[Relevant Documents: Fifth Report of the International Development Committee, Extreme poverty and the Sustainable Development Goals, HC 147, and the Government response, HC 1177.]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Ms Bardell. I thank all hon. and right hon. Members for attending. I know others wished to be here today, but were unable to attend. I thank the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell): I know that he has moved his diary to be with us, and has championed these goals for many years.
It was back in 2015, at the United Nations General Assembly, that the UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared that to end extreme poverty we needed to put the poorest, weakest and most marginalised first and leave no one behind. Cameron called on world leaders to adopt the newly created sustainable development goals to eradicate extreme poverty, eliminate malnutrition and reduce illiteracy by 2030. All 193 UN member countries, including the UK, committed to delivering those goals. Eight years on, the world met again in New York, and the SDG summit during the 2023 UN General Assembly marked the halfway point of the SDG timescale. What should have been a moment for celebration became a moment of sombre reflection, as the world is severely off track to achieving the goals by 2030.
Progress was already trailing before covid, but UN analysis showed that the pandemic had rolled it further back. In 2020, for the first time in 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty increased. It increased by an estimated 150 million more people, according to the World Bank. According to the UN, if current trends continue, an estimated 7% of the global population— 575 million people—will still be living in extreme poverty by 2030, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. It is often children who are impacted most. As more families fall into extreme poverty, children are at a much greater risk of child labour, marriage and trafficking. Furthermore, during the pandemic millions of children have lost years of schooling or dropped out of school, and food insecurity has caused increased levels of stunting and wasting.
Covid, conflict and climate change all increase suffering, and those issues are often interlinked. For example, extreme hunger in east Africa is partly as a result of climate change, but it is also compounded by regional conflicts and by the grain shortage due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. The SDGs offer a framework to address issues holistically, but they need tangible action by world leaders. The increase in geopolitical tensions does put additional demands on the attention of world leaders, but a sharp focus must remain on the need to tackle extreme poverty.
The UK has been a global leader in tackling extreme poverty. Despite the extra pressures on our Overseas Development Administration, we remain a major donor of aid. Our leadership matters. The Minister has stated his desire to re-energise the SDG agenda, and to get the goals back on track. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office White Paper process will help. I hope he will update us on how the consultations with stakeholders have been progressing.
The UK also made many pledges at the SDG summit and the G20 meeting that preceded it. On climate, the UK made a massive $2 billion commitment to the green climate fund, and committed $300 million to the Innovative Finance Facility for Climate in Asia and the Pacific, which will leverage in hundreds of millions of dollars more. Next month the UK will host the global food security summit, helping to find lasting solutions to global food security and to nutrition challenges. The Government also announced £103.5 million to develop new vaccines to reduce the spread of infectious diseases, and £180 million to the International Finance Facility for Education.
I have also been very impressed by the recent work of British International Investment, which added £1.2 billion of investments last year, bringing its portfolio to £7 billion. Those investments leverage in private sector investment, and contribute especially to SDGs 8, 13, 7 and 9. Companies supported by BIII employ more than 1 million people in Asia and Africa. Projects such as Liquid Telecom are helping millions of people to gain access to cheaper, reliable and faster internet, and that brings a significant boost to local economic growth.
I particularly welcome the leadership that the UK brings to SDG4 on education. Education improves outcomes for health, economic development, climate resilience, gender equality and civil participation. It is estimated that if all people in low-income countries had access to school and left school able to read, 170 million people would be lifted out of poverty. That equates to a 12% reduction in poverty globally. Furthermore, supporting girls to access school reduces child marriage and maternal deaths. It opens up opportunities for women to participate in labour markets and leads to safer and more prosperous societies. However, there are now 250 million children, adolescents and young people out of school—one in six of the world’s children. Even when in school, they are not necessarily learning. Two thirds of the world’s children cannot read or understand a simple sentence by the age of 10, so the quality of learning also matters.
I thank the Minister for the UK’s contribution to Education Cannot Wait, which does such vital work to support children with education in crisis-affected countries, and I hope the UK will continue to top up its funding as time goes on. A particular concern is that there are 15.5 million refugee children worldwide, half of whom are not in school. Refugee children are increasingly displaced for long periods of time, so it is critical that they can access quality education and thus go on to have opportunities for employment, to contribute to the host country’s economy, and to eventually return home or move to other countries, should they wish. The best way to help those children is to include them in national education systems.
The UK is due to co-lead a mega-pledge at the Global Refugee Forum. The aim is to bring a strong commitment to supporting refugee-hosting states to provide education to refugee children, as well as to the children of their own citizens. As the global co-chair of the International Parliamentary Network for Education, I know there are parliamentarians in countries all across the world who will support that ambition. Given that education is a key driver of progress towards achieving all the SDGs, I would be interested to hear from the Minister how SDG4 fits into the FCDO’s wider SDG strategy and hear his views on how the UK prioritises SDGs and integrates them into policymaking.
On women and girls, I would particularly like to mention SDG3.7 on access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services. Adolescent teenage mothers face higher risks of pre-eclampsia, puerperal endometriosis and systemic infections than women in their 20s. Their babies are at a higher risk of low birth weight, pre-term delivery and severe neonatal conditions. When a woman or girl has access to contraception, she has freedom. She has the right to education and to decide when to work and when to become a mum. Visiting family planning clinics was one of the most moving things I did during my time as the Minister for Africa. One could tangibly feel the empowerment that this gave women. However, 0.25 billion women across the world want access to contraception but cannot get it. Under President Trump, the US rowed back its aid on female health and the access it gives to contraception. With another US election looming, I urge the Minister to keep a sharp eye on this part of the goals for the many women across the world who need this so desperately.
I point out that the UK cannot solve all the challenges of the SDGs alone. We know, however, that UK aid, when spent through the World Bank, and other development banks, can be multiplied many times through leverage and deliver huge economies of scale. I therefore strongly commend the UK on championing the Bridgetown initiative and using our voice, as one of the most powerful shareholders of the World Bank, to campaign for it.
I also commend the Government and people of Morocco for their bravery in going ahead with hosting the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings last week despite the terrible tragedy that they recently suffered. The Minister said at those meetings that much had been achieved, and I hope that he will use this opportunity to give us more detail on what was achieved.
I thank all of the organisations that have written to me in advance of this debate, including Bond International, ActionAid UK, Voluntary Service Overseas, RESULTS and many others. There is so much to say that I cannot include it all. I thank Florence Chan and Mariana Vidic of Chelmsford, who sent me more than 100 postcards from my constituents showing their support for the SDGs and for delivering support to those in the world’s most vulnerable countries.
