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International Development

Volume 740: debated on Tuesday 6 November 2012

Question

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will seek to include goals in relation to conflict and security in the successor to millennium development goals after 2015.

My Lords, conflict-affected and fragile states are the furthest from reaching the current millennium development goals. Conflict and security are also often overriding concerns for poor people. The Government recognise that a post-2015 framework will need to reflect the particular challenges faced by these countries, and address the root causes of poverty in all developing countries.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer, and I understand completely the Government’s commitment to this agenda. The reality is, however, that in conflict-affected and fragile states, children are twice as likely to be undernourished, babies are twice as likely to die before the age of five, and none of these states is likely to reach any of the millennium development goals by 2015. Will the Government use their position of leadership, as a co-chair of the high-level panel on the post-2015 development framework, to take responsibility for the next generation? Will they ensure that, unlike the previous millennium development goals, the next set of goals for the international community reflect the importance of justice, security and peace, without which there cannot be development in these affected states?

The noble Lord is right about how the effect of conflict wipes away development gains. He refers to the high-level panel which the UN set up; the Prime Minister is one of its co-chairs, and it met last week. Given that it is seeking to address the causes of poverty, it is acutely aware that, as he says, no fragile and conflict-affected state will reach any of the MDGs.

Is my noble friend aware that the aid effectiveness forum in Busan launched a new deal for fragile states, to give voice to the 1.5 billion people who did not benefit and are not benefiting from the MDGs? What position is the United Kingdom taking on the new deal’s five peacebuilding and state-building goals—the PSGs—which are quite separate from the MDGs?

My noble friend will be aware that my right honourable friend the previous Secretary of State for International Development was instrumental in trying to ensure that the peacebuilding and state-building goals were addressed at Busan. The current Secretary of State is taking this forward. We are very strongly in support of what was decided at Busan, and in fact, we are already taking this forward in South Sudan and Afghanistan, and are applying the principles in other countries as well.

My Lords, do the Government believe that democracy and the rule of law should have a higher role and profile in the new goals?

We are at the beginning of working out how to take forward millennium development goals that will be signed up to internationally. However, I note that the UN task team that is considering what might underpin this is looking at social development, inclusive economic development, environmental sustainability, and peace and security. It is well understood that justice, fairness and security are all important in underpinning the relief of poverty.

My Lords, are non-recognised entities in the former Soviet Union and other special areas such as the Gaza Strip or ethnic minority regions of such countries as Burma and many others receiving their fair share of aid and technical assistance?

I may need to write to the noble Lord with details but I assure him that, as I think he knows, a great deal of United Kingdom assistance goes to support the people in Gaza.

Following the Minister’s most helpful answers and given that not one of the conflict-ridden and sensitive countries has reached a single millennium goal, will the Government consider recommending to the United Nations that for those countries the single millennium goals in place now be retained rather than put something more complex in place which they would never reach?

There is a strong argument for keeping the current MDGs. They have been a great international focus and have done a great deal to relieve poverty around the world, get children into education and so on. I am somewhat sympathetic to that. However, these are to run until 2015. The important thing now is to build on the progress that has been made, carry forward the things that work well and learn some of the lessons of those MDGs: for example, universal education for children does not necessarily mean that those children in schools are actually learning something. All those things need to be addressed. However, my noble friend is right: we have to build on what has already been set in place.

My Lords, the Minister will, of course, be aware that women face disproportionate disadvantage and discrimination and that they are behind in all the development goals, especially in conflict-affected and fragile states. Will the Government call for a new post-2015 stand-alone goal on gender inequality and a specific target on violence against women and girls?

The noble Baroness is quite right about the disproportionate effect on women and girls. She will know that of the eight current MDGs, gender equality is the third and maternal health is the fifth. Given that the groups are looking at the causes of poverty and noting the disproportionate effect, as she has, I would be astonished if gender equality did not run right the way through any replacement of these MDGs.