Question for Short Debate
My Lords, after that I shall be as brief as I can. This is a serious matter. Each year, in the developing world, 9 million children under the age of five die. Four million people die from malaria, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Maternal mortality continues to be at the rate of one death in every 200 births, and 1.4 billion people, one-quarter of the population of the developing world, continue to live below the international poverty line. These were the headline challenges on the MDG agenda facing the high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly of the UN last month. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in calling on leaders from 140 Governments to redouble their efforts to achieve the goals, stressed how vital it was to keep our promise to the poor. He said:
“In the decade since the MDGs were first agreed, we have learnt a great deal about what works and where we need to focus our efforts. Evidence shows that the Goals can be achieved, even in the poorer countries. We can and must do more, especially given the impact of climate change, increasing global hunger, and fall-out from the economic crisis”.
We can and must do more. The MDGs are too big to be allowed to fail and the promise to the world's poor too important not to be kept.
Since 2005, the 1.8 billion living below the poverty line has fallen to 1.4 billion, but only if you include China. Otherwise, the number has actually risen by 92 million, within a rising global population. Nevertheless, nine African countries are on track to halve poverty by 2015. Botswana is among the leaders, with 95 per cent enrolled in primary education, 90 per cent of HIV cases receiving healthcare, and robust programmes to reduce poverty in remote rural communities. Universally, net enrolment in primary education has risen to almost 90 per cent, but more than one in 10 primary school-age children are still out of school. Many countries are also facing severe shortages in teachers and teaching facilities.
The HIV infection rate in the developing world has decreased by almost a third to 2.7 million. Sub-Saharan Africa is still the most heavily affected, accounting for more than two-thirds of all those living with HIV. Yet, still nearly 1 million people a year die needlessly from malaria—a challenge that the UK has, to its credit, taken up.
The world is on track to achieve the safe water target, although close to 1 billion people worldwide still use unimproved water supplies. Over one-third of the world still does not have access to toilets or latrines and improvements are far too slow.
Women are still suffering disproportionately, with two-thirds of employed women having vulnerable jobs—part-time, seasonal or low-paid. The gender gap in secondary and third-level education in some countries continues to be unacceptably high. In spite of the steady decline in the deaths of children under five, the current figure of 9 million globally is still horrific. Every minute, somewhere in the world, 17 children under five die needlessly. Child mortality rates have been slashed in some 50 countries, but the decline of 28 per cent overall is not even close to the target of a two-thirds reduction.
The commitment to reduce by three-quarters the maternal mortality ratio and achieve universal access to reproductive health is where the least progress has been made. With maternal mortality declining only marginally over the last 15 years, with some 40 per cent of births still not attended by a skilled health worker and with only one in five sexually active women in sub-Saharan Africa thought to use contraception, the targets are being missed by a mile.
The response of the UN summit was to adopt a global action plan to achieve the MDGs by 2015. The Secretary-General secured more than $40 billion for women’s and children’s health. The World Bank doubled its support for agriculture, to up to $8 billion a year for the next three years. The Deputy Prime Minister emphasised the UK’s overall leadership on international development issues. He reiterated our commitment to reaching 0.7 per cent of gross national income in aid by 2013. He challenged others to live up to their promises and to back Ban Ki-Moon's call to keep the promise to end world poverty.
While the ODA globally had reached some $120 billion in 2008, so far only four countries have reached the ODA target of 0.7 per cent of GNI. At the United Nations, major countries including Japan, Chile, France and China, together with global corporations, all committed to major increased support. To our Government’s credit, they have pledged over the next five years to triple to some $750 million our contribution to fighting malaria, which needlessly kills 1 million people every year, and to prevent 50,000 maternal deaths and save the lives of 250,000 newborn babies.
Those commitments are welcome, but more detail is needed from the Government to deliver on their impact. For example, in tackling maternal mortality, what programmes are planned by the Government, and which countries and regions will they focus on? Do the Government share the concerns of Save the Children about the lack of an agreed accountability framework for achieving the goals on maternal and child health?
The increase in the proportion of hungry people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, underlines the importance of agriculture and food security and the impact of the dramatic 17 per cent rise in food prices in the past year. Will the Government be reconsidering their low-key approach to agricultural research and strengthening its ability to tackle a potential global crisis? The ongoing famine in Niger and the recent food riots in Mozambique are a clear warning of the threat.
At the UN, African leaders recognised that those in the developing world had to do more for themselves, to design programmes and strategies for their circumstances, to take charge of their destiny and to depend upon and mobilise their resources as the primary means of achieving the MDGs. The challenge to donors, including the UK Government, is to support the empowerment of the poor, the engagement of civil society and capacity-building, and the strengthening of human rights, transparency and the rule of law. The challenge is to enable the poor to hold their Governments to account.
A major obstacle to achieving the MDGs and sustainable development beyond 2015 is insecurity and instability. Security, stability and development are interlinked. The UNDP in Afghanistan, for example, has added a ninth MDG to the list—to enhance security. The stark fact is that 22 of the 34 countries furthest from meeting the MDGs are in the midst of, or emerging from, violent conflict. More will need to be done to help states that are judged to be fragile or in conflict.
Increasing MDG investment alone will not be the solution. There needs to be an overarching consideration of political developments, not least if there is to be a results-based developmental return on the international development commitments that the Government are seeking. There needs to be established joint accountability between donors and recipients of ODA, introducing transparent audit and tackling corruption. This is essential to the long-term viability of international development.
We need legislation to allow us to play our part in tackling corruption. Tax evasion and bribery in developing countries is estimated by the OECD to cost their economies as much as $160 billion every year. We need to ensure that human and natural resources in developing countries are treated fairly and no longer exploited. Will the Government bring forward legislation to require UK companies, their subsidiaries and joint venture partners to disclose all payments made to recipient Governments for access to natural resources and details of the resources themselves? Will the Government bring forward legislation similar to the Dodd-Frank financial reform Act in the United States, requiring disclosure and due diligence transnationally?
Achieving the MDGs is not just about aid. Eradicating poverty is fundamentally a political challenge. Poverty reduction is hampered as much by political and social factors as by economic conditions. Poor communities need to be empowered at local and national level and to hold their Governments to account, in particular on progress with eliminating poverty and drastically reducing maternal and child mortality. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the knowledge that, at the end of the 90 minutes that are scheduled for this debate, another 1,500 children under the age of five will have died needlessly.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the British Olympic Association and a member of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games. Today I will talk about the importance of sport as a key contributor to the progress needed to deliver the millennium development goals. Over the years the Olympic movement and its constituency have applied immense resources in the area of development through sport, helping to promote formal education, culture, healthy lifestyles, human rights, sustainability, gender equality, understanding among peoples and peace, to name a few. As a family of some 205 national Olympic committees, we in the International Olympic Committee also assist several humanitarian organisations by providing sports equipment, educational material and aid to victims of wars and natural disasters.
