Today’s Westminster debate on the future of DFID

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Ahead of today’s Westminster debate on the future of DFID ActionAid call on parliamentarians to recognise the very real difference the department makes to the lives of women and girls now.

Chief Executive of ActionAid UK, Girish Menon 

Ahead of today’s Westminster debate on the future of DFID, we call on parliamentarians to recognise the very real difference that DFID has made and continues to make to the lives of women and girls living in the world’s poorest countries. 

The UK has long been recognised and respected as a global leader in international development. In recent years, it has cemented its reputation by meeting the 0.7% UN target on aid spending – the first major economy to do so. This commitment has been applauded and has built trust internationally. It has made us a Global Britain. As the UK considers its relationship with the EU, we should not underestimate the importance of British soft power to our standing in the world. 

DFID was established under Labour over twenty years ago, it was a coalition government that achieved the 0.7% and a Conservative government that upheld it. DFID and UK Aid is the product of cross-party efforts to build a more just and equal world, a principle we can all embrace.  

This Government department not only has an outstanding record of tackling poverty overseas and addressing complex global challenges; it sets a global standard. It is one of the most effective and transparent aid agencies in the world, consistently ensuring that UK taxpayers are getting maximum value for money from every penny of aid spent. Other UK Government Departments have a long way to go to meet DFID’s standards. 

Programs such as the “What Works” to Prevent violence against women and girls Initiative” shows how DFID can be a pioneer in innovative research, producing tangible, life-changing evidence on approaches to reduce and prevent violence. It has delivered world class projects to address FGM and early forced marriage, improve access to family planning or eradicate diseases – saving the lives of women and girls every step of the way. 

At ActionAid we know first-hand that women and girls are at the sharp end of global poverty. One in three are likely to experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner or someone they know; they take on the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work – on average 2.5 times more than men; and are more likely to be in low-paid precarious jobs.  We know what the solutions are – from the provision of gender responsive public services, such as childcare or healthcare, to improving access to justice or creating better jobs. Gender inequality isn’t inevitable, but it takes political will as well as the foresight and courage to address and challenge it - and DFID is doing just that. 

DFID is pivotal to the UK’s aspiration of a ‘Global Britain’. Through its partnerships and influence, it can make the world safer, more just, more equal and more fair. So, today’s debate should both focus on how we make DFID even better and gives us an opportunity to demonstrate equal political courage to support our greatest international asset – 0.7% commitment spent by an independent DFID.