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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Oxfam scandal should not be used to undermine the importance of foreign aid

Allegations that Oxfam's aid workers used prostitutes in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti in 2011 are shocking, need to be investigated fully, and action must be taken to ensure that it does not happen again.

The exploitation of vulnerable persons in a crisis situation by people who are supposed to be there to help is unacceptable and those responsible should be removed from any position that allows them to repeat this behaviour.

But this episode and any like it must not be used to cut our foreign aid budget or to diminish the UK's commitment to helping impoverished communities. The foreign aid budget is too important to suffer because of the bad behaviour and inadequate standards of disclosure or investigation relating to one charity.

That message of course is not one that is welcomed by some in the tabloid press or the likes of Jacob Rees-Mogg, who, last week delivered a Daily Express petition to Downing Street calling on Theresa May to cut the foreign aid budget.

Thank goodness therefore for Tories like William Hague, who is quoted in the Independent as arguing the case for us to maintain our commitment to the third world:

Mr Hague said it was important to deal “decisively” with the “utterly unacceptable” behaviour of humanitarian workers.

But he said a reduction in Britain’s foreign aid spending – currently at 0.7 per cent of GDP – would be a “strategic blunder”, adding it would “ultimately damage our own national interest and ability to deal with on the biggest problems heading our way”.

He continued: “This is that over the next 30 years more than half the growth in the world’s population is expected to be on just one continent – Africa.”

Mr Hague, who also served as Foreign Secretary in David Cameron’s administration between 2010 and 2014, added there was an “overwhelming strategic, as well as moral, imperative to deliver aid to the world’s poorest people”, but added that the sector needs to show it is setting and meeting the highest standards.

“The case for the type of work done by Oxfam is too strong to allow it to be undermined by bad behaviour and inadequate standards of disclosure or investigation,” he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph.

“The case for an aid budget that tackles the world's biggest issues will get stronger, not weaker, in the years ahead. The response to this appalling scandal needs to be tough enough to convince the public that their generosity will not be abused.”

Foreign aid is not just about charity, it is about protecting the UK's strategic interests, establishing future trading partners and delivering humanitarian assistance to people in need. Those who argue that the money would be better spent at home are little Englander isolationists whose obsession with containing everything within our own borders is selfish and myopic.

If we were to follow their counsel our economy would be wrecked, and we would be without allies to help us to rebuild it. Without the mutual support of our international friends we would be defenceless against terrorists and rogue states, whilst our ability to influence world events to our own benefit would be nullified.

International aid is part of the glue that binds together our foreign and domestic policy and enables us to work with others to bring about a better world. We should not allow the misbehaviour of charity workers to undermine that mission.
Mogg and his ilk would like to turn the country into reverse, isolate us from a rapidly changing world Oxfam. We are all human and have needs away from home we are not saints. Who is to say that the prostitutes were not a 'reward' for the work they were doing.Thanks for help can be shown in many ways. Mogg should know the Bible says 'He who is without sin caste the first stone' and other well known sayings. Is he and others exploiting human weaknesses for his own ends?
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