Each of these programmes and activities offers a meaningful contribution to the achievement of the millennium development goals. For example, in community development we contribute to local socio-economic development through sport. In environmental protection we advocate environmentally sound sport practice and sustainable development. In HIV and AIDS prevention we promote healthy lifestyles through peer education. In humanitarian assistance we bring hope through recreation to people in need. In gender equality we ensure greater access to sport for girls and women, as well as leadership empowerment. In Olympic education and culture we promote Olympism and Olympic values throughout the world among youth. In peace and Olympic Truce promotion we work on conflict resolution and inter-community dialogue through sport—a subject close to the heart of my noble friend Lord Bates.
The International Olympic Committee and international sports associations co-operate with numerous United Nations agencies, programmes and funds, and with member states as well as non-governmental institutions, to develop and implement a range of initiatives, using sport as a tool for development. National Olympic committees and national sports federations play a critical role as they communicate with billions of young people throughout the world on a daily basis. They bring to the table specific organisational expertise that delivers a cadre of young, disciplined generations to be empowered and trained for the roles they will play as leaders of tomorrow. In this country my noble friend Lord Coe and we at the British Olympic Association do this through the programme International Inspiration. It is the main British project in this context. It is led by Sir Keith Mills and uses sport to touch the lives of more than 10 million people in developing countries as a result of our hosting the Olympic Games in London in 2012.
The decision by UN member states last October to invite the IOC to participate in the work of the UN General Assembly as permanent observer—a position strongly supported by the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, the noble Lord, Lord Malloch-Brown—has raised the level of partnership between sports organisations around the globe as a whole, and the political leadership of nations, to a whole new level that dictates that more resources should be provided to sport by Governments and by sport to deliver on its development commitments, so sport is an essential development tool and a key contributor towards ensuring progress towards the millennium development goals. We at the British Olympic Association are ready to assist government with a range of initiatives before and after 2012 so as to deliver a true and lasting legacy from London 2012.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for initiating this debate and, indeed, for giving us his usual wise and comprehensive account of the issues we are discussing. At the outset I pay tribute to the remarkable achievements of the Labour Government on all aspects of international development, including the millennium development goals. We trebled the aid budget, cancelled debt, established DfID and for the first time had a Secretary of State for International Development sitting in the Cabinet. Yet in spite of the efforts made by world leaders, many of the MDGs remain dangerously off track. We know that, according to the Institute of Development Studies, unless MDG progress accelerates more than 1 billion people will be living in dollar-a-day poverty in 2015. At current rates, we will not halve poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, which is the objective of MDG 1, before 2141.
Attention must be paid to achieving better accountability and to providing the predictable long-term funding which Governments in developing countries need if they are to plan a health infrastructure and get children into school. Critically, funds must be additional. This has to be new money. We do not want to see a rebadging and recycling of money that has already been pledged. I am afraid that we are seeing far too much of that in many countries. I very much hope that I can be given an assurance today that the funds that will be needed for resourcing adaptation to and mitigation of climate change will be new money and will not be transferred across from what is meant to be overseas development assistance. We also need to look at innovative sources of funding development. I am very much in favour of taxation on financial transactions—the so-called Robin Hood tax. France and Spain have already called for such a tax and I hope that the Government will support their position.
Critically, we need to invest in more and better opportunities for women and girls, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, intimated. We need to invest very seriously and conscientiously in the economic, legal and political empowerment of women and girls. Gender equity has a multiplier effect on all the MDGs and arguably offers the most significant linkages between the millennium development goals. For instance, if we ensure that girls have increased and unfettered access to education, we will have more of a linkage to better health and nutrition. Enhancing access to reproductive and maternal health contributes to all the MDGs. Maternal mortality in sub-Saharan Africa has barely changed in two decades. Women also need to benefit from equitable land distribution, which increases output and provides better food security. Safe water and sources of energy reduce the burden of women’s domestic activity. Discrimination is pervasive and ensures that women are more likely than men to be in low-paid jobs with no social protection. Violence against women was rightly described recently as a global pandemic.
On MDGs 4 and 5, which were a major focus in New York, I should be very interested in a response from the Minister to criticism that statements and announcements from DfID are focusing too much on newborn and one-month old babies rather than on children under five.
In conclusion, the millennium declaration represents a commitment to social justice and promises to promote equity and tackle social inclusion. I hope that will be the outcome of the MDGs.
My Lords, I add my congratulations to my noble friend on securing this debate so early in the Session. The statement after the meeting in New York in September included a call for,
“a redoubling of efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality and improve the health of women and children”
by providing contraception, safe abortion, maternity care and the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. As someone with a lifelong interest in women's health, and as the newly elected chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, I particularly welcomed this because, as the noble Baroness who spoke before me mentioned, healthy women with small families can access education for themselves and their children; and eventually not only they, but their communities and countries, will benefit economically—and also sustainably, if we can slow down population growth.
Two years ago and following extensive hearings, the all-party parliamentary group, chaired energetically by Richard Ottaway, produced an excellent report, The Return of the Population Factor. The conclusion was that it will be difficult or impossible to achieve the millennium development goals with current rates of population increase in the least developed countries and regions. World population is currently 6.5 billion. By 2050, if nothing else happens, it will be 8 billion to 10 billion, which will wipe out any advances we might have made towards the millennium development goals. Sadly, those who set them did not take account of this.
Why are we not making progress? I have always contended that family planning has long been the missing link. It has always been underfunded. Global funding for it has declined in absolute terms; it has been halved from its level a decade ago. We must get family-planning supplies to 215 million women who want them but cannot access them.
There is another problem apart from finance; distribution. We are always told that in Africa, two condoms are available per man per annum. This is not a very generous provision—for any age group, I may add. Why—I have asked this many times—is it possible to get Coca-Cola in whatever village you come to in Africa or Asia, but not to get condoms or pills? Will the Minister take up the challenge? It cannot be beyond the wit of our civil servants and business leaders to do a deal to ensure that the unmet need for family planning somehow is met through their networks. The distributors of anti-retrovirals missed an opportunity; they did not even send out condoms with the drugs because of George Bush's objection to contraception. That was a scandalous waste. I hope that the Minister will assure us of the Government’s commitment to increase funding for sexual and reproductive health, especially family planning and safe abortion services. Women in developing countries depend on us to take the lead.