Lastly, I was particularly moved by Action Against Hunger’s points regarding the importance of addressing conflict. Conflict is the leading cause of hunger. Earlier this week I met a remarkable woman, Liela Musa Medani, a British-Sudanese woman who had escaped from Khartoum in July but tries to remain in touch with her family members still stranded there. Of the 50 households that used to live in her street, only four remain. For the past six months, every single day, they have faced killings and artillery shelling. Goods are embargoed, there is no food, and anyone who tries to transport food risks their life. There is no electricity, no water, no medicines and no humanitarian aid.
The few people left in that once mighty city cannot leave. There are no cars and there is no fuel to power them. Even if they found transport, they know that they would almost certainly be shot at on the journey. School buildings are now cemeteries, and girls have learned to disfigure themselves in order to try to avoid being raped.
Today the war in Sudan is much, much worse than when it left our TV screens a few months ago. Liela told me,
“The people of Sudan are either prisoners in their homes or suffering at the border of the neighbouring countries, not allowed entry. They are stuck, trapped in a fatal situation”.
Colleagues, we all know there are too many wars raging in our world, causing immeasurable suffering. Liela begged me not to forget the catastrophic situation of Sudan and to never stop calling on the two fighting forces to stop the war. Thank you, colleagues for letting me share Liela’s testimony today and give the last word to her.
It is a great pleasure to speak under your chairship, Ms Bardell. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) on calling this debate, which is very close to my heart.
I cannot start today without mentioning the humanitarian crisis in Palestine. Civilians, old and young, men and women, sick and healthy, are in the firing line. There is no politics here: the killing of civilians is wrong. The scenes of grave destruction in Gaza are appalling and deeply troubling. There are reports that basic resources and services are being denied to civilians, half of whom are children, and that hundreds have been killed at the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. It is a tragedy, and the images are heartbreaking. There is no room for breaking international law, and civilian lives must be protected. Without an end to the conflict, the SDGs will never be realised in Gaza and Palestine, which have some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Unless the SDGs move everyone forward, they fail.
That message is one that we can apply in many more areas. Tuberculosis is an area of particular interest to me, and I should declare an interest as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on global TB. The SDGs make it clear that TB should be eradicated by 2030, which is seven years from now, but we will not reach that goal without real change, real investment and a real will. In 2021, 10 million people fell ill with TB—a shocking 4% rise—and 1.6 million people died. This is not progress; it is relapse. TB diagnosis has fallen by 18%, from 7.1 million to 5.8 million, which means that fewer cases are being detected by health systems. Fewer people are getting the help they need and, as we move towards 2030, the goal gets further away. That is before we consider a particularly concerning issue that I have raised before: multidrug-resistant TB. It does not respond to typical therapies, and we are not prepared for it. Treatments and diagnoses have gone down this year, too. We are not fighting TB where we need to, and we do not have the momentum we need to fight it.
I thank the Minister and the Government for their role in the UN’s second high-level meeting on TB. Thanks to that meeting, we now have a political declaration. We now have specific, measurable and time-bound targets to find, diagnose and treat people with TB using the latest WHO-recommended tools. We now have time-bound, specific targets for funding the TB response with research and development. However, because this is a disease of the poor—a disease of poverty—engagement has been low. I ask the Minister how the FCDO will work alongside international partners and national Governments to generate momentum to achieve TB eradication by 2030. Will the R&D funding announced by the Government at the HLMs be used to support the development of new TB vaccines, diagnostics and medicines, and how can the UK utilise our world-leading life sciences sector to lead the world in the global response to the TB pandemic?
It is no cliché to say that the world changed when we eradicated smallpox. A disease that killed millions, scarred many more and blighted lives was ended. That same spirit can live on. Malaria claims 600,000 lives a year, and a child under five dies from malaria almost every minute. As with TB, eradication does not just save lives; it drives growth and equality, and allows the reprioritisation of vast sums of money. For households experiencing poverty, malaria costs can account for up to one third of their income. Think what they could do with that money.
Parents struck down by any of the neglected tropical diseases that we have committed to eradicate cannot work. In turn, that takes education and childhoods from the children forced into work, which can be tiring, exhausting and backbreaking, or even dangerous, degrading and illegal. Childhoods are ruined and more generations are inured to the cruellest of behaviours.
Although we as a world are on course to achieve 15% of the SDGs, a staggering 30% have stalled or are even going backwards. I hope that the Government do not lose focus on the SDGs, but I am sad to say that it seems an all too real possibility. This Government got rid of the Department for International Development. They cut international development spending when the world needed it most. In the face of the British people, this Tory Government decrees there is no need to worry about climate change, and that dealing with it can wait a few more years. That is just wrong.
Will the UK Government commit to a second voluntary national review to monitor progress on their implementation of the SDGs, and deliver on the commitments made in the 2019 VNR? Will they meaningfully engage civil society to deliver the 2030 agenda? I want to see the British Government and this country act because it is the right thing to do. It saves lives. This country will not forgive the Government that failed to prepare us for the next fight.
It is a pleasure to speak in this debate, and I commend my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for calling it. I welcome the Minister for Development to his place and commend his long-time commitment to this issue. I also welcome his call for evidence for the White Paper on UK international development, and I am pleased to hear that there has been a great number of contributions. The Minister will not be surprised to hear that my speech will echo my submission to the White Paper, and I look forward to hearing his response.
If the sustainable development goals are to achieve their aim of leaving no one behind, the review looking towards 2030 must include a greater focus on and consideration of people experiencing inequalities due to their religious marginalisation. If people are excluded from healthcare, education or the job market on account of their religion or belief, they will be poorer for it. I will amplify that by quoting from an excellent paper from the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Referring to SDG3, on universal healthcare coverage, it said:
“In contexts where religious/belief minorities...are marginalised ...they often experience restrictions on their access to health care services and quality treatment. In the most extreme cases, health facilities may be destroyed, and staff attacked as part of religiously related conflicts or situations of violent oppression of religious/belief minorities. In other contexts, access is restricted through state policies and practices. Bias in health budgeting and priorities, for instance, may mean that infrastructure is lacking or of low quality in areas with a predominance of religious/belief minorities”.
With regard to SDG4, on access to all levels of education for all, it said:
“In contexts where religious/belief minorities and indigenous peoples are subject to marginalisation, discrimination or oppression, their levels of enrolment in school are often lower than that of the majority population. In a few cases, certain minority groups’ access to public education is explicitly restricted by law, primarily at university level.”
