The Secretary of State was asked—
This year we have significantly increased our support, providing a further £80 million of humanitarian aid to support more than 9 million people affected across the region. I can assure my hon. Friend that we are working to tackle poverty and the crisis in the region at source, rather than waiting for the consequences to reach us domestically.
There are more than 2.6 million displaced people in the area, 6.4 million people are facing food insecurity, and a public health emergency has been declared in four countries, together with the Central African Republic, in response to a polio outbreak, yet United Nations appeals are only one third funded or less. What more can the UK Government do to bring this crisis to the world’s attention?
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to an appalling situation facing the region, and more must be done to meet the humanitarian needs. The UN needs that help to increase its capacity and develop. As to what more can be done, we encourage Governments across the world in the donor community to step up their contributions, just as we have, because the humanitarian response required must be funded now. With my hon. Friend and with the UK Government, we are challenging everyone to step up and do more.
I welcome the Government’s additional £80 million committed at the UN General Assembly for the humanitarian crisis. This goes some way towards addressing the imbalance between development assistance and humanitarian aid. However, relief agencies are unable to reach up to 2 million people in north-east Nigeria. Can the Secretary of State provide an update on how her Department is leading an effective, strong UN-led response while also ensuring that DFID funding goes to a range of actors, including by channelling more funding bilaterally through non-Government organisations?
I thank the hon. Lady for raising the issue. She is right. In addition to addressing the emergency humanitarian needs, DFID is investing in partnership working—yes, at a bilateral level, but also through the multilateral organisations that we are working with. Long-term resilience, support and capacity building are required. Our humanitarian programme is laying the foundations for these long-term outcomes through, for example, social transfers and access to health services, and importantly, focusing on the right interventions that can both help in the long term and provide the emergency relief required now.
The UK has excellent links through the Anglican Communion to the Churches in Nigeria. Would the Secretary of State welcome the willingness of the Churches to help with the humanitarian situation to address some of the underlying causes, particularly corruption?
My right hon. Friend is right about the power and the support of the Anglican community and Churches in Nigeria in particular. We have to work with grassroots organisations and religious organisations as well. We welcome the support and the focus on capacity building in particular, and the awareness-raising that is required on many of these challenging issues.
Aid without security in northern Nigeria is meaningless. I welcome the deployment of British troops to support the Nigerians in the north-east. Will the Secretary of State review official development assistance rules to make sure that that type of deployment is ODA-eligible for the people of northern Nigeria?
My hon. Friend will be clear about ODA rules from his previous role in the Foreign Office. He highlights the importance of a united and strategic approach, which can be seen in the UK’s work to support the Nigerian Government in their overall undertaking. The cross-Government work that is taking place is the right approach to tackle the severe issues that Nigeria is trying to cope with.
Looking at the immunisation of children in northern Nigeria, it appears that the coverage is very thin. In the past, some of the figures for coverage have been shown to be completely false. Can the Department work with the Government of Nigeria to ensure that there is total transparency, and work more with NGOs to ensure that more children are immunised throughout northern Nigeria?
My hon. Friend is right about the importance of immunising children. I recognise the outstanding work that the agencies undertake in very difficult conditions as they try to reach communities to immunise children. More data and more transparency are needed, and we are driving much of that data transparency requirement through the support that we provide to organisations on the ground delivering those vital immunisations.
Providing education for girls is a priority for this Government and this Department. In the last Parliament, we helped over 5 million girls to get the education that they need and deserve. In this Parliament we continue that work. The girls’ education challenge is the largest programme of its type in the world. Over the course of this Parliament, we will see 11 million children or more supported into education because of the work of the UK.
In Afghanistan, adult women are more than twice as likely as men to be illiterate, with a literacy rate of just 24%, compared with 51% for men. Does the Minister agree that there is much work to be done to close the gap between girls and boys in developing countries, and that it is in Britain’s interests that we continue our world-leading efforts to close that gap?
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. We will continue our efforts and continue our commitment. The UK Government are supporting 300,000 girls in Afghanistan to complete a full cycle of education. The drop-out rate for girls in Afghanistan is running at around 50%. We have to do what we can to tackle that—to help countries develop, to help address these imbalances and to secure a better future for those who live there, but for UK interests as well.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. We need to ensure that people get the education they need and can benefit from, so that those economies can grow and those countries that have often suffered so much can develop their way out of poverty with our support. In this Parliament, the Government will be supporting over 11 million children—including, separately, 6.5 million girls—into education, including in sub-Saharan Africa. There is more work that needs to be done, but we are focused on the task at hand, and we shall ensure that we get the maximum value and benefit from the work that UK taxpayers contribute to.
HIV/AIDS continues to be the largest killer of girls in the developing world. If they cannot go to school because they are ill, they cannot fulfil their potential. What more can the Government do to ensure that girls stay healthy?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I met him only a few weeks ago in his capacity as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS, and we discussed the contribution the UK makes to the global health fund. I was delighted that, shortly thereafter, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced a significant contribution from the UK. We remain a world leader in combating HIV/AIDS, as well as many other terrible diseases that affect girls and boys, and we are determined to play our part in ensuring these diseases are tackled, and ultimately eliminated, in the best and swiftest way possible.