My Lords, last month’s meeting in New York said most of the right things but it is legitimate to ask whether the right actions will follow, and that is why the debate introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, is so timely. After all, those actions have not done so in the past, and the recession has taken its toll on the willingness of many countries to implement the commitments that they entered into, most importantly at Gleneagles and at the UN summit in 2005.
Some of those who endorsed the warm words agreed in New York last month are not fulfilling those commitments now and have shown no sign of doing so in the future. Russia, France and Italy are examples of that tendency. I should like to know what the Government are intending to do to make the monitoring of commitments in the EU and the G20 and at the UN more effective during the last one-third of the journey than it has been in the past two-thirds. It is good that we are sticking to our commitments, but the UK is only a modest part of a global jigsaw and, if we cannot carry others with us, progress towards achieving the millennium development goals will flag.
This issue of the consequences of the recession and of the current problems over government spending has to be confronted fair and square. It needs to be recalled that the global recession and the particularly sharp slowing of growth in the main developed countries—which are also, of course, the main aid donors—has already levied a substantial hidden tax on the resources being made available to the developing world, as many of the commitments entered into were expressed as percentages of donor countries’ gross national income, and the growth of the GNI of those countries is markedly lower than was expected at the time the commitments were entered into.
A second consideration is that the 2008 financial and economic crisis was in no conceivable way attributable to the policies or actions of developing countries. Therefore, it would surely be aberrant and immoral if they were to be directly punished for events which are already taking a toll on their economies.
Thirdly, it is not in our own interest that developing countries’ health, education, climate and other development policies should be hobbled, with the inevitable increase in global insecurity which would follow. Therefore, I strongly commend the coalition Government’s decision to honour our commitments and to sustain the aid budget.
It is not too soon, I suggest, to be thinking now about the post-2015 scenario for the MDGs. The problems that they were established to address will not have disappeared by then, although one can hope that they will have been much reduced. An instrument a bit less blunt and all-embracing than the MDGs could serve better in the future. It is now widely recognised that global MDG achievement figures conceal as much as they reveal. Thanks to the rapid economic growth in Asia, the below-average performance of many weaker developing countries in other parts of the world is hidden and often not properly addressed. The problems of failed and failing states are simply not on the development radar screen at all. We surely need in future an instrument and approach which focus much more clearly and effectively on what Professor Paul Collier of Oxford University in a striking phrase called “the bottom billion”. The fate of those countries whose populations make up that bottom billion have serious implications not only for the world economy but for international peace and security.
We also need to think hard about the role that can be played in the future by the most successful countries emerging from the developing world—countries such as China, India and Brazil. I do not believe that we should expect those countries to match the same degree of spending as the developed countries but they have gone through this experience themselves and pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and they have a lot of lessons to teach us. Therefore, to ignore the contributions that these countries can make to shaping and participating in future development work would be foolish and entirely contrary to the rationale of establishing the G20 as the primary body for co-ordinating global economic policies. After all, these countries have shown how it can be done—how rapid progress to achieving the MDGs can be made. Therefore, I should like to suggest that in cases such as China, Brazil and India, the Government should be thinking of how we can work with them in the future and co-operate with them in seeking to achieve the goals. I hope that when he replies to this debate the noble Earl can say something on the Government’s intentions in that respect. I heard the Secretary of State for DfID speak about that on television only two days ago and it would be very good if we could hear from him.
My Lords, I am also very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for introducing this timely debate. The previous Government gave a strong lead in addressing world poverty, and our present Prime Minister on the day he entered office declared that we should be “generous abroad” . The aid budget has been ring-fenced despite financial pressures, although one must take into account the reflection of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. This issue has firmly joined the agenda of matters which, in this country at least, relate to the common good and occupy a sphere beyond party politics.
I wish to make one point and ask the Minister for one assurance. In a recent article, the Secretary of State for DfID said that the importance of faith groups in the global battle against poverty could not be overestimated. My experience comes from a 12-year partnership with the church in London and churches in Angola and Mozambique. We have been involved with local partners in building schools and medical facilities. We are also now raising money to float microfinance projects there.
It is very clear that those grass-roots networks involved have a high reputation for honesty and considerable reach. A recent World Health Organisation survey estimated that never less than 30 per cent, and in some cases as much as 70 per cent of the healthcare facilities in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, are provided by faith-based groups. It is vital that the Government continue to exploit the potential of these networks. It takes time to develop trust and to provide the necessary know-how but the potential is huge.
I am not, of course, making any exclusively Christian point. The reach and effectiveness of Islamic Relief agencies and other religious charities throughout the world contribute to an emerging—what shall we call it?—global society of great significance. Lambeth Palace was involved in meetings between the major faith groups in the UK with DfID in advance of the 2009 White Paper and in subsequent consultations. At that point a commitment was made to increase the use and the funding of faith-based networks in the distribution of aid but, in an internal DfID submission to the Secretary of State leaked to the Guardian, this commitment is cited as one of the 80 or so such commitments that could be abandoned. While others were considered to risk significant public outcry if they were jettisoned, this faith-based funding stream was thought to risk merely “individual vocal” criticism.
Can the Minister assure the House that there is no change to the commitment to an increased use of faith-based agencies in the distribution of aid? We do not want special treatment but fair treatment and recognition of the reach and effectiveness of distributing aid in this way.
Of course, I acknowledge that it is very difficult in a democracy to move too far ahead of public opinion. Here, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples have a responsibility to enlarge the room for manoeuvre so that sympathetic politicians can act. Make Poverty History and the Jubilee Debt Campaign on international debt showed what is possible. The Micah Challenge coalition is organising a global day of prayer on 10/10/2010—this coming Sunday. The plan is to match prayer with individual promises to contribute to bringing to an end disabling poverty in our generation. The focal event in the UK is, significantly, at Jesus House in north London. I do not have to declare an interest as it is not one of mine. It is home to one of the most vibrant black-led churches. Millions of people worldwide will participate in an effort to make sure that at a time of anxiety for the rich world, the vulnerable and the needy are not neglected.
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for initiating this important discussion. In the UK we should be rightly proud of the British leadership in advancing the millennium development goals which represent a vision of a world transformed where equality and justice prevail.
However, while we are very pleased, one group of women remains outside the MDG effort. Until we address this failure, we cannot speak of real progress. Today I ask our Government to call explicitly for girls and women who are forcibly impregnated by the vicious use of rape in armed conflict to be included under MDG 5—reducing maternal mortality. “Rape as a weapon of war” is a phrase commonly used accurately to describe what is happening alongside today’s armed conflicts, but we rarely speak about the consequences of this weapon. Thousands of girls and women impregnated by rape used as a weapon of war are routinely denied access to abortions. Girls and women die from their attempts to self-abort and from suicide resulting from untold stigmatisation leading to social marginalisation.
