Ruth Davidson defends UK aid spending during visit to Afghanistan
Scots Tory leader uses trip to Afghanistan to highlight positive work of international NGOs after the Oxfam scandal
Ruth Davidson - David Anderson/Holyrood
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has mounted a strong defence of international aid spending after a visit to Afghanistan.
The MSP said the UK was "changing lives, and the world, for the better" through the work of charities overseas.
Her comments came amid mounting controversy over the behaviour of Oxfam workers in Haiti after the earthquake in the country in 2010.
The Charity Commission has launched a formal inquiry into how the charity investigated allegations that some of its employees used prostitutes while they were supposed to be carrying out aid work.
The revelations have led to some politicians to call for Britain to water down its commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on international aid every year.
But Ms Davidson, who spent four days in Afghanistan observing the work of the HALO Trust, a Scottish trust which specialises in mine-clearing in former warzones, dismissed those suggestions.
The Scottish Tory leader said: "HALO’s staff are committed to ensuring that every part of Afghanistan has a future and every person living here has a chance to go about their daily life without the threat of stepping on one of these killing machines.
"The UK government has recognised the importance of this work and how vital it is in helping some of the poorest and most unstable countries in the world to develop and become safer, more prosperous places. This means they can recover to the point where they no longer need help from the international community.
"With so much attention on the work of NGOs this week for all the wrong reasons, it has been a privilege to come to Afghanistan and see this life-changing work in one of the most difficult regions on earth.
"This is the real story of what aid money can achieve. It is changing lives, and the world, for the better."
While in the country, Davidson was given training on how to find, excavate and remove land mines and exploded an anti-personnel mine during a training exercise.
Jamies Cowan of the HALO Trust said: "Not many politicians get to visit Afghanistan and it takes a certain sort to face its dangers only a few days after some major attacks. Ruth saw for herself the work of the 3,500 HALO staff who work across the country. She also witnessed the amazing contribution that UK DFID is making to clearing the country of landmines. DFID’s support is saving lives and creating livelihoods.”
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