In its November 2020 Spending Review, the UK Government announced it would reduce Official Development Assistance (ODA) from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI).
At the UN Pledging event for the Humanitarian situation in Yemen on 2 March 2021, Minister for the Middle East and North Africa, James Cleverly, said that UK aid to Yemen in 2021/22 will be “at least £87 million.” The pledge represents a pathetic 27 percent of the £214 million delivered in aid to Yemen in 2020.
Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The UN hoped to raise £2.76bn from more than 100 governments and donors at a virtual pledging conference on Monday to avert widespread famine, but received less than half of that in what the UN secretary general described as a “disappointing outcome”.
The vastly reduced amount pledged by the UK comes despite Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s classification of humanitarian need as a priority area that would be given protection from its spending cuts.
It is difficult to reconcile this cut with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s speech at the Aspen Security Conference on 17 March saying that Global Britain will “act as a force for good in today’s world”.
The cut to funding will almost certainly cost lives. 20 million of Yemen’s people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. In February 2021 the World Food Programme said that 16.2 million people face hunger which is “unprecedented”. It forecasts that famine-like conditions will triple in the first half of 2021, affecting 47,000 people.
The Chair of the International Development Committee, Sarah Champion MP, said the decision “is completely at odds with the Government’s assertions that the UK should be a global leader, especially in the year with the G7 and COP presidencies.” The Chairs of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees have called on the Government to revisit the pledged amount.