We should do what no other country has done: to ensure that the humanitarian medical aid provided to girls and women in places such as Congo, Sudan and Burma—an endless list of countries—gives them choices and access to abortion when pregnancy is a direct result of rape as a weapon of war. This is a moral imperative and a legal obligation. The Geneva Convention requires that civilians and combatant victims receive non-discriminatory medical care, whether it is provided by the state in conflict or by others. Why, then, are pregnant rape victims given discriminatory medical care through the routine denial of access to abortion? The embedded inequality towards women in conflict settings has been recognised by the Security Council in such historic resolutions as 1325 and 1820. Equal justice for women is not limited to the courtroom, it must be extended to supporting those women who are victims of the inhuman practice of rape as a weapon of war.
I draw the attention of the House to the recent report of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Oxfam, which details examples of the impact, stigma and suffering of raped children and women in Congo, Sudan and elsewhere, where no legal provision exists to support them. It also mentions that women should be given preventive care—that is, utilisation of contraception—as though women who are raped can be prepared for such horrors.
One of the solutions proposed by women’s organisations, including the international human rights organisation the Global Justice Center, is that access to abortion must be a critical part of the support available to women. The centre filed a shadow report with the Human Rights Council asking it to recommend that the US remove the prohibitions put on humanitarian aid to rape victims in conflict, as it violates the US obligation under the Geneva Convention. The UK can and must support this issue by asking questions of the US during the council’s review process due shortly.
I know that these are difficult matters for many individuals and countries to address, and international donor communities have thus far resisted pressurising countries to review their policies. Neither criminal abortion laws in the conflict state nor foreign aid contracts with the United States can serve as defence to a state provision of discriminatory medical care to all victims under international humanitarian law.
Time is short, and I should have liked to highlight many examples of countries such as Bangladesh where the suffering and humiliation of rape has left decades of suffering, ill health and stigma. The UK must take a lead to end that discrimination. This will mark real progress towards the millennium development goals and towards ensuring equal rights for women under international humanitarian law.
My Lords, we should be much reassured by the fact that, despite the difficult financial position faced by the Government, their commitment to raise spending on overseas aid from 0.5 per cent of our annual economic output to 0.7 per cent by 2013 has remained a firm promise—indeed, it is to be enshrined in law. That is welcome, and demonstrates that while charity may begin at home, it only begins there. However, this is not just about charity. A world divided between the wealthy and the very poor is inherently unstable, particularly as the world continues to shrink because of the speed and availability of communication.
I shall talk specifically about the role and importance of women in reaching the challenging millennium goals that world leaders have set. A few years ago, I visited a housing project in Khayelitsha, one of Cape Town's townships. There, I realised that if you wanted homes built, it was the women’s housing co-operative that would build them. If you wanted a crèche, it is women who would create it and run it. If you wanted bed-and-breakfasts, the businesses would be run by women; and if you wanted a self-help saving scheme to provide microfunding, it was women who would organise it.
That is why we need to concentrate far more on strategies which help the lives of women directly, particularly in health, maternity and schooling, which will in turn drive higher growth through greater equality. The millennium goal furthest away from being met relates to the mortality rates of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth. This impacts directly on the existing children of those mothers and their life chances. Half a million women die every year in this way, and half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa. The new strategies recently announced to increase substantially the number of lives saved are at the heart of what we need to do. For example, in under half of developing countries does a skilled health worker attend a birth. Addressing this specific issue could make such a difference. Two-thirds of the billion people who live on less than one dollar a day are women, and those women own only 1 per cent of the land they live on. Yet gender inequality discourages economic growth because when women earn money, they spend more of it on their families. Research by Goldman Sachs and by the World Bank has confirmed that if more women could earn their own income, the income per head in many developing countries could rise by a fifth.
I have two final points. Let us remember that economic growth requires clean water. As an example of what can be done if we concentrate aid, we should look to new technologies, such as encouraging the use of solar power to pump fresh water from deep underground wells. Finally, I congratulate the BBC World Service Trust on the excellence of its work in developing countries, to which it broadcasts information to help people in the face, for example, of natural disasters. I give a particular accolade to “Afghan Woman’s Hour” to which six million Afghan women tune in every week. These women say that the stories they hear inspire them to take action to improve their own living conditions. At New York, Ban Ki-Moon reminded us that:
“Meeting the goals is everyone’s business. Falling short would multiply the dangers of our world—from instability to epidemic diseases and environmental degradation”.
He said that,
“achieving the goals will put us on a fast track to a world that is more stable, more just and more secure”.
He is surely right.
My Lords, in my limited time, I shall focus mainly on MDG 5 and, in particular on 5.B, which aims to,
“achieve universal access to reproductive health”,
by 2015. This may be the most off-track of all the MDGs, as well as having the biggest beneficial multiplying effect on other MDGs. These benefits are also won through being connected with maternal health. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said that this is the area of least progress and used the phrase “missed by a mile”. The reason that the MDG I am referring to is called 5.B is that it was a very welcome additional afterthought, some years after the original 2000 framing of the MDGs. Hence there was a slow start in including reproductive health for the essential factor it is.
We should be grateful to the Government and, in particular, to the Minister, Andrew Mitchell, who have, in the recent past, realised the importance of this crucial aspect of development. In particular, they are prepared to use plain and straightforward language in encouraging these ends. That significant change of emphasis by the Conservatives was achieved well before the advent of the coalition, but I am sure it has the full and enlightened support of the Liberal Democrats. In this case, as we heard, the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, is very much on message. We are looking forward to seeing how the Government will put their words and intentions into practice.
One particular and important aspect of this is the statistical increase in the proportion of young people in the overall population in less-developed countries who could benefit from help in this field. In many countries, it makes strong sense to target them at an early stage as an investment to avoid multiple later problems, and that is the direction and focus of many agencies now. It is only by investing in the reproductive and sexual needs of this massive cohort of young people that we can hope to begin to achieve MDG 5.
Some of us have been agitating about a considerable setback since the Cairo conference in meeting the scale of contraceptive availability promised there. That has fallen woefully short. In this context we rightly talk about unmet need for contraception. It is estimated that more than 200 million women in less developed countries have such an unmet need.
In a recent article in the Times, Matthew Parris had an excellent summary of this population dilemma, but at the end he partly implied that we were defeated by not wanting to confront and tell people what to do. That was a distant yesterday. For the past few years, particularly since the Cairo conference, if we can meet it and respond to it, there is very much a demand and an unmet need for reproductive health, particularly from women, without the need of resorting to any forceful methods.
