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World Development Report 2011

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 5 May 2011


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they will respond to The World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development by the World Bank.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord and other noble colleagues across the House on meeting the challenge of living on £1 a day to raise awareness of the challenges facing the poorest people in the world. The Secretary of State welcomed this excellent, challenging report last month at the World Bank spring meetings. Its key messages are consistent with our commitment to spending 30 per cent of UK aid on supporting conflict-affected and fragile states. Her Majesty's Government will focus development efforts on 20 fragile states, working to strengthen government institutions, civil society and the private sector, and increasing support for security, justice and jobs. We are urging the World Bank and the United Nations to implement the report’s recommendations.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her comments. This excellent report highlights the centrality and importance of building national institutions in both conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction. It also highlights the urgency that is required in the reform of international responses to conflict and in conflict prevention. It details in a very comprehensive way the importance of these matters for development and reaching the millennium development goals. Will the Government step up their efforts both to take a lead in pursuing reform of the international response to conflict and to prioritise stabilisation at the centre of our overseas development assistance?

We agree completely with the noble Lord and recognise that the UK alone cannot deal with the challenges of conflict and fragility. Therefore, it is crucial that the World Bank and the United Nations also put the necessary reforms in place to improve their effectiveness in fragile states. The Secretary of State has already discussed the development report with the World Bank at its spring meetings, and has highlighted the specific reforms that need to take place.

Can the Minister assure me that none of the countries in receipt of international aid is also being targeted for arms sales by the United Kingdom?

My Lords, my noble friend raises an important issue, which, by and large, we look at country by country. We take very strict instructions on how we sell our arms to countries.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of Saferworld, which works on security sector reform. Does the Minister agree that all those exposed to the problems of the third world over the years recognise that one of the biggest of all generators of poverty is conflict, and that too high a priority cannot be given to conflict prevention and resolution? Does she also agree that one of the problems is that very often the security systems of these countries exacerbate the problem, and that effective security sector reform is another high priority? Of course, we must also do more to strengthen moves to control the arms trade, and the moves by the United Nations, on which Britain is leading, are crucial.

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right about many of the issues that he has raised today. That is why focusing 30 per cent of aid on those countries where fragility and conflict have set back the ability to move forward has been a key reform to how DfID works. Through our bilateral reviews, we recognised some of the countries where we needed to change how we gave aid to them, directing it to the causes of conflict rather than just looking at poverty.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that land hunger is a major cause of conflict in developing countries, and that if the smallholders have a sound agricultural basis it is a springboard for both security and development?

I absolutely agree with the noble Countess that we need to ensure that addressing poverty means that people have a stake in the countries in which they live, and are empowered to take decisions for themselves.

My Lords, in the context of the Government’s two declared priorities of focusing additional resources on fragile states and simultaneously ensuring that there is value for money, how does the Minister respond to the view strongly expressed in the World Bank report that in countries where governance and financial systems are weak it will not be possible to account for every penny spent?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is also aware that unless we direct what we are doing and have a focus we will not be able to address any of the difficulties that those conflict-ridden countries are facing. This is not about saying yes to this and no to that but about a combination of both. I think the noble Baroness is also aware that, through our reviews, we have been able to work very closely with the multilateral agencies to ensure that we are directing our aid to where it is most required.