Minister says sector must promote itself better to regain trust

Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary, tells a Tory party conference fringe event that charities have to live by their work

Penny Mordaunt (Photograph: Getty Images)
Penny Mordaunt (Photograph: Getty Images)

The aid sector must do more to promote the work it does if it wants to restore public trust, according to Penny Mordaunt, the international development secretary.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham last night, Mordaunt said the aid sector needed to highlight the benefits the aid budget had for Britain.

Mordaunt, who earlier in the day had given up most of her speaking slot on the main conference stage to allow people working in the international development sector to explain their work, said her aim in her role was to "reconnect the public" with the work of the aid sector.

"We can talk about this until the cows come home, but it’s when people see the amazing people that we work with, hear their stories and can see the outcomes in developing countries and how that plays back into the UK, that is what is going to sell what we do," she said.

"I’ve always said it’s not a lack of logic or love that causes people to have scepticism about the aid budget; it’s a lack of trust in what they think we’re doing with it."

She said aid organisations and charities were key to getting the message out about how good their work was, but they should also live by it in their work.

And she said the aid sector needed to be "explicit" about the benefits of aid work for Britain, in terms of diplomacy and defence, and the development of technologies and medical processes that could also be used in the UK.

"The British public, yes they’ll like what we’re doing once we explain it to them, but I want them to love it because they should be so proud of what UK aid is doing and what their countrymen are doing," Mordaunt said.

Speaking at the same event, Judith Brodie, the interim chief executive of Bond, the umbrella body for development charities, thanked Mordaunt for her leadership on the issue of sexual abuse and exploitation in the development sector.

She said the allegations of sexual misconduct at a number of major charities, which surfaced in February, had "brought immense shame and heartbreak" to the sector, which had been "rocked to the core" .

She said the sector must have "zero tolerance" for such behaviour.

"We cannot allow the actions of a number of individuals to undermine the fantastic life-saving work charities do to provide shelter, food and healthcare in some of the most difficult environments in the world, at some of the most desperate times, working with some of the most disadvantaged people in the world," Brodie said.

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