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International Development

Volume 711: debated on Thursday 11 June 2009


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to secure unilaterally and multilaterally through the European Union and the United Nations the integration of security and sustainable development policies in the third world; and what are the implications for budgetary aid.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I remind the House that I am a trustee of the think-tank charity, Saferworld.

My Lords, instability and crime destroy development and can create a vicious cycle of poverty and conflict. The UK Government are working to promote safety, security and access to justice in more than 24 countries worldwide—from promoting police reform in Bangladesh to reducing gun crime in Brazil. Multilaterally, we are promoting more effective and better co-ordinated international action. When giving budgetary support to partner Governments, we have a number of safeguards in place to ensure that spending benefits the poor, including consideration of human rights and security issues.

I thank my noble friend for that reply. Would he not agree that effective development can take place only in the context of a secure environment, and that getting that right is an essential part of development? This involves police, courts and the military, and of course the community itself. Are we concentrating on this, and making sure that in budgetary aid, funds are ring-fenced to ensure that this is happening, so that successful development can take place?

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that supporting poor people’s physical security is a vital part of reducing poverty. DfID’s security and development strategy recommends that security and justice issues should be considered routinely by DfID country programmes. We will also expand the number of countries that we support, and accountability and security systems are in place. It is vital that the military are part of that combination. A major part of a forthcoming White Paper from DfID will be devoted to this issue. On the matter of budgetary aid, we monitor this extremely carefully, with particular regard to any possible military diversion and the human rights aspects of the countries involved.

My Lords, will the Minister not recognise that although the sentiments expressed in his two replies are impeccable they are totally at variance with the Government’s record and bear no similarity whatever to it? The Government’s development aid is increasing rapidly, which I welcome, but they are cutting back quite sharply on aid for conflict prevention and resolution. That is certainly not joined-up government. When will the Government start practising what they preach?

My Lords, the Government do practise what they preach. Overall funding for conflict prevention has not been cut, but there has been a big increase in the UK’s assessed contributions to peacekeeping through both the UN and the EU due to exchange rates and increased activity. To compensate for that diversion, we have increased resources for conflict resolution by US $71 million over the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review allocation, giving a total of US $171 million for discretionary conflict prevention, stabilisation and peacekeeping activities.

My Lords, for the sake of transparency, British taxpayers have a right to know where, when and how aid money is being used. Will the Government take steps to improve transparency in British aid spending by publishing full details on the DfID website? Why is DfID still giving aid to countries that have their own aid budget?

My Lords, the annual reports from DfID that I have seen—I do not whether they are on its website; I shall check and write back—are extremely comprehensive and transparent. If they were any more comprehensive, they would be even heavier than they are. I do not know of the all examples of where we give aid to countries that have their own aid budget, but I know about India. It has a modest aid programme, but there are considerable areas of poverty there. The aid that we tend to give is our specialist capability, not substantial sums of money.

My Lords, perhaps I may ask about the joined-up government aspect of this Question. How far is DfID working with the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office on the security dimension to development, given the problems that we have with the structure of our police force in finding people to work in police training in other countries? How closely are we co-ordinating with other member Governments in the European Union on EU assistance to the African Union and its member countries?

My Lords, the public service agreement 2008-11 commits us to seek global and regional reduction in conflict and its impacts through improved UK international efforts to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts. Delivering this requires all government departments to work together. The MoD, FCO and DfID have a specific pooled programme to that end. Will the noble Lord repeat his second question?

My Lords, how closely are we co-ordinating with other member Governments of the European Union in helping the African Union and its member Governments to strengthen their security policies?

My Lords, the European Union is one of the largest donors of security and justice assistance. We work closely with the EU to ensure that its security sector reform and rule-of-law policy programmes are in line with the approach adopted by the UK to African Union and similar programmes.

My Lords, further to the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, will he clarify whether we continue to have an Africa conflict prevention pool to work in a co-ordinated way on conflict prevention issues on the African continent, and whether that budget has been cut?

My Lords, I cannot give a specific answer on that budget, but we have a continuing pooled conflict prevention fund. The significance of the fund is not so much the money but understanding the importance of working across government in these areas. That is particularly so in conflict, working in-country across government, including the military.