UK public say human rights should be key factor determining UK aid

10 December 2010

Picture of charity demonstrators at a Make Poverty History march. Credit: Aubey Wade / Panos10 December 2010

New survey results suggest that most people in the UK would support the promotion of human rights as the key factor determining where and how the UK's overseas aid is spent.

Most respondents thought the promotion of human rights was more important than factors such as promoting UK security, benefiting the UK economy and offsetting the impacts of climate change. UK aid spending is one of the few areas protected from public spending cuts and is set to rise to £11.5 billion by 2014.

The research by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) finds that more than 8 out of 10 people think the promotion of human rights should be an important driver of UK aid to developing countries, with over half saying it is ‘very important'.

The results are published today in What Should Drive UK Aid to Developing Countries? the second report of the UK Public Opinion Monitor (UKPOM). The UKPOM, managed by the Institute of Development Studies, is a representative panel of people from across the UK. The report presents results from a survey of over 2,700 people undertaken during October 2010. This is the first long-term panel of the general public which is being used to explore attitudes towards development over time in the UK.

Professor Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies, said:

"This research suggests that people in the UK want aid money to safeguard civil and political freedoms as much as they want it to promote more material outcomes such as economic development and national security. The Government would do well to factor this into its review of the Department for International Development's (DFID) priorities and ways of working, if it wants to maintain public support for aid spending. For example DFID may wish to put more emphasis on a country's performance in protecting, respecting and facilitating rights in deciding who to engage with and how to do it."

Other Key Findings:

  • Age: Surprisingly, younger people are less likely than older people to think promoting human rights should be an important driver of aid spending (76% of 18 to 24 year olds compared with 84% of other age groups).
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men to think promoting human rights should be an important driver of aid spending (88% of women compared with 81% of men).
  • Political views: Conservative voters are less likely to consider promoting human rights as an important driver of aid spending (82% of respondents who voted Conservative in the last election, compared with 89% of Liberal Democrat and 90% of Labour voters).

A previous UKPOM survey published in September showed that despite severe austerity measures and cuts to public services, more than 6 out of 10 people still thought it morally right for the UK to help developing countries.

Research using the UKPOM is ongoing, with future topics to include awareness of global issues and support for charities and volunteering.

Human Rights Day

Human Rights Day is celebrated around the world on 10 December. The date marks the anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948. In 1950, all member states and other interested organisations were invited by the General Assembly to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day (resolution 423(V)).

Human Rights Day 2010 recognises the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination.

Download the publication (pdf) now: What Should Drive UK Aid to Developing Countries?