Ryan Henson is the Chief Executive at the Coalition for Global Prosperity
Levelling Up and Global Britain are two sides of the same coin. The Levelling Up agenda exists because the UK voted to leave the European Union. And people voted to leave the EU in part out of frustration with the downsides of globalisation. The ambitious Levelling Up White Paper fired the starting gun on a decade-long project that will spread opportunity and prosperity to the parts of the UK where it is needed most. But getting Global Britain right will be essential to making Levelling Up more resilient and therefore more likely to succeed. James Cleverly as the UK’s new Foreign Secretary is more than up to the task, as is Vicky Ford the new Development Minister who will attend Cabinet.
For as long as the world collectively fails to address the root causes of migration, desperate souls will seek refuge in Europe. For as long as viruses have no regard for national sovereignty, and millions of people overseas continue to lack access to basic healthcare, all of us will be at risk from future pandemics. What we choose to do or not do overseas directly affects what happens at home. That is why international development must remain at the heart of UK foreign policy, and why Global Britain and Levelling Up must both succeed.
Investing in international development doesn’t just make an enduring and tangible contribution towards both the safeguarding of the most vulnerable people in the world, and to the protection of the United Kingdom. Aid also sends a clear message about our values – compassion, freedom, and support for the rule of law – which run through every town, village, and city in our United Kingdom.
With the UK’s world-beating international development experts now at their command, the new Foreign Secretary can double down on British efforts to offer people in poorer countries the skills and resources they need to stand on their own two feet – spreading democracy, economic opportunity, and producing Britain’s trading partners of the future.
Through our world-leading international development work, Britain is uniquely placed to shape a world where it is hard work and talent – not where you were born – that determines your chance of success in life.
Some will argue that we can no longer afford to help others overseas, while we grapple with challenges at home. They are right to make the argument, but in a dangerous, complicated, and volatile world, with China prepared to step into every vacuum of power our withdrawal might create, surely the bigger question is: can we afford not to help?
For the 700 million people who still live in extreme poverty – many in dysfunctional or failed states – will be the first to suffer as authoritarian, powers continue to expand their influence or if climate change accelerates. I am confident that under this new leadership, the UK will continue to be a force for good on the world stage. Our flag stands for democracy, security, and freedom. With a smart and effective aid budget working alongside British defence, trade and diplomacy, the UK can transform lives and bring prosperity not just to Britain, but to many around the world.