Some members of the British Parliament (MPs) are fighting proposed cuts to foreign aid, some of which would directly impact Yemen, a nation of about 16 million people. Due to what Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other Labour leaders say must occur to recuperate revenue loss from Covid-19.
Others disagree, most notably Conservative MPs, but the issue against these cuts crosses party lines. Currently, the British government spends 0.7% of its national income on humanitarian aid, a law passed in 2015. It is also recognized as a key target among many international organizations and communities.
PM Johnson and other Labour party advocates seek to cut that down to 0.5%, which would equate to approximately £4 billion. The key to this is that the cuts will cease when the national debt begins to decline and the government is no longer borrowing for regular operational spending.
Conservative MPs are seeking enough support to force the government to live up to its obligations and the law stipulated in 2015.
Charities Warn of Devastating Consequences
The current cuts to international aid programs will extend indefinitely, unless counter support can be rallied, and this could lead to serious long-term and devastating consequences, according to numerous charitable organizations around the world.
One such organization stated that when cutting aid during one of the worst crises in modern time is akin to “cutting the RAF during the Battle of Britain.” Former Prime Minister, Theresa May, was one of 24 Conservative MPs who stood against these aid cuts and said the government was essentially, “turning its back on some of the poorest people in the world.”
While some strong, determined MPs stood firm, when the resolution to force adherence to 2015’s law came up for a vote, a number of wavering proponents melted under the spotlight, and obtaining the fifty-needed supporters failed. Some of the supporters of the resolution to force the UK to live up to its obligations had been quite vocal leading up to the vote, but suddenly turned away at the last moment.
UK charitable organization Oxfam GB’s chief executive, Danny Sriskandarajah stated, “We are seeing a yawning gap between the rhetoric of ‘Global Britain’ and the reality of a government breaking its promised to the world’s poorest and further undermining the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”
Yemen in the Crosshairs of a Crisis
While Great Britain’s foreign aid cuts will impact a number of nations, Yemen stands to suffer the most, as about two-thirds of its citizens require some level of humanitarian aid. Funding for aid is running out quickly, though, according to the United Nations.
The UN is reaching out to the global community to help shore up needed $3.85 billion (US) in aid. When one looks at the amount Great Britain cut from its foreign aid spending, which totaled about £4 billion, it becomes clear that Great Britain’s decision is set to have negative ramifications on Yemen.
2020 saw a significant drop in foreign aid to Yemen, largely blamed on the impact the coronavirus has had on many countries. For Yemen’s aid, the UN only received about half of what they received the year before, which totaled about $1.9 billion (US).
This year, 16 million people are expected to need direct assistance from these funds, and unfortunately, the funding continues to be slashed.
Currently, Yemen represents the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world. Following years of conflict, famine, and a breakdown of the most basic infrastructure necessities, millions of Yemenis, especially children, stand to suffer in the wake of foreign aid cuts.
Currently, about two million school-aged children no longer have access to school. On top of that, aid supporters claim that if they don’t get the right level of care and support for schooling fast enough, they may never return to their education, even if it becomes available sometime in the future.
This current aid crisis isn’t merely about providing food and shelter, but also the future of Yemen. If Great Britain, which passed its own law in 2015 declaring 0.7% of GDP to be spent on foreign aid, can change its own laws on a whim, during the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II, what other countries will follow their lead? It’s a dangerous precedent to set and one that will likely have far-reaching consequences.