My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall now repeat a Statement made in the other place. The Statement is as follows.
“I wish to make a Statement about the White Paper on International Development published today. We stand at a critical juncture for international development. While millions have been lifted out of poverty over the past decade, thanks to sustained economic growth, reforming Governments, debt relief and increases in aid, much of the progress that we have seen is now imperilled. The global recession, the climate-change crisis, and the ongoing conflict and fragility in many countries threaten to turn back the development gains made since the turn of the century.
The White Paper sets out how this Government will pursue the fight against global poverty, and places new emphasis on four key areas: supporting growth; tackling climate change; tackling conflict and fragility and improving the international system. I will say more about each of these areas in turn, but I will first set out the context for the White Paper.
The past decade has seen real achievements in the fight against poverty. Aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 40 million more children into school. The number of people with access to AIDS treatment has increased from 100,000 to more than 3 million. The proportion of the world’s population living in poverty has fallen from a third to a quarter. Yet it is clear—with 9 million children dying each year, 70 million denied the opportunity to go to school, and a billion people around the world without enough food—that the world remains far from meeting the millennium development goals.
The global recession now threatens to trap as many as 90 million people in poverty, which would push back progress by as much as three years towards the first millennium development goal to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. The likely impact of the economic crisis is a stark reminder that the gains made in moving towards the MDGs can be fragile. Those gains are also threatened by the advance of climate change. If temperatures continue to rise at current levels, an extra 600 million people will be affected by malnutrition by the end of the century. Those gains are threatened by the effects of conflict and poor governance. Each year, at least 740,000 people are killed as a result of armed violence, with many more injured or disabled.
Unless all three of these global challenges—the recession, climate change and conflict—are tackled, the MDGs will be pushed far out of reach. Now is not the time to turn away from the mission to tackle global poverty. We are keeping the promises that we made to dedicate 0.7 per cent of national income to development assistance by 2013. By next year our assistance will be equivalent to 0.56 per cent of national income, which is in line with the European Union’s collective commitment, and by next year, we will have nearly trebled our bilateral and multilateral aid to Africa since 2004.
Half our global bilateral aid will be invested in public services, helping to get 8 million children into school across Africa and delivering not only our promised 20 million malaria bed nets by next year but an additional 30 million bed nets by 2013. We will work with others to help developing countries provide free healthcare to their citizens and we will press the international community for more support to save 6 million mothers and babies by 2015. We will continue to tackle sickness, hunger and illiteracy across the developing world. We will also support developing countries to pursue economic growth, to protect their citizens from the impact of climate change, to help resolve conflicts and to build capable, accountable and responsive states.
Let me take each of those in turn. Growth is the exit route out of poverty and aid dependence. Fifty years ago, income rates in east Asia were equivalent to those in Africa; today, income rates in east Asia are five times higher. In the midst of this recession we will help to protect 50 million poor people, in more than 20 countries, from the worst effects of the downturn. We will press for the rapid delivery of the commitments made by the G20 at the London summit to provide further financial assistance to the poorest countries.
We will work towards concluding a Doha deal that would boost the global economy by over $150 billion a year. We will help developing countries to build more fair and sustainable economic growth, double our agricultural research funding and provide investment for infrastructure and reforms that will help African countries to trade with each other and with the world. The Fairtrade label now certifies more than £1 billion worth of goods, helping over 7 million producers and their families. We will continue to support this success story and, indeed, quadruple our support for Fairtrade and ethical trading.
We will advance our work with law enforcement agencies to clamp down on bribery and corruption, which have a parasitic effect on any economy. DfID support to the Metropolitan Police has already led to the recovery of £20 million and the freezing of £131 million-worth of assets. We will now triple our investment in these efforts, supporting the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Crown Prosecution Service and helping the Met to pursue investigations across more countries.
If the scale of the economic crisis and its impact on the developing world is now clear, climate change presents, if anything, an even greater long-term threat to the prospects of alleviating poverty in the developing world. Two weeks ago my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change launched the UK’s Copenhagen manifesto, setting out our proposals for an ambitious climate deal. This White Paper will ensure that new and additional finance will be made available over and above our aid commitments to reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income. We will also increase our investment in helping developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change but set a limit of up to 10 per cent of official development assistance.
We will also give countries practical support to help them adapt, including by supporting the Hadley Centre to model the effects of climate change in developing countries. We will also encourage low carbon development by investing in clean technology and forests.
