Aid Budget Will Hurt Syrians And UK

Today, in Syria Relief’s latest report, Cuts With A Double-Edged Sword: How the UK Aid Budget Reduction is Harming Victims of the Syrian Conflict and British Soft Power we can reveal that the UK’s decision to cut the aid budget harms both displaced Syrians and Britain’s ability to exercise her influence overseas.

Earlier this year, despite the protests of the aid and development community, the UK government won a vote to cut the amount they are legally obliged to spend on overseas aid to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people by about £4.5 billion of the amount spent in 2019. [i]

Through its aid budget, the UK government is the third biggest aid donor to Syria[ii], whose people are not only enduring the hardship of 10 years of brutal war, but facing humanitarian conditions that are now worse than at any other point in the conflict.

Despite the growing need for more support, the UK pledged in March 2021 to cut its support to victims of the Syrian conflict by a third.[iii] This report finds that 83% of Syrian Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and 93% of Syrian refugees (95% of respondents in total) are worried that aid budget cuts from donors will impact their situation personally.

Not only will the UK’s decision to cut its aid budget threaten the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, such as the victims of the Syrian conflict, but damage the UK’s once considerable soft power, or in other words, its ability to gain influence through non-coercive means. We asked our respondents how the decision to cut the UK aid budget impacted their opinion of the UK and 93% (87% of IDPs, 81% of refugees) said it has deteriorated as a result.

Most of the respondents have expressed concerns regarding the timing of a reduction in donations, with winter approaching and the need for scarce fuel and shelter placing additional strain on their already limited resources. Continuing to cut support to displaced Syrians, who are already living below the extreme poverty line and are unable to eat regularly, at a time when they need to burn fuel in a stove to keep warm in their tents, will put thousands of lives at risk.


The findings of this report implore the UK government to:

1)      Reverse its decision to cut the aid budget to 0.5% of Gross National Income from 0.7%

2)      Ring-fence or increase the funding to displaced Syrians as long as the humanitarian needs continue to worsen

3)      Act immediately to prevent vulnerable lives being needlessly lost during winter

This is the only way the UK can protect its own ability to project a positive influence across the globe while protecting the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.