‘Global Britain’ myth exposed as EU beats UK in medical R&D for developing world

Post-Brexit funding in R&D projects to cure diseases in developing world set to be deprioritized in favour of political “soft power” funding for the UK 

THE UK GOVERNMENT has been damned by critics for “syphoning” foreign aid into political projects as a new report showed that the EU has overtaken the UK in medical research and development for the developing world.

Scottish MPs and European health organisations were quick to point to the effects of austerity and Brexit as reasons for this decline and funding to the developing world

The news also follows Boris Johnson’s plan to set aside £700m from the UK’s aid budget to establish an “Empowerment Fund” that will be used for projects that will aim to enhance soft power of the UK’s allies - including in Ukraine and the Gulf region.

“Looming political issues linked to Brexit and the new US administration could jeopardise any good work that has been done.” DSW

Patrick Grady MP, the SNP’s international development spokesperson at Westminister, said: “The UK government has rightly been applauded for meeting their 0.7 per cent target of national income for aid spending. But it must not undermine that achievement by stretching the definition of aid and putting its own trade and diplomatic interests ahead of helping the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world.

“People in developing countries are in desperate need of support to tackle poverty, hunger, and the growing impact of climate change. Aid must be spent effectively and it's right that it should be carefully monitored to make sure it is having an impact.

“But syphoning off aid funds to bolster the Foreign Office or MoD budget is a betrayal of our promises to help people living in poverty around the world.”

Research and development funding is a crucial tool used by governments to counter long-term economic stagnation in countries that are suffering economic instability and structurally weak governments unable to cope with treatable diseases. 

But the period between 2015 to 2016 saw the EU increase its funding for medical research and development by 20 per cent, thus overtaking the UK whose funding dropped by $22m.

Patrick Grady MP also suggested the UK government was not only undermining its aid targets by “stretching the definition of aid” but additionally was jeopardising long-term cooperation in research between wealthy nations and poorer ones. It was he maintained, “putting forward its own trade and diplomatic interests ahead of helping the poorest and most vulnerable across the world.”

2015 to 2016 saw the EU increase its funding by 20 per cent, thus overtaking the UK whose funding dropped by $22m.

Grady added: “The SNP at Westminster will continue to press the UK government to make sure poverty reduction and progress to the global sustainable development goals is the key purpose of its aid spending – and not for political goals.”

A spokesperson from the Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevölkerung (DSW), an intergovernmental group that monitors sexual health and medical research, said to CommonSpace: “It is obviously good news that, in bucking the trends of other major donors, the EU is increasing the money it spends on life-saving research.

“The EU is clearly committed to research for diseases like HIV & AIDS and malaria, research which not only saves lives but also creates jobs and growth here in Europe.”

“However, we should save the celebratory back-slapping for later. Overall, funding for global health research continues to decline, and looming political issues linked to Brexit and the new US administration could jeopardise any good work that has been done. That’s why the EU needs to continue to invest in, and step up its leadership of, global health innovation.”

The UK Government said it “would not wish to comment” in response to the reduction in research aid funding when contacted by CommonSpace.

Picture courtesy of opendemocracy

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