Alongside the climate and financial crises, the third great threat to continued progress in reducing global poverty is the continuing level of conflict and state fragility. One-third of the poorest people in the world live in countries affected by conflict or in fragile countries. Half of all children’s deaths before the age of five occur in such places. If we are to make further progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals we must work differently in these countries and directly address the causes of war and weak government.
Half of all our new bilateral aid will go to fragile and conflict-affected countries. We will place security and justice alongside basic services, tripling spending on these areas and addressing violence against women as a priority. We will create jobs benefiting 7.5 million people in five fragile countries by 2013. In all fragile countries we will develop joint strategies with the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, and internationally we will press for the UN, the World Bank and the European Union to provide rapid assistance in the aftermath of conflict.
With regard to international institutions, it is increasingly clear that global challenges demand global solutions, and that if we want to make real progress in solving the economic crisis, the climate crisis and the persistence of ongoing conflict, we will need to work more through the international system. But if international institutions are to live up to these new responsibilities, they must become more accountable, more responsive to current challenges and more representative of all their constituents.
This White Paper sets out our strategy for improving the effectiveness of international institutions in tackling global poverty in the years ahead. We will invest a higher proportion of our new aid resources through the international system in return for securing key reforms.
Our funding for the UN will be subject to performance and increasingly channelled in ways that encourage UN agencies to deliver as one. We will push for the creation of a single powerful UN agency for women by merging the structures that exist, and we will at least double our core funding for work on gender equality in the United Nations.
In Europe, we will press for the EU to create a single development commissioner to reprioritise resources on fragile countries in Asia and the Middle East and make poverty reduction a primary aim of all EU external policies, such as climate and security.
We will press for improved governance and performance of the World Bank, the IMF and regional development banks so that they do more to support poor countries during the downturn. To meet growing humanitarian demands, we will lobby internationally for a stronger humanitarian system and humanitarian access, including through increasing the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund.
We will transform our impact and ensure value for money. We will maintain our own rigorous focus on the effectiveness of DfID as an organisation in delivering on its mission. In this time of economic adversity, we will work harder than ever to ensure that every pound of UK aid contributes towards direct and tangible results. We will prioritise our efforts, and work in fewer countries. We will deliver an additional £155 million of efficiency savings by next year by making value-for-money improvements in our research budget and in other areas.
As well as meeting our commitments on aid effectiveness made in the Paris declaration and in the Accra agenda for action, we will further improve the transparency of the projects that we fund through a new searchable database on our website. We will set aside at least 5 per cent of budget support funds to help developing-country Governments in turn to improve accountability to their citizens.
We will establish deeper and broader partnerships with civil society organisations and the private sector, doubling our central support to civil society to £300 million a year and launching a new innovation fund to help community groups and individuals in the UK to support small but innovative projects overseas.
Finally, as the IDC noted in its recent report, signs that the downturn is beginning to undermine previously strong UK support for aid are a cause for concern. This White Paper sets out our plans to do more to show the UK public how government assistance is helping to fight poverty, including through the use of a new UKAid logo, to increase the visibility of our work.
The mission of the Department for International Development, as clearly set out in this White Paper, will remain reducing poverty and supporting sustainable development. A world where too many continue to lack not only the basics of life but the opportunity to fulfil their aspirations diminishes us all. For this Government, and for many people across the United Kingdom, this is a profoundly moral cause—but in the 21st century, development is not merely a moral cause; it is also a common cause.
It has become increasingly apparent at the start of this century that we are ever more interdependent. The evidence of this is all around us, from the internet to the financial crisis, from the label that says “made in China” to the swine flu pandemic that began in Mexico. Our common prosperity demands and depends on shared sustainable growth. Our common security depends on the emergence of effective and peaceful states around the world. Our common climate requires us to take steps now to safeguard the planet for our children.
None of this will be easy, but it is in all of our interests that we grasp the opportunity to bring about real and lasting change. More than ever before, our future prospects are linked to those of the poorest people in the world, and the Government remain committed to building a safer, more secure and more sustainable world for all. I commend this Statement to the House”.
My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
My Lords, we are all deeply grateful to the Minister for repeating that full and helpful Statement, made in another place by the Secretary of State. There is much in this White Paper which we welcome, not least since it adopts a number of themes and specific ideas which we on this side of the House have been championing for more than four years. In this time of economic crisis, which particularly affects the world’s poor, it is a time not to withdraw our support but to redouble our international development efforts. Poverty breeds extremism, incubates disease and drives migration and conflict. So tackling poverty and deprivation is not just a moral duty, it is also in our own very best national interest.
