The Queen's Speech is a key test of the government's commitment to the aid agenda, says Save the Children UK.
David Cameron's commitment to aid could be the reason why Ban Ki Moon is rumoured to have invited him to become a joint chair of a new UN committee that will set out the next round of global development targets. The Prime Minister has been brave in these tough economic times to stick to the pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of the UK's gross national income on aid. The Queen's Speech is a key test of his commitment to this agenda, as we will see whether the promised legislation to enshrine 0.7 per cent in law is announced, or whether it is among those bills to be dropped to make way for reform of the House of Lords.
It's not the most politically popular bill. At a time when domestic spending is being cut many people have argued against the government's decision to stick to its pledge to give 0.7 per cent of Gross national income (GNI) in aid by 2013, and challenged the proposal to enshrine this particular commitment in law.
However, this will be a tough bill for the government to walk away from. Enshrining the 0.7 per cent commitment in law was an election promise made by all three political parties. A commitment reiterated by the coalition government and announced at several international summits.
But more important is what this bill means for the world's poorest. For countries devastated by civil war or a humanitarian disaster, their citizen's needs are so vast that the only hope of putting their country back together again rests in the hands of richer countries and their commitments to giving aid.
Liberia's brutal civil war left the country in economic ruins and destroyed its infrastructure. Its children spent more time in war than in school and there was only a handful of doctors for its 3.5 million people. But, with the help of aid, Liberia is now recovering. President Johnson Sirleaf recently announced that she is confident that if the country's rate of progress continues Liberia will no longer need aid by the next decade.
There are many countries that need this kind of support. Yet in the economic downturn wealthy countries are cutting their aid budgets, or the amount of promised aid simply never arrives. Such unpredictable disbursements hamper development, putting in jeopardy important progress in reducing child deaths and tackling poverty.
The UK government's commitment to legislate to protect the aid budget is a bold step which would prevent this from happening. By enshrining the 0.7 per cent commitment in law not only will Cameron demonstrate the global leadership necessary to end global poverty, but he will also introduce a practical measure to secure predictable funds. Legislation will also help protect the aid budget from political jockeying, increase accountability to the UK public, and shift discussion to how to get the most impact from British aid.
Estimates suggest that by 2015 UK aid will have supported 15.9 million children to go to school, enabled 5.8 million mothers to give birth in a safe environment, saving the lives of 60,000 women and 430,00 newborns. Enshrining the UK's 0.7 per cent commitment in law would make sure we meet these targets and not fall backwards. We often call on poor country governments to be more accountable and to honour their commitments. The Queen's Speech is a chance to show that the British government will lead by example and confirm that Cameron is the right choice to be setting the world's future targets to end global poverty.