In talking like this we should not and do not forget the disproportionate damage to the environment and to sustainability caused by the developed world, but that was not the main focus of MDGs. To use one of the current criteria, I believe that the department and the Minister fully realise the value for money of even small investments in this field and the disproportionate effect it has on other MDGs.
In addressing this subject and having read the Minister’s speech at his party conference on Tuesday, where he was talking about creating a private sector division in his department, the area to which I have been referring, reproductive health, would seem to be one of the ideal candidates for such treatment. Referring to that same speech, which very much touched on previous departmental profligacy, I hope that the Minister will view the uses or abuses of the huge percentage of overseas aid which we are currently obliged to channel via the EU.
My Lords, I just have one central point to make. Everyone acknowledges that while some good progress has been made in meeting the millennium development goals, progress in too many areas, such as malnutrition, maternal mortality and HIV, has been sporadic and patchy. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that in setting the goals, no attention was paid to what should be the central motor of the development process—the provision of a free and independent media.
I speak as chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust, which aims to enhance press freedom throughout the Commonwealth, and I declare an interest accordingly. Experience from within the Commonwealth shows how free media can contribute enormously to the development of democracy and good governance, which are the foundation stones for the achievement of the MDGs.
A media that is free and robust, such as in India, Botswana, Kenya and the Caribbean island states, calls government to account. My noble friend Lord Chidgey, to whom we owe a great debt for securing this debate, rightly talked about empowering the poor to hold their governments to account. It needs a free media to do that. A free media will also take seriously its educative role in communicating objective information. In many countries, independent television and radio have been a successful platform for social information programmes to disseminate vital health messages. But state-run media, with journalists often cowed by the threat of jail, always end up doing a government’s bidding. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, including Ethiopia and Eritrea, where progress on meeting the MDGs has been slowest, this means the propagation of misinformation campaigns through which the population is often actively misled about subjects of major importance. There could be no better or more tragic example of this than the failed state of Zimbabwe, where the Government hold a vice-like grip on all information, with grave consequences for public health, which means that life expectancy is now just 33 years.
A report from UNESCO in 2007, Press Freedom and Development, outlined the strong correlation between media freedom and progress in meeting the MDGs, concluding that,
“press freedom is an instrument of development in itself”.
It highlighted how no country has both a free press and a very large percentage of its population living below the poverty line, how life expectancy improves as governance does and how media freedom makes it more likely that sound public health policies will be introduced. Let us look, for instance, at Ghana, which has an independent media whose freedoms are enshrined in the constitution. Its president, John Atta Mills, has worked in partnership with the media to instigate imaginative programmes to move the country forward toward the millennium goals, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, much progress has been powered by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement, working with free media throughout East Africa to improve environmental conservation and women's rights.
Development cannot be imposed; it can be only facilitated; and an independent media, with well trained journalists, is the best facilitator that there can be. If we are going to meet the ambitious targets of the MDGs by 2015, much more will have to be done to improve issues of governance, of public information and of press freedom, the three catalysts of change. Will the Minister ensure that greater attention is now paid to these issues and that the Commonwealth in particular is urged actively to encourage the development of free and independent media, which will be the precursor to the progress we all so desperately want to see?
My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for instigating this debate, I declare an interest not simply as a global board member of Food for the Hungry, a faith-based developmental charity, and an adviser to Light Years Inc, a champion of the African producer, but perhaps more importantly as the grandson of a small to medium-sized cocoa farmer, first in the Gold Coast and then in Ghana, and indeed the beneficiary of a cocoa marketing board scholarship—a link between urban and rural that made a real difference to the quality of education in Ghana. All too often, a false dichotomy is made in the African context between the rural and the urban.
The World Bank has drawn attention to the fact that around 70 per cent of the millennium development goals’ target group live in rural areas, particularly in Asia and Africa. For the most part, for the rural poor agriculture is a critical component of the success of the MDGs. Even though structural transformations are important in the longer term, more immediate gains can be made for poor households’ welfare through agriculture, which can help them overcome some of the critical constraints they now face in meeting their basic needs. Thus, a necessary component of meeting the millennium development goals by 2015 in many parts of the world is a more productive and profitable agricultural sector. Yet this is threatened by the fact that, as statistics show, support in aid for agriculture has fallen by 43 per cent since the mid-1980s. Recent data indicate that although the decline has slowed a bit—indeed, there is some hope that it may now be rising—the share of aid given by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, of which we are one, has declined from 17 per cent in the late 1980s to 6 per cent in recent years.
Attainment of the MDGs therefore requires that we heed the World Bank’s suggestion and go with its policy plan for 2010-12, which puts the emphasis on growth through an agricultural action plan. I hope the Minister will give us an assurance that the United Kingdom intends to put its efforts, and indeed its money, behind this plan. It has to be said, I fear, that perhaps we in the last Government did not do all we could to support agriculture. That is a fact. Looking at the figures, we see that the UK devotes less than a percentage point of its aid to agriculture. Its contribution is some $23 million, which represents 2.8 per cent of the DAC total. That really is not good enough. The World Bank has indicated that it needs to see a much greater emphasis on the part of donors if the trend of decline in agricultural production is to be reversed and if we are to have any hope at all of meeting the millennium development goals.
Kenya has shown the way in this. It is possible to end the sterile debate between smallholders and large owners and between commercial farming and farming by smallholders in rural areas by integrating the two. The point has been made by Dr Stephen Mbithi, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya:
“Until African agriculture is commercially viable there will always be hunger in Africa”.
There are many innovative and exciting ways in which we can help; I hope that we do.
My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord for securing this debate, but I also express the hope that there will be a longer debate at some stage. Too many of us feel deprived by the short time available to speak, and we would like to talk about this very important subject at length.
I take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock. I have always agreed with her on most things but at the last summit, under the leadership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, women were never mentioned as being at the heart of MDGs. This is the first time that the summit papers have mentioned that women are at the heart of MDGs. At the previous summit only Denmark and Liberia said that the MDGs can be met only if we concentrate on women; however, on this occasion every single paragraph has women at the heart of it.
The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke about African agriculture but he did not mention that 70 to 80 per cent of African agriculture is in the hands of women. Once again, unless women are at the heart of the millennium development goals, nothing can change in Africa. The women could be helped to do better through co-operatives, for example. We should look at best practice in other places. In India there are 10 organisations called “self-employed women’s associations”, which are all co-operatives. They all do different things in different parts of India extremely successfully. Why not look at that model and start an agricultural co-operative movement in Africa? Then they would be able to feed not only a few people but maybe the whole of the continent.
