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International Development

Volume 624: debated on Thursday 20 April 2017

In a world of serious threats to UK and global stability, Britain’s leadership on the world stage is more important than ever. When we look around the world today, people are drowning on perilous migration routes. Children are dying from preventable diseases while drug-resistant infections are brewing that threaten us here at home. Violence and conflict are pulling people back into poverty.

As we exit the EU, Britain will be more, not less, outward-looking and engaged on the world stage. Intensifying our efforts as a global leader in international development is a crucial part of this. A safer and more prosperous world, supported by our international development work, is firmly in the UK’s interest.

Our humanitarian leadership helps Britain stand tall in the world. Since the beginning of the year we have faced the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations. Now, more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine.

The UK is a world leader on humanitarian responses and today I am announcing that the UK will increase funding to tackle humanitarian crises in both Yemen and Nigeria for this coming year. We will lead the world in supporting famine stricken areas by stepping up our emergency assistance.

The UN has described the situation in Yemen as

“the largest food security emergency in the world”

and last month declared that the country is now on the brink of famine. We will provide £139 million for Yemen for financial year 2017-18, an increase of £27 million on the £112 million delivered by the UK last year.

UK support will provide life-saving aid to hundreds of thousands of desperate people, in recognition of the scale of the current crisis which has left some 19 million Yemenis—two thirds of the population—in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

Nigeria is one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises. More than 20,000 people have been killed there since the start of Boko Haram’s violent insurgency in 2009 and millions more are in need of food, water and shelter. The UK was one of the first on the ground to respond to the humanitarian crisis in north-east Nigeria. Last year alone we reached over a million people with food and provided 34,000 children suffering from malnutrition with life-saving treatment.

We continue to lead this challenge by increasing our support this year to £100 million, making the UK the largest donor in 2017. Last year (2016), we provided around £70 million for emergency food, shelter and health care for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram’s violent insurgency. The funding will assist the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and international NGOs to reach the most vulnerable people displaced by Boko Haram:

Over 1 million people will receive food assistance.

60,000 children will be treated for severe acute malnutrition.

Clean water will be provided for over 530,000 people.

At least 100,000 children will gain access to education.

The humanitarian needs in 2017 are unprecedented. More than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine. In Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, we see ambulances being used as car-bombs; girls stolen as sex slaves; children made to conduct executions; barrel bombs being dropped among civilians. The UK will continue to speak out against these outrages, and stand up for respect for the rules of war and for basic humanitarian principles.

This is why Britain pledged £110 million of UK aid to provide up to 1 million people in Somalia with emergency food assistance, over 600,000 starving children and pregnant and breastfeeding women with nutritional help, 1 million people with safe drinking water, and more than 1.1 million people with emergency health services. In South Sudan, where 7.5 million people are in need of assistance after famine was declared, the UK was one of the first major donors to confirm our response to a UN appeal, announcing £100 million of support less than 24 hours after the appeal was launched. This will provide: food for over 500,000 people; life-saving nutritional support to more than 27,500 children, and safe drinking water for over 300,000 people.

The UK is at the forefront of the humanitarian response to the Syria crisis, providing life-saving support to millions, supporting refugees to remain in countries in the region and enabling their hosts to accommodate them. The crisis in Syria is the UKs largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis.

The £2.46 billion provided to Syria and the region since 2012 has provided nearly 25 million food rations, over 9.5 million relief packages and over 7 million health consultations.

We co-hosted the “Supporting Syria and the Region” conference in London in February 2016, which secured the largest amount of pledges ever in one day for a humanitarian crisis. On 4 and 5 April this year, we co-hosted the Brussels conference on the “Future of Syria and the Region”, which secured pledges of $9.7 billion.

I am pleased to announce the UK will pledge an additional £75 million, as part of our Brussels commitment, to help kick start economic growth and create jobs in Lebanon and Jordan over the next three years. These funds will leverage up to £250 million of concessional finance from multilateral development banks, including through the global concessional financing facility.

