Thursday 28th April 2011

(13 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To call attention to those living in extreme poverty in the developing world; and to move for papers.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to call attention to those living in extreme poverty in the developing world. I also welcome in advance the contributions that will be made to this debate from a wide range of noble Lords; I look forward to hearing from them.

There were a number of reasons for calling for this debate at this time. Next week, an innovative campaign will be supported by a number of noble Lords called Live Below the Line. I will say something about that later. Next month, the annual G8 summit will meet, and last month the strategic review of UK aid was published by the coalition Government. Those would be reasons enough to hold a debate at this time, but there are also 1.4 billion individual reasons for having a debate on extreme poverty in the developing world. It is surely a disgrace and a moral outrage that, more than one decade into the 21st century, the existence of those 1.4 billion reasons to debate extreme poverty is still with us.

Extreme poverty is not about choosing between a hot meal and a cold meal; it is not about choosing between a hot drink and a cold drink; it is not about choosing between going to the cinema or having a night in with a DVD; it is not about choosing between a day out with the kids or buying them some clothes. Extreme poverty is about not having those or, sometimes, any choices at all. The daily reality of extreme poverty is that if your relatives become sick overnight you may have to choose in the morning between feeding your children that day or finding the relative medical care. It is about having more than one, perhaps many, talented children and having to choose which of them completes primary school or enters secondary school. It is about, when you need a drink, being faced with the choice of drinking contaminated water and risking disease. It is because of those choices—that absence of choice—that extreme poverty should appear on our agenda today.

The World Bank estimates, and others now accept, that 1.4 billion people live on less than £1 a day across the world. Of those, as documented by Paul Collier and others, perhaps 1 billion—the bottom billion—experience that extreme poverty in conditions where their situation may be permanent. They could be trapped in conflict or in landlocked states where, through the misuse of natural resources or poor governance, they are sent into a cycle of despair and permanent poverty that needs international as well as national action to tackle it.

Next week, some members of this House will take part in an innovative campaign organised by the Global Poverty Project—an organisation on whose advisory board I am pleased to sit—called Live Below the Line. The Global Poverty Project seeks to abolish extreme poverty within a generation. It wishes to keep alive the spirit of the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005 but to deepen and widen that movement for change to involve many more people the world over in a movement that will finally eradicate extreme poverty. Live Below the Line is an awareness and fund-raising campaign. It involves a number of partners with the Global Poverty Project. It is supported by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, the shadow Secretary of State for International Development and many others.

I am delighted to be supporting the campaign. I am not too delighted by the prospect of living on less than £1 a day for food and drink for five days, starting on Saturday. I suspect that soup, some good old Scottish recipes and tap water are likely to be the order of the day for me over my May bank holiday weekend. I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise funds for the Global Poverty Project and for an organisation called Positive Women, which is successfully carrying out projects for women—who, as I think we all now recognise, are the real change-makers in the developing world—in Swaziland, supporting income-generation projects and projects on education and the encouragement of rights, and wishes to expand that work into Malawi, a country dear to my heart and which would benefit from its work. Both of those charities are small, growing and have low overheads, and I am delighted to give them my support. I suspect that it would be improper for me to encourage noble Lords to sponsor me in this effort, but I ask them to pay particular attention to the letter that the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and I circulated to all noble Lords during the Easter recess.

I want to address three points in particular. The first is the need for continued and sustained international action; the second is the UK’s aid review; and the third concerns conflict. Over the past decade or so, the UK has certainly led the way internationally on international aid and development. There is now cross-party support in this country for the target of 0.7 per cent of national income going to overseas development assistance. We must continue not just to stick to that commitment here in the United Kingdom but to take a lead in the international arena. A decade ago, the world met at the millennium summit and said clearly and unanimously:

“We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty … We resolve further:

To halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world’s people whose income is less than one dollar a day”.

The MDGs that resulted from that summit covered education, schooling, health and vaccination, maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS, the environment, economic growth and jobs. Crucially, millennium development goal 1 was that commitment to halve extreme poverty by 2015. The world may be on course to achieve that, but that trajectory is now threatened by the financial crisis of 2008 and the economic conditions facing much of the developed world today. I would argue that now is not the time to withdraw from that commitment or to stand back; now is the time to step up and ensure that, out of the current economic conditions, we create a fair world and one which is better ready to meet the real challenges of the 21st century.