It is a matter of relief for many of our fellow citizens that it is no longer a Labour or Conservative agenda, but a British agenda, which commands widespread support. The Government are clearly listening to the Conservative arguments on international development, particularly on the need to improve our performance in fragile states.
One of our recurring concerns is the intense difficulty of operating effectively in conflict-affected environments. Security costs are often astronomical. The capacity of the Governments we are working with is frequently, by definition, very low or non-existent. Insecurity makes monitoring and evaluation difficult. The risk of corruption is high; local politics are often opaque and complex, and there is a real risk of aid exacerbating tensions. As the recent highly critical evaluation of DfID’s performance in Afghanistan has shown, we need a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of our aid in war zones. We pay tribute to DfID’s brave staff, who put themselves in harm’s way in places of conflict. What estimate have Her Majesty's Government made of the increased security costs to this department of working more in fragile states, many of them showcases of despair?
The Minister will be well aware of the National Audit Office report which found that only half of DfID’s projects in the most insecure countries achieve their aims and almost a quarter suffer from fraud or financial problems. Does he accept that if we are to get value for money from our spending in these countries, we need radically to improve the quality of our aid effort and demonstrate this through independent assessment and validation so that lessons can be learnt?
The Minister is rightly keen to raise the profile and visibility of British aid, but he will be aware that in this age of austerity, spending on rebranding will be carefully scrutinised. How much does he estimate the rebranding exercise will cost? What value-for-money inquiries and cost-benefit analysis did he undertake before announcing this policy? Does he recognise the risk that UKAid could be confused with USAID? The similarity of the two names could pander to the critics who claim that our foreign policy is already too influenced by Washington. Does he agree that the most effective way to raise awareness of public support for British aid is to focus on the outcomes and achievements it generates, rather than the inputs so beloved of this Government? Security is all-important, but can the Minister tell the House whether money for these new projects is being diverted from the health and education budget?
The White Paper has been launched during the dying days of this Labour Government. The country and Britain’s international development effort need a new sense of direction. There are some good points and sensible suggestions in the White Paper, not least because many of them came from this side of the House. I hope that we will have the opportunity to debate them further over the coming months. The prize for a more effective British international development effort is clear: a better life for millions of people and a safer world for Britain.
My Lords, I apologise for anticipating that the earlier Statement would have involved more people and more discussion. Therefore, it involved a delay in my reaching the Chamber. I also thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement and welcome DfID’s new White Paper. Clearly, a lot of work has gone into it, and I have been well aware of that over the past few months.
We welcome the Government’s stated commitment to fighting for global justice. The recession must not see the bottom billion increase even further, though we see quite a lot of evidence of that already. This must, of course, be countered as far as possible at the upcoming G8. I ask for the Minister’s comments on what is proposed for the G8. I welcome the commitment to fighting climate change; it is extremely important to recognise that climate change poses a great danger to us all, but to the poorest first. The fragile states that are made more fragile are a risk to us in Britain, either through terror or migration, as is made plain in the White Paper and the Statement. Again, I welcome the paper’s stated emphasis on women and trust that this will convert into reality. DfID has a strong reputation in this regard, but it has not always translated into a change on the ground in terms of programmes.
What would be the impact of continued cuts in staff at DfID at the same time as increasing its budget? What does this mean? We have seen a loss of expertise. I have also raised the question of what DfID is doing as regards women. We see sometimes that those programmes are under threat. Where will the efficiency savings that the Minister mentioned fall? He mentioned pulling back from countries; how many countries do the Government intend to pull back from and which countries—or in which areas—might these be? Do we know that working closely with the FCO and the MoD, which is stressed in the paper, is not a way of shifting resources to those other departments, especially in relation to Afghanistan?
In February—and this was announced as we went into the February half-term Recess—a DfID statement showed a shift of £20 million from DfID to the MoD. When I asked about this in a series of Written Questions, I was told that such exchanges between the FCO, the MoD and DfID often occurred, so I tabled further Questions about what the pattern had been in the past. I was struck by the fact that there were no transfers in the other direction. Although I was told that this was the case, I could not see a pattern of money shifting to DfID from the MoD and the FCO on such a scale, but it was going in the other direction. We all know about the commitment in Afghanistan and the pressure on all departments. We all hear that DfID is one department that will not be under such pressure, so is that a way of shifting money from a department that is not under pressure to ones that are clearly under pressure? I wonder whether the Minister would comment on that. Is it a problem, too, of DfID being unable to deal, because of cuts of 25 per cent in its staff, with an increased budget—though I am of course pleased that its budget has been increased in the way that it has? Now we hear that 10 per cent will go to DECC. Obviously it is very good that the departments are working with each other, but is this a case of DECC being underfunded and DfID’s budget being raided?