I always say that we are hampered in what we want to do for women by some powerful people, one of whom recently visited us—and we paid for his visit. I mind that. It is despicable that an institution has a leader who systematically deprives women of their normal human right to choose whether or not to have a child. I mind the fact that it is an institution that is riddled with child abuse and yet we invite its leader to visit us—and we pay for it. That is a very bad thing.
At every meeting and conference you attend, who stops you from talking about abortion and about women’s sexual health? At the ICDP conference last year, Saudi Arabia and the Catholic Church made us take out the term “women’s sexual health”. What a load of nonsense. What world are we living in? We are not living in Christ’s day and, anyway, they did not have any contraception then. We have to look at our world and go with it. Unless everyone here will stand up and be counted, the lives of the women will not change. It is time we started doing that. I get very upset.
I am tired of hearing about empowerment; I am tired of hearing about equality. Have we got equality in this country? Every time there is a debate everyone shouts, “We do not have equal pay; we do not have equality; we do not have this; we do not have that”. You think that the African women will get equality? No, they will not. Get them food first.
My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of Concern and as a special envoy for conflict resolution for the Government of Ireland.
Before I start, I must take exception to some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. Her description of the Catholic Church, to which I belong, is inaccurate and offensive. I do not have time in this debate to deal with the issues at length, but I must register that fact.
We are all familiar with the millennium development goals and the targets and indicators and we can, through those indicators, measure the extent of the achievement of the goals. There can be no doubt that some of the targets are very crude and questions may be asked about the validity of some of the statistics being presented as evidence of achievement. One can question, for example, the validity of a target that measures children’s enrolment at primary school but not their completion of primary school; or the target that measures a woman’s access to one session of antenatal care before pregnancy as being antenatal care in pregnancy. Notwithstanding this, much has undoubtedly been achieved through the focus created by the MDGs.
It has been commented today that some developed countries use the financial crisis as an excuse to pull out of or default on aid commitments. The commitment of the coalition Government to maintain the UK’s aid commitments is to be welcomed. I also welcome the fact that the coalition Government’s agreement develops the previous Government’s proposed new global development action plan by prioritising sanitation, a target for which there is a very high failure rate. Without sanitation, the achievement of all the other goals is profoundly more difficult. I also welcome the statement that the Government will recognise the vital role of women in development and will promote gender equality and focus on the rights of women, children and people with disabilities to access services.
At times of such economic difficulty, we will be challenged to remain faithful to our commitment to the MDGs. Inevitably, the amount of money dedicated to aid in this country will decrease, because it is assessed by reference to a percentage of gross national income. There will be less money in the next five years for those who are in need. It is therefore vital that aid is incisively targeted, with measurable and specific outcomes and real accountability.
It is profoundly important that, in the process of seeking to achieve these goals, donor countries do all they can to ensure that their contributions are underpinned by two significant objectives. The first of these is ensuring that, in so far as is possible, development aid is used in the context of capacity-building in the host country. It is laudable for donors to build schools and hospitals using imported labour, or even prisoner labour. The consequence of such strategies, however, is that there is no development of local capacity that will enable the host country to build in the future. The partnership of imported labour and local labour is a fundamental necessity, even where the consequence may be to delay the completion of the project. I therefore ask the Government to ensure that aid is linked to capacity-building at a local level as it is delivered.
The second significant objective that should underpin development aid focused on the achievement of the MDGs is that there should be ongoing risk analysis to ensure that the strategies adopted are buttressed by adequate provision for security and do not add to or create conflict. Many of the countries seeking to achieve the targets inherent in the MDGs are either emerging from conflict or still engaged to some degree in it. At present, some 42 million people are displaced either internally or as refugees. In the granting of aid, do the Government assess the risk of conflict consequential upon it? Is there a requirement for an early warning/early response system to deal with such conflict locally?
Women continue to be disproportionately represented among the uneducated, the unemployed and those in marginal employment. It is fundamentally important and necessary that, in countries that are emerging from conflict and that are the subject of UK donor aid, there is a clear link between the UK strategy to achieve the MDGs and the obligations placed on the country by UN Security Council resolutions.
My Lords, I follow the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, in stressing the importance of conflict resolution in achieving the millennium development goals. At the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 22 September, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, made what some may recall as a radical observation. He pointed out that 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the millennium development goals are in the midst of, or emerging from, violent conflict. He might also have pointed out that not a single country that is currently defined as fragile or conflict-affected has reached any of the millennium development goals—that point was eloquently made by my noble friend Lord Chidgey in so ably opening this debate.
The world of development professionals can often be perplexing and confusing for lay people. It is surely axiomatic that armed conflict drives hunger, displaces refugees, assails human rights, denies justice, erodes equalities, destroys crucial infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and roads, thwarts education and disease prevention, undermines systems of governance and law, unleashes corruption and ravages the environment. It may therefore be surprising that conflict resolution or peace building is not mentioned in the eight millennium development goals. It is incomprehensible that conflict reduction should not be mentioned in the underlying 21 targets against which attainment of those goals will be assessed. It is utterly depressing that conflict reduction or peace building should not even appear among the 60 indicators underlying the 21 targets and eight goals.
That is not just my view. The G7+ group of countries that are affected by conflict now has 17 members, including many of the most fragile states such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Sierra Leone and Chad. When the group met in Dili in Timor-Leste, some frustration was expressed at the inadequacy of the millennium development goals, which totally ignore—to use their words—the importance of peace and security as a prerequisite for development. The group’s host, Emilia Pires said:
“Aid is given based on MDG criteria, and from our experience we have found out that before we can get the MDGs, we have to do a few things first. We have to have peace and stability … It means that you have to build peace and then you have to build a state to manage the whole thing. Peacebuilding and statebuilding must come before the MDGs and if you look at all the literature of the MDGs, it doesn’t talk about that”.
That is the point that the G7+ countries make. If people are bewildered as to why the $37 billion which is spent on the one-third of the world’s poorest who are in conflict-riven countries is not having more effect, that might be part of the answer.
Let me conclude on this point: I am a politician; I believe in politics; and I believe in democracy, in the parliamentary process and in the rule of law. I believe that each human life is sacred and I abhor violence as a means of dispute resolution, for it places human lives, hopes and aspirations at the disposal of tyrants. I simply cannot understand why the political class do not ensure that peace and security, which we take for granted in this country, have primacy in our efforts to tackle and alleviate poverty around the world.
