demonstration, hosted by lobby group Enough Food For Everyone If, is expected to attract thousands to Hyde Park.