Question for Short Debate
My Lords, I feel a bit guilty with my 10 minutes. Anyway, I welcome this opportunity to debate the impact of the United Nations high-level panel report into the successor agenda to the millennium development goals.
I start by welcoming my noble friend Lord Bates on his maiden outing to the Dispatch Box. Noble Lords may be aware that I co-chair Conservative Friends of International Development. There can be no more consistent and committed friend to international development than my noble friend. I doubt that there are many, if any, noble Lords in the Chamber today who are not aware of his recent walk from London to Derry, spending 35 days of his summer holiday walking 518.8 miles to draw attention to the plight of the children of Syria and in so doing raising the enormous sum of £50,000 for Save the Children. There may be others watching this debate or reading it in Hansard, or who may stumble across it later, who are not aware of this astonishing and generous feat. I urge them to find my noble friend’s JustGiving page, which is still open for donations. Tragically, Save the Children are in just as great a need of support in their humanitarian work in Syria today as when he finished the walk on 9 September.
This has been momentous and exciting year for development. As well as the high-level panel report, highlights include the UK’s achievement of the 0.7% GNI target, and hosting the nutrition summit and the G8. We can all be justly proud of the role that our Prime Minister and his team played in steering the panel and ensuring the delivery of such an ambitious agenda. There were times when the vision now laid out in the report seemed to be a long way off and I congratulate all the panel members and its co-chairs on rising to the challenge.
After five meetings, around 5,000 pages of submissions and more than 500,000 people consulted, the report is clear, intellectually coherent and moves on the debate about poverty and development without losing what is good in the existing agenda. It offers a clear storyline and an indicative set of goals to provide an example of how this might all translate into the post-2015 agenda.
The report is also a big leap of ambition from the MDGs. It includes, but goes well beyond, the core MDG business of health, education and poverty, and encompasses infrastructure, property rights, governance, violence and personal safety, an end to discrimination, and gender equality. It suggests aiming for zero targets—such as no people living in poverty—combined with nationally defined rates of progress towards that end.
The report has been well received both domestically and internationally. It has set the benchmark against which the discussions and processes of the next two years will be judged. This judgment will be against not only the report’s content but the way in which the panel conducted its work. Its emphasis on the importance of broad consultation and listening to the voices of the poor and vulnerable must be continued throughout the process.
No speech about the successor agenda can be delivered without referencing the historic impact of the MDGs. They motivated global action around a common cause: that absolute poverty was indeed beatable. The 13 years since the millennium declaration have witnessed some of the largest and most successful development impacts in history. The target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met five years ahead of the 2015 deadline. The target for access to improved sources of water has already been reached and there have been drastic falls in deaths from malaria, and in maternal and child mortality. Fewer people are dying of AIDS, malaria and TB.
That said, there is much more to do and it is important that we do not forget that there are still two years left to deliver on the current MDGs. The need to finish the job is one from which we should not be distracted. However, as the high-level panel itself said, we must go beyond the current MDGs because, commendable as they are, they did not focus enough on reaching the very poorest and most excluded. Reaching the target to halve poverty is a staggering achievement but one that leaves half the people in poverty behind.
The report states clearly that we can and must eliminate extreme poverty from the face of the earth by 2030. The Prime Minister helped to steer the panel to a consensus on the five big shifts required to achieve this visionary aim. Although everyone in this Chamber will be familiar with these shifts, they are worth restating. First, we must leave no one behind. We can end poverty by 2030. We can eliminate preventable infant deaths and we can make dramatic reductions in maternal mortality. Secondly, we must put sustainable development at the core, bringing the environmental and development agendas, which have been separated for decades, back together. Thirdly, we must put a focus on transforming economies for jobs and inclusive growth. As we all know, growth is the only real exit from poverty, meaning a much greater focus on promoting business and entrepreneurship, infrastructure, education and skills, and trade. Fourthly, we must build peace and effective, open and accountable institutions for all, ensuring that we tackle the causes and not just the symptoms of poverty. Fifthly, we must forge a new global partnership that brings national Governments, businesses, community groups, donors, local government and others to work together.