As the global migration crisis has made clear, the challenges facing the international development system in the 21st century go beyond anything witnessed before. More than ever, the world needs strong global institutions and leadership for today and for the future. The UK is a founding member of many of the world’s leading international organisations and we remain deeply committed to the spirit and values of the international system.

The UK will continue to champion an open, modern and innovative approach to development and will use our leading position to build a coalition for reform of the global aid system so that it is ready for the challenges of the 21st century. We are promoting investment in the poorest countries, helping them to get on the road to industrialisation. We are driving progress on economic development and working with businesses to stimulate investment in the world’s most difficult frontier markets, where jobs and economic opportunities are desperately needed. In the long run, it is sustainable growth, trade and investment that will provide a sustainable route to poverty reduction. Defeating poverty is a joined-up effort across the whole of Government including using the opportunity of leaving the EU to free up trade with the world’s poorest.

I also would like to update the House on how we are reforming UK aid to maximise its impact by driving new standards and outcomes. DFID’s economic development strategy sets out how Britain will establish new trade, investment and economic links and end global poverty. The multilateral development review spells out how we are raising the bar, requiring more of our partners, by following the money, people and outcomes. The bilateral development review confirms how DFID is reforming the entire global development system to tackle the global challenges of our time.

As a key part of this, my ministerial team and I have conducted a detailed line-by-line review of every programme in DFID’s portfolio, either already approved or in design phase. Each of these programmes has been scrutinised on the basis of their value for money and their strategic fit with the Government’s priorities for global Britain. The savings from programmes which will not continue will be recycled to fund better value programmes aligned to our priorities, while still delivering our planned results and commitments.

In the 2015 spending review the Government announced plans to make over £400 million of efficiency savings by 2019-20. DFID will save closer to £500 million in this period, through reform of procurement and commercial practices, estates, IT and departmental pay. These changes are included in the Department’s ambitious new value for money “Agenda for Action”.

In addition, a comprehensive review of DFID’s management and relationship with suppliers is under way. This review will drive greater transparency and efficiencies from DFID’s suppliers through new codes of practice and contractual obligations; more competition, innovation and choice in our supplier market; and increased transparency of fees and costs throughout our supply chain.

These bold measures will drive value for money without compromising our commitment to being a global leader in international development. In 2015-16, it is estimated that DFID supported:

The immunisation of approximately 20 million children, saving 250,000 lives: we are on track to meet DFID’s commitment of immunising 76 million and saving 1.4 million lives.

Reaching 13.3 million children under 5, women of childbearing age and adolescent girls through our nutrition-relevant programmes; on track to meet DFID’s commitment of 50 million.

5.9 million women from 2012 to 2015, and 1 million women in 2015-16, to use modern methods of family planning. This gives a total of 6.9 million for the period 2012-16; on track to meet DFID’s commitment of 24 million between 2012 and 2020.

3.1 million children to gain a decent education; on track to meet DFID’s commitment of 11 million.

11.3 million people to access clean water and/or better sanitation; on track to meet DFID’s commitment of 60 million.

UK taxpayers can be equally proud of our record on humanitarian response: in 2015-16 we reached 5.1 million people, including 1.6 million women and girls.

Our support has been life-saving and life-changing, as shown by DFID’s leadership of the international response to Ebola in Sierra Leone. The British response to Ebola in 2015 was an example of Britain’s development impact and influence. Experts from DFID co-ordinated a joined-up effort across Government, bringing together the best of British expertise to defeat that disease.

UK aid is being focused on where the need is greatest—from fragile and conflict-riven states that need help the most urgently, to protecting lives, reducing poverty, and working with Governments who receive our aid to get them to step up and take responsibility for investing in their own people. When we invest in stability, jobs and livelihoods, and sound governance, we address the root causes of problems that affect us here in the UK. It is not in our national interest to simply sit on our hands and wait until these problems reach breaking point or find their way to our doorstep.

This is where our aid budget, along with our world-class defence and diplomacy, acts not only in the interests of the world’s poorest, but also in Britain’s long-term national interest.