Organisations react to former prime minister David Cameron's appointment to the role
International aid charities have reacted with trepidation at the appointment of a former prime minister to the role of foreign secretary at Westminster.
Following the sacking of former home secretary Suella Braverman on Monday, a cabinet reshuffle has seen ex-Tory leader David Cameron elevated to the House of Lords in order to take on the role of foreign secretary.
Cameron was prime minister between 2010 and 2016, and oversaw devastating and deeply damaging cuts to public spending as he implemented the Conservative government's ideologically-driven austerity programme.
However, he has since been a staunch supporter of the UK’s 0.7% aid commitment, which charities are now keen to see him stick to.
This pledge, to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid, was scrapped by then-chancellor (and now prime minister) Rishi Sunak - allegedly on a temporary basis in the wake of the pandemic. It has never ben reinstated.
Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development which represents around 350 groups, said they look forward to working with David Cameron as the new secretary of state for foreign, commonwealth and development affairs.
Gideon Rabinowitz, Bond’s director of policy, advocacy and research, said: “He has been a public champion of the 0.7% UK aid commitment, the Sustainable Development Goals and the need to tackle climate change, and we urge him to continue to champion these issues.
“With a devastating crisis in the Middle East, we urge the new secretary of state to work with global leaders to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, so that civilians are protected and humanitarian agencies can get life-saving supplies into Gaza.
“The UK Food Security Summit is just around the corner and is a critical opportunity to draw attention to food security as one of the most urgent global challenges. We hope the secretary of state will be able to help mobilise political will, coherent action, and new and much-needed resources.
“The secretary of state also has the opportunity to ensure that the UK resets its reputation on climate change at the upcoming Cop28 climate summit, by reaffirming the promise to provide £11.6 billion in international climate finance and deepening its emissions reduction commitments.”
One of David Cameron’s flagship promises in government was spending 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, and in 2020 he put out a public statement opposing a cut to this figure.
He said: “I deeply regret today’s decision to break our promise to spend 0.7% of GNI on development. Here’s why:
“0.7% is ultimately very simple. We share this planet with millions who are starving, with mothers who die needlessly in childbirth, with children who die of preventable diseases and with countries that are broken by conflict, corruption and poverty.
“The questions are: do we care, do we act, and do we lead? The promise of 0.7 meant that we – global Britain – answered ‘yes’ to all three. And that’s a promise worth keeping.”
Callum Northcote, policy and advocacy at Save the Children UK, wrote on social media: “David Cameron was PM when the UK hosted the 2013 Nutrition for Growth summit which saw a step-change in the UK's approach to tackling global malnutrition. Aid cuts disproportionately impacted this work, setting back funding to pre-2013 levels. Important early chance for change.”
Save the Children set the new cabinet member a set of challenges.
It said: “Welcome back David Cameron. Your new role gives you a big opportunity to transform children's futures.
“Here's a to-do list to get started: 1. Push for #CeasefireNOW in Gaza & Israel. 2. Reverse the aid cuts you opposed. 3. Prioritise climate action and tackling poverty and hunger.”
Other charities also welcomed Cameron, but urged him to use his position to bring Britain back into line on international aid, and also calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.
In a social media statement, Christian Aid said: “Congratulations David Cameron. Please use your influence to rebuild the UK government’s role as a responsible global player, on the climate crisis, on international aid and in pushing for a ceasefire across Israel and Palestine.”