The G8 in 2005 responded positively to the Make Poverty History campaign, probably the first truly global campaign, which argued for a significant increase in international aid and the cancellation of debt. Arising from the decisions made that summer was, first, the multilateral debt relief initiative, which saw the cancellation of debt for countries that were budgeting properly and had good financial plans for the future, and a promise of £50 billion extra aid to the poorest countries of the world. There was great hope at the time, particularly in Scotland where I was First Minister, that the events at Gleneagles had been a step change in the way the world would come together to tackle extreme poverty. But it has to be noted today that the commitments made then are not being met by all those who stepped up to the mark in July 2005, particularly in the European Union. Too many member states are not just withdrawing from those commitments but are indeed reducing their commitments to those in need elsewhere.

I do not think that that is acceptable, for the reason that the tackling of extreme poverty is not hopeless. We know that aid works and that, in the past decade alone, 50 million more African children now go to school and more than 5 million child deaths have been avoided by the kind of investment we have seen being made by the international community in African nations the length and breadth of the continent. We have seen improvements in governance and institutions—not enough, but there are improvements. We see constant improvements in levels of vaccination and maternity care and constant improvements in the provision of clean water.

We know that the long-term solutions are indeed those of better aid, better quality aid and greater quantities of it, as well as fairer trade through changes in the trade rules and the encouragement of fairer trade practices and better governance. We know what the solutions are and there is no reason why, if we pull together, we cannot achieve the goal through these different mechanisms and policies. Over the past fortnight we have seen publicity about food waste, which in this country alone amounts to £10 billion every year. Across the world, some £37 billion is spent on bottled water each year. We know that the resources exist for us to help tackle this problem in a sustained way.

My first point today is that the poor, particularly the extremely poor in the developing world, must not pay for the excesses of the rich and for the failure of governance that has occurred in the developed world over the past decade and more. Another point that I think the UK should raise at the G8 summit is the issue of tax avoidance. Tax revenues are the most sustainable source of development finance. It has been estimated by Christian Aid and others that some £160 billion could be raised in the developing world if measures were taken by the international community to tackle tax avoidance, ensure greater transparency of company profits, and thus increase taxation revenues. I hope that the UK Government might respond to that and other points in advance of and at both the G8 and the G20 summits this year.

I welcome the UK Government’s aid review. It is right that, after a decade of such investment in international aid by the United Kingdom, we should review the specific projects and the organisations that are being supported. I welcome the Government’s commitment to the 0.7 per cent target. I welcome the commitment to educating girls. I welcome the commitment to tackle conflict. I also welcome the contribution being made to a number of countries, not least Malawi in which, as I said earlier, I have a particular interest.

I would also like the Minister to respond today to a few points in areas of concern that arise out of the strategy that we have not had a chance to debate in the Chamber before now. First, with the increasing commitment to health initiatives which I understand have immediate short-term benefits, does that mean the deprioritisation of commitments to education, which in my view is the most significant long-term investment we can make for growth and tackling poverty, as well as good health, in the developing world? Can the Minister give us some reassurance that those countries that will miss out on UK aid as a result of the review will continue to receive support from the European Union, and that we will play our part in ensuring that that aid is used effectively in places like Burundi, which as it emerges from conflict is at a crucial stage in its development?

In relation to conflict, I mentioned Burundi as one of the best examples of the impact of conflict in the developing world. The change and the difference in Burundi and Burkina Faso over the past 20 years are marked. These countries, which were at a relatively similar stage and trajectory of development, have seen a huge gap develop between them as a result of the impact of conflict in Burundi. It has happened in other countries too. We know that conflict, and particularly civil war within a country, can knock back development by around 20 years. So it is my view that tackling conflict, conflict resolution, building a sustainable peace, may be the most difficult but is certainly the most significant and important development challenge of our time. Because it is hard and difficult, we need to try even harder. I would welcome some information from the Minister today on when the Government’s stabilisation strategy might be coming forward, and when we will get a chance to debate the way ahead.