There is a strong emphasis in the paper on supporting fragile states. I would like to know a little more about how these are to be defined. Are they largely in or post-conflict? There are obviously other fragile states—ones, as we see at the moment, with economies that are reliant on a single primary commodity and which will be particularly hit by the economic downturn. Other countries are particularly fragile because of climate change. I would like to know a little more about how fragile states are defined, especially given my concern about the potential shift of money into Afghanistan via the MoD. Is Afghanistan sucking out an awful lot of the money from DfID?
This paper is about what the UK is doing. It talks of international co-operation through the EU, UN, IMF and so on, but there is the wider field. What we are doing in Africa may be significant but it is not half as significant as what China is doing in Africa, for better or for worse. Given the vital impact of some of these emergent economies on some of the poorest developing countries, I would very much like to know where the United Kingdom stands in relation to that. As the paper makes clear, and I am sure most people would agree, countries will pull their people out of poverty through the growth of their economies. Therefore, what is happening within those economies and within the Doha round is vital. I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, about the potential shift of funding from education, which has always been seen as extremely important in ensuring that developing countries pull out of poverty. The Africa Commission report of 2005 emphasised higher education as extremely important for developing countries in terms of their future global trade prospects.
The paper talks about a shift from bilateral aid towards multilateral aid and mentions half of all our new bilateral aid in that regard. I would like to know how much is involved in that shift. The paper also says that a higher proportion of our new aid will be put into the international system. Is this to be paid for by reducing bilateral aid? We also note the rebranding that was covered this weekend by the Independent. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, mentioned this. Again, I would like to know the cost of this. Around the world you see the rebranding of aid into UKAid. It looks nice with the crest and what have you, but around the world you see flags on aid projects. There is concern about too much emphasis being laid on which country gives the aid, whether it is the right aid for the recipient country and whether that country is paying too much attention to what donors want as opposed to what it should be doing in the best interests of its people. I am a little concerned about that and I would certainly like to know about the cost of that rebranding. I welcome the commitment to the figure of 0.7 per cent by 2013, but what will be the stages over the years to bring it up to that level?
I hope that the Minister will comment on one or two other stories that emerged at the weekend. There is pressure in the Conservative Party to cut back on its development plans. Can he comment on the rumoured consideration of aid vouchers and private schools? Would these fit into the White Paper as laid out? In the downturn and in uncertain political times, the UK commitment to development is indeed morally right and in our best interests, as the Minister says. I hope that there is cross-party support, not lip service, in this vital area.
My Lords, I thank both noble Baronesses for their contributions, which I think add up to substantial support for the White Paper. However, they posed pertinent questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said that some elements of the paper resemble proposals from her party. I welcome the continued endorsement of the figure of 0.7 per cent as a policy not only of the United Kingdom Government but of the opposition. When I worked in the United Nations, it was very beneficial to have countries with a political consensus in this regard as it gave confidence to international institutions and recipient countries that aid would not disappear with a change of government. There were 2,500 contributions, of which I am sure more than one mentioned the requirement to look at evaluation and other areas. We are not churlish and we are grateful for all the contributions which have produced a White Paper that is better than otherwise might have been the case.
A number of points were made; I always find it easier to deal with the last one first, but I shall try to resist that. DfID operates in 150 countries; it has 64 overseas offices with 2,600 staff. It is true that we are cutting back; we have closed a number of offices in the past few years. We are looking in the next two or three years at other areas. It is a question of concentrating where we think that we can make the greatest impact.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, made an important point that it is risky and expensive to work in fragile states. By the way, we see 46 states as being fragile—but not all for the same reasons. Some are fragile because of poor governance in the past few years—one can think of Zimbabwe in those terms. Some are fragile because of instability. Some are fragile because of the very real dangers as regards climate change—one had only to read the comments of the Prime Minister of Mauritius at the weekend to know that. Some are fragile because of other matters that could be put right with greater co-ordination—they do not consult sufficiently within their societies. Some are not even democracies. Basically, we think that it is better, although it is expensive and harder, to work in fragile states. Ignoring them would be far riskier, certainly harm the achievements of the MDGs and create the conditions for humanitarian disasters in lawless spaces, with knock-on effects in neighbouring countries. Our common security clearly depends on there being effective and peaceful states around the world.