We can see an example of that in Iran, where the Baha’is are excluded from university. Violations and abuses of people’s human right to freedom of religion or belief are a driver of poverty in conflict and non-conflict situations. It needs to be recognised and addressed as such, just as work has been done to address the poverty challenges faced by women and girls or the less abled across the world.
This is not a small problem. More than eight in 10 people worldwide identify with a religious group—around 6 billion people. Of those, many millions experience discrimination or persecution on account of their beliefs, and that situation is getting worse year on year. Of course, marginalisation and persecution are complex issues, and they may not necessarily be motivated only by religion. There can be and often are other factors—economic, political, cultural, social and historical—but it is vital not to underestimate the role of religion and belief in marginalisation, discrimination and persecution. We in secular or more secular countries are often prone to do that.
The word “religion” barely merits a mention in the current SDG terminology, and traditionally international development has often adopted a religion-blind approach. Certainly, no one should be a priority for aid assistance on account of their religion, but in many countries where religion plays a greater role in life and essential services may be provided overwhelmingly by those belonging to a majority religion, a religion-blind approach risks ignoring the effects of religious otherisation, where people who are already socioeconomically excluded are further marginalised on the ground of their religion or belief. To many of our international partners, especially in the global south, that approach can be seen as religiously illiterate, and contributes to a failure to achieve the “Leave No One Behind” agenda.
To give a clear example of that, the Coalition for Religious Equality and Inclusive Development has done remarkable studies in India, South Africa and Uganda showing that when religious inequalities exist, they undermine the principle of equitable access to healthcare. In Pakistan, CREID found that where the caste system was prevalent and people were in extreme poverty, the vulnerability of Hindus and Christians in Sindh province was accentuated, because as religious minorities already on the margins of society, they were overlooked by the World Bank’s poverty alleviation programme. Similar concerns were raised about DFID’s Iraq emergency humanitarian programme in 2014-16, highlighting that with more than 75 mentions of vulnerable groups, in only one instance was religious or ethnic identity mentioned—that of the Sunni Arabs who might be displaced into Shi’a or Kurd areas.
To counter such situations in the future, a review of the SDGs must address the absence of discussion of religious inequalities in international aid discourse and seek to change that to include appropriate policies and practices to ensure inclusive development. In particular, it must listen to the voices of religious minorities, whose exclusion is seriously undermining the likelihood of the SDGs achieving the aspirations we all want to see of improving the lives and prospects of everyone and leaving no one behind.
It is indeed a pleasure to speak in this debate. I thank the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for setting the scene so well and requesting the debate; by doing so, she has enabled us all to come along and make a contribution. I thank her so much for giving us this opportunity.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce); my remarks will echo some of hers. I am especially pleased to see the Minister in his place. I am always encouraged to see him in his place for these debates—I hope I am not giving him a big head—because he understands our requests very well. I am also pleased to see the two shadow Ministers, the hon. Members for West Ham (Ms Brown) and for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), who have the same sense of moral obligation that I try to have in my life.
I believe that we have a moral obligation to help the unfortunate and the needy. I am aware that we have needy people in our own communities, and I am therefore a strong advocate for uplifts to benefits as well as tax credits for working people. I advocate for those using food banks in my constituency and struggling to pay their mortgage; I also advocate for us to help those abroad who cannot help themselves. I am really pleased to see everyone in this place, and I look forward to presenting a united voice from this House for those we advocate for across the world.
United Kingdom aid spending stands at 0.5% of gross national income and will not be restored to 0.7% by the Government until two tests are met: that the Office for Budget Responsibility shows that “on a sustainable basis” the country is not borrowing for day-to-day spending, and that the ratio of underlying debt to gross domestic product is falling. Based on the November ’22 statement, the tests will not be met until ’27-’28 at the earliest. It is understandable that we are money mindful—we must be—but I am also of the mindset that we cannot encourage other countries to do more if we continue to do what I refer to, with respect, as a bare minimum.
In 2022 the UN Development Programme estimated that 50% of the world’s population living in extreme poverty reside in 54 developing countries with “severe debt problems”, defined as being in debt distress, having poor credit ratings or with substantial sovereign bond costs. I believe we can help more and we should try to do more. I encourage the Government to do just that.
I am a great believer in working with bodies on the ground to get the aid where it needs to go. In my constituency I correspond with 60-odd churches from across all faiths; I write to them, and every time we have a debate I ensure that they have a copy of the Hansard report to give them an idea of what we are saying. In my constituency I support Open Doors, Release International and the Barnabas Trust. I deal regularly with two in particular, one of which is the Elim Relief Association, whose headquarters is in Ards, a major town in my constituency. I am a member of the Baptist Church, and there are Baptist Church charities out there that have missionaries on the ground carrying out feeding programmes, while running training programmes to give people a chance at employment in an attempt to break the poverty cycle. Added to that are the Presbyterian Churches, the Church of Ireland, the Methodists and the Roman Catholics. The Christian faith churches show their great ecumenical strength in what they can do on the ground.
I share the concerns voiced by the hon. Member for Congleton. Many of the faith charities out there are doing massive work, but the fact is that in Pakistan, which I had a chance to visit in February this year, I was again reminded that members of some of the Christian faiths and the Hindu faith are at the end of the line when it comes to handing out aid or giving assistance. I might have mentioned this before—the Minister will forgive me for reiterating the point—but the Minister and the Department need to work alongside Church groups as well as secular NGOs to ensure that the pounds spent are not lost in transit but are used effectively.
Why is it so important to do that? Because all the faiths that I referred to have a proven track record on the ground. The missionaries from Newtownards and the district who are involved in those Churches do excellent work all the time. We need to work alongside them. The hon. Lady referred to that. We are not saying we would give them priority, but we would give them equality. It is clear that they are not treated equally when it comes to the handout of aid. We have experienced that in Pakistan, where Christians and Hindus are victimised, and we find the same thing in its neighbour, India, where those of the Christian and Muslim faiths are disadvantaged. I believe the Minister can help us when it comes to assisting with the things that we need to do.
As chair of the APPG for international freedom of religion or belief, I have a desire to see that those of the Christian faith, other faiths and no faith have equality when it comes to assistance from our Government. The generosity of our Government and the Minister who directs that work is something that we are very pleased about, but religion denied is human rights denied—the two work hand in hand. We cannot divorce human rights from the persecution of those with a minority faith. I know—at least, I hope—the answer from the Minister will be positive and that he will tell us how the Government are endeavouring to make sure that things go in the right direction.