It is also true that ending poverty is not a matter for aid or international co-operation alone. The 2015 process must also be about developed countries reforming their trade, tax and transparency policies. This should build on the work already established under the Prime Minister’s leadership of the G8 in June this year.
Before moving on to the task that lies ahead, I will take a minute to reflect on what we in this House can and should be doing. As we approach the MDG deadline, we must consider the role of democratic governance and parliaments in continuing to promote development objectives. Participation, transparency and accountability are playing an increasingly important part in the post-2015 development agenda. The outcome document from the UN special event on MDGs last month mentioned that the new set of goals should,
“promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all”.
Parliamentarians play a critical role in meeting those requirements through their law-making, budgeting and oversight functions and their roles as the representatives of the electorate.
In September, UN states affirmed their commitment,
“to a transparent intergovernmental process which will include inputs from all stakeholders including civil society, scientific and knowledge institutions, parliaments, local authorities, and the private sector”.
However, the onus—and responsibility—is on parliamentarians to engage with those negotiations, which will be launched at the beginning of the UN General Assembly in September next year. We must all remain engaged with the process.
The next couple of years will bring plenty of challenges, but we should not forget that an ambitious successor to the MDGs is in our long-term interests. Every dollar invested in stopping chronic malnutrition returns $30 in higher lifetime productivity. The value of the productive time gained when households have access to safe drinking water in the home is worth three times the cost of providing it.
We will all be encouraged that the UN Secretary-General’s report on the MDGs picked up on the key ideas from the report. I urge the Government to continue to play a prominent role in the discussions, particularly in New York where the negotiations will take place. We wish the UN and the Governments luck and wisdom as they, together with civil society, businesses and other development actors, negotiate the final set of goals over the next couple of years. I think of the report as a Christmas tree, currently loaded with lots of glittering baubles; the task ahead is to prune that tree in order to get the results we need.
I leave your Lordships with this: on page 19 of the report the panel provides examples of the potential impact if its recommendations are successfully implemented. In short, it could mean a real and lasting impact on the poorest in the world. There would be 1.2 billion fewer people hungry and in extreme poverty; 1.2 billion more people connected to electricity; 1.3 billion tonnes of food per year saved from going to waste; 470 million more workers with good jobs and livelihoods; $30 trillion spent by Governments worldwide transparently accounted for; and 220 million fewer people who suffer crippling effects of natural disasters. Can there be a more pressing or important agenda for this House to support?
Finally, during our deliberations and discussions let us never lose sight of the fact that behind these enormous numbers lie people: human beings, individuals and families; real people with the same hopes, fears and aspirations as us, but people born and trapped in poverty, unlike those of us lucky enough to have been born winners of the golden lottery ticket of life.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for securing and opening this debate, in particular with such an outstanding and comprehensive speech, allowing the rest of us to add value to what she has said, rather than fill in any gaps. I echo her welcome to the noble Lord, Lord Bates, who, I hope, retains his passion for this subject, even if he is now speaking from a different seat than he was before. It is good to see him on the Front Bench.
In the time available I do not want to restate in detail my deep and firm commitment to have at the heart of the new development goals the eradication of poverty; the need for women and girls to have a central role in making those changes; and the vital need for an expansion in educational opportunities as the surest route out of poverty and the best way to develop the potential of every citizen on the planet. It is vital that we complete—or at least, maintain the momentum to achieve—the millennium development goals between now and 2015.
