Pull the plug if there are serious injustices in the world

This has to be the most significant economic downturn since the 1929 Wall Street crash: the end of capitalism as we know it for sure. The future will never be the same again.

©Ben Barber (USAID); Image credit: United States Agency for International Development

These were hardly the phrases one would have expected when Gordon Brown declared the end of boom and bust. But my gripe is not necessarily with New Labour economic policy. Its more specific than that and something the political mainstream all seem to largely support.

No, I’m not going to talk about the liberal MP’s expenses philosophy in the Westminster village, which has been done one too many times in recent years. My issue is with our government’s policy of sending money to developing nations around the globe, the international aid fund.

My issue I must stress is not with this policy in principle - as it stands the government is committed to increasing such spending to 0.7% of GDP in the coming years.

This is not the issue, to try and improve the quality of existence that others have, which is often substantially below what we would consider to be even tolerable, is a liberal and progressive goal. However, something which is contentious and complex, but in my view has a simple answer, is the very basis on which we decide where to invest. I’m going to come out and say it frankly: if other governments have discriminatory and unethical laws on their statute book we should serious consider pulling the plug on investing in such places.

It’s not that I don’t understand or appreciate diversity within the world. Clearly not every single individual needs to think and live by the same standards across the world; it’s hardly a case of the UK becoming the worlds ethical policeman. To even advance such an argument is to have misunderstood the point.

Investing in a foreign nation is a significant act, an enormous act of generosity and one that should not be done lightly. Accordingly, when the government decides to invest in a nation it should do so with our liberal social values in mind.

The point is not that we go with a bag of money and refuse to invest until they adhere to all our values. But, it is right and proper that we single out certain core rights and values which we see as so fundamental.

It’s simple. If such values are abused or not believed by such nations to be right, aid should be drastically cut if not moved to another nation. Cruel, I hear you shout? I do not think so! There are a variety of nations throughout the world who have truly shocking laws in relation to the treatment of women, different religious groups, immigrants and homosexuals. Yet, we still invest in such nations. This is unacceptable. It would be very easy at this point to claim that I am being rash and unfair. However, actions are louder than words and negotiation and interaction with such nations as to why funding is to be cut could have a significant impact. Our government needs to act in the future!

The UK is a diverse and socially rich place to be. Often our statute book, even if delayed for those most liberal amongst us, reflects this for the most part. We have a Human Rights Act, we have an Equality Act, and we may have gay marriage in the near future too.

Such symbols of our values and social agenda should be central in our policy of whom we help and who we do not!

This is not some light-hearted student rant for a better world. This is a serious issue which in our current economic condition becomes more relevant and necessary to fully address.

We can influence nations with such a policy and we should try to do so. Diversity is one thing, disjointed and diabolic statutes which cause pain and suffering are another.

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