It is certainly the case that if you live in a conflict afflicted country, you are three times more likely to be affected by HIV/AIDS and that in our world today, some 26 million people are still displaced as a result of conflict despite the fact that cross-border conflicts have reduced in number. Life expectancy is lower, child deaths are higher, and of course unemployment is higher and growing businesses is much more difficult. If we are to meet the MDGs, we must first address the causes of conflict. For humanitarian reasons as well as for our interdependent interests, helping to develop stable and successful states has to be a priority in our development work.

Living below the line is a daily reality for 1.4 billion people the world over. Next week, some of us will experience just a little part of that existence. We will not have to live properly below the line in the way that hundreds of millions have to all over the world, but we will bring something to the level of awareness in this country and, hopefully, something to the charities we are supporting. I welcome the opportunity to debate these issues today and I look forward to the contributions of other Members. I beg to move.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington
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My Lords, I would like to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, both for securing this debate today and for his campaigning work on this issue for many years, particularly during his time as First Minister of Scotland. He and I first ran into each other during a television debate when fighting seats we did not win in Scotland in 1987, an extremely uncomfortable experience for me to say the least. I doubt that either expected that 25 years on we would both be in this place or working together on the advisory board of the Global Poverty Project. It is a pleasure to follow him.

We are all here in the Chamber because we care about this issue. It is the reason that the noble Lord and I will be joining thousands of others across the world who are supporters of the Global Poverty Project by participating in the challenge to “live below the line” for five days next week. To quote the Prime Minister’s words of encouragement to us all:

“Live Below The Line is a great opportunity for thousands of people to engage with the challenge of world poverty and to raise awareness of the abject conditions in which too many people still live. I hope as many people as possible will sign up, and become passionate about the fight to end poverty”.

In my case, I will be raising money for Restless Development, the youth-focused development agency of which I am a patron, but others will be supporting other partners in this campaign, Think Global, Salvation Army, Christian Aid and Results UK, as well as Positive Women, which the noble Lord supports.

I hope that many noble Lords will visit us in the temporary lunchtime soup kitchen that we will be running here next week for those in Parliament who will be living below the poverty line. I am delighted to be able to tell you that the Lord Speaker is not only taking part in the challenge herself, but has kindly agreed that we can use the River Room kitchen for our communal, though meagre, lunches next week. I am known in my own family as the queen of soups and leftovers, but I have never before knowingly fed them lunch for 40p, which is what I will be doing for colleagues next week. Obviously none of us can ever truly know what it must be like to survive on £1 a day, every single day, but I hope that the challenge here and across the country will help us in some small way to understand it better, and in the process raise money for worthwhile causes.

In a world where over 1.4 billion people will go to bed hungry tonight, it must sicken us, as the noble Lord pointed out in his remarks, that Defra has calculated that here in the UK we will throw away more than £10 billion-worth of food this year. The contrast between our profligacy with the thought of others not eating at all should shame us. Live Below the Line is one way in which we are seeking to raise and highlight the issue and, in some small way, to address the injustice.

How can we best fight extreme poverty? We should be thinking about how we can best support people to obtain individual freedom, how their potential can be unleashed by Governments working for and not against them, and we should give communities the chance to trade their way out of poverty. To do that, communities need access to the basics, in order to achieve the millennium development goals, but they must also go much further: communities capable of fighting corruption must be supported; trade barriers must be broken down; microfinance must be encouraged; and new educated middle classes should be created. This is why I am an enthusiastic supporter of organisations, like Restless Development, that work with young people in some of the most deprived areas of the world to help to develop their potential. With more than half of the populations of the world's poorest countries under the age of 25, we have an opportunity to see a new generation that can stand up and demand more of their Governments, start new businesses and grow their economies.

We in the UK have a role to play. All political parties have supported the commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income as aid from 2013 and I especially welcome the Secretary of State's focus on transparency and value for money and DfID's focus on the development of small businesses as the engine for economic growth. The UK is leading the way in each of these areas, becoming the first country in the world to publish aid information to the standards of the International Aid Transparency Initiative; undertaking a root-and-branch review of all British aid spending through DfID country offices and international organisations like the UN to ensure effectiveness and results from our aid spending; and making plans to provide more than 50 million people with the means to help work their way out of poverty.

