Ryan Henson is Chief Executive at the Coalition for Global Prosperity, and was the Conservative candidate for Bedford in the 2019 General Election. This is a sponsored post by the Coalition for Global Prosperity.
The Prime Minister’s recent Integrated Defence Review could not have been clearer: Britain is at its best when it acts as a global leader in development as well as in defence, and diplomacy.
It is fundamental to our national interest that poverty, disease, and conflict be tackled and resolved at their source. Not only is this morally right, but it helps prevent terrorism, forced migration, conflict, and disease, from spreading to Britain’s shores.
But investing in international development doesn’t just make an enduring and tangible contribution towards both the safeguarding of the most vulnerable people in the world, and to the protection of the United Kingdom. Aid also sends a clear message about our values – compassion, freedom, and support for the rule of law – which run through every town, village, and city in our United Kingdom.
They are values that are being contested more and more by the Chinese Communist Party, Putin’s Russia, and rogue states committed to undermining democracy wherever they find it. At the Coalition for Global Prosperity, we believe that an effective development budget, alongside an active diplomatic and defence strategy, keeps Britain at the forefront of saving lives, alleviating poverty and bringing freedom, security and prosperity to those who need it most.
With the UK’s world-beating international development experts now at her command, Liz Truss and her team at the Foreign Office can double down on British efforts to offer people in poorer countries the skills and resources they need to stand on their own two feet – spreading democracy, economic opportunity, and producing Britain’s trading partners of the future.
Through our world-leading international development work, Britain is also uniquely placed to shape a world where it is hard work and talent – not where you were born – that determines your chance of success in life. As her remarkably successful tenure at the Department for International Trade demonstrated, our new Foreign Secretary doesn’t want for hard work or ambition. So why should the levelling up agenda come to a screeching halt at the cliffs of Dover?
Margaret Thatcher said, “When people are free to choose, they choose freedom.” The greatest world leader since Winston Churchill wasn’t wrong. Britain’s aid budget can help shape the world around us by supporting institutions that will defend free market economies overseas, giving rise to nations that will one day work in partnership with Britain on trade, tackling climate change, and countering the rise of authoritarian states.
UK Aid also makes the world safer because it stops epidemics like Ebola and Zika from spreading. It makes the world healthier, because it develops new tools to prevent and treat diseases such as malaria. And aid makes us all more prosperous because it reduces the risk of conflict, violence, and geopolitical instability.
Some will argue that we can no longer afford to help others overseas, while we grapple with the consequences of Covid, at home. They are right to make the argument, but in a dangerous, complicated, and volatile post-pandemic world, with China prepared to step into every vacuum of power our withdrawal might create, surely the bigger question is: can we afford not to help?
The UK is a global force for good. Our flag stands for democracy, security and freedom. With a smart and effective aid budget, and a freedom fighting, trade deal signing, free marketeer at the helm in the Foreign Office, the UK can transform lives and bring prosperity not just to Britain, but to those around the world who need it most.