We cannot have peace without development, nor development without sustainable peace: the two go hand in hand. Therefore it is right that we welcome the report referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, which puts at the heart of this new agenda the need for security, good governance, democracy, human rights and gender equality. If we have one goal over the next two years, in the difficult arguments and negotiations that lie ahead, it should be to ensure that the situation in conflict-affected and post-conflict states, where the poorest of the poor, the most vulnerable and hardest to reach people on our planet suffer far too much, is at the heart of this new agenda, so that we really secure the opportunity to eradicate poverty by 2030.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for securing this debate.
“Leave no one behind” has been the spirit of the millennium development goals since their inception. Yet the fact remains that, even after 15 years in which the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has been halved, 70 per cent of those not lifted out of poverty are women.
As the deadline of the millennium development goals hovers into view, it becomes clear that areas that require critical examination are those that affect women and girls most sharply. For example, only two countries out of 130 have achieved gender parity in education. Development is not always held back because of a lack of resources; sometimes it is held back because someone is holding it back. It is certainly crucial that women and girls are taken into proper account in every single one of the new goals. The lives of millions of girls are blighted by violence, whether that is armed conflict, domestic violence or the gender-based violence faced by girls in their own communities in the form of female genital mutilation. By categorising FGM as something done a long way away, in cultures we do not understand, we resist helping those who have suffered and those in danger of suffering.
The current generation of millennium development goals lets down girls and women. The omission of a goal to eliminate violence against women is a glaring one. This can be cultural violence, the abbreviating of the potential of girls who die when they become pregnant. It can certainly be physical violence, as with the example of FGM. Robbery is also violence; the refusal of some Chinese universities to allow girls to study engineering, as recently reported by the BBC, is to steal from them their potential earnings and status in society. Few of those goals, therefore, can be leapt towards by the simple act of changing one’s mind.
Ending gender inequality is the exception to that, and I call upon Ministers and leaders to seize goal 2 of the high-level panel’s report, hold it in both hands and commit to preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against girls and women.
My Lords, the MDGs were overambitious, but the post-2015 agenda is reaching beyond the bounds of the possible. Through the high-level panel we are promising not to reduce extreme poverty but to end it altogether, in all its forms; to transform economies; and to build peace and good governance, involving civil society. The UN and its various panels have a huge task in reconciling the updated MDGs with the sustainable development goals. There are now almost too many concepts coming out of these panels, and I doubt that we will end up with the clarity of the original MDGs. Sustainability can, however, be a test of effective, lasting development, in which the beneficiaries become the principal actors, such as farmers putting new techniques into action or health workers drawn from the local population.
To achieve the scale of activity required is going to mean even greater commitment to development assistance. Some of the documents referred to increased and more effective methods of finance. The EU is suggesting a range of options and says that investments towards the goals “should work seamlessly together”. Here we hit a snag. Economic recession has meant that aid from the EU has fallen, despite the calls for 0.7 per cent. The Minister might like to comment on that.
Water and sanitation are likely to be rated much higher in future development goals. Climate change is another priority. I welcome also the likely new emphasis on gender, given that women make up about two-thirds of the world’s poorest. Enabling local people to improve their own environment and health is one of the most cost-effective forms of development, saving three or four times its investment in economic productivity.
Institutions such as the EU, the World Bank and even our own DfID cannot easily adapt their perceptions of development to the needs on the ground; they have to learn to build upwards from the knowledge and ability of the communities involved.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and I share the welcome for the high-level panel report. I believe it could be strengthened in two areas. The first area is environmental sustainability. The millennium goals are weak on climate change and the high-level panel report does not make it sufficiently clear that global warming already damages the economies, and therefore the poor, in poorer countries such as Bangladesh. The panel has the laudable aim of eliminating $1.25 a day poverty but that needs to be inextricably linked with a new climate equilibrium, which we are far from attaining. Do Her Majesty’s Government agree that there needs to be a legally binding global climate deal in 2015 in line with the scientific consensus?