We have a moral duty. That does not mean we throw money at scenarios. We must be wise with every penny and ensure that children and the elderly are the recipients of our charity, and that it is not individuals profiting. I know that every pound that is allocated is important to the people it reaches, but I want the money to reach everybody and to do so equally across the divides, across faiths and across the world.
My heart is to help others, and I know that is representative of my generous constituency of Strangford. The issue has been put forward by others as well. I advocate not only for increased spending but for increasingly wise spending, and I am happy to discuss that with the Minister should that be useful. Charity begins at home, but compassion has a place in every home in this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We must ensure that that compassion we all have in our hearts today in this debate is clear to those who need it most. That is why I support the Minister in the work he takes forward. I hope that his reply will encourage us, so we can go back to our constituents and the churches we represent and tell them that our Government are doing their best.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) on securing this important debate. I am pleased that she was able to do so in the same week as my debate on what I believe to be one of the most important sustainable development goals: access to water, sanitation and hygiene. I will not repeat what was said then, but some important contributions were made. Indeed, at least two other hon. Members who were at that debate are here today. I encourage others who were not to read the transcript.
I say that because the Minister will be aware of my strength of feeling over the importance of access to safe water, which is sustainable development goal No. 6. As has been pointed out, we are rapidly heading towards the 2030 agenda review of the sustainable development goals. As colleagues here will be aware, the SDGs are all intrinsically linked, with many being unachievable without the others. However, one important subject that I believe merits its own goal and much more attention is the issue of humanitarian mine action.
Regions of the world that have faced conflict inevitably face the second challenge of unexploded ordnance. Many are developing countries that are already confronting the challenges addressed by many of the established sustainable development goals. Mine clearance is a painstakingly long process and often continues for years and even decades after the end of a conflict. Many countries simply do not have the resources to clear mines; consequently, not only lives but sustainable development are put at risk. Given the coherence of so many of the SDGs, I believe that the further objective, an 18th sustainable development goal, of a landmine-free world would speed up the progress of many, if not all of the other 17.
For example, we cannot achieve environmental progress where land mines are still in the ground. Arable land will remain unused, barren and polluted, exacerbating food shortages and hunger. Replanting forests that have been destroyed in conflict will not be possible, leading to an increase in extreme climate events such as flooding, and ecosystems may never return. On top of that, decontaminated land that has remained unused due to the danger of mines could afford an opportunity for sustainable and carbon-neutral communities.
It is not just mines on land. By clearing explosive ordnance at sea, we open up more opportunities to work on SDG14, on conserving our oceans. The impact of removing a mine can be as simple as allowing safe passage for a child to get to school and access education—SDG4. I am pleased that the FCDO is prioritising education in our overseas development aid. By creating safe passages and removing literal physical barriers, we can also improve gender equality, which is SDG5—hon. Members will see where I am going with this—as young girls will be able to access education and women will be able to access the healthcare facilities they desperately need without harm.
As chairman of the APPG on explosive threats, I have twice attended the international conference on humanitarian mine action and the sustainable development goals held in Baku. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests on that matter. In Azerbaijan, I saw at first hand the results of mine clearance. Priority clearance areas that once lay barren and empty had been repurposed, bringing opportunities for education, employment and, most importantly, allowing people the right to return to their homes. I could continue talking about how mine action can help to achieve many of the SDGs, but I simply say to the Minister that he should embrace the UK’s legacy of being a world leader on humanitarian mine action and press for making a landmine-free world the 18th sustainable development goal.
I absolutely believe that the sustainable development goals are the right way to focus our overseas development aid, so I strongly encourage the Minister and the FCDO as a whole to demonstrate global leadership and prioritise the SDGs at the very top of Government. If we do not develop a holistic approach to how the UK will help countries to achieve the SDGs, we risk falling short of Agenda 2030. However, this is not just about financial resources and direct aid. The UK is fortunate to have the resources to encourage reform across the board, including reforms of the global finance system, giving low-income countries more of a voice and engaging with our extensive civil society to help deliver this agenda.
As I mentioned during Tuesday’s debate, the international development White Paper, which is due to be published soon, is the perfect opportunity to retune the UK’s aid to focus directly on achieving the sustainable development goals. I ask the Minister to carefully consider the evidence that he has heard today and the experienced and passionate words of many Members.
Thank you, Ms Bardell. It is a genuine pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, and I warmly congratulate the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) on securing the debate. It provides an incredibly timely opportunity to reflect on the progress, or, indeed, the lack of progress, towards reaching the sustainable development goals as we approach the halfway point, and to look at the outcomes of the high-level meetings on the SDGs that were held in New York last month. Appropriately, this debate bookends the Westminster Hall debate that the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) led back in July on those high-level meetings. A number of Members present spoke in that debate as well. I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, because I will speak later about my visit to Malawi with the all-party parliamentary group on malaria and neglected tropical diseases.
The first debate that I led in Westminster Hall, back in 2015, was on the sustainable development goals. At the time, there was a real sense of optimism and consensus that the achievements that had been made under the millennium development goals framework could be continued, and that Agenda 2030 would provide a platform for even more progress. For several years, we would come into Westminster Hall debates and I would have to congratulate the UK Government and give them credit where it was due for achieving the 0.7% target and for showing leadership in shaping the global development agenda. But then along came Brexit and Boris, which upended the whole thing. It led to the merger of the Department for International Development and the FCDO, descriptions of official development assistance as a giant cash machine in the sky, and a really dismissive attitude to the entire development agenda. I hope that the presence of the new Minister with responsibility for development indicates that the wheel is turning again and that the Government are prepared to take their responsibilities in these areas as seriously as they did under previous regimes.
There was considerable debate about how the sustainable development goals framework should be established, and the SDGs in Agenda 2030 are part of a more complex and perhaps more complicated framework than the MDGs were, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. There was a slightly spurious debate at the time about how many goals there should be, but a development framework is not a marketing exercise. At the end of the day, there are 17 goals and 169 targets, because that is how many there need to be to quantify and measure progress in the interconnected strands of development policy. As the hon. Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) alluded to, even that does not cover absolutely everything. Everyone will have different policy goals that they do not necessarily see fully reflected in the framework, but it does allow for both focus and specialisation, as well as a truly global perspective, and it represents a consensus at an international level.
Of course, it is important that the SDGs apply equally to all countries, unlike the MDGs, which were sometimes seen as things that were being done to developing countries by the so-called developed west. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, not everything in our country or society is perfect, so there are still areas, even in the UK, where progress needs to be made.
