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Overseas Aid

Volume 743: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2013


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of the overseas aid budget is being earmarked for peacekeeping in areas of conflict.

My Lords, the Government are committed to scaling up their work in fragile and conflict-affected states. We have committed to spending 30% of official development assistance—ODA—by 2014-15 to support these countries and to tackle the drivers of instability. In 2011, £58.7 million of ODA was spent on multilateral peacekeeping operations. This represented less than 1% of the UK ODA spend in 2011 and we anticipate that it will remain at a similar level.

My Lords, I can see the virtue of closer co-operation between peacekeeping and development programmes, but what steps will be taken to reduce the risk of humanitarian workers and beneficiaries of such aid being seen as agents of a foreign power, especially in fragile and unstable countries?

The right reverend Prelate is right. Those working in these areas are at huge risk anyway. That comes home very strongly. I have just come back from Pakistan and the difficulties of working in such areas are very clear. It is very important to draw the distinction that the right reverend Prelate makes. However, given that we are acutely aware of that, as are the organisations, I can assure him that that will continue to be the case.

Does the Minister agree that it is absolutely clear that both the UK’s International Development Act and the OECD guidelines would be breached if the Prime Minister’s statement on using aid money for military purposes was to be implemented? Should the Prime Minister therefore be heeding the OECD and British law instead of trying to appease recalcitrant Tory Back-Benchers who oppose the ring-fencing of development aid?

I suggest that the noble Baroness reads what the Prime Minister said. She will find that it is perfectly consistent with the approach taken by her Government. We work across the MoD, the FCO and DfID to do what we can to tackle instability in some of the poorest countries. It is because they are fragile states that there are such levels of poverty and such a lack of development. That is why it is extremely important to work to support those countries. DfID’s conflict pool and the Building Stability Overseas strategy build on what the previous Government rightly did. This is controlled by the OECD definition of ODA, which does not allow spending for military uses. Therefore it could not come out of DfID’s budget. DfID needs to reach its 0.7% contribution to aid, and we are committed to that. If this came out of it, it would not reach that 0.7%.

My Lords, it is clear that peace and stability are critical not just in fragile states but in the development of all states. It would be helpful if my noble friend could clarify how Her Majesty’s Government will decide how far political interventions and interventions involving the Ministry of Defence will receive support. How will the proportions and the kind of help that will be given be decided? It would be helpful to know that to understand this better.

My noble friend is right to ask for that. It is extremely clear that the OECD defines what does and does not count as overseas development assistance. Most of our peacekeeping, for example, goes through the UN. Some 6% of that budget counts as ODA, and the rest does not. With the EU civilian missions, 100% counts under the ODA rules. This is extremely clearly defined. Where the MoD supports humanitarian assistance—the Navy, for example, supplies tents, as it did in Jamaica after the hurricane—that is counted as assisting and not as providing military equipment. These things are clearly defined.

My Lords, as the right reverend Prelate said, Labour supports a co-ordinated approach to tackling conflict that brings together defence, diplomacy and development. The Prime Minister’s attempt to suggest that aid money may be used to off-set deep defence cuts is misleading and will not stand up to scrutiny. I ask the noble Baroness to reassure this House that the absolute purpose of the proportion of money that we continue to spend is to alleviate property, improve basic services and support job creation, all of which are central to ending conflicts everywhere.

My Lords, I have to say that the noble Lord is misleading. I suggest that he read the Prime Minister’s words. He says:

“Conflict states haven’t met a Millennium Development Goal between them”,

and that,

“it’s obviously true that if you can help deliver security and help provide stability … that is the base from which all development can proceed”.

We all agree about that. He does not say that he is filling in some MoD black hole; he is saying, as the noble Lord stated at the beginning of his question, that we need to work together to ensure that we establish security for people in these fragile states in order that development can build upon that.

My Lords, peacekeeping is obviously very important, but so is peacebuilding. Does the noble Baroness recognise that many of the areas that have traditionally been funded by overseas development aid, such as increasing the capacity of civil society, advancing women’s rights and strengthening and improving governance, are also a really important part of peacebuilding? Will she give an assurance that programmes that have traditionally been bent towards those ends will be protected, and that the money will not be diverted to these new peacekeeping elements of the programme?

That is where the focus is. That is ODA. In providing support in areas such as Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Pakistan, de-mining in Nepal and humanitarian aid, DfID is following these principles and this Government will continue to follow them because of the importance that the right reverend Prelate rightly ascribes to them.