Secondly, the emphasis on absolute poverty must not hide the danger of increasing inequality in our world. Income inequality is rife in both richer and poorer countries and is one mark of the increasing power of elites at the expense of those in poverty. I regret that the powerful analysis of Pickett and Wilkinson’s Spirit Level, that less equal societies do worse, has almost disappeared from our political debate. This inequality within and between nations is exacerbated by the failure of tax justice so far to ensure that multinationals pay a proper proportion of tax and that this is paid in the countries where their profits are made.
Will the Government support a post-2015 agenda which focuses on inequality as well as eradicating extreme poverty; and how could a new set of goals ensure a more equitable distribution of power and resources, both within and between nation states?
My Lords there is no hope at all of the excellent aims of the high-level panel being achieved by 2030 or anything like it unless two preconditions are met. First, that there is good governance and good government in developing countries; and, secondly, that the undoubted vigour and vim of our great multinational corporations is harnessed to do good in the global economic environment in which they work.
On good government, I can do no better than quote what the chief executive of the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development, Chris Bain, said on 31 May when he responded to the panel’s report. He said:
“Ultimately, legitimate goals will hinge on a credible political deal”.
He went on to say:
“Freedom of speech and peaceful protest alongside access to information are fundamental to the right of individuals to flourish”.
So there it is. There is a critical importance to the development of good transparent government, free speech, the rule of law and open and accountable administration.
I am concerned that one of the representatives on the panel comes from Turkey. I do not think that any of those aims are in Turkey at the moment. Those who demonstrated in civil society peacefully in Taksim Square found that. Turkey, of course, has the unenviable record of having more journalists in its prisons than any other country on earth. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, that good government is essential.
Secondly, we have to recognise that global corporations and financial institutions can do much good. Foreign and direct investment will soon approach five times more than global development aid at a time when global growth prospects will rely more and more on the opportunities in developing and emerging markets in a symbiotic way across the globe. I look with admiration at the work of great corporations such as Unilever, which are totally transparent in what they do to try to help in development and are doing an enormous amount to aid the agenda which the panel has put forward.
My Lords, our thanks are due to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for her work in this field as well as for introducing the report and the debate in the way she has.
The report is welcome, not least for its references to the importance of agriculture—which has been neglected, I fear, in the current crop of millennium development goals—and inclusive growth as a necessary precondition for jobs and the reduction of poverty.
My experience of growing up in Africa as the grandson of two African farmers—we should never forget that women play a greater role in agriculture in Africa than do men—has taught me, as has my experience outside this House in Africa, that in order to bring about the “profound transformation” to end extreme poverty and improve livelihoods, to which the report refers, it is necessary to do what it suggests: to harness innovation and technology to this end. The high-level panel is to be commended for that.
I ask the Minister—I warmly welcome him, as does the rest of the House, to his place—what can we do, what can DfID do, to support higher education, our research councils, our scientific bodies and our private sector in order to promote science, technology and innovation in Africa to underpin agriculture and agricultural growth.
If this report is a Christmas tree—and it is—it needs science, energy and infrastructure in order to bring it alight. Only with that can Africa fulfil its potential and the lion join the tigers as an engine of growth and prosperity, not only for Africa and Asia but for the whole world.
My Lords, I shall try to keep up that sequence.
In my view, the existing millennium development goals have been a success and not just a set of targets announced and forgotten. They have been a focus for development activities within the UN system and by bilateral donors. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, that we must not let up on them between now and 2015. I am sure that the Minister, whose appointment, like others, I warmly welcome, will give us some reassurance on that. They must be replaced by an effective set of goals for the years beyond that. I welcome the high-level panel’s report but the existing MDGs were successful in part because they were simple, relevant and memorable, and because there were only eight. I urge the Government to keep the new millennium development goals to a maximum of 12, and, if possible, fewer.
I have two specific comments. First, I am glad that sustainable development is at the core. However, I urge the Government to ensure that the renewed MDG process and the UN climate change process are consistent and not contradictory and that they reinforce and do not cut across each other. I would welcome reassurance on that. Secondly, I greatly welcome the first principle in the high-level panel’s report—“leave no one behind”. That is as true for richer countries as for poorer. Think of food banks for hungry children in our own country. It shows that there really is a global agenda here and no longer a “them and us”. Leaving no one behind does not mean a lower priority for growth, quite the contrary. It means a policy that ensures that in all countries the fruits of growth reach those who need it. Making certain that that happens is key for all of us in the years to 2030 and beyond.
My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for tabling the debate. The introduction of the millennium development goals in 2000 was greeted with enthusiasm by those involved in international development. A target-based programme designed to address poverty and exclusion in all their forms was a welcome step forward from disparate projects and unco-ordinated expenditure. The outcome document from the UN special event of 25 September this year, convened to review MDG progress and to chart a way forward, states:
“We will place a strong emphasis on all approaches that have a cross cutting and multiplier effect. In particular, we recognise that promoting gender equality, and empowering women and girls, underpins and advances progress across all the Goals. We will resolutely promote gender equality and eliminate the range of barriers to women and girls’ empowerment in our societies”.
This is welcome news. While this concept has been recognised by many for a considerable period of time, programmes which include this approach have been few and far between.
It also has to be recognised that progress will be made only if broad-sweep statements such as the one above are developed into detailed plans which themselves recognise that women’s moves towards equality are stymied and frustrated by systemic hurdles and barriers, many of which have been in place for years and which will be moved only by determination and by educating the men involved as to the value to be gained by the whole community. In part this will be achieved by enabling women to move into positions of influence. This could be at local level, playing a part in the determination of priorities, or regionally or nationally. Decision-making bodies from which women are excluded are most likely to contribute along a traditional path, with little attention being paid, for example, to healthcare or educational needs. Women’s influence on sharing resources is essential to outcomes beneficial to all.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lady, Baroness Jenkin, on setting out so well the background against which we all speak. I want to make two points in two minutes. First, leaving no one behind, or the UN Secretary-General’s version of it, a life of dignity for all, are absolutely wonderful ambitions. I draw attention to how this applies to disabled people. I do so in part as chair of Sightsavers, which deals with blind people. I am very well aware that too often disabled children and blind children in particular are left behind in our current MDGs. The crucial point here is not just the political will. It is also about the data and about gathering the data so that we know how these things are being applied not just to disabled people but to other minorities. What is the Government’s assessment of how these data can be collected and how well they can be collected over the next period?
My second point, following others, is that the MDGs in health have not been fully met. HIV/AIDS is not yet beaten. Child mortality is too high and maternal mortality is absolutely appalling in too many places. I ask the Government two things. First, what are they going to do to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the independent expert review group chaired by Joy Phumaphi and Richard Horton which is arguing for greater acceleration on progress to the health MDGs, particularly MDGs four and five at the moment? Secondly, how can the Governments of the world collectively ensure that the current MDGs are carried forward and progress continues to be made after 2015, as it will need to be?
I declare an interest as the former director of Oxfam and VSO, and also currently as a trustee of Saverworld. Congratulations are due to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, on having secured the debate and on her highly effective speech in introducing it. She established the need for a major debate in this House, preferably in government time, because this is such an important part of their commitments and strategies that we need to have a proper, full debate.
It is essential to recognise that we must ensure shared objectives. It is not us, the wealthy, telling the poor what to do, but ensuring that the poor themselves are involved in the ownership of the programme that is put forward and to which they are expected to respond and that they feel that it is theirs, not ours. It is is also recognising the interplay between specific targets and the matrix. What is the matrix? Let me rattle through the points to illustrate it: children and women, education, ecosystems and sustainable management of natural resources, climate change with the consequent vast movement of people, gaps in achieving MDGs within individual countries, and also the inequality and injustice in income levels between men and women, social groups and the able and disabled, universal public services, redistribution of wealth, effective and progressive tax systems, strengthening resilience and advancing human rights, sustainable peace and state building, conflict resolution, and analysing the causes of conflict. There is a huge list. We cannot possibly do it justice tonight. The sooner there is a full debate, the better.
