UK has funnelled £2.4m to the Saudis to help them comply with humanitarian law
Last year, there was a political fuss when the Department for International Development was merged with the Foreign Office and subsequently, its budget cut from 0.7% of GDP to 0.5%. David Cameron, when prime minister, had kept to the higher level despite a fierce campaign and a string of exaggerated stories by the tabloid press, principally the Daily Mail. DFID had a good reputation and with broadly favourable audit reports on how and where the money was spent and its effectiveness.
A number of prominent Conservatives, including Andrew Mitchell, Tobias Ellwood and others, opposed the move. The pledge to keep the 0.7% was in the last party manifesto. There were many Conservatives however who were in favour of the cuts saying that the aid was best spent at home especially with the money needed for Covid. The arguments against the aid were that it was wasted and one example quoted was India which can afford nuclear weapons and has a space programme.
It is more than a little surprising therefore to discover that HMG has been quietly funding the Saudi government to the tune of £2.4m over a 4 year period to help them with meeting international humanitarian law requirements. In view of the Saudi regime’s continuing activities, it doesn’t seem like it is money well spent. Opposition to the regime is ruthlessly crushed. The women who argued for the right to drive languish in prison. Executions continue apace with a record 184 in 2019. Torture is routine. And then there is the bombing of Yemen where there have been 8,758 civilian deaths and 9,810 injured. During the period of this funding, the regime murdered and then dismembered the body of Adman Khashoggi.
So while aid will be cut – not just the reduction in the percentage itself but the reduction in our GDP because of the pandemic – money continues to flow to one of the richest countries in the world.
Sources: Human Rights Watch; Guardian; al Jazeera; Yemen Data Project