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Overseas Development Assistance: Definition

Volume 607: debated on Wednesday 16 March 2016

3. What assessment she has made of the potential effect on the disbursement of UK aid of changes to the definition of overseas development assistance made by the OECD. (904127)

The recent Development Assistance Committee high-level meeting on ODA modernisation was able to agree the first changes in the ODA definition in 40 years and reflect the changing nature of aid delivery. We do not expect a significant shift in the disbursement of UK aid because these changes align well with the UK’s focus on conflict, fragility and economic development.

Given the changes in definition and the increasing proportion of UK aid spent by Departments other than DFID, how will the Secretary of State ensure that UK aid continues to help the poorest in the world?

The hon. Gentleman will be reassured to know that the modernisation of the ODA definition had to be under consensus by a number of countries involved. In addition, the primary purpose that underpins aid—economic development and improving the welfare of the recipient country—remains in place. This was really about modernising the definition to reflect how aid is delivered today.

Given that so much poverty and misery is caused by conflict, is it not about time that the OECD definition of ODA included peacekeeping and anti-terrorist activity at the very least, as that bears down directly on poverty?

I agree with my hon. Friend. In fact, goal 16 of the sustainable development goals agreed in the UN in September 2015 was all about the need to improve not only peace but security. It is nonsensical for us to work so hard on tackling sexual violence in conflict and not be able to use our aid programmes to help work with the military to prevent that.

Given the changes to the definition of overseas development assistance, and given that there are still some 37 million people living worldwide with HIV and AIDS, as well as 2 million new infections each year, can the Secretary of State tell the House whether her Department’s spending on HIV and AIDS will be rising or falling over the comprehensive spending review period?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we plan to set out the results of our bilateral aid review over the coming weeks, but I can assure him that our support for multilateral mechanisms, such as the Global Fund, that do so much great work on tackling aid, will continue, and he will obviously be aware that HIV and AIDS particularly affect adolescent girls in a growing proportion, so it is important that we stay the course on this.

It is great to see the Benches so packed for DFID questions. The more money the UK spends on ODA through other Departments, the more pressure there will be on DFID to deliver on its existing commitments. What impact will the changing use of ODA have on staffing numbers and capacity at Abercrombie House in East Kilbride?

As I said to the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas), we will set out the results of our bilateral aid review shortly. The point of the new aid strategy is to achieve a cross-Government approach to drive development in the countries that we work with. I did not think it was right that DFID was carrying out all that work on its own. It is important to get other Departments to work alongside us to tackle extreme poverty.