As we seek to grow enterprise, we must not lose sight of those who are excluded from opportunities in their communities. All too often, as the noble Lord pointed out, it is women who are left out. Women make up half of the world's population and do roughly two-thirds of the world's work, and yet even today it is thought that they may earn as little as 10 per cent of the world's income. The Government's new strategic vision that places girls and women at the heart of their development work is to be applauded. Not only will this focus on the pillars that so affect their lives, such as safe pregnancy and childbirth, economic assets, schooling and violence against women, but it will also mean working towards a positive, enabling environment in terms of women's political empowerment and legal rights.

The issue of empowerment is not a matter of political correctness, but it is absolutely fundamental to this debate. Experience proves that it is the most effective development tool available to us. Women, who look after their families and look after their children, want their daughters to be educated as well as their sons. If a mother has access to microfinance and can start her own business, the stability of the family is secured, even if her husband is involved in tribal conflict or the drugs trade.

I also welcome the forthcoming replenishment round for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations, known as GAVI, which the Government are hosting in June. If the international community comes together, GAVI will be able to vaccinate 250 million children and save 4 million lives. For just the price of a cup of coffee we can vaccinate a child against five killer childhood diseases.

Live Below the Line is one way of standing up for what we think is right in the world. In addition to the soup kitchen, next week the Lord Speaker will host an event in the River Room on Wednesday evening to which you are all most welcome. We cannot offer noble Lords lavish canapés, or even a glass of wine, but please join us at that event to learn more, or over lunch on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, and share with us our 33p or 40p meal.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port
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My Lords, I am more than grateful for the fact that this matter has been brought before us for debate. Sometimes, as I sit on these Benches listening to the discussion of various pieces of legislation, I feel that I would like all of them checked out for how they impact on poor people, a kind of conditioning criteria by which we may judge the humaneness of the legislation produced by these Houses of Parliament. I am also delighted that a debate on extreme poverty comes before us like this, but I would want to check the abstract Latinate noun “poverty” against the poor people who constitute, as a phenomenon, the noun in question. I come from a crucible of abject poverty and have spent quite a lot of my adult life living among the poorest people in the world, so I cannot come to a debate like this without some kind of imagination filled with real examples on the issue.

I start by saying how personal the subject is to me just now. Our only daughter married a lovely Cambodian boy whose father, on the way home from school at the age of 15, was forcibly recruited into Pol Pot’s army in Cambodia. He spent the next three and a half years indoctrinated and drugged and was part of that army about whose devastating outcomes we know only too well. My daughter’s father-in-law has been traumatised by that and is a wreck of a man now. When we visit Cambodia, we are able, because of our son-in-law, to go well beyond where tourists go, into the villages and out into the countryside, and we experience a country that has known more than its share of trauma over the years. Therefore, for me, poverty is not just the absence of physical benefits and material things, but it is a state of mind that oppression, of one kind or another, has reduced one to over many years. Cambodia has become very dear to me and it is clawing its way very slowly out of the desperate situation of 20, 30 and 40 years ago.

I could add much to illustrate my concern and underline it by my experience over a number of years as chairman of Christian Aid’s Africa committee. I saw the effects of civil war in Mozambique, in Sudan and in Eritrea—Eritrea is slightly different—and all the devastating effects of war over many years. I shall never forget going to Mozambique and seeing no animals in the countryside because, over the duration of the war, they had been killed to feed people. I saw a young man who had been trained to fly MiG fighters for the Soviet air force by one side in that dispute, and once the Cold War was over, or at least the Warsaw Pact countries were loosening their hold on certain countries in Africa, he was retraining as a people’s lawyer to help ordinary people to identify their land holdings, the papers having been lost and the lands expropriated over many years.

It is stories like that that remind me of the small initiatives that happen in desperately poor countries to help people to take a step at a time out of poverty. Of course, the real matrix of my own understanding about extreme poverty comes from the 10 years that I lived in Haiti, the poorest country in the western world. I was there just three months ago and I saw the people living in tented villages and suffering from an outbreak of cholera. There are also those for whom floods, earthquakes, droughts and the terrible ravages of nature impose a kind of poverty on them that is wilful and hazardous and that comes at a moment’s notice. One can distinguish between that understanding of poverty and the chronic and endemic poverty that lasts generations and flows from the history of Haiti. It saw the first black republic in the world emerge from the shackles of colonialism in 1804, when 500,000 people, who had been plantation labourers, fled to the hills and went into subsistence farming. Two hundred years later, they have denuded the countryside of all its trees; they have completely impoverished the land; and 80 per cent of them are illiterate. While I was living there, AIDS reared its ugly head as early as the 1970s and 1980s—I remember it was such a new phenomenon in those days.