This morning I was with Monir Mustafa of the White Helmets, who was absolutely clear that Assad’s bombs are targeting schools in Syria and the girls inside them. Has the Minister made representations to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to come to this House and bring forward a strategy to protect schools, hospitals and civilians?
Whether it is in developing countries or those that are, sadly, impacted by some of the terrible conflicts we see across the globe today, I am proud that the Government are working with their international partners and the global community to fight those who look to do ill, and to protect those who need protecting most. In no small part, that includes those girls and boys who, so often, are the innocent victims of conflict. We are continuing to do what we can to support those who are suffering in Syria. The Department is making a very significant contribution, as is the UK taxpayer, but there is so much more that needs to be done, and I accept the point the hon. Lady makes.
When the Secretary of State appeared before the International Development Committee in September, she said she was working across Government on the implementation of sustainable development goals, but she was unable to give any details. Can she now provide an update on how her Department is leading the way to ensure that that important international framework is being fully implemented through DFID’s development work and here in the UK?
I have, indeed, as I mentioned at my last appearance at the IDC, been working across Government —I am working with the Cabinet Office as well—to ensure that all Government Departments, via their single departmental plans, will be meeting all of the SDGs. There will be an update forthcoming; I cannot give a date, but it will be quite soon, and I am sure it will be of interest to the hon. Lady when we publish it.
The UK is at the forefront of efforts to tackle Daesh and has led the way in supporting the Government of Iraq with humanitarian and stabilisation work as part of the response in Mosul. It is not enough simply to defeat Daesh on the battlefield; we have to ensure that we support the victims of barbarous regimes to get access to humanitarian support as events unfold in Mosul.
In such a complex and sensitive environment, how will DFID use its leadership role to ensure that other aid providers work together and take a united approach, to maximise the effectiveness and value for money that we can achieve from investment in this critical area?
My hon. Friend is right to highlight the issue not only of Mosul and stabilisation, but of the humanitarian response. DFID and the British Government are leading the way and working through our membership of the humanitarian country teams. We are working closely with the UN, donors, NGOs and, of course, the Iraqi and Kurdish Governments, to deliver a co-ordinated, targeted and effective response.
Stabilising newly liberated areas and helping people to return to their homes in a safe and secure environment is a central priority of the Government of Iraq. We are working alongside them and the UN coalition. Britain’s support for the stabilisation efforts is helping the UN to clear lethal explosives, repair water supplies, restore power networks and reopen schools. Those stabilisation efforts have already helped more than 700,000 people to return home across Iraq.
There is concern across the House about Daesh’s brutal treatment of minorities, including Yazidis and Christians. What approach will DFID take on that question, and will the Secretary of State speak to the Home Secretary about the potential for a medical evacuation or resettlement programme for Iraqi minorities, similar to that which we have for Syria?
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the persecution of minorities by brutal regimes such as Daesh. He is also right to highlight the cross-Government approach that we have taken. I absolutely acknowledge his points. I will reflect on them and work with my colleagues across Government to pick up on them.
Does the Secretary of State agree that women have a key role to play, and that we need to do whatever we can to support them? Women have been doing so much to help protect civil infrastructure in Syria. If the Government do not have a plan, will they kindly consider putting in place a women-specific plan?
The hon. Lady is right to highlight the role of women. Not enough attention is given to the role that they play in peacekeeping and stabilisation. We hear much about the consequences of conflict for women, but they can play a significant role and that will be part of our ongoing dialogue with the Government of Iraq.
As winter creeps in across Iraq, thousands are expected to be exposed to temperatures close to zero as they flee for their life from Mosul. This is the worst time for the UNHCR to experience a funding shortfall in its winter assistance plan. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to guarantee that the UK and others meet their humanitarian obligations and address that shortfall?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise not only the humanitarian issue, but the contributions required. The UK’s efforts are meeting in full our commitments to Iraq. The hon. Gentleman will recall that, at the UN General Assembly, we were the first, in terms of our pledges and commitment, for preparedness before the operation in Mosul. On the question of what more can be done, I and other colleagues in the donor community need to step up. I constantly engage with the donor community, pressing for a greater sense of urgency in getting funds, preparing for winter and, importantly, ensuring that shelter, food and emergency equipment are put in place sooner rather than later.
Third-party Aid Providers
As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, almost all our Department’s work is done in partnership with third-party providers. Our Department provides the policy and the monitoring. In a humanitarian situation, it will be UN agencies delivering on the ground, and in a development situation, NGOs and partner Governments will work alongside us.
How exactly are we going to promote our democratic values in cases where our aid budget is being delivered by a third party, such as a foreign Government, and neither the people nor the Government in the recipient country have a clue that it is UK money going in?
