In early August the World Bank announced that it was suspending new loans to Uganda over the country’s draconian anti-homosexuality laws. Although a controversial decision by the World Bank, the fact that a Ugandan man is potentially facing the death penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ shows that the Bank is justified in its stance. International aid should always come with strings attached.
International aid is incredibly important. The money sent to less economically developed countries either directly or through bodies such as the World Bank goes to help some of the poorest people on the planet by helping their countries to build schools, hospitals, transport and energy infrastructure, and sanitation. Ultimately it provides a lifeline to the poorest people on the planet by lifting them out of poverty and ensuring that they can provide a better life for themselves and their families.
The UK should be proud of this. However, the case for international aid risks being undermined if the money we send is used to support regimes which implement policies which violate the rights of others. Taxpayers would be rightly outraged if their largesse was used to fund governments which persecute sexual, racial, or religious minorities. This could lead to growing resentment and disillusionment towards international aid and would strengthen the hand of those who would prefer it if the UK reduced the foreign aid budget even more. International aid is too important for this to be allowed to happen.
Therefore, the UK should ensure that its foreign aid budget is only ever spent – with the exception of emergency situations – on countries which share our values. For those countries who do not share our values, any support should be contingent upon them abolishing egregious laws. In so doing the UK can not only improve the financial condition of people and nations it can also help to bring freedom and democracy to these countries and help to end the persecution of minority groups.
The same should also go for tackling climate change. The government should again insist that aid is contingent upon the beneficiary nation implementing environmentally friendly policies while also providing them with the funding they need to adopt green energy. Debt relief should also be linked to decarbonisation as suggested by the IMF. Not only would this free up revenue for developing countries it would also help to tackle climate change. It is people in the poorest countries who are most vulnerable when it comes to climate change and so it is only right that the UK leads the way in helping these countries to develop in an environmentally sustainable way.
Finally, the UK should work with organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF to ensure that countries receiving financial support make the necessary economic reforms. Countries receiving development and stabilisation loans should be encouraged to stamp out corruption, implement fiscal reform, open their markets to the rest of the world, and embrace free trade. This is the only way that these countries can ever hope to escape poverty and improve the lives of their citizens.
Foreign aid is incredibly important and the government should commit to increasing the foreign aid budget. However, it is essential that money sent by UK taxpayers is used to not only lift people out of a life of subsistence but also allow them to live their lives as they see fit, to love who they want, to worship how they want, and not be persecuted simply for being who they are. It should also be used to help countries transition to sustainable, market economies. International aid is a powerful tool and so should always come with strings attached.