Announcement by The Secretary of State for International Development

– The Rt Hon Penny Mordaunt MP

Commonwealth Council Meeting at Canada House London, 8 November 2018



Thank you for inviting me to the Royal Commonwealth ex-Services League annual council, it is an absolute pleasure to be here representing the Department for International Development.

Thank you as well in particular for choosing to host the event so close to my office – I’m sure you considered that when selecting Canada House! 

Over the past few months, through meetings and regular briefings, I have had the honour of getting to know your organisation and I never fail to be truly humbled by what I hear of the great efforts that are made both here in the UK and in all the representative countries to support pre-independence veterans and their widows and widowers resident in their country of origin.

When I look around this room, what really impresses me are three key things. Firstly, the truly international nature of the Royal Commonwealth ex-Services League and all your partners.  Secondly, the incredible history that underscores everything that you do. And thirdly, the intrinsic values that have bound your organisations together for what is now nearly 100 years.

There aren’t many organisations of your size which have the vast global reach and impact that you do – running across virtually all the continents, reaching a huge array of countries, crossing racial, ethnic and religious boundaries. There must be something very special that keeps such a network together.

I mentioned the history as well – 97 years old this year? That is an extraordinary achievement, providing the service that you have for such a sustained period of time is once again testament to a special bond that keeps you operating.

My sense is that to span such a spread of countries and to last for as long as you have, successfully delivering on your objectives year after year can only be down to the values that are ingrained in your DNA as an organisation.

It is these values - common to both the people that you serve but of course you as the representative organisations that provide an extraordinary bedrock to everything that you do.

It was values such as honour, trust, and courage which inspired your beneficiaries to volunteer to fight within or alongside the British Armed Forces often in significant conflicts. It is values such as these that inspire you all to now support these people in their time of need.

The nation and indeed Commonwealth members and beyond will spend many moments over the next week or so remembering the people who have fought in conflicts all over the world. Most poignantly we mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

The values that I have just mentioned will be used a lot over this period and rightly so, and I have no doubt that RCEL, your partners and the veterans you represent will continue to live the values.

It is values such as these which drive your organisation and indeed, I like to think drive my organisation the Department for International Development. Obviously, in a very different context, but I encourage my staff to be brave in decision making, trust your convictions and those around you, and most importantly do the right thing.

As an organisation we pride ourselves in the manner with which we represent these values and in turn those of the people of the United Kingdom.

We strive towards the Global Goals and we know that these goal of eliminating global poverty can only be achieved if we don’t leave anyone behind.

This is why I am delighted to verbally announce that DFID will be committing £11.8 million towards supporting RCEL not only continue the great work you do but to increase your capacity to ensure that you are able to deliver cash to the value of two meals a day to up to 7000 veterans and their widows and widowers over a five-year period.

The people you represent are unique. They are some of the most vulnerable, marginalised and impoverished people on the planet. That alone deserves our attention.

They cannot afford sustenance required to maintain any level of dignity in their final years and the governments of the countries in which they live are unable to provide adequate support mechanisms.

As they grow older, they become more vulnerable. They are less able to support themselves, less able to travel great distances and more susceptible to discrimination and exploitation.

As they grow older the requirement to intervene becomes greater. I mentioned earlier a central theme to everything we do here at DFID is to ensure that we leave no one behind. Development must reach all demographics, and this includes older people, otherwise we will not succeed.

It is for this reason that an intervention is crucial. The fact that they are veterans and crucially widows of veterans gives this added impetus. As I said at the start of the summer – no one, and I mean no-one, could possibly think it right that these people should suffer in poverty and spend their twilight years lacking any decent level of dignity.

These people who selflessly committed themselves to support the very values that we as a nation, as a government organisation and I believe you as an organisation hold in the highest esteem deserve the right to a dignified existence more than most.

The DFID funding should help RCEL reach these veterans and their surviving spouses across 30 ODA eligible countries and when paired with funding from other sources such as the Royal British Legion, the Army Benevolent Fund, the RAF Benevolent Fund and the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity will have a significant impact on the lives of these veterans.

The funding which will go towards cash transfers to the value of two meals a day, which will be facilitated by your fantastic partner organisations and volunteers in country. The cash transfers will give the beneficiaries the freedom to choose for themselves what vital sustenance they require. We know cash transfers work well and we know that you have an excellent record of and mechanisms of ensuring the funding reaches your people.

The contribution that the UK based veterans’ charities I have just mentioned make to this programme should not be underestimated and I hope that they will continue to support this programme to ensure its enduring success.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a good news story and because of all your hard work a significant amount of very vulnerable people, both in need of and deserving of our help, will be able to spend their final years with a level of dignity they otherwise would not have. We should all be very proud of this.

So thank you again for inviting me to speak here particularly at such a poignant time for veterans of all ages and backgrounds. At a time when doing the right thing is more important and pertinent than ever, I am honoured that my Department and RCEL and your partners will be working together to deliver on such a worthy cause.

RCEL - Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League - Registered Charity No. 1174874 - Haig House, 199 Borough High Street, London SE1 1AA, United Kingdom - Telephone +44 (0)20 3207 2413

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