Posted on March 11, 2015
Written by Nathan Olsen
In light of the government’s guarantee – it’s an actual law, not a pledge – to guarantee 0.7% of national income to be spent on international aid, I thought I might briefly muse on Britain’s role in the world. This is not only because the coalition government has taken a huge step in guaranteeing foreign aid, but because politics is drastically changing on a global scale.
The UK’s national income for 2013 was 2.446 trillion dollars, meaning that if this law had been in place then, the UK would have given, well – a lot of money – to international aid. Now when we think of international relations we often think of Russia, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the threat of Islamic State not just in the Middle East but worldwide. Yes unfortunately, most of our foreign policy is directed at preventing conflicts and wars and generally not getting involved in anything too serious. We spend time deliberating over whether to leave the EU or not – why can’t we devote that time to working within the EU to effectively combat the problems in Russia and Ukraine? (as it seems sanctions aren’t really doing anything). Add to that increasing security within Europe without allowing things to get to the point of authoritarian surveillance and the erasure of civil liberties, and we haven’t even got to the UN yet. British politicians spend so much time focusing on the insular issues that they forget to look out of the window and check if there’s still a world left for Britain to play a role in. Fully recognising that domestic policy also has a huge role to play in our society, equal focus should be applied to the crises around the world, not just within our own country.
And here is the danger. Political parties like Ukip oppose the guarantee of 0.7% national income being devoted to international aid, instead wishing to spend it solely on issues within the UK. This isolates us from the world, and their wish to leave the EU could also do much harm to our international relations. The world can work without the cooperation of our tiny island, but can Britain work as an isolationist island state?
I think not.