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Prosperity Fund: Sustainable Development Goals

Volume 795: debated on Thursday 7 February 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the Cross-Government Prosperity Fund is being used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

My Lords, the prosperity fund’s primary purpose is to contribute to the UN sustainable development goals by addressing barriers to growth, most relevantly, but not exclusively, SDG 8—promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth. Programmes undertake robust design and assurance processes demonstrating how they meet this purpose. Each has a clear reporting indicator linking to the goals, and external contractors carry out rigorous monitoring and evaluation. The prosperity fund is also contributing towards the UK’s SDG voluntary national review.

I thank the noble Baroness for that response, but the simple fact is that the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, the International Development Committee in the other place and many NGOs have raised the fact that the prosperity fund is failing adequately to focus on supporting economic development that contributes to poverty reduction. Can the noble Baroness tell the House exactly how the Government are addressing the concerns of both ICAI and the IDC?

As I have already said, the prosperity fund’s main focus is to support economic development, and in doing so we hope and are determined that this will have a big impact in reducing poverty. Extreme poverty has been reduced by 50% due to the increased focus on trade and economic growth, and while with aid we must help people in terrible conditions, we believe that by investing in activities which drive economic growth is the best way to reduce poverty and increase economic growth.

My Lords, sustainable development goals 2 and 3 are to end, or reduce to zero, hunger and to promote good health and well-being. Every report lately has pointed to the increased food insecurity among so many people. We currently have 4 million kids who are not sure if they are going to get a decent meal today. What are the Government doing to address these incredibly important goals in SDGs 2 and 3?

The noble Baroness raises a very important point. Nobody wants to see children starve, and our aid budget and the agencies that we work with—the NGOs—are doing everything they can to get food to these children to ensure they do not struggle in this way.

My Lords, that is one of the clearest answers we have had yet from Ministers on the link between these funds and the sustainable development goals, and I welcome it. But will the Government take the opportunity, during the UK’s voluntary national review to the United Nations this summer, to publish that detail in terms of monitoring and evaluation of these expenditures in relation to the goals? Will it do so not just for the prosperity fund but for the other funds that are being spent by departments outside of DfID?

The noble Lord raises a very important point. Transparency is critical, and I do not believe there is any desire not to be transparent on these matters. The CSSF is working hard to increase transparency and has made major progress. Over the past 18 months, the CSSF has listened to feedback and worked on publishing more information on its programmes, its objectives and how its programmes are performing. I have no doubt that if the noble Lord still does not think we are up to scratch, he will let us know.

My Lords, how far do the Government see prosperity and sustainability as going together or as different and sometimes contradictory goals? I am conscious that, as climate change sweeps across the developing world, there may be water shortages. For example, I saw an estimate recently that several million people in Iran are going to have to move because of water shortages as the water table goes down. How much attention is being paid to the really difficult sustainability issues which so many developing countries now face from climate change?

The UK’s aid investment is creating a safer, healthier and more prosperous world, but on the point of sustainability I feel I may do best by gleaning some more information and writing to the noble Lord to make sure I have got it correct.

My Lords, the website for the fund also states that it has programmes to tackle barriers to prosperity for certain excluded groups, particularly rural women, young people and people with disabilities. Will the Minister please outline how the fund is being used to tackle the barriers to prosperity that exist for many minority religious or belief groups, who face high or very high levels of discrimination in over two-thirds of the countries in which DfID seeks to work?

The answer to that question is perhaps a cross-departmental range of activities. My noble friend Lord Ahmad is working on freedom of religion, and a great deal is going on to ensure that women and children are helped to achieve their potential so that they can play their full role in the countries where they live.

My Lords, the sustainable development goals are there to eliminate world poverty. The poorest people in the world have to be brought to a point at which they can play their part in the world economy. This is why aid is so important in building up their self-sustaining ability to play that part. If British industry and investment can play a role in this, good, but does the Minister not agree that the top priority within the 0.7% context is always to keep our eye on the poorest and how they might be brought to the point at which they can play a part in the world economy?

I am very happy to confirm to the noble Lord that it is the poorest that we want to help. We want to help them in their development and their recovery from their poverty. While 97% of this fund goes to aid, a small proportion of it gets invested in projects which help people in creating jobs, creating better homes for them and creating for them a better life. All I know is that some of these poorest people have a deep history of pain and being very uncomfortable, and this fund will give them a destiny rather than a history.