My Lords, I join in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for introducing this short yet very topical debate. I agree with the noble Baroness that economic growth is a key enabler to reducing poverty. However, as several noble Lords have already mentioned, the goal of achieving sustainable development requires good governance, transparency and effective accountability. Development requires peace and peace requires sustainable economic development.
Continued rapid urbanisation in many developing countries poses problems of its own. It is estimated that in several African cities the population will treble in the next 35 years. That will have the inevitable result of the proliferation of squatter camps and displaced families. The recent global partnership report highlighted 12 goals to end poverty by 2030 but scant mention was made of what measures were being taken to improve effective communication. Measuring poverty continues to be a barrier to effective policy making. While more than 80% of Africans have access to a mobile telephone, less than 4% have access to reliable and affordable broadband. Africa is well serviced with undersea fibre optic cables but has totally inadequate connectivity to the mainland. My simple call today is for more measures to promote universal affordable broadband, which will by its very nature improve education, healthcare and job creation and ultimately reduce poverty.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, on securing this popular debate, which has been more like “Just a Minute” on Radio 4 than a debate.
The UN high-level panel report emphasises that future development should be sustainable. We must therefore ensure that we address the thorny problem of the growth of world population, which is leading to more and more poverty, conflict and migration. Bad press in the past makes us reluctant to mention it, but goals we set for development will never be achieved because the goal posts will have moved in the mean time, unless we do something about population growth. To tackle the problem, we can and must concentrate on the health and reproductive rights of women, ensuring for instance that the 220 million women with an unmet need for contraception have their needs met. If they can voluntarily—I repeat, voluntarily—limit their family size—and they will—they will then be able to access education and join in with economic activity in their own countries, which we know is key to development.
I implore the Minister to ensure that the Government build on the excellent initiative at the family planning summit last year and ensure that a target is set for universal access to sexual and reproductive rights and the continuing pursuit of women’s empowerment and gender equality. I feel passionately on this issue as a former family planning doctor and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health.
My Lords, I will go straight to what I believe—which the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, also seems to believe—is the most important part of the MDGs and an integral part of sustainable development: population dynamics and reproductive health. In the recent special event meeting in September, heads of state and government confirmed that they will target the existing most off-track MDGs and those where progress has stalled, such as,
“universal access to reproductive health, including maternal health”.
That wording again emphasises the importance of reproductive health, and confirms that the existing goals have not been forgotten.
For post-2015 goals in this field, there has been widespread advocacy of a stand-alone target on universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. Those in this field believe that sustainable development can only be underpinned by meeting the widely acknowledged, unmet need for reproductive health services and by giving women the choice in freely planning the size of their families. At the same time, it has to be acknowledged that another side of sustainable development is reflected in our western overconsumption and excesses. However, to put it rather simply at this stage, the benefits of family planning do not have to wait until levels of education have improved or stable economies are in place. As Marie Stopes International in particular has shown, reproductive health provision, if provided in the right way at any stage of development, can be successful and beneficial to all.
For the new goals and the debate over the coming months, the UN Population Fund has produced a short and highly readable document entitled The Future UNFPA Wants for All. This contains seven key points, each summarised in a few sentences, for the post-2015 development agenda. In the time available, I can only recommend it and say that it demonstrates, in so many ways, how population and reproductive health matters must be an integral part of sustainable development.
My Lords, I will not cover all the points that I wanted to in the two minutes available. However, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions and in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for initiating this debate—and I welcome the noble Lord, Lord Bates, to the Dispatch Box.