My Lords, that very powerful speech leads into my contribution as chair of the All-Party Group on Street Children, which received a powerful presentation in July on Protect for the future: Placing children’s protection and care at the heart of achieving the MDGs. That piece of research was produced with the help of Save the Children, Railway Children, the International Children’s Trust, Retrak, the Consortium for Street Children, ChildHope and War Child.
If the millennium development goals are about children’s futures, there is still quite some work to do in putting protecting children at the heart of those goals. Let me give just a couple of examples of very practical things that should be done to help children. I refer in particular to street children, especially those who lose their homes as a result of conflict—although that is an extreme example—or as a result perhaps of family violence or of migration to escape rural poverty. In any event, the effects on the children are often very similar.
One of the greatest effects is lack of access to education. If a child does not have an address, it is very hard for the child to go to school. If the child cannot buy a uniform and the school requires a uniform, it is very hard for the child to go to school. Even the lack of a birth certificate can have a crucial effect on a child’s future chances in life, as that can make it hard to migrate across borders or possibly to get any sort of job. The need to ensure registration of all children at birth, so that they have a document, might sound bureaucratic, but it is actually a great necessity.
A few schemes offer a perverse incentive, such as those that offer money for the fostering of children. The report found that, in some cases, children were put into foster care so that the money could be accessed. Such perverse incentives need to be guarded against.
All those issues, particularly protecting children, apply in spades to girl street children, who are more vulnerable, more at risk and more subject to the issues that the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and my noble friend Lady Tonge raised about sexual health. Before these children even reach adulthood, they are pregnant. I am sorry to say that in a lot of cases well meaning NGOs run by the church prevent contraception from being given to those girl street children.
My Lords, professionally I am an obstetrician and I have witnessed the death of a mother in childbirth. It scars you for life. Therefore, I applaud the Government’s new commitment to save the lives of 50,000 mothers.
One of the four drivers of the reduction in maternal mortality has been capacity building in the health system, particularly in trained and skilled birth attendants, including for emergency obstetric care. The UK is well placed to deliver on this. Professional organisations such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives are very experienced in this area. DfID already works through its five-country programme in sub-Saharan Africa with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I hope that it will engage again with the professional organisations to meet its commitments. The methodology lends itself to interventions around contraception and essential obstetric care. This module can be quickly rolled out on a hub and spoke principle, as exemplified by the success of the partnership project in Malaysia, which is being spread into surrounding countries, such as Indonesia.
I am also encouraged that DfID recognises in its document that, for every woman who dies, 20 more suffer disabilities such as the terrible condition of obstetric fistula. I work with professional organisations to help to train doctors and nurses to care for such women. It is estimated that 20 million women with obstetric fistula exist in sub-Saharan Africa alone; there are many more in south-east Asia. Their tales are heartbreaking. Let me read some. A 26 year-old woman from Equatorial Guinea said:
“I endured 5 days with delivery pains. I was finally transferred to the hospital and the foetus was dead. After 3 weeks, I started to feel constant flows in my vagina, and the odour was very bad. The situation has persisted for 10 years”.
A 22 year-old woman from Bangladesh said:
“Nobody wants to stay with me due to the smell of urine. Even my husband sometimes blames me for my condition”.
A 48 year-old woman from Mali said:
“I am distasteful in the eyes of others. It is God’s will”.
Another woman said:
“Everyone has rejected me. Cure me or kill me”.
It is possible to cure these women. All that is required is a commitment to do so. When you cure them and you see their faces, it is like magic. A 48 year-old woman from Tanzania said:
“I did not know that one day I would be like other women, because the problem was so big”.
Another woman said:
“When I returned to the village, those who did not believe that I was healed were embarrassed when I saw them. I have become a person again”.
Hitherto, DfID has not felt that it needs to do something for these millions of women with obstetric fistula. I hope that it changes its mind. Through the work of professional organisations, these women who suffer from long-term disability and who live a living death can be helped, just as the death of women in childbirth can be prevented.
My Lords, I join others in expressing appreciation for the endeavours of the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, in getting this debate. I share the frustration of other noble Lords at the time limit: four minutes is not sufficient to develop the argument. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, on that, but I do not agree that the previous Administration did not put women at the centre. I say that not as a former spokesperson for that Government in this Chamber but as someone who worked for a half a decade when the millennium development goals were set as vice-chairman and then chairman of a specialised United Nations agency—the International Labour Organisation—where time and again I saw the British Government in the vanguard of pressing the issue of women.
I also join the appreciation of others that the Government—the Conservatives, with their Liberal Democrat allies—have enshrined a commitment to the 0.7 per cent. We should not lose that as an important fact, but I must admit to asking when we will see that enshrined in legislation. I can think of no reason why the draft legislation prepared by the previous Administration, which had all-party support, could not have been put swiftly into legislative form. That would have been a powerful signal at the special summit which we had last month.
There have been MDG successes. We may not shout about them about too much, but the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned malaria. HIV/AIDS is down by 25 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Child survival rates are up and 42 million more children are in education. The poorest part of the world—that is, living on $1.25 a day—is down from 58 per cent to 51 per cent. Yet that does not beg the question, which a number of noble Lords have raised, that many of the MDGs are seriously off-track.
Clearly, the world economic crisis has exacerbated that situation, with over 50 million of the poorest now being denied their escape from poverty by that very financial crisis—that was a point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made. Another reason is that our colleagues in the developed world have not met the commitments that they made in the 10 years of millennium development generation that we have gone through, and if they do not meet those then the task will of course be very difficult. Add to that the whole question about areas of conflict, which was eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and others, and MDG achievements remain quite formidable.
Much hope was placed on the special summit where, despite the pledging of $40 billion to a global strategy for women’s and children’s health—as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, reported—and for agriculture, in the eyes of many the summit remained a failure. It brought no serious commitment to put the MDGs back on track. Turning to our own Government, despite my appreciation of their endeavours to maintain the 0.7 per cent in very difficult times, many fear that the temptation to raid the DfID funding for other commitments will be irresistible. That view was confirmed rather than confounded by the leaks from DfID about many key international commitments being dropped—a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London—and that the budget is to be put under the control of the national security council.
Time certainly does not allow for the development of those arguments, so I restrict myself to asking the Minister a number of questions. I recognise that he may not be able to answer them in the 10 minutes available, so perhaps he could answer them in writing. They are as follows: do the pledges that the Government made at the millennium development goals summit on maternal health represent new funding from the UK Government? How do the Government intend to meet the commitment to spend £500 million per year on malaria? Does DfID intend to reduce funding on any other health-related expenditure from the department’s budget in order that the pledge to spend £500 million per year is met—in other words, is that new money? Do the Government intend to launch the “My Aid” fund, and when? Will the Government fund the BBC World Service from the DfID budget?