This debate is an opportunity, as were the recent high-level meetings that took place in New York, to speak up about the importance of multilateralism at a time when many countries, and that includes elements here in the UK, are starting to look inwards and to narrow their horizons. The UN Secretary General said at those meetings that the outcome document from them represents a “to-do list” for the whole planet. Achieving the SDGs is the best route to achieving peace and security and to tackling the climate crisis around the world.
Sadly, the message from those meetings and today’s debate is that although we have the knowledge and resources to meet the SDGs, we are still significantly off-target for many of the goals. That includes goal 2 on hunger and food security, with 3.1 million children still dying of malnutrition each year. If people do not have enough to eat, nothing else will improve. Kids cannot concentrate at school, adults do not have the energy to work, people get desperate and they look for alternatives. United Against Malnutrition and Hunger says that for every 1% increase in food insecurity, there is a 2% increase in migration and population flows. The Government might want to reflect on that when they think about how to reduce migration into this country.
Goal 3 is on achieving healthy lives for all, and in particular, there is a target within that on ending epidemics. We know that that is affordable, transformative and possible. During our visit to Malawi, we saw people who had benefited from the elimination of trachoma in their communities. We met the very first child who had received a malaria vaccine—it was fantastic. We know that ending TB and even AIDS, as the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall said, can be done if we are willing to put in the effort and resources.
Goal 4 on education, which the right hon. Member for Chelmsford is particularly interested in, is so important. Education is the foundational goal, especially girls’ education, and it has that transformative effect. I was struck in Malawi by the young generation coming through—people in their late 20s and early 30s—who were among the first generation in the country to benefit from universal primary education, and by how it has raised the standard across the whole of society, with the employment opportunities, the research capabilities and the jobs open to people because they have had that investment in education right at the start of their lives. Holistic reform of the architecture that allows finance to flow into individual countries so that they can invest in their education systems is so important and is being called for by the different campaigns we have heard about, including the Global Campaign for Education and Education Cannot Wait.
Goal 6 on water, sanitation and hygiene—as the hon. Member for Hendon said and as we spoke about in great detail on Tuesday—is also so important. Water is life, and clean schools are better for education. Clean drinking water is better for nutrition and health. Clean hospitals and hand hygiene stops the transmission of disease and reduces antibiotic resistance.
Civil society was clear that the summits were a bit of a missed opportunity, especially for the United Kingdom. The Government must be much better at living up to their rhetoric by actually implementing their commitments and showing leadership at the highest level. Sadly, there is a story about the UK’s diminished and diminishing role in SDG leadership compared with the role that it played in 2015. Perhaps that is indicative of a slightly wider malaise affecting this Conservative Government—a Government who have wrenched us out of the European Union and are prepared to abandon key human rights frameworks.
We can compare that with the Scottish Government—one of the first sub-state Governments to commit fully to the SDGs—and the SNP’s vision, which would see 0.7% of aid as a floor, not a ceiling, of an independent Scotland playing its part as a good global citizen. The Government need to pay attention to the demands set out by Bond and others in civil society: to prioritise the SDGs and coherently integrate them into policymaking across Departments; to commit to another voluntary national review to check our progress; to champion reforms of the global financial system; to commit to the principle of leaving no one behind; and to engage with civil society so that it can contribute to the agenda as well.
The hon. Member for Strangford spoke about the generosity of all our constituents to civil society organisations that work in these areas, particularly those led by the Churches and other faith communities. That shows, as the Minister said before, the importance of demonstrating public support. That public support exists, and we all have a role to champion that here in the UK.
The other theme that has come out of today’s debate has been conflict. The hon. Member for Hendon spoke about landmines. The hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and the hon. Member for Strangford spoke about how conflict affects freedom of religion and belief, and the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall rightly spoke about the situation in Gaza. We cannot have this debate without reference to the humanitarian catastrophe now unfolding in Gaza. How different might the world be if the authorities in Israel and Palestine had focused on attaining the sustainable development goals for all the peoples of their territories, rather than descending into a spiral of violence and destruction?
In the modern world, development and peace are so closely tied together that Pope Paul VI was moved to say that
“development is the new name for peace.”
He also said:
“If you want peace, work for justice.”
In the last few days, his successor Pope Francis has been even clearer about the situation in Israel and Palestine, saying,
“Humanitarian law is to be respected, especially in Gaza. Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!”
I hope the Minister can agree with that.
Conflict prevention is absolutely key to the sustainable development goals. That is why SDG16 is to
“Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development”.
That should also be the priority for the Government as a whole, not just in their words but in their actions. That is what constituents in Glasgow North, people across Scotland and people across the whole United Kingdom want to see.
It is a privilege, Ms Bardell, to serve under your chairship for the first time; I am sure it will not be the last. I thank the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for securing this debate. She has a vast knowledge and real passion for these issues, which she has raised so effectively.
The UK had a key role in formulating the sustainable development goals, so I think it is fair to say that we have a special responsibility to support their achievement at home and certainly internationally. We are now more than halfway to the 2030 deadline. As we have heard, unless we see a real injection of energy, ambition, co-operation and leadership, we are so unlikely to meet most of our global commitments. Progress on many targets has stalled or even reversed: last year, more young women were not in education, employment or training than in 2015; we have seen a massive drop in international finance to support developing countries’ clean energy research and production; and, worst of all, we are back at global hunger levels not seen since 2005.
Last month, when the Deputy Prime Minister talked about getting the SDGs back on track, there was a bit of a relief—even just from having development back on the Government’s agenda somewhere. I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the Government’s international development White Paper, which I hope will contain clear detail on how the Government will support the achievement of the global goals, particularly on extreme poverty and on climate change. I hope that it speeds up the transformation that we so need so that partnerships can work together hand in hand to strengthen local development leadership.
But how can that transformation happen when the Government are, I fear, stepping back from leadership on essential issues like climate change? In July, the Minister rightly said that the White Paper will
“will set out how the UK will lead the charge against extreme poverty and climate change”—[Official Report, 18 July 2023; Vol. 736, c. 61WS.]
That is very welcome. The impacts of climate heating, alongside covid and rising violence, are already proving a huge barrier to progress. But frankly, we are open to a charge of hypocrisy, because only last month the Prime Minister U-turned on crucial climate action here in the UK, backtracking on supporting the rapid shift we need and that British businesses want towards electrification of both car transport and home heating. The Prime Minister also doubled down on his refusal to stop new oil and gas developments in the North sea, massively undermining our climate diplomacy. It would be really useful to hear from the Minister how he thinks this helps the UK to be seen as a credible partner at COP28.
