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International Development: Aid Distribution

Volume 801: debated on Thursday 6 February 2020


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure that aid is directed by the Department for International Development to the most vulnerable.

My Lords, through UK aid we are firmly committed to leaving no one behind and supporting the poorest and most vulnerable. We are global leaders in disability inclusion and gender equality. Our Global Disability Summit in 2018 has driven real change, as has our mission to ensure that girls all across the world access 12 years of quality education. Over half of DfID’s funding goes to the most fragile and conflict-affected states, where the poorest are the most vulnerable in the world.

I thank the Minister for her Answer. As she will know, our policy sets out four objectives of aid. The first has to do with security and good governance, the last with supporting the most vulnerable and impoverished communities in the world. Will she perhaps consider whether the emphasis in recent years has swung too far from the fourth, helping the most impoverished, to the first? To take one example that happened to catch my eye, in Nigeria the biggest grant went to help elections, with the success of that judged by how many people voted. Meanwhile, Nigeria has 100 million people with no access to sanitation and 60 million with no access to improved drinking water. Will she consider whether it might be better to channel more aid through NGOs working on the ground with local communities, particularly smaller NGOs? This might be a better way of reaching the most vulnerable.

My Lords, on supporting elections, of course it is incredibly important to support democracy and the rule of law around the world, and we will continue to do so. We are committed to spending 0.7% of our gross national income on international development. Of course, we always consider how that money should best be spent and how we can spend it more effectively and efficiently. We will continue to do so in order to support the poorest and most vulnerable.

My Lords, among the most vulnerable groups, of course, are women and girls trafficked from conflict zones or perhaps affected by extreme weather events who suddenly become very vulnerable at short notice. Many of those women and girls end up trying to cross the Mediterranean, either through the Turkey-Greece route or the Libya-Italy route, to safety in Europe. Following our departure from the European Union at the end of last week, can the Government guarantee that they will continue to work with European partners to ensure safer routes for migration and safer outcomes for those many women and girls from across north-east Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere who end up in that situation?

My Lords, gender equality is and will continue to be a top development priority. Girls and women across the world are held back by systematic and entrenched inequality and discrimination; the noble Lord raised some specific examples. Despite leaving the European Union, we will of course continue to work with our friends in Europe to ensure that these girls and women are kept safe.

My Lords, I co-chair the APPG on Nutrition for Growth. As my noble friend will be aware, malnutrition adversely affects young girls, children and women. Will she assure me that the upcoming Tokyo summit will be funded and that we will continue our leadership role in this key area?

My Lords, the UK is a leading player in global health and nutrition forms a big part of that. We recently had debates on its importance. We continue to support the Government of Japan in organising the Tokyo summit and we will play a leading role in it.

My Lords, the Minister said to the Chamber last week that 90% of the world’s most extreme poor would be living in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. That is why the Government’s announcement in August 2018 that the UK would be the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022 was such a significant target. Without any announcement, that target has been dropped and replaced by language, as the Minister said last week, about being “impactful” or, as in the report of the UK-Africa Investment Summit, an “investor of choice”. If global Britain is to mean anything, it must be that our word is our bond to the world’s most vulnerable. I ask the Minister a very simple question: why has this target been dropped?

My Lords, on climate, we have announced the doubling of our UK international climate finance to help developing countries turn the tide against climate change. We will host COP 26 in Glasgow. Much of that support will be going to African nations that will be badly affected. We held the UK-Africa Investment Summit a couple of weeks ago, which underlines the importance we give to our relationship with Africa, and we will continue to do so.

My Lords, turning back to the Question, I recognise what the Minister said about DfID’s strategy and responsibility, but we know that an increasing amount of ODA is going to other departments, in particular to the FCO. Is she satisfied that that increasing amount, which is now approaching 20% of ODA, meets the standards of ensuring that no one is left behind? The noble Lord is absolutely right: this Government sometimes get their priorities wrong.

My Lords, as I said, we are fully committed to the 0.7% target. The noble Lord is right that we spend the majority of our ODA money within DfID, but other departments spend it too, and do very good work in developing countries. It is of course important that DfID works alongside the FCO, BEIS and other departments that spend ODA money to ensure that it is being used to best effect.

My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that it is disturbing that a number of Commonwealth countries do not measure up to the standards that we would all wish to see? Particularly since we have separated ourselves from our European partners, can there be more co-ordination with our Commonwealth partners? We must work ever more closely with them and they must measure up to the higher standards.

My Lords, the Commonwealth is an incredibly important partnership for us. We are currently Chair-in-Office after hosting the Heads of Government meeting here in London, and obviously we will be attending the Kigali Heads of Government meeting later this year. I agree with my noble friend that we must use these relationships to promote the values we want to see around the world.