The UK stands accused of putting the lives of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria victims in danger after a “shameful” failure to donate to an international fund.
The Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the world’s poorest countries gave $6m at the United Nations conference in New York – but the UK, its sixth largest economy, pledged nothing.
The chair of the Commons international development committee called the decision “shameful”, while one aid group warned of the blow to hopes of “ending these diseases for good”.
The failure comes amid fears that billions more will be slashed from overseas aid projects within weeks – with ministers having already ordered a stop to “non-essential” spending.
It was revealed as Liz Truss flew out of New York after telling the UN General Assembly her government will deliver “a new blueprint for our engagement with the world”.
“This is shameful. We know the Global Fund works well. We know it has saved many millions of lives. It is good value for money,” said Sarah Champion, the committee chair.
“The UK has pledged precisely nothing while our major partners in Europe and across the Atlantic give billions. The Democratic Republic of Congo has promised more than us.”
Lis Wallace, policy director for The ONE Campaign, said: “This will be a real litmus test for her government and whether it will continue to be at the forefront of efforts to tackle the biggest challenges facing the world.
“Failure to step up wouldn’t just be a sign of Britain playing a smaller role on the world stage – it will have a real impact on our ability to end these diseases for good.”
A No 10 spokesperson was unable to say why the UK had not made a donation – having handed over at least $1.4bn after the last pledging round, in 2019.
Ms Champion said the Global Fund recently reported that 50 million lives had been saved in the past 20 years through the work of its partner organisations.
The UK aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, found it had “performed well despite the multiple challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
It also said the number of annual deaths had been slashed since 2002 from AIDS (70 per cent), tuberculosis (21 per cent) and malaria (26 per cent).
The “7th replenishment” for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria raised $14.25 bn – but is still $3.75bn short of its target.
ONE said it required a 30 per cent increase on its last round – delivered by the US, Germany, Japan, the European Commission and Canada – to avoid putting 833,000 lives at risk.
But, even if the UK made a reduced donation of £1bn, this number could increase to 1.7 million lives.