The reason I have pushed on that point today is that so many SDGs will be impacted by climate change. We will not see resilient food systems or meet our global goal of ending hunger unless we scale up climate mitigation and adaptation, and we will not see an end to conflict fuelled by increasingly scarce water and land resource. We have already seen the humanitarian catastrophes created by the combination of climate heating and conflict for vulnerable communities. The Minister knows that in east Africa, 65 million people face acute food insecurity. There is terrible hunger already in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, to name but a few. As we speak, huge numbers of people are at risk of death by dehydration and starvation in Gaza because of the conflict. To quote my boss, my right hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy):
“There will not be a just and lasting peace until Israel is secure, Palestine is a sovereign state, and both Israelis and Palestinians enjoy security, dignity and human rights…we will not surrender the hope of two states living side by side in peace.”
Globally, it is not just about conflict, food and climate change. I honestly think the UK Government are failing to take a prevention-first approach to the problems that the world faces. We still base our activities on an outdated idea of handouts—crumbs from the table of the rich to the poor. We need a different approach. Sudan surely taught us that we need to work with our partners to monitor and sanction those fuelling violence. We have not learned enough lessons from Sudan, because we have not even mirrored all the US sanctions on actors fuelling the bloodshed, and I honestly do not know why. Why have we not sanctioned all those responsible for funnelling gold to Russia? I say this because our development approach should not be just about our spending; it has to be about how our partnerships can support Governments in low-income countries with their own investments, aims and ambitions to meet the SDGs. There is much more we can do.
I have raised the issue of unsustainable sovereign debt before, so I will say just this today. If a country is spending debilitating amounts of money paying off high-interest loans, how can it possibly build resilience to climate change and develop desperately needed public services, because its hands are tied behind its back? The City of London has an almost unique importance in relation to sovereign bond finance. We need to build on these strengths, take a leadership role and take serious action to tackle the debt crisis.
I will make one last point. We need to look at the Government’s approach to sustainable development in health. The global maternal mortality ratio has barely declined since 2015; it went from 227 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015 to 223 deaths in 2020. That is obviously not good enough. In 2021, 5 million children died before reaching their fifth birthday; the figure was down from 6.1 million in 2015. It is difficult to celebrate that reduction when we know that we could have done so much more and that 10 children under the age of five die every minute.
Our progress to end HIV, tuberculosis and malaria is off track. In 2021, there were 1.5 million new HIV infections worldwide. There were 1.6 million deaths from TB and 600,000 malaria-related deaths. We can do better: we have world-leading universities and the expertise to work with partners around the world to strengthen global health security and defeat these epidemics once and for all. Our communities, and so many people around the world, need a Government that will give us our future back.
Let us remember: the world came together and discussed what it wanted the future to look like. In a joyful moment of co-operation and ambition, a global programme and goals were agreed. What a tragedy it is that we are sitting here, just a few years away from when those goals were supposed to be achieved, with so much to do. We really need a genuine commitment from our Government to do so much better.
This is my first experience of serving under you, Ms Bardell, and I hope that there will be many more in the future.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Vicky Ford) for securing this important debate and for her efforts to support sustainable development. She has a great deal of experience in this work. She and I talk often in the margins during votes and in the House of Commons, and she has done a service to the House today by expressing herself with such lucidity. I will address a number of her points. Because of the brevity and succinct nature of the contributions in this excellent debate, I have little excuse not to answer the many questions that have been asked.
Before I do that, I am conscious that this debate takes place against the grim backdrop of the horrifying attacks against Israel. Our thoughts are with all those who are suffering. Britain unequivocally backs Israel’s right to defend itself. We are stepping forward with humanitarian support, working to protect civilians from harm and striving to keep peace and stability alive.
To return to today’s debate, Britain played an instrumental role in establishing the sustainable development goals in 2015, and we are committed to achieving them by the end of this decade. However, seven years on only 15% of the goal targets are on track and nearly 40% are stalled or in reverse. We are currently on track to miss 88% of the goals. If that trend continues, it means that 575 million people will still be living in extreme poverty in 2030. We will have failed to limit global temperature increases to the 1.5° agreed in Paris, and we will have broken the collective promise we made in 2015 to other Governments and to our citizens.
At the halfway mark, with the clock ticking, we must rapidly accelerate progress on the goals, but we have some huge, complex and interlinked challenges to overcome: conflict, covid, climate change, the cost of living crisis and debt burdens increasing to unmanageable levels. It is no wonder that people are angry, particularly in the global south. Meanwhile, geopolitical divisions are making it difficult to address global issues together, and the international financial system is in urgent need of reform to ensure that, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce), no one is left behind.
In the face of such challenges, the UK is genuinely making an important contribution to reforming the system and ensuring that the voices of the poorest and most vulnerable countries are heard. This year, we launched an 18-month campaign to restore our credibility on international development, accelerate progress on the sustainable development goals and build modern partnerships with developing countries. The campaign has already made progress, and I want to reflect on three aspects of it.
First, there have been some significant pledges on the world stage. At the G7 leaders summit in May, the Prime Minister announced that British investment partnerships will mobilise $40 billion by the end of 2027 for high-quality, clean, green infrastructure and investment. In turn, that will attract further investment from the private sector. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford for her eloquent comments on British International Investment. At the G20 leaders meeting in India, our Prime Minister pledged $2 billion to the green climate fund, which places Britain right at the top of support for that vital engine of combating climate change.
That brings me to the second aspect: support to reform the international financial system. During this year’s United Nations General Assembly, we announced new guarantees for multilateral development banks, to help our overseas aid to go further and multiply our impact by unlocking more affordable finance for key SDG priorities. Through one such guarantee, Britain will unlock up to $1.8 billion of climate finance, thereby supporting vulnerable people across Asia and the Pacific to adapt to climate impacts. It will also accelerate their transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources, demonstrating how sustainable economic growth and development can go hand in hand.
Britain also announced £180 million for the International Finance Facility for Education, which includes up to £95 million in grants and paid-in capital, along with a contingent guarantee of up to £85 million. This guarantee is an incredible multiplier and will unlock up to $1 billion in new financing, through the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank, for education for lower middle-income countries, where an estimated 70% children under 10 are unable to read a simple story. The funding will help countries to use education as a tool for sustainable development, focusing on improving literacy, numeracy and social skills, including the training of teachers and development of curricula.
