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Millennium Development Goals

Volume 400: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2003

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5.

If she will make a statement on progress towards the millennium development goals. [98730]

The world is on track to meet the overarching millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people in poverty by 2015. That will mean 1 billion people having lifted themselves out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015. However, progress is not even across the world. Large parts of Africa are not on target, and better progress is possible on many of the goals. In short, the world is making progress, but with a greater effort we could do much better.

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, but she will know better than anyone that achieving those goals will require a substantial increase in resources. What are the Government doing to make progress towards a target of spending 0.7 per cent. of GDP on development assistance? What is being done to encourage our European partners to do the same, bearing in mind that they agreed to that back in 2001?

My hon. Friend is right. We have about $52 billion in the international development system. When one reflects on the fact that 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty, half of humanity lives in deep poverty and how much we spend on public services in our countries, one realises that that is a pathetic amount, although it is increasingly effectively deployed. For that reason, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is working internationally to mobilise commitment to an international financing facility that would double the amount of aid available to $100 billion, which is increasingly getting support across the international system. That was the estimate made at the Monterrey conference of the amount needed to support countries to meet the millennium development goals, and we must all work to support the Chancellor in that effort.[Interruption.]

I greatly admire much of what the right hon. Lady is doing to reduce poverty in the world, which was the subject of the question that she has just answered. What more will she and the Government do to remove from office a man who is bringing an increasing percentage of his population into starvation and poverty? I refer to that tyrant, Robert Mugabe.

There is no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is serious and brutal. Seven million people need food aid. Projections suggest that the rest of the region will probably recover next year, but that things will get worse in Zimbabwe. There are only 11.2 million people in the country now and 9 million of them will need food aid next year.

As the hon. Gentleman will know, international law says that it is not legal for countries to seek to remove individual rulers. However, it is highly likely that the people of Zimbabwe will shortly bring down the leadership of Robert Mugabe. We will then all work to help the people to take their country forward again.

Among the millennium development goals is a significant reduction in HIV infection. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we are to achieve that reduction, it is important that the global fund for health is a success? Although it is welcome that the US has committed significant extra money over the next five years, there is a problem in the short term. This year, the fund does not have the money to deal properly with the commitments for round 3, which is due later this year. Will my right hon. Friend consider what can be done to ensure that the fund can go ahead with round 3 distributions this year?

I agree that the global fund for health is important, but I am afraid that it is not being as well led as it might be. Its role is to provide drugs and commodities for the treatment of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, but health care systems must be in place to deliver them. A twin-track approach is therefore required. Unfortunately, the leadership of the fund has over-committed and is operating separately from health reform agendas. The US has just committed the money that it promised originally. However, I am holding back from any further commitments until there is a more clearly targeted effort to collaborate in the strengthening of health systems. Rather than simply giving more money, I am in dialogue with the fund about doing a better job.

I commend the Secretary of State for the excellent work of her Department. Does she agree that the best way to reach vital targets is to encourage each developing country to move towards its own benign governance, the rule of law and a market-based economy? Ultimately, nothing else is sustainable. Will she say a little more about the capacity building measures of her Department to try to bring about such end results?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman—to achieve a growing economy, effective modern governance is needed, as well as a respect for human rights and democracy; also needed are a treasury that works, procures properly and is not corrupt; a central bank that works; and a macro-economic framework that allows the local private sector and inward investment to work. That is why, in developing countries, we put such stress on the building of effective and modern state institutions with democratic accountability. Progress is being made in many countries but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, some are not on that path. We have to make greater efforts.