The question of evaluation was raised. This is an important issue to which we give considerable attention. It is not true to say that we are lax in that area. We are stepping up evaluation of our work, identifying the results of our efforts and learning the lessons of what does and does not work. That is important for both accountability and making the most of future spending. A major DfID evaluation policy has been launched, which sets out new standards of quality and independence. DfID will support at least 40 evaluations of its country work, policies and success over the next four years. This is in addition to regular internal reviews and independent audits. We will respond to and address concerns raised by independent evaluators to ensure that aid continues to be used and is as effective as possible.
I was asked how we will reach the 0.7 per cent spending commitment. We will increase spending to 0.56 per cent in 2010—I believe that that is the right figure. In 2008-09, DfID was directly responsible for £5.8 billion of UK public expenditure; almost all of this was classed as ODA. That figure has reached £6.3 billion, representing 0.43 per cent, and will increase to £6.8 billion in 2009-10 and £7.8 billion in 2011. Efficiency savings, which were mentioned, were identified as £155 million in the 2009 Budget. That means that we can meet just over £1 billion of additional expenditure and achieve the £155 million of efficiency savings, because of the increasing envelope occasioned by our moving towards the agreed target for 2013. The total spending figure for 2010-11 will be £9.1 billion.
Noble Lords will recall that we started from a premise of spending only 0.36 per cent. Within our new and enhanced aid budget, we have already targeted certain parts of the world. Our aid to Africa is set to double from £1.3 billion in 2004 to £3 billion in 2010. Over half the UK budget—58 per cent in 2007-08—goes to developing countries, either directly or through an international body. The point has been made about the proportion that we are spending bilaterally and internationally; international funding is very efficient, but one has to make sure that the organisations delivering it—the UN agencies and the UN itself—are as efficient as they can be. After 14 years as a policy-maker and a member of staff of one of those agencies, I confess that there are efficiencies to be made. There is a tendency, not invented here, for agencies to pursue their independence. They have to justify it by being different. We want them to work much more as a single force. We particularly encourage countrywide forces under a single person who can, in the event of an emergency or indeed in general, bring together a team that meets the needs of the country. There is movement in that direction within the United Nations and within agencies—although the movement is greater in some than others. We believe that our pressure should continue. What we are prepared to invest in those agencies should be determined by their willingness to take on reform and to deliver more efficiently—something with which all noble Lords will agree.
I have first-hand experience of the question of the cost of developing UK aid. This month my daughter is in South Africa, doing voluntary work. Last summer she did voluntary work in Thailand. She is 19. On more than one occasion, she said to me, both when I was in my previous job and when I was in your Lordships’ House and taking an interest in this subject, “What is it that you do?”. I talked about bilateral and multilateral aid. She said, “Dad, where do you spend the money? What is our money being spent on? What is it achieving?”. Those simple questions are the ones that you get asked. There is an advantage to being able to put a UKAid label on. I take the point about USAID. I take the point also that we may have circumstances in which we do not want to put “UKAid” on a piece of humanitarian relief, perhaps to protect the people whom are seeking help.
We are also spending a considerable sum of money improving our support for fair trade and ethical trading. My nearest town is Brampton in Cumbria. The political complexion of Brampton will bring far greater comfort to noble Lords opposite than it does to me. Having said that, the sign as you enter the town says, “Brampton—A Fair Trade Town”. Within the British community—this is not the property of any single party or group—no less than two-thirds of people see a requirement for us to do things to support the poor in our own interests. That is very encouraging.
The cost of rebranding has been £97,480—I do not know the figure for pence. That is very competitive when compared to the £400,000 BBC Three logo and the £400,000 London 2012 logo. Now we must discuss it with partner organisations so that it is not used solely as an advertisement for UK plc, but sensitively in a way that confers the greatest advantage without providing any downsides.
It is estimated that the money that we spend brings 3 million people out of poverty every year. That is why we are particularly keen to ensure that we get value for money. We seek to ensure that the increase in funding is matched by an increase in efficiency. This brings me to the subject of working across government departments. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, expressed the fear that money might be moved out of DfID funding into other forms of spending such as defence. It is not intended that that should be the case. It is intended that DfID funding will go to one purpose only: reducing poverty. However, we need greater co-ordination between the FCO and the Ministry of Defence, particularly as we are introducing the question of justice and security.