Therefore, the poor are very real in my mind. All the time, I want to try to imagine ourselves into the mindset of poor people as they look around them and wonder what options are available to them. I mentioned earlier—although will not dwell upon it—the poverty into which I was born, to a single mother with two boys living in one room for many, many years. Luckily, I passed the 11-plus and went to a grammar school—and was there with Members of this House in fact—but, for all that, I know that I have had a gilded life subsequent to those beginnings. What were the indicators that suggested to me that there was a way out of the poverty my mother and her family had known in the 1930s—soup kitchens and all that kind of stuff? During my childhood in the 1940s, our local Member of Parliament—to whose memory I pay immense tribute—was James Griffiths, who at that time was the deputy leader of the Labour Party. He turned down a job in Mr Attlee’s Cabinet in the Foreign Office in order to be Minister for Work and Pensions, in those days when our parliamentary leaders had lived a proper life somewhere else before they came into politics. Through his ministrations in the other place, he brought onto the statue book the Family Allowances Act—although that was Eleanor Rathbone’s creation—the National Assistance Act, the National Insurance Act, pensions legislation and so on. These, along with the Butler Education Act and the National Health Service, gave people trapped in poverty, as we were, a new horizon.

I ask myself where in the world that we live in, with this extreme poverty so endemic, similar indicators are to be found. We have the Bretton Woods arrangements, the World Bank, the World Health Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation. They are all there, but how does that translate down into the mentality of people, who are trapped in poverty, who say, “This gives me my chance”? Until those great things that are thought up on high are appropriated by people below, they do not amount to much more than a bar of soap. That is the trick.

I will draw my remarks to a close as I see the time is up. I was present in Haiti just recently and remembered the work that we did planting trees. There are forests there that we planted 30 years ago. Building roads, forming co-operatives, organising little primary healthcare systems, education, literacy and desalinating seawater in order to give drinking water to people—these things can happen and can be done; but only by engaging with real people who are poor, not by talking about poverty until the cows come home.

I welcome the opportunity to play some part in this debate and urge your Lordships to look at this issue as something that should preoccupy us seriously and constantly through all our deliberations.

Lord Chidgey Portrait Lord Chidgey
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My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on securing this debate this afternoon and giving us the opportunity to debate these very relevant and important issues. I congratulate him, too, on his powerful argument and the birth of the campaign on living below the line. Sadly, I cannot join the noble Lord next week in living on a pound a day because I shall be in Mozambique—a country that the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, knows well—delivering speeches on aid effectiveness. So in some ways I am with him in spirit, but I cannot be with him in body on that particular occasion.

Under the bilateral aid and multilateral aid reviews that DfID has just conducted, the aid allocation towards the poorest countries and those containing the largest numbers of poor people living in extreme poverty will increase substantially. Many of these countries face rising civil unrest; some face instability and conflict. Conflicts in various forms are one of the biggest obstacles to poverty reduction. Conflict pushes millions of people into poverty each year, and no sensible development strategy would be complete without focusing on both conflict prevention and post-conflict support. Since 2000, nine out of 10 new conflicts have in fact been relapses as fragile states have fallen back into war. By supporting conflict-affected countries, the United Kingdom is helping some of the poorest countries and people by helping to develop more responsible and accountable Governments, better access to security and justice, and better delivery of services such as health and education, as well as supporting household wealth creation.

One does not have to look far to find examples of extreme poverty related to conflict in the developing world. I recently had the opportunity to visit south and north Sudan—the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, were among the delegation—so we in this House have experienced the reality of conflict and poverty today. Sudan is of course shortly to become two separate and independent countries. There have been remarkable achievements in Sudan under the comprehensive peace agreement, which, after 20 years of civil war, led to a broadly peaceful referendum on the future of Southern Sudan.

