Outspoken former International Development Secretary Clare Short has backed ‘groundbreaking’ research into foreign aid, set up by Sheffield University.
The former Labour MP, who quit Tony Blair’s Government over the Iraq war, was guest of honour for the launch of the Sheffield Institute for International Development.
The institute unites academics from across the university’s departments, from geography and town planning to science and politics.
Ms Short said: “The SIID brings together a network of experts, which will contribute towards better thinking about overseas aid projects.
“It is a groundbreaking development involving a prestigious university, which I think will be very important.”
Ms Short said she believes research from Sheffield could be used to help determine priorities for future Government investment overseas.
The UK’s foreign aid budget has been protected from cuts by Prime Minister David Cameron.
He has committed to increasing the fund to the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of the UK’s GDP – an international target for rich nations.
Ms Short said: “However, we are still spending £44 billion a year on defence – compared with some £8 billion on aid.”
Ms Short said she believes aid projects run by countries such as the UK are beneficial – because they reduce the likelihood of future ‘failed states’ occurring, such as Afghanistan, which then require huge outlay on military intervention.
She said: “If you look at all serious studies into international aid, including one by the US military, problems such as hunger, famine and global warming affect us all eventually.
“Can we change the situation? Yes, we can.”
However, Ms Short said caution needs to be taken with countries such as India where there is wealth but it is not being spread to help the poor – to avoid the UK ‘subsidising’ where it does not need to.
The 67-year-old said: “You have to be very careful about what you do with aid spending.”