The British government has been accused of abandoning people in the global south because it didn't commit to boosting its spending on a fund established to fight three of the world's deadliest diseases: malaria, tuberculosis and Aids.
Liz Truss's new administration became the only major world power not to raise its spending at a UN pledging event called the Global Fund, a highly successful 20-year-old initiative that shocked global health campaigners. The long-planned pledging conference was left $3.76 bn 3.32 bn short of its target of $18 bn.
The UK says it will make a pledge later. Aid agencies have pointed out that Truss had found time to lift the cap on bankers bonuses and commit at least 2.3 billion in military aid to Ukraine in 2023.
David Lammy, the UK's shadow foreign secretary, said cynicism was creeping into some African leaders'views of the UK approach to aid. Lammy spoke at the UN in New York and said the global south attitude to the war in Ukraine and its economic effects was reflected in part by how the west addressed issues of hunger, climate and debt.
I am worried about the growing concern in the south over a prolonged war, and its effects on their populations. One prime minister said to me: You have to understand that we are a democracy. But when food prices are rising as high as they are, and our populations get angry, it undermines democracy itself. There is a lot of worry and fear about 2023 and what that means for their populations. He said: As western leaders, I think that I think that I m afraid what I have picked up from countries is a real concern about UK policy towards the global south. There is cynicism from some member states, and real questioning about all the inconsistencies in our approach. It was not just the cut in the aid budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP under Boris Johnson's government, but rather the shift to bilateral aid as opposed to multilateral aid and the likelihood that the aid budget would be used to pay 3 billion bills for Ukrainian refugees in the UK, according to Lammy.
What does stepping back from multilateral commitments mean? It means that lives are lost as a result. Where is the highest TB in the world? India, where is the highest HIV rate in the world? It undermines what we say about the importance of Commonwealth nations.
It undermines the alliance that is so important to build in relation to Ukraine, and it plays into the narrative that if you want to support and finance, look to China, not to countries like the UK. They point out that kind of inconsistency. I think it is very worrying. He said in the past I have said Britain's foreign policy has become too transactional, but this isn't even transactional. I have not met a single country in the world that thinks that Britain's aid cuts were a good idea for them or more importantly Britain. It is upsetting to allies like America, but also France, Japan, all of whom are stepping up their efforts to make sure they are as good as possible.