However, there are numerous unresolved issues that could destabilise the area. Violence in the first months of 2011, in which 150 people were killed and 15,000 people fled their homes, demonstrates clearly how unstable and volatile that region can be. Violence, still influenced by the history of the war, is linked to a variety of issues: intercommunal violence over resources, especially cattle, land and water, often with a political dimension; human rights violations by security forces, and clashes between the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and the communities in which it operates; and politically driven violence involving non-state armed groups, often along ethnic lines.

Southern Sudan will become the newest country in the world in July, as well as one of the poorest. In 2010, over 1.5 million people were severely food-insecure. In total, nearly half the population needed food aid at some stage. Over 50,000 children were acutely malnourished, and nearly a quarter of a million people were forced from their homes by violence. A further 400,000 returnees, we understand, are expected to come from Khartoum down into south Sudan in July, during the rainy season, where the danger of transit camps becoming semi-permanent is growing, with little food, overcrowding, no infrastructure and the threat of disease.

In the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, which I anticipate visiting in a few weeks’ time, nearly three-quarters of the population of some 62 million are not meeting their daily food needs. According to the World Bank, that reflects an extremely high level of poverty. Child mortality is shockingly high, with one in five dying before the age of five—by comparison, the UK average is one in 170. With a healthcare system devastated after years of civil war, maternal mortality rates have risen to more than one in 100. Progress on poverty reduction in the DRC depends on peace and security being consolidated across the country’s enormous territory, which is still facing unrest in the eastern and northern parts. With attacks by elements of the Lord’s Resistance Army, the LRA, this violence continues. I suggest that bringing stability and security to the DRC will require a significant uplift to the DfID programme, which seems currently reliant on aspirations to increase the number of girls going to school, to ensure that everyone who has the right to vote is properly registered, to improve basic health services and to bring maternal care and family planning services to hundreds of thousands of women.

As for the bilateral aid review’s vision for tackling conflict and fragility, as set out by the Secretary of State in a speech at the beginning of March, it is as well to note the assessment of Saferworld, which put the case for the bilateral aid review being a shift not so much towards the securitisation of aid as towards an underlying vision for how to approach conflict-affected or fragile societies. The Secretary of State stressed in March that it was imperative that countries should,

“build open and responsive political systems, tackle the root causes of fragility, and empower citizens to hold their Governments to account”.—[Official Report, Commons, 1/3/11; col. 167.]

This is indeed a worthy ambition. However, putting it into practice, as many noble Lords will know, will require more than just aid money.

Still in the context of the bilateral aid review and the multilateral aid reviews and their technical reports, the process calls for operational plans to be submitted by each DfID country office to carry these reviews through. That is very commendable, but can the Minister tell us when these plans will be published and when we in your Lordships’ House will have an opportunity to look at them in some detail?

In a similar vein, the reviews have recognised that the European Development Fund has one of the best records of aid delivery. I repeat that because some noble Lords may find it a difficult concept to grasp: the EDF is one of the best aid deliverers. Sadly, we cannot say the same for the European Commission, which was severely criticised earlier today by the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon, who made the point that some of its audit work was unacceptable. The Audit Committee has condemned its work there, too. So we need reform, and I should like to hear from the Minister what progress we have made post-ECOFIN in getting reforms on aid pushed through in the European Commission.

In 2000, world leaders committed themselves to a dramatic reduction in child deaths by 2015. As Save the Children has pointed out, there has been extraordinary progress. More than 4 million fewer children died each year than in 1990. However, there is a huge and urgent unfinished agenda with regard to the MDGs. Each and every year, 8 million children still die before they reach their fifth birthday, and 99 per cent of child deaths take place in developing countries. Children from the poorest countries are the least likely to survive. In this regard, Oxfam’s acknowledgement that the significant effort made by DfID in conducting the BARs and MARs is welcome; as it points out, reviewing aid policies to ensure that they deliver the best and most sustainable results for people living in poverty is a welcome and vital process.

