Overseas Aid Statement from our General Secretary
The Covid-19 pandemic is, without a doubt, one of the most devastating tragedies in living memory. So far it has claimed over 1.3 million lives worldwide and it is predicted that 115 million people will be forced back into extreme poverty as a direct result of the pandemic.
In the UK, churches up and down the country, including many Baptist churches, have been mobilising in any number of creative ways to ensure we play our part in alleviating the suffering of those most adversely affected by the physical and economic consequences of the virus. So, while we will never take for granted the adversity being experienced in the UK, we are deeply aware that this is a global disaster and some of the most acute suffering is being felt in countries that were experiencing extreme hardship before coronavirus started to spread.
It is for this reason I must express deep concern over reports that the UK government are considering reducing our commitment to funding international aid. Since 1970 the UN has advocated for countries to allocate 0.7% of their Gross National Income to oversees aid. In 2013 the UK met this target for the first time. In 2015 the UK made this commitment legally binding and so has built a reputation as a leader in strengthening global health systems, tackling global challenges and reducing poverty. Should the government now renege on its manifesto commitment to maintain that level of aid, many of the most vulnerable people in the world will be forced to endure even more suffering. Not only that, but the UK will risk its standing as a nation committed to seeing a healthier, safer and flourishing world – all this on the eve of the UK hosting the G7 summit and the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in 2021.
The civil rights activist and US Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, once said, “The measure of a country's greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis.” There is no doubt that we are in a time of crisis, both in the UK and across the world, but now is not the time to compromise our commitment to the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Desmond Tutu once famously said, “A promise to the poor is particularly sacred” – I would encourage all members of our Baptist family, and anyone else who would hear, to pray for our government and then make their voices heard by contacting their MPs, in the hope that the UK would not break its promise to the world’s poorest communities.
Lynn Green (General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain)