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Equality: World Bank

Volume 731: debated on Monday 17 October 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the World Bank’s World Development Report 2012.

The Government welcome the World Development Report 2012 on gender equality and development. The report identifies areas for international action that closely reflect the UK’s development priorities to reduce female mortality, close education gaps, improve women’s economic opportunities, increase women’s voice in society and limit the transmission of poverty across the generations. The Secretary of State for International Development is speaking at the UK launch of the report on 23 November.

I thank the Minister for that helpful reply. Does she agree that while the report’s concentration on gender is very welcome, its implementation plan is weak and insufficient? Does she further agree that the plan should include concrete objectives on gender equality, particularly in areas such as political participation and access to justice?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right that this report is extremely welcome, and it is groundbreaking that it has been produced at all. It is notable that the World Bank does not necessarily match rhetoric with reality, and we hope that this will be a step on the way to making those two things dovetail. The noble Baroness is right that we have to make sure that we support the World Bank in making sure that this is carried through much more effectively than may have been the case in the past.

The report highlights the problem of domestic violence in one short paragraph, but fails to mention the United Nations Secretary-General’s campaign “UNiTE to End Violence against Women”. What are we doing through our embassies and otherwise to promote the goals of that campaign? Will the UK Border Agency review its country of origin information service to ensure that, in considering women’s asylum claims, officials have full and up-to-date information about this appallingly common phenomenon?

I thank the noble Lord for flagging this question up to me. In fact, domestic violence runs as something of a theme throughout the main report. It is clearly an issue that needs to be taken extremely seriously. When you look at some of the evidence it contains—for example, that in Cusco there are reports that 50 per cent of women suffer domestic violence—it is an astonishing situation. The UK Border Agency publishes country of origin information reports on the 20 countries that generate the most asylum claims, and all those reports have a section dedicated to covering matters relating to women, including violence against women. The independent advisory group on country information last month commissioned a review focusing on women and girls. I hope that the noble Lord will find that encouraging.

My Lords, I declare an interest as the founding patron of the Global Foundation for the Elimination of Domestic Violence. The noble Baroness knows that six out of 10 women in the world are subjected to domestic violence. Will the noble Baroness tell us what, if anything, the Government intend to do on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to celebrate the things that have been done and, more importantly, to make sure that more is done to reduce domestic violence worldwide?

I commend the noble and learned Baroness on what she has done in this regard. Clearly an awful lot more needs to be done. I am speaking at a meeting on that day and I will get the details of that to her. Of course, we have appointed my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone as the UK’s international violence against women and girls champion. She has been trying to ensure that when Ministers go overseas, they routinely raise this in their bilateral meetings. DfID is working on domestic violence in 15 of the countries that it focuses on, and I hope that will extend further as well. The World Bank report mentions ensuring that domestic laws are put in place. One of the things that DfID is working on is trying to make sure that, in the countries in which it is working, the judicial systems and the police take this seriously and act upon information that comes to them.

My Lords, what are the Government doing to ensure that the World Bank will work with UN Women as it translates the 2012 development report into meaningful action for women and girls? Can the noble Baroness assure me that in our emphasis on schooling for girls in developing countries we do not place emphasis only on the provision of schools but on qualified teachers? In many countries that is where the problem is: we help provide the buildings but do not ensure that the qualified teachers are there.

This report is extremely interesting in that it makes the economic case for gender equality, which is extremely important. It is therefore a very useful tool for UN Women in its overarching approach to what the UN is doing worldwide. I would expect that UN Women would find this to be a useful tool. It is not just a matter of justice, but of the economic significance of gender inequality in terms of development. The noble Baroness also asked about education. It is absolutely vital not just to get girls into school but to get them through school, and she is certainly right that ensuring the teaching is there is absolutely vital.

My Lords, I commend the work of David Mitchell, the Secretary of State for International Development—

I am sorry, it is Andrew Mitchell—who I know well, of course! He will never forgive me for that—who is doing an excellent job as Secretary of State for International Development, particularly in following on the Labour Government’s initiative to increase expenditure year on year and rejecting the pleas from the right wing of the Conservative Party to reduce expenditure. Will the Minister give an absolute assurance that that policy will continue?

I will certainly pass on that message to David—or Andrew—Mitchell and say how much you congratulate him on his personal efforts. Indeed, I pay due credit to the previous Government. We remain extremely committed to international development and will be implementing the 0.7 per cent of GDP target by 2013. That is an absolute commitment.