Earl of Sandwich Portrait The Earl of Sandwich
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I extend my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, not only for opening this debate but for his support for the global poverty campaign alongside the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin. I also thank him for introducing a new form of words. We often have debates about development, but they rarely focus so directly on the people who have to suffer extreme poverty. In one sense, we are trying to discern the invisible, because we can never see or analyse the most extreme forms of poverty. By its nature, it occurs out of reach of any government service, in semi-desert, rocky plateaus, forests and corners of shanty towns. Many years ago, I was in villages in northern Chad on the edge of the Sahara. I can be pretty certain that, with conflict and other factors intervening, those families will have somehow survived without any formal health and social services ever since.

Even NGOs, which seem ubiquitous in most poor countries, do not venture into some areas because of difficulty of access or civil war. I remember one field worker telling me that you cannot start a project with nothing at all if there is no one with skills to develop or opportunities to expand. I have always believed that because of the number of schemes in poor countries that fail altogether despite good intentions. There are too many shipwrecks of good will where money has been poured into holes in the sand or mantraps of corruption. I shall mention Southern Sudan in a moment. I know that the Government are concerned about this as part of their review.

On the other hand, some of the best development work can occur during a crisis and comes under a humanitarian heading. In times of conflict or when people are forced to live together in acute poverty, the UN relief agencies have been able to sustain life and livelihoods even in the most precarious conditions. We have heard examples from the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths. In these circumstances, how do we decide where to spend money effectively? I know that that is another preoccupation of the Government. Donors tend to use standard measurements of poverty such as the LDCs—the least developed countries—as listed on the human development index. However, poverty is not confined to the LDCs; it can occur in any country, which is why—thank heaven—we have kept India in the DfID portfolio.

Many of the very poor in our own society are again out of reach, some because they are escaping from the law, the Inland Revenue or some other persecutor. Many immigrant families are out of reach because they officially do not exist. Poverty has always been hard to define. In last year’s human development report, the UNDP introduced a multidimensional poverty index instead of using the normal national or international poverty standards. This index uses the main dimensions of health, education and living standards, but it includes household indicators such as floor space and personal assets as well as fuel, water and sanitation. By this standard, which does not take account of human rights, there are 1.75 billion poor—almost one in four people in the world. Out of 169 countries, the UNDP lists Mozambique, Burundi, Niger, Congo and Zimbabwe as the five very poorest. So what do the Government think about the multidimensional poverty index? Does the Minister know whether DfID is using it and, if so, why has it decided to take Burundi and up to 15 other countries off its own list of countries receiving bilateral aid? How has it made those calculations?

Today’s poorest may be found among the 40 million or so migrants and displaced people all over the world: people who are stateless and have nothing—no possessions, no food and no water—without the help of charity or international relief agencies. The most vivid examples are those fleeing from Libya even today, risking everything to reach Italy by sea. Does the Minister support the new European Parliament resolution of 5 April on migration, which calls on the EU to create a new instrument for these refugees and draws attention to the disproportionate burden carried by certain member states?

Bereavement is another form of poverty. Suddenly someone dies in the family. A UCL study published in the Lancet estimated that 12 per cent of all male deaths in the world resulted from violence, while 14 per cent were from traffic accidents, and maternal conditions were the cause of 15 per cent of all female deaths. Having visited south Sudan, as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned, I shall share some more statistics from that country, which is to become independent in July. Only half of all deliveries are attended by a trained health worker in Sudan; in the south by itself, only 10 per cent of births are attended. About 2,000 women in every 100,000 giving birth die in childbirth, and one in 10 babies still die from the effects of poverty. In some areas, the averages are much worse. This is because of the lack not only of food and resources but of education, which makes it impossible for the poor to attain good health and food security. Only 8 per cent of women in the south of Sudan can read and write.

The inability of outsiders such as us to help is also a problem. After the peace agreement five years ago, concerted attempts were made to introduce a basic package of health services. The Minister might know that the main channel of aid, the Multi Donor Trust Fund, ran into a host of difficulties and unacceptable delays, partly owing to the World Bank’s strict procurement rules. Basic health was to be introduced through a partnership between NGOs and the World Bank, known as the Umbrella Program for Health System Development. What happened to that programme, which was designed to support sub-contracted, performance-based public health in the south, to which so many international donors such as us have contributed? Even now, less than one-third of the people of south Sudan are reached by health services. Was it the lack of local capacity, which is so often blamed, or the excess of academic zeal and donor muddle, which usually gets away with it?

