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Cardinal Nichols wrote to all MPs expressing his concerns about UK spending cuts on overseas aid. In his letter calls on all parties to not step back from our responsibilities to the world’s most vulnerable people in these trying times. He also highlights the impact this will have on tragedies such as forced mass migration and human trafficking.
Letter of Cardinal Vincent Nichols (full text)
26 November 2020
I am writing to express my concern at plans to reduce UK spending on overseas aid from 0.7% of gross national income to 0.5%. In today’s figures that amounts to a cut of around £4 billion in spending on help to the world’s poorest people.
A clear measure of a nation’s greatness is the manner in which it responds to the needs of its poorest. The same is true for the response to poverty between nations. If we truly wish to be a great nation, then cutting the overseas aid budget is a retrograde step. The great tragedies of forced mass migration and human trafficking must be tackled at their source. Carefully targeted and well managed overseas aid programmes are an essential part of this effort. In the face of these catastrophes, this is no time to reduce the UK’s contribution or effort.
As Pope Francis said recently, ‘Poverty, decadence and suffering in one part of the earth are a silent breeding ground for problems that will end up affecting the entire planet. If we are troubled by the extinction of certain species, we should be all the more troubled that in some parts of our world individuals or peoples are prevented from developing their potential and beauty by poverty or other structural limitations. In the end, this will impoverish us all’.1
Promises were made by all parties on aid spending at the last election. In these extraordinarily difficult times, we should not now step back from our responsibilities to the world’s most vulnerable people, especially as combatting the spread of COVID-19 will necessarily mean richer countries supporting poorer ones in purchasing vaccines for their people and helping to roll out mass vaccination programmes. Combatting COVID-19 is an international endeavour and we cannot neglect those countries that benefit from our aid. I hope that compassionate and wise counsel will prevail.
I realise the pressures which those holding elected office face in these times. Thank you for what you do and you remain in my prayers.
With every good wish,
✠ Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
1 Pope Francis Fratelli Tutti (2020, para 137)