Britain is also leading the way on making the global financial system more responsive to shock. For example, we were the first to offer climate-resilient debt clauses in loans from our export credit agency, thereby pausing repayments when natural disasters strike—I hope to return to that subject before the end of the debate. Countries need to be able to identify the main risks they face, with access to the right tools and finance to respond. We are scaling existing mechanisms, such as the regional insurance risk pools, and strengthening the global architecture for disaster risk financing by working through the global shield against climate risk. The City of London is an extraordinary inventor of good ideas across the financial-engineering sector, but particularly in insurance.
The third aspect on which I shall reflect is the effort to build a healthier, more prosperous future, including through £17 million of new UK funding, announced at the UN General Assembly, to improve tax systems so that developing countries can stop revenues leaking and invest in their sustainable development. We also supported the political declarations on pandemic prevention, preparedness and response, on universal health coverage, and on tuberculosis—to which the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) referred and to which I shall return—all of which were adopted. We committed up to £500 million for the advancing of global health, which will help to tackle future pandemics, boost research into vaccines, reduce deaths from infectious diseases and end the preventable deaths of mothers, newborns and children, as the hon. Member for West Ham (Ms Brown) emphasised.
We are determined to capitalise on the momentum generated at the UN General Assembly. Our White Paper on international development, which has been referred to and which I hope the Prime Minister will launch at the global food summit on 20 November, will set out how we will accelerate progress on the SDGs, eradicate poverty and tackle climate change. This is not about the UK acting alone: the paper will draw from the voices of our partners around the world and set out how we will work with international partners, and across His Majesty’s Government, for the greatest impact. Ministers will continue to use their engagements with international counterparts to drive forward this agenda, including at the AI summit and the food security summit later this year. We will continue to collaborate with Governments, civil society, academia, businesses and others to champion and deliver the goals.
The Minister said he hopes the Prime Minister will launch the White Paper at a global food summit on 20 November. I very much hope that the House will have sight of it at the same time as, if not before, external participants in a summit somewhere, and that the Minister—or perhaps the Foreign Secretary or, indeed, the Prime Minister himself—will present it to the House so that we can ask questions about it.
The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point, to which I shall come back, if I may. It is a most unusual White Paper that depends on wide agreement across the political parties.
Let me turn to some of the comments made in the debate. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford made an important point about the role of the private sector. In particular, she mentioned BII, formerly known as the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which invests risk capital in Africa. It is important to recognise the extraordinary contribution that BII makes. Last year, it invested approximately 67% of its investments in Africa—more than £700 million. We should bear in mind that Africa attracts about 3% of world investment, so for an organisation such as BII that is a tremendous commitment. It employs directly and indirectly something like a million people through those investments—that is food on a million tables—and over a three-year period it paid tax into the exchequers of the countries in which it invests of about £10 billion. Not all that money will necessarily be spent to the best effect, but it is absolutely the foundation of building up the ability of a country to meet the aspirations and needs of its citizens.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford mentioned Education Cannot Wait, to which Britain is a huge contributor. I have seen on the ground in Africa the way that Education Cannot Wait makes a tremendous difference to children caught up in emergencies and disasters who are having to move and who are displaced, and how it has real effect.
My right hon. Friend asked me for an update on the White Paper. It will address the two key issues of how to get the SDGs back on track—I talked earlier about how far off-track they are—and how we have a quantum leap in the amount of funding required. The White Paper runs to 2030; were it to be just for this Parliament, it would not have attracted the interest and engagement of not only the brilliant and bright civil servants across Whitehall but the 50 countries that have already contributed to it. Because it runs to 2030, it will need to be a through-train through the result of the election. Of course, I am confident that my party will win the next election, but it is possible that that will not be the case. That is a matter for the electorate to decide. For that reason, it has all-party characteristics, and we are engaged in talking to all the other parties.
On the question from the hon. Member for Glasgow North, I happen to know that this morning a meeting was being fixed with his party’s development spokesman, to show them what we are thinking of doing and take account of their views and advice. I assure the hon. Gentleman that when the Prime Minister comes to launch the White Paper, we hope that it will be a British contribution to driving forward the two objectives that I set out and will not be seen in any way as a party political contribution. We are at our best in driving forward the goals that we all share when we do it on a British basis.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford referred to the Bridgetown agenda and to Marrakesh and the World Bank. Under the new president of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, the Marrakesh meeting was a tremendous success. It also avoided the fears expressed by many that it would be divisive between the north and south. It lived up to President Ruto’s call in Kenya, at the time of the African climate summit, that we should not allow ourselves to be divided into east, west, north and south, and that we should focus on investment and the private sector as the key ingredients for building our way through the climate crisis.
My right hon. Friend mentioned Sudan and Darfur, on which she and I are in agreement. There are signs of ethnic cleansing taking place in Darfur, and the world must react to that. I hope tomorrow to speak to Mr Hamdok, who has played such a leading role in civil society in Sudan. We very much hope that the forthcoming meeting in Addis Ababa will be helpful in moving this issue on. My right hon. Friend is right to say, as others have, that the situation in Sudan is desperate. This is not a fight about ideology: this is a fight between two generals seeking power, and it is a fight being conducted at the expense of that great country and the people who live in it.
The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma) made a very good point about TB and, in particular, about malaria. That point was also made later in the debate, so I will come back to it in just a minute. My hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) also asked about the White Paper. I hope I have answered most of her questions, but she will want to know that the White Paper will underline the importance of defending freedom of religion and belief for all—and it is not just because she occupies an office next to me in the Foreign Office that I can give her that reassurance.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon)—who is really my hon. Friend—spoke as the conscience of the House of Commons, as he so often does. I will come to the points that he made in a moment, because they were also made by others.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) was absolutely right to speak about SDG6 and the need for access to water. Britain has always previously been in the lead on WASH and ensured that we prioritised that, but I think our efforts have slipped a bit in recent years. Ten years ago, we were securing clean water for the same number of people as live in the United Kingdom —more than 60 million people. It is a vital part of international development, and I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. Our right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) is just about to publish a book on water and its implications around the world. On the basis that we authors must stick together, I hope that book will tackle and set out some of the difficulties to which my hon. Friend referred.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon also spoke about de-mining. I speak as a former ambassador for HALO in recognising the work that the Mines Advisory Group and HALO—two brilliant British organisations—are doing in conflict zones around the world. I can tell my hon. Friend that de-mining will feature in the White Paper, and that he is absolutely right to put his finger on it. It is not just about lifting ordinance out of the ground; it is also about extending the reassurance for people who are farming, and building up stronger communities in areas that have suffered greatly from conflict.
