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Millennium Development Goals

Volume 748: debated on Tuesday 22 October 2013


Tabled by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what new millennium development goals they would prefer to see introduced post-2015.

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Chidgey, and at his request, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper.

My Lords, the MDGs have provided an important framework in helping to reduce poverty, but there is still much more to do. The 12 successor goals recommended by the high-level panel offer practical targets which tackle the root causes as well as the symptoms of poverty. We are particularly pleased to see a proposed stand-alone goal focused on women and girls.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and look forward to the debate on this matter tomorrow. Does my noble friend accept that poverty reduction must be the top priority for the development agenda as 70% of people who were within the millennium development goals have not benefited from the programme, almost all of them women? What indicators does my noble friend have in mind to measure over time where the discrepancies that discriminate against so many women and girls appear in the development agenda?

My noble friend is absolutely right. As he will know, the new goals will focus on eradicating extreme poverty within a generation. Central to this, as we all recognise, is reaching women and girls, many of whom were left behind by the MDGs. That is why we are very pleased that there is a proposed stand-alone gender goal and also that there is a lot of emphasis on disaggregating data—only if you have good data can you move things forwards.

My Lords, will the Minister clarify where things stand on the leave-no-one-behind principle included in the 2015 framework which, of course, focuses on social justice and equity? Is the Minister aware that when asked at a press conference in Liberia whether the UK would prioritise inequality over economic growth the Prime Minister replied no, that economic growth was the priority? Surely we can agree that progress achieved will not be sustained unless there is a strong focus on equity within and between countries.

My Lords, the noble Baroness will, of course, know the range of goals. Taken together they include all the areas the noble Baroness is talking about. Obviously we need economic growth to try to pull people out of poverty but, as she also knows, leaving no one behind is included there. The aim of the new MDGs is to eradicate extreme poverty. One will not do that without addressing both social justice and economic growth.

My Lords, I welcome the focus on the post-2015 agenda, but will my noble friend agree that finishing the job of the existing MDGs is also crucial? Will she also inform the House what progress she hopes will be made in the next two years?

My noble friend is right and it is important to take forward the current MDGs. However, one of the most important things now is to make sure that the proposed new MDGs, or something very similar to them, are adopted in 2015 so that the progress made in the past 13 years is built on. As noble Lords know, DfID is committed to 0.7% of GNI going to aid. For example, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has just announced £1 billion going towards the Global Fund. All this will help to deliver the original MDGs.

My Lords, will the Minister press for tax justice to be a distinctive international goal in ensuring that major corporations pay appropriate taxes and in channelling taxes to the countries where profits are actually made?

The right reverend Prelate is right to highlight that and he will know that the UK Government are emphasising the importance of tax being collected appropriately within the developing countries. This will be transformative. Corporate transparency is one of the aspects required and he will know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for BIS, Vince Cable, is working very hard on that. BIS has just consulted and is considering responses, and DfID is trying to ensure that tax regimes in the developing countries are strengthened and built on.

My Lords, evidence shows that investing in a child’s earliest years makes the biggest difference to their lives and to the country’s social and economic fortune. Will the Minister support calls to put early childhood development at the heart of the new post-2015 development framework?

Again, if the noble Lord looks at the proposed new MDGs, he will see that that kind of approach can be assumed to be there. There is new emphasis on, for example, good nutrition, which is so important in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, as well as education—not just primary education but covering a wider scope. Therefore, if the noble Lord looks down the list, he will see that concern for young children is built into a number of the goals.

The noble Baroness mentioned our progress towards 0.7% of GDP, but does she agree that our European neighbours are getting nowhere near that target? What are the Government doing to encourage them?

As the noble Earl knows, the northern European countries are stronger in that regard than the southern and eastern ones. However, there has been progress among some of the new EU countries, and that is encouraging. We do, and will, continue to argue this case to make sure that that is a high priority.