Speech by Prime Minister Theresa May to Department for International Development Staff
East Kilbride, Scotland
27 March 2017
It is very good to be with you here today, and particularly to be able to thank you all for the work that you do on behalf of the government and on behalf of the British people. Vital work that helps millions around the world and speaks strongly to the values that we share as a country.
And it is vital work. Not just because the things you do here have a material impact on the lives of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world. But also because the work you do here, in conjunction with your colleagues at the Department for International Development in London, says something important about Britain.
It says that we are a kind and generous country. It says that we are a big country that will never let down – or turn our back on – those in need. And it says that we are a country that does, and will always, meet our commitments to the world – and particularly to those who so desperately need our support.
And that is important to remember. For we stand on the threshold of a significant moment for Britain as we begin the negotiations that will lead us towards a new partnership with Europe.
And I want to make it absolutely clear as we move through this process, that this is not, in any sense, the moment that Britain steps back from the world. Indeed, we are going to take this opportunity to forge a more global Britain. The closest friend and ally with Europe, but also a country that looks beyond Europe to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.
And the work you do will be at the heart of that effort. Because from this building, work is coordinated that saves lives around the world; that builds a safer, healthier, more prosperous world for people in developing countries; and that makes our own country and people safer and better off too.
It’s not all about charity of course. You know that better than anyone. So often, the work you do is about empowering people to live better, fuller lives.
For example, your work is leading the world in efforts to end the outrage of violence against women and girls, a cause that is particularly close to my heart.
You ensure that the UK is working well with important international institutions like the UN and the Commonwealth.
And researchers here are exploring the potential for new vaccines to prevent the devastation caused by serious illnesses and epidemics. I know, for example, that the work to tackle the awful Zika virus that is a source of such anguish for people across Latin America is being led by researchers at Glasgow University, supported by teams here.
But sometimes, events happen that simply require an immediate and significant response. And it is because of the work you do that we have recently been able to announce significant support for the nations facing up to major humanitarian crises this year.
Somalia, where we have pledged £110 million of UK aid to provide up to 1 million people with emergency food assistance, over 600,000 starving children and pregnant and breastfeeding women with nutritional help, over 1 million people with safe drinking water, and more than 1.1 million people with emergency health services.
And, of course, our commitment to Somalia goes further than money. We look forward to bringing the international community together in London in May for the second London-Somalia Conference, where we hope to be able to help that nation secure and build on the progress it has made in recent years.
It is because of the work you do that the UK was one of the first major donors to respond to the UN’s appeal for South Sudan. We are leading the way in that desperate nation by making sure millions of people get the food, water and medicines that they so urgently need.
That includes food for over 500,000 people, life-saving nutritional support to more than 27,500 children, safe drinking water for over 300,000 people and emergency health services for over 100,000 more.
And it is because of the work you do that the UK is able to lead the way in helping countries elsewhere in the region – in Uganda and Ethiopia. And in Kenya, where the Hunger Safety Net Programme aims to reduce poverty and hunger in the short-term, and to build economic resilience for the most vulnerable people in the poorest parts of the country. And that is the best way to give them a sustainable, long-term route out of poverty.
Across Africa, vulnerable men, women and children are being helped by initiatives and projects that come with a simple badge of hope: a badge that says UK Aid. And the same goes for other parts of the world, too. Wherever people are in need, that same badge of hope appears.
The UK is at the forefront of the response to the Syria crisis, with life-saving humanitarian support reaching millions of people inside Syria and in neighbouring countries.
In 2016, the UK was the third largest bilateral contributor to the humanitarian response in Syria, and the second largest overall since the start of the response in 2012. We have pledged more than £2.3 billion to support those affected by the conflict, our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.
That is a record of which we can all be proud.