People in poor countries want to sleep peacefully at night, and to sleep on a full stomach. We have a long way to go before we can provide the full stomachs, but we can do a lot to provide security. Training police is something that the UK does particularly well. That is taking place already in a number of countries, including Nigeria and several other African countries. The task that we have set ourselves is ambitious, and I urge all Members to read the White Paper in detail. It sets out a continuum from where we started.
I have one final point. It is not for me to comment on what might be in any publication by another party, but we have applied voucher schemes where they are appropriate. There is evidence that using them in, for example, a post-conflict situation to provide seed is very efficient. We are far more concerned about their use in education and health. The truth is that if there is not a state system able to sustain the spend, there is a danger that vouchers will just become another currency. What is not achieved by the vouchers is an improvement in education or health. I hope I have covered the points made by both the noble Baronesses. I would be more than happy to supply any information if, having read the White Paper in the detail that I have had the opportunity to do over the weekend, there are other queries that they would like to raise.
My Lords, I welcome the White Paper and I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I endorse all that my noble friend Lady Rawlings said. I particularly welcome in this White Paper the new emphasis on greater support to fragile states, civic society organisations and non-governmental organisations. That is not explicit but I think it is intended in what I have been able to read so far. Would the noble Lord tell us whether there will be increased capacity-building for local economic development? The advocacy of expanding business partnerships at a local level can make a huge difference and is actually easier to do than some of the big schemes that often do not succeed. Also, does he intend there to be greater capacity-building for the delivery of those aspects of the millennium development goals which are way behind their target dates? This is not the time to press him on UN efficiency but that is something to which we really must return, with the many different UN organisations sometimes being counterproductive, as he knows from his own experience. Finally, can he give us an assurance that the Government will provide proper time for a full debate in the coming months? This is a worthy document and, although we may have some questions, we need to build on it and make UK aid even better.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments, particularly as they come from a distinguished speaker who has spent many years fighting to ensure that aid is both achieving its objectives and spent efficiently. What we are seeking to do in increasing the funding to the smallest civil society organisations is to encourage some of the smaller NGOs to come forward, subject to evaluation, to sponsor smaller projects—projects which, at national level, may appear too small in cost or too great in administration, but which the private sector and the NGO community can do particularly well. The noble Baroness is absolutely right that capacity-building for entrepreneurship and a whole series of other areas would command support. She is also right that we need to pay particular attention to those millennium development goals which are falling behind. It is wise to take this White Paper now because in a year’s time we will be seeking to look at those millennium development goals and review how we get to them beyond 2015, unfortunately, if current progress is maintained.
That brings me to the noble Baroness’s final point. I certainly endorse the value of having a full debate on this issue in your Lordships’ House, in part because of the expertise noble Lords bring. I note that we do not have with us today one or two of our colleagues on the Cross Benches—the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, to name but one—who have shown considerable interest and support. This is a question for the usual channels and not in my gift, but I hope we will have an early opportunity to debate this, because it is a valuable document and is worthy of considerable consideration.
My Lords, what has happened to the annual report of the Department for International Development, which last year came out in May? We have not yet seen it this year. I remind the Minister that, despite the proposed change of name to UKAid, the Department for International Development is highly regarded and revered throughout the world—certainly in all the countries I have been to. It would be very sad to see DfID disappear.
I am sure that the Minister knows that 30 million women suffer each year from childbirth: they die, suffer permanent disability, or suffer poor physical and mental health. Women—healthy women—are essential for a decent society and for the prevention of conflict. Can the Minister assure us that money will not be transferred from the reproductive health budget, which is so necessary to achieve the second target of millennium development goal 5, to which DfID was pledged last year? Can he assure us that that money will not be touched and that the Government realise that the prevention of conflict depends on healthy women able to play their part in society?
My Lords, I bring the noble Baroness good news on two certain points and one on which I give her an assurance but will follow up in writing if any explanation is required. First, I assure her that we are not changing the name of the Department for International Development. We are seeking a name that will be recognisable to show those both inside this country and in the countries that we seek to help that something is provided from the UK, not for the boast of putting a flag on it. I must say as an aside that I think that the United Kingdom system of partnerships over a period with member states and of agreements is infinitely superior to the project and flag-based approach of some other nations, which shall remain nameless. The second piece of good news that I bring her is that the annual report of DfID will be published before the Summer Recess, which, on this occasion, does not make a promise too far that we cannot expect to deliver.
On the third point, I assure the noble Baroness on the basis that I see no proposals to transfer monies in that area, as she suggested, but I will check. If it is not in the small print, I will find out and write to her.