I welcome many of the recommendations in the high-level panel’s report, especially its focus on inequality of opportunities. However, its failure to recognise the marked increase in income inequality is concerning, as the right reverend Prelate mentioned. That was a major omission from the MDGs. Many leading economists believe that tackling inequality will be essential to achieving the goal of eradicating extreme poverty. However, despite this, the Government have refused to back measures to tackle it. Perhaps the Minister will assist the House by explaining the Government’s reticence to endorse such measures.
On gender equality, the suggested target to eliminate discrimination against women in political, economic and public life is a positive start. However, nothing will change if we do not focus on the means to increase women’s participation. On current rates of progress, women will not be equally represented in parliaments until 2065, and will not make up half the world’s leaders until 2134. Perhaps we can start by setting a better example in this country. Will the Minister therefore back calls for specific measures across all political parties, to increase the number of women candidates at the next general election, including all-women shortlists?
To conclude, I will focus on another issue that is of particular concern to me: economic inclusion. Two and a half billion people do not have access to basic financial services—an issue not featured in previous MDGs. I therefore welcome its inclusion as an indicator for goal 8 on inclusive growth and goal 2 on gender equality. Will the Minister, in responding to the debate, indicate that he will work hard to ensure that these indicators will make it into the final framework? Specifically, will he ensure that they will be discussed by UK officials at the open working group on sustainable development goals when it meets in November?
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. It has been an incredibly disciplined performance, which has allowed me more time to respond than I had anticipated. I will therefore try to respond to as many questions as possible.
I join noble Lords in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, for the way in which she introduced this debate and for her consistent support for this issue as the co-chair of Conservatives for International Development. The noble Baroness talked about my charity endeavours, but I seem to be for ever receiving e-mails from the noble Baroness about her charity endeavours, and I know that many other noble Lords have incredible track records as well. The noble Baroness spoke powerfully and knowledgeably about the issues and in particular highlighted what had happened already through the millennium development goals. Sometimes there is a certain cynicism about goals and targets. However, the fact that since 2000 we have seen the level of extreme poverty reduced by half and that 3 million fewer children under the age of five die each year is quite an extraordinary progression. Much has been done, but as the noble Baroness reminded us, much still needs to be done.
I also thank noble Lords for their warm welcome to me in this position. I was just reminded that exactly five years ago, when I came to this House, I made my maiden speech in a debate on the UN millennium development goals, and here I am making my maiden speech from the Government Front Bench on this same subject. I appreciate that, because when you look at those statistics—and remember that behind each of those statistics, as we were reminded, there are human beings—I can think of no more important issue before your Lordships’ House than this one.
The Government strongly welcome the report of the High Level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda. The members of the panel, including, of course, the Prime Minister, came with the very bold target of trying to eradicate poverty by 2030. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, talked about the need to tackle the root causes, as well as the symptoms, of poverty. Noble Lords will know that there is no record of a single conflict-affected country that has achieved one of these millennium development goals. We should therefore remember, as the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said so passionately, that there can be no development without peace—and there can probably be no sustained peace without development. It is very important to us to see those recognised in these millennium development goals.
The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, also referred to the importance of including women and girls, in particular, in the development targets, as they are critical to a whole range of cross-cutting measures to the reaching of wider goals. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred to gender parity. Again, we see that that is included in the proposed targets, and the goals to back them up. Specifically and rightly, it is focused on the need to have a target for reducing violence against women and girls. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made a very good point about the number of goals that are increasing, although the proposed targets beneath them are being reduced. This is, of course, a report to the UN General Assembly, so there will be a process through which they will be prioritised and sharpened. However, it was very important to get the maximum amount of consensus around what the targets needed to be. The noble Lord also pointed out that contributions and aid from EU member states had fallen because of the recession. What can the Government do about this? They can use persuasion; and in many areas of life the best way to lead is by example. Her Majesty’s Government, in being the first of the G8 to reach the 0.7% goal set out some 30 years ago, is leading in the right way.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds asked two very specific questions on climate change. Of course, on climate change we have in goal 7 the aim to secure sustainable energy, while goal 8 is to create jobs, sustainable livelihoods and equitable growth. The report highlighted some very important issues. One of the most staggering figures was that the bottom billion, to which we referred, consume 1% of the world’s resources, while the top billion consume 72%. It is therefore axiomatic that it is unsustainable. You can argue that you want wealth and prosperity to increase—and we do—but if it happened at that rate, there would be major problems. It is right, therefore, that there is a sustainable dimension to this. That a parallel track is going on here with the Rio+20 initiative is the big contribution. Linking them both together, I think, gives the right balance between development and the environment.
