International aid and a target are linked together – the Government is dedicated to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on it, a commitment that is now written into law – but the linkage may have a double use. A target often has a circle at the very centre, and series of other circles that run out from it.
Imagine that centre as emergency relief – the most elemental form of aid, sent to people who are victims of earthquakes or floods or famines or wars, like the one presently taking place in Syria.
Now picture the next circle out as basic provision that is not necessarily emergency relief, such as clean water or sanitation.
Then think of the next one as immunising children against preventable diseases – not itself that basic provision, but relatively close to the centre of the target.
And then go further out through the remaining circles – funding children in schools, family planning, climate change adaptation and mitigation, governance, economic help.
By now one has travelled some distance from emergency relief, the sending of which doesn’t in itself seek to run the country in question better, to large-scale intervention in governance.
I apologise for labouring this image somewhat, but it provides a useful way of thinking about how our Party member readers view international aid. Here are the figures.
Immunising children against preventable diseases
Funding children in schools
Climate Change – adaptation
Climate Change – mitigation
You will see that support for international aid tends to weaken the further one moves – as it were – from the centre of the target, although more respondents support immunising children against preventable diseases that the provision of clean water and sanitation.
More of them believe that aid should be used to help fund elections than do not believe so, which is perhaps surprising. This leads us to the final two questions, which were about the 0.7 per cent target itself, and writing it into law.
0.7 per cent target
0.7 per cent target in law
If one believed that the comments below articles on this site represent the views of Conservative Party members, one would assume that the latter are overwhelmingly against any taxpayer-funded international aid at all.
The findings of this poll confirm yet again that this simply isn’t so. Yes, Party members are overwhelmingly against writing the 0.7 per cent target into law, and over half of them are opposed to it in principle.
But even here, almost two out of five are actually for it. And our Party member readers are strongly for relatively straightforward forms of aid that do not in themselves require helping to govern the countries concerned – emergency relief, water and sanitation provision, immunisation programmes.
A critic might say that these are sticking-plaster solutions rather than attempts to treat the illnesses themselves – to which our Party members might reply that attempts to do so raises big questions about effectiveness, accountability and value for money.
There is a case against aid which stresses that it sometimes funds corruption. The strength of this argument is well made by Peter Franklin here and here, and his case is worth reading because he also points the way to solutions.
But this is evidently not a view that Party members accept altogether, at least according to this poll. And as we have said previously, the readers of the site as a whole are to the right of the Party member readers – and the same of course applies to the comments.
The categories of government aid that we polled for are to be found on DfID’s website. Over 750 Party member readers replied to the poll. ConservativeHome will be running a series on aid this week, continuing tomorrow with a piece from Grant Shapps, now an International Development Minister.