My Lords, first, I join in thanking the Minister for his Statement, and for the thoughtful way in which he is answering the points made. Like my noble friends, I am struck by the emphasis that the White Paper evidently places on fragile states—it is not a new emphasis, but it may be a little more emphatic. That comes as some reassurance to those of us who have been worried by what has in some cases been a divorce between the British aid programme and British foreign policy, perhaps arising from a rather too absolute interpretation in some quarters of the wording of the 2000 Act and the concept of poverty reduction, which the Minister restated.
I ask two specific questions in that context. The Minister mentioned joint strategies between DfID, the FCO, and the Ministry of Defence. “Strategies” is a greatly overused word. Is it more just the occasional meeting of officials in Whitehall? I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, on her research about the transfer of budgets. I look at that in a rather more welcoming way than she did. The Minister will know that, from time to time, there have been ideas of unifying the British overseas effort in budgetary terms. We started thinking about that a long time ago. Lately, there has been a publication to which several noble Lords put their name suggesting that. If the transfers of budgets discussed today are a movement in that direction, so that in Afghanistan, for example, the money goes to those who can carry out the effort most effectively, that is very welcome. Can the Minister say anything more about that?
My Lords, on joint strategies between departments, there are two arenas in which those are essential. One is in areas where we are seeking to provide beyond just traditional humanitarian aid, where we are looking at justice and security. The other is in strategically considering the new players, the big players who are providing international and national assistance. One thinks immediately of China; if China and the UK are large contributors to alleviating poverty in Africa, it therefore makes every sense for those two nations to have a strategic approach ensuring that they maximise the achievements in reducing poverty, but that they do so in a way that is non-competitive and not necessarily duplicating.
On the precise point of working across Government, by June 2010 we will have joint strategies between DfID, the MoD and the FCO in all fragile countries where the UK has significant development programmes. That could include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Joint strategies across UK departments already exist, but not necessarily in fragile countries. This will help us to co-ordinate diplomatic, military and development efforts. It does not mean that political or security objectives will determine DfID funding allocations. The strategy will be agreed within the framework of departmental mandates and capacities; for DfID, the priority remains poverty reduction.
I take it that the noble Lord, who was a distinguished Foreign Secretary, has knowledge of these issues that is rather greater than mine. Clearly, in almost any circumstances co-ordination can be improved, and I hope that what we are seeking on this occasion will help to bring better policies than in the past, with greater co-ordination in all those fragile states where we seek to help.
My Lords, perhaps the Minister might forgive me for having missed the first minutes of his Statement. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, I was late in getting here. I thank him for the Statement, which is a step in the right direction; certainly, the recognition that fragile states damage the scope for development, and therefore that before you can achieve sustainable development you have to stabilise the situation, must be right.
Here, however, I go along the same road where the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, has just gone; will this Statement take some of the strain off the discretionary spending on conflict prevention and resolution, which the House was discussing at Question Time this afternoon, by ensuring that some projects in fragile states will be able to move ahead with proper funding even if they do not meet the precise developmental criteria laid down some time ago? If not, I frankly do not understand where the improvement comes from. Perhaps the Minister could clarify that point.
Secondly, I thank the Minister for his emphasis on what is called “One UN”—that is to say, unifying the UN offices in developing countries. When the Secretary-General launched that idea some years ago, it was extremely disappointing that there was so much resistance from developing countries. I hope that was not entirely associated with the number of Ministers, friends and cousins—Ministers of those countries, I hasten to add—who were employed in different UN offices within those countries. The result, however, was that only a rather limited number of pilot projects were started. Does he have any information about how that programme is going, what the future prospects are, what the UN’s priorities are for extending the One UN programme, and what the British Government, as a major donor, are doing to ensure that that excellent initiative does not run into the sands?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s latter point, we have to recognise that when any initiative is taken, when there are 190-plus members, it will meet some form of resistance. I recognise from personal experience some of his points about the attempt to expand the resident co-ordinator post in a country; some agencies, because they were not in every country, felt threatened that they would therefore be excluded. Others claimed that the resident co-ordinators who were there were not necessarily trained to carry out the role that was sought for them, as the leader of a UN team in a country. The UK Government have been anxious to allay that, partly by providing assistance to ensure that people are trained and that we get the right quality people in that very important role. That will continue, and the Government will continue their efforts to persuade others in the UN system not necessarily to understand the principle, which seems to be fairly accepted, but to move with greater speed from principle to practice.
