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Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme

Volume 787: debated on Monday 18 December 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme.

My Lords, DfID has monitored and assessed the disasters and emergencies preparedness programme through annual reviews, which are publicly available, and an external evaluation was conducted. Based on this information, the core part of the programme will run its course and end in March 2018, as planned, and the innovation window will run its course and end in March 2019, again, as planned.

I thank the Minister for his response, but does he agree that the disasters and emergencies preparedness programme has shown that investing in preparing for humanitarian disasters is a lot more effective than responding in a hurry? I am glad that he has cleared up some of the confusion about when the programme will end. What might be replacing this very cost-effective programme?

The noble Baroness is right: UNICEF and the World Food Programme have identified that every £1 spent in preparedness can save £2 in humanitarian assistance. It is absolutely right that we are spending approximately £175 million this year on resilience and prevention programmes. We looked at the specific DEPP programme she mentions. It was very complex in how it delivered. The overheads were quite high at about 25%. We have said that we would like to take a good look at it again to see whether we can deliver a more effective programme, but our commitment to preparedness and humanitarian intervention remains absolutely the same.

My Lords, the key feature is that the World Humanitarian Summit said that this a priority area. Irrespective of the outcomes of the specific programme, how will DfID approach this subject in its priorities? Will it comply with the World Humanitarian Summit and develop programmes? Tell us exactly how we will continue to make the savings that he described.

We will certainly do that and comply with the Grand Bargain—we were a driving force behind it. That is why we have set out that preparedness and resilience ought to be a key part of the UN’s mission. We have said that and withheld a proportion of its core funding to ensure that it lives up to it. That is also why we are the largest contributor to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the central emergency relief fund. We recognise the importance of that and will continue to live up to our obligations.

My Lords, I think the Minister said that the programme will end in March 2018—in other words, in a few months. How many of their 45 NGO partners in this programme have the Government consulted, and did they consult them in writing or orally? Finally, I understand that the external evaluation was conducted by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. Is that report available for public assessment? If not, when can we expect to see it?

On the last point about the Harvard review, yes, we have it on DevTracker, which is a website for all contracts: all the reports are listed there. On the 45 NGOs that play an important part in delivery, DfID chairs that committee, so they were informed at the meeting in October or November. We underscored our commitment to this area and the significant amount of money we are putting in to humanitarian response, but also underlined to them our concern about some of the overhead costs that might be attributed to the complexity of the scheme as it currently stands.

My Lords, will my noble friend take back to his department and the whole DfID team that the loss of Rebecca Dykes in these circumstances is felt very deeply? Can we pay tribute to the work that she and all the DfID team do, often in very dangerous circumstances, particularly at this time of year, for humanitarian purposes?

We can certainly do that. It is obviously a very distressing time for Becky’s family but also for the people who worked with her. It reminds us of the sacrifice made by over 1,200 DfID personnel who work around the world, often in the most difficult and dangerous environments. The family have asked that we respect their privacy at this time and allow the facts to be established. We will of course recognise that wish.

My Lords, as the Minister will know, disasters and emergencies happen in the UK as well. Has he looked at what would happen to the Isles of Scilly, which are served by one 40 year-old ferry half the year round, if something happened to that ferry? What might be the contingency plans?

The noble Lord has caught me out. I did not have the Isles of Scilly in my brief. If he had gone for Antigua and Barbuda, I would have been able to answer him. I am happy to look into that and respond to his question.