Guest Blog: Rocco Blume "Unique opportunity to continue Global Britain’s positive and powerful legacy post Brexit"

CFID is delighted to host this Guest Blog by Rocco Blume from War Child. He highlights that under the leadership of consecutive Conservative Secretaries of State, UK aid has focused on poverty, humanitarian response, womens development, FGM and forced marriages, in enshrined 0.7% in law. UK aid is increasingly good value for money. DFID is consistently ranked as one of the most transparent & effective donors. War Child highlight's that we have a responsibility and opportunity to forge a new identity on the Global Stage which includes a focus on children and women.

Unique opportunity to continue Global Britain’s positive and powerful legacy post Brexit.

Political commentary in the count-down to Brexit focuses on issues close to home like the Irish backstop and debates over possible delays on customs checks in Dover. However it’s important to remember that a Britain outside the European Union, regardless of the deal or no-deal that’s struck, will have both the responsibility and the opportunity to forge a new identity on the Global Stage. And the direction that Britain choses to take can have a lasting impact on generations of the world’s most disadvantaged children.

Historically British values have been at the forefront of making the world a better place for the millions of people living in the world’s poorest countries and The Conservative Party has a proud and important legacy to continue. Under The Conservatives the UK has been a global leader on International Development for nearly a decade. The party’s first Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell led huge global advances in improving humanitarian responses affecting millions of people.

Secretary of State Justine Greening embraced women’s development; tackling female genital mutilation -FGM- and forced marriages and it was during her time at the Department that David Cameron ensured the Conservative’s commitment to global development would make an indelible mark on history by enshrining the commitment to the 0.7 percent into UK law.

War Child has worked closely with current Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt who has among other achievements ensured that the mental health needs of those receiving aid are prioritised. This is especially crucial for the children who War Child supports who have been forced to live with the consequences of war.

An important role of the Secretary of State in a post-Brexit Britain seeking new trade deals is to recognise the close relationships between development aid and trade and ensure Britain maximises its diplomatic leverage. Whilst Brexit could mark a shift in the UK’s relationship with its traditional trading partners it also presents an opportunity to be more agile in its human rights diplomacy. A Britain outside the EU can project the UK’s influence globally and develop a broader set of countries with which to trade, fostering prosperity and encouraging development across the world.

This opportunity doesn’t come without challenges though, while the UK needs to trade globally this must not be at the cost of compromising Britain’s long-standing commitment to human rights. When making new trading partners any financial gain at the cost of the UK’s global reputation would be a net loss; not just for the communities where we have an opportunity to save and improve lives, but a loss of the standing of core British values is a loss for every inhabitant of the UK.

While the UK has provided a progressive influence on human rights in many countries we engage with, there are also current conflicts where the UK is playing an unconstructive role. The continued support for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, which stands accused of committing grave violations against children is such an example. This is a worryingly inconsistent approach to foreign policy – with aid budget spent on promoting human rights at the same time as providing arms or training to groups who are consistently violating international law.

As charities like us are tackling the problems faced by some of the world’s most vulnerable children and attempting to provide them the opportunities of a future in which their rights are respected, and liberties realised. The UK’s commitment to children’s rights must not weaken as the UK seeks to secure its place in a post-Brexit world.

Ms Mordaunt, the Cabinet and The Conservative Party have the unique opportunity to continue Global Britain’s positive and powerful legacy. Humanity stands at a cross-roads in the wake of the world’s largest refugee crisis meanwhile population changes project those living in the world’s poorest countries will number nearly 2 billion people by 2050*. it’s in the UK’s interest for future trade and prosperity to maintain its high standards and put the longer-term impact of prioritising the lives of children at the forefront of our foreign and development policy today.

By Rocco Blume, Head of Policy and Advocacy, War Child UK