The answer to the first point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, to be brutally honest, is probably in my brief, but rather than give an off-the-cuff answer I will write to him in greater detail, if I may.
My Lords, in the Statement—I apologise for missing the opening sentences—the Minister referred to partnerships with civil society organisations and business. Will he say a little more about the partnership with business? I signed up my business, KPMG—one of the big four accountancy firms—to the Business Call to Action on 6 May last year. It has probably been an exercise in shadow-boxing since then to get out of DfID a serious amount of engagement with the business community. Will he say more about what those business partnerships will look like specifically in the future? There was a summit at the UN last September, but it has often been the businesses chasing DfID for engagement, not DfID wanting to engage with businesses, which have often taken separate paths and looked to DfID for leadership.
My Lords, primarily, we are looking to partnerships with business, entrepreneurs and civil society in countries that we are seeking to assist. The noble Lord, in a perhaps roundabout and oblique way, declared an interest. I would rather take his question on board, because I do not have a direct answer to it. I have heard criticism abroad in the past about the British Government not being prepared to do anything but talk Government to Government. We think that that has been resolved to a great extent in respect of civil society, trade unions and, I hope, business. However, I happily take the point on board and, if the noble Lord will drop me a note or have a word with me afterwards, I will investigate the matter.
My Lords, I add my voice to those who have welcomed everything that the Minister has said. As my noble friend Lord Hurd and others have said—indeed, as the Minister has said—the biggest cause of poverty and degradation in the world in the past few years has been conflict and war. The Minister has said everything that one would wish to hear about co-ordination between the Department for International Development, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. I hope he understands that he will have the support of those on all sides of the House if that aspiration is translated into action.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord. It is the Government’s view that all the policies—not aspirations—that are set out in the White Paper are serious and are intended to be put into effect. The Government must persuade all those who need to be persuaded, and must be determined to persuade those who appear not to be prepared to carry this through.
It remains the fact that we have a national interest as well as an international responsibility. That is why we say that this is a moral cause but also a common one. Let us take climate change. The Maldives are worried about disappearing for ever. Even in 2007, the summer floods cost the not-so-badly-affected United Kingdom £3 billion, so we have a vested interest, whether that is in climate change or in fragile states. Eight out of 10 refugees who seek to come to this country in whatever form come from failing or fragile states. Again, we have a declared self-interest, but that interest is also moral.
We are therefore pressing for progress on education, health, basic services and the alleviation of hunger and, lately, for an understanding of the food crisis of 2008 in the developing world. There is a need to double food production in the next 20 years, which means using centres of excellence in this country to gather expertise—the Hadley Centre, in this case—to assist the development of agriculture in the developing world. That has to be set against a background in which the problems of water supply are in many cases becoming more difficult.
It is a gigantic task. I hope that the warm welcome in principle and, in most cases, in general, for the White Paper means that the views of this House about what we should do as a nation are supported by our colleagues not only in the United Kingdom, but in the United Nations.
My Lords, I, too, apologise for not being present to hear the Statement, but I have had a good chance to flick through the book. What is the standing of this document in terms of the entirety of DfID? It seems that there is a lot in here and much of this is mainline work of DfID, and I applaud that. I do not see any reference to the dependent overseas territories: St Helena, Montserrat, or Pitcairn Island. It is the first call of DfID to consider the requirements of those very small places. I do not see any reference to this in this book; so is that to be somewhere else?
I like the heading to chapter 5, “Keeping our Promises in a Downturn”. That would be a particularly attractive mantra to those who are looking for an airport in St Helena.
My Lords, with one or two noble Lords when they enter your Lordships’ House, I know that every road leads to Rome. I guessed that this flight—or rather, it cannot be a flight; it must be a boat journey—would lead to St Helena. I can give an assurance that overseas dependent territories continue to have first call. I had the whole of Sunday to read the White Paper, and they are mentioned in there. The question of an airport on St Helena remains under review, I hope to be concluded by the end of the year. That is what my brief actually says—I anticipated that one.
I want to come back to the point made earlier, because I did not do justice to the question of the role of business and of growth. Growth is the key. Growth is the exit route and the role of the private sector is crucial to that. We are talking about supporting people through social assistance measures, but also putting £1 billion into support of growth and trade, working for a global trade deal, supporting sound tax systems and having an international growth centre to transform long-term growth. This, I think, is an area where we can guarantee that we cannot do it alone. In fact, the message from the White Paper is that this is not for Governments alone; it is for business, Governments and all of us.