Foreign Secretary David Cameron—who as prime minister in 2015 signed into law a promise to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on international aid—has now backtracked.
In his foreword to the white paper, Lord Cameron said: “This destination remains unchanged. But our approach needs to adapt to new realities.”
The white paper proposes, “more than half of all bilateral aid will go to least developed countries” and said Britain would, for the first time, set a target for its overseas investment arm, British International Investment (BII), “to make more than half of its investments in the poorest and most fragile countries by 2030.”
Lord Cameron once said the 0.7 percent target was a “promise that we do not have to break” but on Monday, speaking at the same summit as his boss, he said there should be no more “top-down targets.”
‘No More Top-Down Targets’
He said: “It is time to change the way we do develop, and that is what (junior foreign minister) Andrew Mitchell’s excellent white paper published today is all about. It captures how Britain will help to do this in the future. No more top-down targets and setting up fragile states to fail.”
“Instead, working with them to make sure we back their priorities, help them deliver, help them to tell the story to the people, what they’re doing to bring the countries to security and prosperity,” added Lord Cameron.
He said: “We will work as partners on strategies and plans which developing countries can vote and deliver. We will push to unlock the full potential of development finance.”
Earlier the 57-year-old former prime minister, who sat in the House of Commons for 15 years, was sworn into the House of Lords, where he will sit as Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton.
Earlier Mr. Sunak said: “It can’t be right that today in 2023, almost one billion people across the world regularly do not have enough to eat, that millions face hunger and starvation, and over 45 million children under five are suffering acute malnutrition.”
Sunak Sees Science as the Answer
Mr. Sunak said the answer to many of the world’s hunger problems was science and investment.
He announced plans for a new virtual hub which would link scientists in Britain with global research initiatives aimed at developing crops which could resist diseases and climate change.
The food summit at Lancaster House in London is being jointly hosted with Somalia, the United Arab Emirates, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Currently, food insecurity is affecting thousands of people in Ethiopia, Sudan and South Sudan.
Mr. Sunak announced an additional £16 million for the international child nutrition fund and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said Britain would match pound-for-pound the amount invested by the governments of Uganda, Ethiopia and Senegal.
Critics say Mr. Sunak was Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2020 when the decision was taken to reduce the international aid target to 0.5 percent and he also pushed for the abolition of a separate Department for International Development (DFID), which was merged with the Foreign Office.
Lisa Nandy Criticises Sunak
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow cabinet minister for international development, said: “Rishi Sunak is the chancellor who abolished DFID and slashed aid spending, costing lives and trashing Britain’s reputation as the gold standard in international development. Asking him to repair the damage is like calling on the arsonist to put out the fire.”
According to the House of Commons library, when the government reduced the target to 0.5 percent in 2021 the former Solicitor General, Lord Garnier, argued legislation was required.
PA Media contributed to this report.