UK: Church agencies criticize increased military expenditure and aid cuts
By Vatican News staff reporter
Church aid organizations in Britain have expressed their strong disappointment over the UK Government's Spring Budget which prioritizes military spending over humanitarian aid to developing countries.
The budget, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt presented to the Commons last week, includes a commitment to increase the defence budget by £11 billion over the next five years, nearly 2.25 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP), after the UK in 2020 reduced its overseas aid from the UN target of 0.7% to 0.55% of its gross national income (GNI) in order to free up more cash for domestic spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Increasing military expenditure is "unforgivable" when millions face famine
According to Cafod, the Agency for Overseas Development of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW), spending £11 billion more on the military is “unforgivable” when millions face famine in East Africa. “It cannot be right for the UK to cut its aid budget despite the region suffering its worst droughts in decades”, said Neil Thorns, Cafod’s director of advocacy.
Christian Aid, the ecumenical Christian charity supporting developing countries, also expressed strong criticism. “From conflict to climate change, the poorest and most vulnerable communities are facing challenges like never before. Yet this budget fails once again to deliver the finance needed”, said the charity’s chief of UK advocacy, Sophie Powell. “Not only has the aid pot been stunted and raided by other government departments, but it has also lost its focus on tackling poverty and its causes.”
The UK should be a leader in providing humanitarian aid
The responses follow an open letter addressed on March 14 to the government by the Friends of Cafod All-party Parliamentary Group calling for further action in East Africa where millions of people are already living with crisis-level food insecurity due to climate change, as well as war. The countries affected include Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Kenya. As reported by The Tablet, the letter highlighted that the UK’s current commitment of £156 million to the region is 80 per cent less than it provided during a drought six years ago.
In a previous letter addressed on February 2 to the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the leaders of Cafod, Christian Aid and the international Christian relief charity Tearfund, urged the UK to restore the aid budget, saying its financial support for Ukraine must not be at the cost of aid to other areas of the world in crisis.
According to a recent opinion poll commissioned by Christian Aid, 53% of the British public agree the UK should be a leader in providing humanitarian aid and peacebuilding in countries facing crisis.
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