My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Chidgey for asking this Question for Short Debate, and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. My noble friend explained the situation with his usual skill and with balance. I will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible; where I cannot, either I or my noble friend Lady Verma will write to noble Lords. I have listened very carefully and—with a few understandable exceptions—I agreed with everything that noble Lords have said today.
Progress has been made on the millennium development goals or MDGs. However, it has indeed been uneven and on a number of our goals we remain significantly off-track. In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds; as my noble friend Lord Chidgey told us, that equates to 1 million per year. Every year at least one-third of 1 million women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.
The UN MDG summit in September was a crucial moment for the world to renew our global commitment and redouble our efforts to meet the goals by 2015. The UK approached the summit seeking an ambitious agenda for action in the final years. Work by the UK behind the scenes and in public helped to achieve this, and the UK’s leadership on sticking to our promises was instrumental. The summit resulted in unprecedented global commitments to save 16 million women and children, reverse the spread of malaria and tackle hunger and undernutrition. We were successful in doing this in spite of the tough financial conditions.
In sum, three elements contributed towards the summit’s success: renewed political commitment, new concrete commitments and increased public awareness of the MDGs in the UK. Since their conception in 2000, the MDGs have provided a global rallying point towards eliminating poverty. The summit this year gave global momentum for the final push and highlighted the unique role that the UK has and will continue to play in driving this agenda forward. More than 140 world leaders attended the summit to recommit themselves and their countries towards meeting the MDGs. First, throughout the summit, including more than 80 meetings, the international community’s respect for the leadership that the UK has shown on the MDGs was abundantly clear. The UK was often praised for standing by our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on official development assistance from 2013, and in enshrining this pledge in law. The noble Lord, Lord Brett, will understand that it is when parliamentary time allows, but the most important thing is that we actually do it.
Prior to the summit, the UN Secretary-General referred to our pledge of 0.7 per cent as visionary. The Secretary of State for DfID and the Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that we expect other countries to live up to their promises on aid. It was also a very useful opportunity to drive through the UK’s key message on the importance of focusing on results and accountability, making progress on the most off-track MDGs and the underlying importance of resolving cross-cutting issues such as conflict, raised by my noble friend Lord Bates, and climate change, to achieve all the MDGs. That point was made by my noble friend Lord Chidgey and others.
Secondly, the summit resulted in a number of substantial commitments on the most off-track MDGs. The most significant of these were the Secretary General’s event on maternal health and the UK co-hosted event on malaria. The maternal health event generated $40 billion of financing and policy commitments. The UK pledged to save the lives of 50,000 women, 250,000 children and to help 10 million more couples gain access to family planning by doubling our efforts. The UK pledge on malaria was similarly strong, helping to reduce deaths from malaria by 50 per cent in the 10 highest burdened countries, backed by an increase in funding to as much as £500 million per year by 2014. Policy commitments from developing countries, such as extending bednet coverage and eliminating tariffs on health commodity imports, will also have a great impact on the fight against malaria.
The summit was also notable for the extent of developing country engagement, not only in the financial and policy commitments—one-third of the $40 billion commitment came from developing countries—but also in leading side events on issues of concern, such as climate change, fragility and conflict. We also saw substantial commitments from the private sector. Johnson and Johnson aims to help as many as 120 million women and children each year over the next five years, and of the NGOs, World Vision committed $1.5 billion over five years. All these groups have vital contributions to make towards achieving the MDGs.
The summit concluded with the formal adoption of the outcome document, Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This important document sets out a focused framework for the efforts over the final five years. Thanks to lobbying by this Government, that includes an annual review mechanism on the outcomes of the summit, which will be administered through the UN Economic and Social Council.
Thirdly, the summit provided a focus for increased public awareness of the MDGs and development issues among the UK and overseas public. UK civil society played a major role in this, particularly in organising various media events involving the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State in the weeks leading up to the summit.
I will do the best I can to answer questions. The noble Lord, Lord Brett, asked about the 0.7 per cent GNI, and I have answered that. I should point out that we are bound by the strict OECD definition of “overseas development assistance”, and every penny must be used to encourage the economic development and welfare of developing countries.
The noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Tonge, the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and many others raised the issue of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, including family planning. The Government are reorienting our aid programme to put women and children at the heart of it. DfID is developing a new business plan on reproductive, maternal and newborn health that will set out how the UK will save the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies, and enable 10 million couples to access modern methods of family planning over the next five years.
My noble friend Lord Moynihan raised the important issue of sport and development. We are supporting sport programmes in developing countries by working through International Inspirations, a charity set up by the 2012 UK London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The charity supports development projects such as training teachers and sports coaches.
The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, raised the most important issue of rape as a weapon of war. Her Majesty’s Government abhor the use of rape as a weapon of war, and tackling this problem is something we take very seriously. The UK strongly supports action at the international level and has been a key supporter of UNSCRs 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 to protect women and girls in armed conflict and maximise their role in peace-building. DfID is driving international action to empower women and girls. Under its new structural reform plan we will pilot approaches to eliminating violence against women and girls.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, asked whether the Government should not be more concerned about the post-2015 agenda. At the end of the summit, the UN Secretary-General announced his intention to initiate a consultation process on what comes after the MDGs, and the UK will play its full part in the process.
The noble Lord, Lord Patel, said—and I too have noticed this—that there is a particular problem associated with poor or absent obstetric care. His points reinforce the importance of our commitment to reproductive, maternal and newborn health, especially obstetric care. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London raised the role of faith groups and their importance. We welcome the role of faith groups in development. The Government were pleased to welcome the visit of the Pope. My noble friend Lord Black talked about the need for a free media and the relationship between media freedom and MDG progress. He is absolutely right.
The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, asked about the recently announced private sector department in DfID. This new department brings additional capacity, particularly to work on innovative approaches with the private sector and leveraging private investment into basic services in communities. It brings much of DfID’s private sector work into one place, it allows a stronger input from business itself in development operations and it has a strong remit to make the whole of DfID more private sector friendly. None of this has existed before. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, mentioned agriculture. I would like to say more about that but I have run out of time. However, I point out that supporting infrastructure is extremely important for agriculture.
In conclusion, the UK ensured that the summit rallied the international community to accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs in the final five years. We can be justly proud of the contribution that we made. However, there is still much work to be done, not least in ensuring that this momentum is carried forward through other international meetings, including the G20 summit in Seoul, and that commitments made are followed through. The coalition Government will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the international community delivers on its commitment to meet the goals by 2015.
House adjourned at 6.05 pm.