The hon. Member for Glasgow North, quite apart from speaking about the importance of the White Paper taking a wide account of the views of the House, also mentioned Malawi. I pay tribute to the Scottish Government for the work that they have done in focusing on Malawi. In the Foreign Office, we are very conscious of the importance of that country, which faces so many challenges, and the very good work that is done by many different parts within the United Kingdom.
The hon. Gentleman made the point that the SDGs should apply to all countries, and I agree with him. He will know that Britain conducted its own audit in 2019 and we came out of it extremely well, as he and I would both expect. We will do another audit in due course, but we are loth to engage officials in doing it too soon because that would be likely to replicate what was said back in 2019.
The hon. Gentleman also spoke about conflict prevention, which is at the heart of international development. Preventing conflict from starting, stopping it if it starts, and reconciling people subsequently, is the first of the key hallmarks of international development. The second is building prosperity, which is inextricably linked with the first as well.
Finally, I turn to the hon. Member for West Ham, who also asked about the White Paper. I repeat my comments about the fact that I had an extremely constructive meeting with my opposite number in the Opposition team, the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), earlier this week.
The hon. Member for West Ham talked about the critical nature of the climate change disaster that we face, and she is right that it is the existential crisis of our time. The world is burning up. We have seen these extraordinary extremes of weather. The oceans are dying, with the chemical changes that have taken place because of the rise in temperature. The hon. Lady will know better than me, as a London Member, that, last year, there were brush fires in London for the first time. There is no doubt that this is the existential crisis of our age, which is why we are putting so much effort into ensuring that the British contribution is as good as it can possibly be.
The hon. Lady talked about food and starvation: she is right that it is obscene that some should starve in the world today when there is plenty of food for everyone. I am pleased to say that next year, because we now have the budget under better control, we are able to allocate ahead of time £1 billion for humanitarian relief. The White Paper will have more to say about how we can build greater resilience and adaptation into that process. She will know that the global food security summit takes place on 19 and 20 November. That will be not so much a pledging conference, but will look more at the way in which technology, science and artificial intelligence can drive forward our objectives.
The hon. Member for West Ham also raised the issue of Sudan, and rightly asked about sanctions. We have sanctioned people; we do not normally talk about it on the Floor of the House because, as she will know, it is a process. We are conscious, however, that it is a powerful tool in the armoury for making change. The hon. Lady also raised the important issue of debt. She is right that the principal instrument is the G20 common framework, but we need to do far more than that. We have learned lessons from the negotiations that Zambia and Ghana—two close friends and allies of the United Kingdom—have been through.
I briefly mentioned climate resilient debt clauses. It is important to understand this British invention, which is a real benefit for countries under stress. It means, for example, that a country such as Ghana, faced with a pandemic or an extreme event, does not have to use its liquidity to pay off capital and interest on debt. There is a two-year holiday so that the money can be used to help their own citizens. It is an important contribution by Britain. UK Export Finance, our export credit guarantees agency, is using it, and we hope that before long everyone will be.
Finally, both the hon. Members for West Ham and for Ealing, Southall raised the issue of malaria and TB. In the case of malaria, the new vaccination that was announced a fortnight ago, which is the second vaccination —again, British technology—is a very welcome moment. I was in Mozambique recently with the head of the Global Fund, and together we saw how climate change is leading to an uptick in the number of people affected by malaria. In Mozambique, the amount of malaria had been driven down below 50% among children, but is now rising again for the first time in many years because of climate change and the amount of flooding.
Let me be clear that the first announcement that we were able to make once the Prime Minister came into Government last October was about a replenishment for the Global Fund of £1 billion. It is a very significant commitment by Britain, because we know the Global Fund is so effective when it comes to HIV, TB and malaria. I hope that the hon. Members for West Ham and for Ealing, Southall will accept that this is a powerful British ambition in all three of those areas, and that our support for the Global Fund is a reflection of that.
I end by saying that despite the setbacks we have faced, there is hope that the world can deliver the SDGs, and the UK is determined to play its part. The world needs the goals because they are an approach that recognises the interlinked nature of the global challenges that we face, and sets out our shared vision for overcoming them. That matters now more than ever. Together, we must mobilise the finance required to deliver them, including building a bigger, better and fairer international financial system that addresses both poverty and climate change. We must ensure that money is spent with maximum impact, working closely with country partners to boost economies, create jobs and build a greener and healthier future. I hope that we can all unite to champion and deliver the SDGs over the next seven years for the sake of people and planet.
We all asked individual questions. I asked a question—the hon. Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) referred to this as well—about NGOs and churches that are involved in missionary work, and work on the ground through charities and so on. I am keen to see how we can work better together.
I thank everybody present, particularly the Minister for his detailed response. I know that he is keen to ensure that NGOs are involved in everything that we do. I particularly liked his final words: although things may have been set back, there is hope. I know that he will continue focusing every day on delivering.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) for all her work for those who are marginalised due to religious belief, and for reminding us that they often face inequalities in access to health, education and other areas. I thank the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) for reminding us that, while charity begins at home, compassion has a place for everyone. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Dr Offord) for his constant focus on access to water and sanitation, and for his vision of a landmine-free world. I read in a newspaper article recently about someone who has invented bacteria to spray on a minefield. The bacteria glow in the dark to show where the mine is. That sort of technology brings deep hope.
I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady) for our shared love of Malawi. Interestingly, it is an area where the UK has really focused on the quality of the education. I suspect that what he saw there was the outcome of that UK collaboration with Malawi. I thank the hon. Member for West Ham (Ms Brown). We often agree on many things, particularly on the importance of working in partnership, hand in hand, although I sometimes think that she underestimates the good work that the UK is doing on the climate—the massive contribution to the green climate fund, and the incredibly clever investment in the international finance facility for education. There has been collaboration between Conservative Ministers and Gordon Brown, the former Labour Prime Minister, so let us keep working hand in hand. That message is clear as we go into the White Paper.
Finally, I thank the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma), not just for what he said about tuberculosis and malaria but for his deep concern about what is happening in Gaza and Israel right now. I should have put that in my opening speech; I apologise. There are too many wars. There is too much violence. I repeat what I said on Monday in the House: the terror attacks of 7 October
“rewrote the definition of evil.”
It is right to condemn Hamas, and to stand by Israel in its duty to defend its citizens, but it is also right
“to be concerned for innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire …used as human shields.”—[Official Report, 16 October 2023; Vol. 738, c. 43.]
As I said then, I am glad that the UK has committed to extra aid, and I hope that it gets there as quickly as possible. I hope the Prime Minister, by visiting the region right now, will be able to get that aid to the people who need it very soon.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the UN Sustainable Development Goals.