The Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, Schona Jolly QC has today written to the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Secretary, the Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, to express serious concern at reports that the UK is considering cuts to official development assistance (ODA) by more than £4 billion.
Such cuts would reduce ODA to 0.5% of the UK’s Gross National Income (GNI), taking the UK’s contributions below the Government’s manifesto commitment to maintain ODA spending at 0.7% of GNI.
Access to justice, protection of human rights and respect for the rule of law are the foundations to achieving peaceful and fair societies. This is recognised through Goal 16 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals to promote peace, justice and strong institutions. As a global leader in the recognition and promotion of human rights standards, the UK is respected world-wide for its adherence to the rule of law and justice processes that are independent, impartial and fair.
The continuation of such initiatives is now seriously under threat. Many organisations, including ours, have already experienced the impact of the July 2020 cuts, with work having been postponed, reduced or ceased completely. This is compounded by the ongoing effect of the Coronavirus pandemic, which both constrains our ability to act, yet increases the need for action. Around the world we have noted an increasing trend of governments using the pandemic as a cover or distraction from the introduction of measures that undermine the rule of law and reduce people’s rights.Letter to the UK Foreign Secretary regarding proposed cuts to the UK’s aid budget
BHRC remains committed to promoting, realising and upholding the rule of law through the protection of lawyers, judges and human rights defenders as part of civil society across the world. Members of the English and Welsh Bar – and we at BHRC in particular – are committed to sharing our expertise with partners that hold similar aspirations in their countries but may lack the training and research infrastructure to deliver change. As a pro bono organisation, we rely heavily on our partnerships with other bodies and institutions within the UK and around the world to deliver our work.
BHRC implores the UK Government to urgently reconsider its plans to make drastic cuts to ODA spending and to, as a minimum, keep its manifesto commitment to maintain such spending at 0.7% of UK GNI.