Thursday 18 February 2021
In a recent virtual meeting of MPs in parliament, CAFOD Director Christine Allen discussed the impact of cuts to the aid budget, opportunities for the UK, “post Brexit-COVID chaos”, and the desperate need for debt cancellation.
Christine began her speech to the Catholic All-Party Parliamentary Group by reminding them of Pope Francis’ call for a “radical conversion to a new society – where our politics, economy and social organisation benefit our planet and all those who depend on it in a fair and just way”.
She went on to grill MPs about cuts to the aid budget: “Whilst we recognise the economic challenges we face at home; we oppose the government proposed cuts and want the quality of aid spending improved. This is not for us – we get very little income from the government – but for those around the world.”
Regarding the UK development bank (CDC), Christine raised difficult questions: “Why is a body like CDC not facing a freeze when it has huge reserves of capital? The financial argument doesn’t hold water when the government increased spending on defence.”
As CAFOD and many other charities prepare for the UK to host the climate conference in Glasgow (COP26), Christine reiterated the need for the UK government to show leadership on the climate crisis: “We need to lead by example. There is much to do. We are particularly concerned that the government implements its policy to end overseas fossil fuel spending ASAP.
“We welcomed the announcement in December, but this policy has to be brought into force immediately and without loopholes, as it seems that the government is still considering new oil and gas projects while the consultation is underway.”
Christine highlighted deforestation as a crucial issue: “As well as being an environmental disaster, this is also a poverty and human rights issue – when people are forced off their land. We have had reports from partners of an increase in the killing of human rights and forest defenders.”
The final focus of Christine’s speech to MPs was debt cancellation: “We continue to campaign for the cancellation of all debts. This is a crucial issue for development. COVID-19 has the potential to push over 100 million people into extreme poverty. We have welcomed the commitments so far – especially the temporary suspension of bilateral debt to 40 countries – but, despite this, the burden of debt to private banks and financial institutions remain in place.”
MPs were asked to consider the words of Pope Francis, who calls on us all to use our imagination and creativity to tackle global problems together: “...that people, especially those who are poorest and usually least recognised in society, have their voices heard – it is their interests that should be our priorities. That means investing in health and social care, green jobs or renewable energy sources, strengthening the social safety net or introducing a basic income – all measures that respect our common humanity.”
Allen ended her speech by telling MPs these changes are more than possible: “Last year, we showed how we can respond to a rapidly changing world. The changes we have lived through, and are still living through with the pandemic, show what can be achieved with political will.”
Notes to Editors
CAFOD is the official aid agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and part of Caritas International. Across the world we bring hope and compassion to poor communities, standing side by side with them to end poverty and injustice. Because we work through the local Church, we can reach people and places that others can’t.