The Chancellor’s spending review this week has thrown up competing moral visions for Britain’s place in a post-Covid, post-Brexit world. On the one hand, there will be a boost in defence spending on drones and cyberwarfare; on the other, speculation about the UK’s foreign aid commitment has prompted ex-prime ministers, charities and religious leaders to speak out against any proposed cuts to the aid budget. Symbolically, if not practically, defence spending and overseas aid are seen to be in competition since they are both projections of global Britain. If so, how can we assess their competing moral worth? Is using taxpayers’ money for defence any morally better or worse than for foreign aid? One worldview contends that prioritising investment in defence is jingoistic and problematic, while funding international development is benign and benevolent. Others, meanwhile, consider there to be a greater moral obligation towards those closer to home in response to changing threats from malicious regimes, and question whether the distribution of public funds in the form of overseas aid is incorruptible. Or are the two sectors inextricably linked? Some see international development almost as a branch of national security, exercising soft power and helping to shore up unstable states, while others point out the role of the armed forces in peacekeeping, delivering humanitarian aid and combatting the drugs trade. Both military personnel and aid charities are guided by a moral code and, in both cases, include individuals who have fallen short of that code. When it comes to the daily motivations of human beings on the ground, is the ethos of the armed forces any different to the ethos of international aid workers? With Dr Sabina Alkire, Ian Birrell, Prof Michael Clarke and Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman.
Producer: Dan Tierney.
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