Penny Mordaunt hails UK aid as a shield against crime, poverty and terrorism


UK Aid is a shield against pandemics, organised crime, poverty and terrorism, and an example of British values,Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary has said.

In a speech short on detail, but long on colour and allusion, Mordaunt evoked images of past glories and wartime Britain.

She also announced the launch of a new “great partnership” that, she said, would “connect all that our nation has to offer, its talents, its people and communities, its expertise and knowledge, and its resource to those in the developing world”.

She portrayed the UK as “the cradle for democracy, the fight against slavery and for universal suffrage”, as well as the birthplace of the Paralympics, Leonard Cheshire and Live Aid, adding that she voted for Brexit because she believed British values should be projected on to the world stage.

Speaking at the Wellcome Collection in London, Mordaunt said: “Britain stands for free trade and cooperation, the rule of law, justice and human rights. We believe in bravery, in service and in sacrifice. We believe in the potential of the people … We’re unselfish because we believe in freedom.”

Mordaunt praised the British press, which had uncovered the scandal of sexual misconduct at the charity Oxfam. “Remember, we only learned about that from journalists, operating in a free press, in our democratic country. Our national values and institutions are unselfish,” she said.

However, a question and answer session scheduled to follow the speech was cancelled.

Responding to critics of aid spending, Mordaunt promised to ensure money was spent wisely: “To those who say please put up a shield, I say, we are … It’s a shield called UK Aid.”

Development, alongside diplomacy and defence, was a key element of Britain’s strategy, said Mordaunt. “We know we can only talk softly if we carry a big stick,” she added. “And we know that without diplomacy and the 0.7% on aid we are going to need an even bigger stick.”

Mordaunt promised better collaboration between government departments and tools that will allow the public to track the progress of initiatives. She also said that a new partnership with the City of London would bring down the barriers to trade and unlock investment for emerging markets in Africa and Asia.

The partnership, claimed Mordaunt, would help in “achieving the global goals and delivering financial returns, innovation and markets for the UK”.

Alex Thier, executive director of the Overseas Development Institute, said that while partnerships with the private sector have been talked about for some time, they are not easy to implement. “There are reasons why it’s not done now, so they’re going to have to be intensely focused on finding out where the blockages are and creating new tools and instruments and relationships to unblock that,” he said.

A number of development groups warned that UK aid should not be used simply to further the country’s commercial and security interests.

Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development, said further policy details were needed, but added: “Evidence clearly shows that if aid and development are used to serve the UK’s national interests, it will be less effective and poorer value for money. UK values are better reflected by keeping those we seek to help at the heart of what we do.”

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, also raised concerns. “We’ve clearly seen the dangers that the big financial corporations in the City of London have done to the world over the last 10 years,” he said. “What the developing world needs is the control and regulation of these institutions so they can gain some control over their own economic development. Unfettered free trade and free markets will not solve poverty. They will make the world more unequal, more insecure, more dangerous.”



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