British MPs have hit out at Boris Johnson over plans to divert some of Britain’s foreign aid budget on to fighting Russian aggression and Islamic extremism.
The £700m (€826m) “empowerment fund”, intended to boost poorer nations’ chances of facing down extremist threats, has been criticised for potentially depriving resources from poverty stricken nations.
Opponents to the scheme, backed by the Foreign Office, say this could see humanitarian causes in Africa and Asia compromised at the expense of cyber-security programmes in Baltic states.
Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative MP who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee, welcomed the idea.
“If this sort of fund will help push back and allow communities to be stabilised then I think it’s a good thing,” he said.
“Stability directly feeds into peoples’ livelihoods, education, all the things that development should be quite rightly backing.”
Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a member of the International Development Committee, told BBC: “I absolutely support us bolstering the Baltic states and Ukraine against Russia… but there is a concern here if it involves diverting funds from destabilised countries in Africa and the Middle East and elsewhere, where we’ve also got challenges of poverty and other risks to UK national security.”
“My understanding is that [the Baltic States] are not eligible. Only Ukraine is currently because it covers only poorest and lowest middle income countries.
“I’m not opposed to the Government supporting the Baltic states or Ukraine, I think that’s the right thing to do. But it’s about what budget is this coming from?
The SNP’s Patrick Grady said: “Siphoning off aid funds to bolster the Foreign Office or MoD budget is a betrayal of our promises to help people living in poverty around the world,” he said.
“The UK government has rightly been applauded for meeting that 0.7% target of national income for aid spending. But it must not undermine that achievement by stretching the definition of aid and putting its own trade and diplomatic interests ahead of helping the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.”