“Balancing the books during a pandemic on the backs of the world’s poorest is unacceptable.” In a column published Tuesday, April 6 in the columns of the British daily Evening Standard, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, have vehemently criticized the cut to the international aid budget, announced by the executive last November.
These cuts, temporarily introduced by Boris Johnson’s government to help offset the deficit created by the Covid-19 crisis, imply a drop of 4 billion pounds (4.6 billion euros), thus dropping to 0, 5% of national wealth, well below the legally binding threshold of 0.7%. Now these “Hastily implemented reductions” are already causing “Real damage” in Yemen, Syria or South Sudan, deplore religious leaders, still fearing that this measure will become permanent.
“Morality and respect”
“Promises – and truth – matter in politics, as in all areas of life. It’s never too late to do the right thing. Great Britain cannot prosper if it shies away from its international responsibilities ”, hammer home the two archbishops in the text, before calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to do an about-face: ” (…) it’s about [d’une question] of morality and keeping our promise to people who live in poverty. We have to live up to the situation ”.
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This is not the first time that Catholic and Anglican leaders have stepped up to the plate on this thorny issue. After having repeatedly challenged public opinion and political leaders on the subject since last November, Justin Welby had notably urged, in early March, the faithful to express their disagreement to their elected officials.
In a letter to parliamentarians in late November, Cardinal Vincent Nichols mentioned one “Not back” for the country. « The great tragedies of mass forced migration and human trafficking must be tackled at the root. Carefully targeted and well-managed aid programs are an essential part of this effort », he underlined, before quoting the encyclical Fract them all of Pope Francis: “Either we all run away or nobody runs away”.
Across the Channel, the announcement of these budget cuts also crystallized resistance in the ranks of deputies; while the United Kingdom is due to host the G7 summit next June, « [il est] the only country [du groupe] which reduces international aid. From a diplomatic point of view, it is therefore imperative that the Prime Minister be able to bring together all the allies to boost the global recovery, fight against Covid and avoid climate change ”, deplored Anthony Mangnall, deputy of Totnes. In March, Boris Johnson argued that the British could stay “Proud” of their aid spending, among the highest among G7 members.