£4bn for the global poor: the UK’s 0.7%


The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the government will reduce the amount of spend on international development from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%. (read more, e.g., here). This means that the government will spend £10bn on aid instead of £14bn.

This post sets out an attempt to undo this decision.

I’m hoping we can find more people to help with analysis and to donate to the campaign.


At a high level, the plan we have in mind is essentially taken straight from the tech startup playbook:

  1. Identify the highest leverage constituencies (probably those with “moderate” Tory MPs)

  2. perform google and facebook ads to identify people in those constituencies willing to write a letter or email to their MP

  3. recruit them and provide them with a template letter/​email

I’m currently reaching out to a bunch of NGOs in my network to ask them

  • Are approaches like these already being used? (and if not, why not?)

  • Do any NGOs already have the analysis on which constituencies are the best targets?

  • Once we have recruited people, how best to look after them?

Even if we find that NGOs are already targeting the most strategic constituencies, we would to do some work ourselves on analysing which the most strategic constituencies are, as this would help us to assess and potentially support the decision-making being done by the NGOs.

Who’s working on this, and why do we need more people

The main people involved thus far are myself and a member of the EA community called Sahil.

We will need more people to help with various tasks, especially analysis to work out which MPs are the most strategic ones to reach out to. There are probably other tasks that I haven’t thought through—this post is being written quickly, as we may not have much time to act.

How would funds be used?

Funds are needed for Facebook/​Google ads to reach strategically chosen constituents of the MPs who are most interested in supporting international development.

Given the considerations set out below, I would judge that this likely outperforms a donation to a GiveWell-recommended charity. (A confident/​rigorous assessment of this claim would require a more detailed model than I have time for; timescales are likely short)

How good is more development spend?

DfID has in recent years been considered one of the top international development agencies, known for its focus on impact and its awareness of cost-effectiveness. Their Chief Economist was and still is Rachel Glennerster (early taker of the GWWC pledge). Something that’s unclear is the extent to which DfID’s effectiveness might change after the merger with the FCO (foreign office).

Having said that, at this particular time, the need is particularly high, so at the margin, reducing spend is likely to mean that much-needed programmes are brought to an abrupt halt right at the moment when work is most needed.

Reducing development spend in the short term strikes me as a clearly bad idea.

How effective is this campaign likely to be?

The change will require a change to the law, which means MPs will have to vote on it.

I get the impression that it’s not clear that the government will win on this. This suggests that it’s a good campaign to apply some effort to.

A guardian political correspondent had this to say about the drop in the ODA percentage:

This is a very politically tricky moment, as shown by the amount of time Sunak uses justifying it. A lot of Tory MPs are angry. The change potentially requires a Commons vote, and there is no guarantee the government will win. This one, as they say, could run and run.


Former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell is quoted as saying:

“It’s a relatively small amount of money in the overall scheme of things for us, but it’s an enormous amount of money for the world’s poorest people. We’ve got expertise, we’ve got commitment, we can harness the great passion that we saw over the Make Poverty History campaign. We are determined to make the government rethink.”

Full article at https://​​www.theguardian.com/​​global-development/​​2020/​​nov/​​29/​​senior-tories-fear-4bn-cut-to-overseas-aid-will-be-made-permanent