I absolutely agree that we need to make sure that when UK taxpayers are contributing, that is clear to the people receiving the money. That is also why the Secretary of State has focused hard, with all these third-party providers, on securing value for money and ensuring that the UK national interest is served and UK taxpayers get the credit.
Isn’t it great that we have so many excellent NGOs in the UK to help us to deliver our aid programme? Does the Minister agree, however, that there is still too much competition, overlap and duplication between some of our NGOs, and that a measure of streamlining and collaboration would be most welcome?
That is absolutely right. Co-ordination is vital, particularly in an extreme humanitarian situation. It is terrible when people require assistance if we are wasting money duplicating effort. That is why DFID staff and UN staff are working so closely together, and that is why co-ordination is central to our multilateral aid review.
Does the Minister recognise the role of civil society organisations in delivering the sustainable development goals, which the former Prime Minister helped to draft? If so, why do the sustainable development goals not even appear in the recent civil society partnership review?
Africa (Economic Development)
Last month in Kenya, I saw the life-saving impact of UK aid on the ground when it comes to combating drought, hunger and disease. I also saw how innovation can not only result in UK aid reaching more people, but help people to look at the long-term economic opportunities to tackle poverty and bring economic growth.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that working in partnership with Governments, businesses and investors around the world to transform economies and trading relationships, particularly in developing countries, should be a vital part of our UK diplomatic effort and our long-term prosperity strategy, especially as we approach Brexit?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. No country can defeat poverty without economic growth. Jobs, trade and investment are central to that, and the United Kingdom will be at the forefront of championing economic development and helping the poorest in the world to work their way out of poverty.
I am delighted that the hon. Lady raises these important sectors. She is right to do so, because of the youth dividend across Africa and the enormous potential for those sectors. DFID is leading the way when it comes to agri-development and investing through CDC and other organisations. British firms are playing a strategic role here, too. This comes back to the point that no country can defeat poverty without economic growth, and these are the core sectors that are crucial to the delivery of prosperity and jobs across Africa.
My hon. Friend raises a very important and controversial issue. The protection of wildlife in Africa is a priority for the Government, and we have a strategy to address it. Tourism is of course important across Africa. I have visited not just Kenya, but Sierra Leone, another country that needs to get back to investing in tourism, and that is something we can help with in the long run.
The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the whole issue of value for money, which we in DFID will champion on behalf of British taxpayers. It is right that money goes to the right countries and the right people, because every pound that is not spent in the right way means that people do not get access to life-saving treatment or poverty reduction. Our mission in the Department is to ensure that we can eradicate poverty, but also to make sure that the money goes exactly where it needs to go.
No country can defeat poverty without sustained economic growth. Later today, the Government will introduce the Commonwealth Development Corporation Bill, which will raise the limit on the level of financial support that the Government can provide to the CDC. By doing so, we will be able to help to create more jobs and to boost economic growth in Africa and south Asia, so that people can lift themselves out of poverty and leave aid dependency behind. I will write to colleagues with further information.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the appalling scenarios we are seeing in Yemen right now. There is a deteriorating situation and a humanitarian crisis, with an increasing number of Yemenis facing food shortages and suffering malnutrition. There has been a recent outbreak of cholera as well. The UK is the fourth largest donor, and has committed to spending £109 million in Yemen, helping more than 1.3 million Yemenis—[Interruption.]
I have recently spent much time with civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations and the great organisations doing life-saving work on the ground. We have recently published the “DFID Research Review” and the “Civil Society Partnership Review”. With regards to the development aid reviews—the multilateral and bilateral aid reviews—I can tell the hon. Gentleman that they will be coming by the end of the month.
We have made it clear that our focus will be very much targeted on health, education and co-existence projects. We ensure that any support going in is carefully vetted, with an independent auditor, and directed to what will provide value for money; and, above all, that it will benefit the Palestinian people.
As I have mentioned, we have published the “Civil Society Partnership Review”, on which I spent time speaking to many of the great organisations involved in the delivery of aid and humanitarian work around the world. We make sure that British aid—UK taxpayers’ money—goes to the right causes via the right organisations, and DFID will continue to pursue that. We are championing taxpayer value, while delivering poverty reduction and humanitarian support and assistance.
My hon. Friend raises an important point about the destruction of cultural and heritage sites around the world. I have been clear that, in funding international organisations, we wish to see reform in the system to make sure that money is spent in the right way. We will continue to deliver value for money. DFID will publish the reviews that reflect on UNESCO towards the end of the month and he will see the approach we are taking.
The Department remains entirely committed to the following principles. First, anything we do must encourage a two-state solution by ensuring that the Palestinian people are served with proper services. Secondly, we must make sure that the money goes in the right way to the right people. That is all about auditing, vetting and making sure that the real beneficiaries are there. Of course we will ensure that the review is done as efficiently as possible to serve the interests of the Palestinian people and the stability of the region.