My noble friend Lord Patten spoke with great experience about the importance of businesses in this regard. I would say two things. First, the high-level panel took the approach of trying to include voices from business; 250 representations were received from businesses. This had to be part of a global partnership between NGOs, between businesses and between Governments. My noble friend will be aware that one of the key recommendations to come out of it was the golden thread argument that it all is dependent on economic growth, development and trade. I thought it was a very important point.
The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke from his immense experience in this area about Africa and agriculture and again referred to areas of innovation and technology. There is some good news here in the goals and specific targets, about how technology can be used to deliver the progress that we all seek and the contribution to the Global Fund. Of course, the global partnership will also help move towards this, as will higher education and science. The developed world can do this by attracting and inviting more students and making it possible for more students to benefit from world-class higher education.
Everywhere you look in this Chamber you see people who have been at the forefront of pursuing this agenda over many years. The noble Lord, Lord Jay, talked about the importance of climate change and development. I thought that he spoke very astutely, as a distinguished former Permanent Secretary, of ensuring that the two sides are actually joined up in their thinking as they move forward with their recommendations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Prosser, talked about the cross-cutting issues and in particular about empowerment for girls and women. Again, we see that set out in the second of the goals with a number of new proposals and targets, which I think will make progress in the area that we want.
The noble Lord, Lord Crisp, talked about disabled people and about the data collected. Data are one of the key elements in this. I was reading the excellent contribution from the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on Lords of the Blog about the quality of data in development. It is a very big issue. That is why there needs to be a partnership. It cannot just be down to the Governments to collect those data. There is a role for NGOs and civil society to provide data that can help us in measuring that.
The noble Lord, Lord Judd, has immense experience in this area from his time with Oxfam, which he mentioned. He talked about a number of things, probably the most important being that we need more time to discuss this. As a business manager as well as a Minister on this occasion, I cannot dodge that. I assure the noble Lord that I will take up that issue and perhaps through the usual channels come back with more time for us to debate this.
The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, talked about the importance of internet connectivity. This is absolutely critical. Mobile telephony has transformed prospects in the developed world through banking and communication. The same could be done through the extension of smart grids, efficient transport, storm-water management, energy-efficient buildings and particularly broadband and internet connection. That is a point very well made.
My noble friend Lady Tonge referred to the importance of population. Of course, when the original millennium development Goals were set out, there were 1 billion fewer people on the planet. If those goals are to be achieved, they will have to be achieved at a time when there will be another 1 billion, by 2030. That is why the provisions on access to sexual and reproductive health measures in the report are so important and why the Government are committed to try to see them through to reality. The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, made the same point about population. This is absolutely at the core of what we are talking about.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins—I thank him for welcoming me to the Dispatch Box—talked about the importance of us leading by example in appointing more women candidates and having a greater role for women in this country. I totally agree that that is very important. Probably the best thing that I can say in the Government Benches’ favour is to point to my noble friend Lady Jenkin, who secured this Question for Short Debate; not only has she worked in international development, she has done so much to get more women engaged at the highest level of government.
This has been a very important debate. There have been some immensely strong contributions and, going forward, we can reflect on what has been done, which is substantial in real lives and real progress. We can also be excited by those striving goals of seeking to eradicate poverty within this generation; that will be historic, and we will all have played our part.