THE Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) has welcomed the UK Government's commitment to meeting its pledge to provide 0.7% GNI for aid, a pledge first made by world governments in 1970.

Speculation that the lines between development objectives and defence spending may be blurred, could put the credibility of our aid in danger, particularly in the communities in which it is delivered.

Like the Prime Minister, we understand that peace is vital if developing countries are to flourish. SCIAF believes, however, that peace is best achieved when investment is focused firmly on meeting development goals. That means resources should be directed towards education, nutrition, agriculture and addressing the impacts of a changing climate. Addressing these areas will inevitably help to prevent many future conflicts arising.

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SCIAF's own programme work in countries recovering from war and conflict – such as Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo – focuses on building trust between different people at a family and community level through programmes of education, peace and reconciliation.

Development aid must have at its heart the value and dignity of the human beings it is designed to serve.

Patricia Chalé,

Director, SCIAF, 19 Park Circus, Glasgow.

THERE is a fundamental difference between voluntary donations from individuals to charities working overseas and the Government overseas aid budget. What an individual chooses to do with their own money is their affair. While not wishing to denigrate the good works that are carried out overseas by charities using voluntary donations it is a fact that India, the greatest benefactor of UK overseas aid, spends more on its space programme than we give it in foreign aid and is replete with millionaires of its own. It is also a fact that despite the millions of charity donations that have been pumped into various parts of Africa the situation there remains essentially the same or worse, yet there is no apparent shortage of money for guns or bullets.

A quarter of Britain's foreign aid goes straight into the treasuries of some of the world's least competent, honest or responsible governments. The problem is that these countries do not look after their own people but exploit their resources and international aid. There is also a vast army of people in the developed world and their agents abroad who depend on the current ideology for their jobs, livelihood and status. Poverty is a business.

Perhaps there is a reason for the other G8 nations failing to comply with the Gleneagles pledge; perhaps they realise that charity does actually begin at home. Perhaps they are not concerned with maintaining a post-colonial presence in the world but are intent on looking after their own citizens before worrying about others.

If international aid has demonstrated anything it is that it can only provide temporary solutions and does not solve the problem. If our Government really believes it can solve poverty by throwing money at it, perhaps it should apply the same philosophy to poverty and the poor in our own country.

David J Crawford,

Flat 3/3 131 Shuna Street, Glasgow.