Finally, I congratulate the Government on their latest efforts to create a more honest, open and accountable environment for international development. I trust that, as the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, said, the Chancellor will take to heart some of Christian Aid’s recommendations on tax transparency when he attends the G20 meeting.

Lord Bishop of Gloucester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Gloucester
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My Lords, over the past decade encouraging gains have been achieved against the targets of the millennium development goals. Yet, is it not unacceptable that 9 million children still die each year before they reach their fifth birthday? In sub-Saharan Africa, this represents the death of one in seven children under five. It is equally unacceptable that more than 350,000 women should die each year from complications during pregnancy or childbirth, 99 per cent of them in the developing countries.

Despite seeing recent gains across the world on many indicators of economic development and human well-being, the extreme poor remain trapped in poverty in the least developed countries. Many of these countries have been caught in decades-long poverty traps often marked by a high incidence of conflict and weak national institutions, and hindered by inequitable global economic structures. Concerted national action and better targeted global development assistance are needed to prevent these least developed countries from becoming increasingly marginalised, their populations struggling under extreme poverty.

I am grateful to the Government for ring-fencing the aid budget, especially in the current economic climate. This decision reflects the continuing commitment of the British people to assist the world's poorest and affirms the United Kingdom as an example within the international community. I believe that churches and other faith communities with deep convictions and roots in poorer communities around the world will continue to uphold and monitor the Government's decision on the aid budget, even as other funding pressures are faced at home. I urge the Government also to encourage other EU and G20 Governments to uphold their commitments to the world's poorest, who inevitably have been most acutely affected by the global financial crisis.

I welcome DfID’s recent review of UK aid, Changing Lives, Delivering Results. DfID’s commitment to focus aid on the poorest—and on achieving tangible and measurable results in addressing both the root causes and symptoms of poverty—is surely right, as is its focus on women, who are disproportionately affected by poverty. The wisdom of that policy has already been mentioned this morning. Important progress has been made in recent years on economic development and the United Kingdom has played a major role in this. However, this means that the world’s poorest billion people remain faced by more intractable and entrenched barriers to escaping poverty. It is therefore important that aid is well targeted and directed at the poorest countries.

Some of those poorest countries may, unlike Pakistan and Afghanistan, have little strategic importance to the United Kingdom, but nevertheless have a reasonable environment in which to absorb aid and achieve results in lifting more of the extreme poor out of poverty. Some of these poorest countries have never been aid recipients. Others have lost their United Kingdom aid programmes as a result of the recent DfID review, including, as we have heard, Burundi—which has recently emerged from conflict and needs to secure stability through a peace dividend—Angola, Niger and Lesotho. I urge DfID to make significant, alternative funding paths accessible to these countries and to consider their re-inclusion in the UK's aid programme, as they share many of the challenges that DfID has identified as priorities.

I would like to say something on the role of faith-based entities working with the extreme poor. Most UK aid flows from Government to Government but the reality is that non-state providers, including NGOs and faith communities, are often the most closely involved in the well-being of the poorest people and are to be found where government cannot reach. This is especially true in many fragile and conflict-affected states, where their Government’s service provision has broken down while faith communities continue to provide health and education services. DfID has recognised this fact in some contexts; for example, by supporting education provision by the Episcopal Church of Sudan and health and HIV work by the Anglican Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Changes in funding mechanisms are necessary to ensure wider access for faith-based entities to become partners with Governments in working to overcome poverty. Christian schools in the developing world, as I have seen in India and Tanzania, also have a particular role to play in the education of girls and equal access for all. As shown in Sudan, faith schools in developing countries can provide education at low unit cost, building on community-based school management.

The international development community needs to recognise the importance of people's faith and its values of service to others as a motivating factor in social development. Some local faith-based initiatives in Kenya have seen massive mobilisation for local communities to lift themselves out of poverty, in one case mobilising 10,000 people to unite in funding and constructing an irrigation project, while in another case over 800 farmers united to form a dairy co-operative. These initiatives were motivated by faith values and developed without external aid. It is important that DfID and other donors recognise the role and contribution of faith communities in development and promote more effective and accessible forms of partnership with these entities.

From the faith communities’ side, more work is needed to strengthen the capacity and co-ordination of their programmes. One such global initiative is the newly formed Anglican Alliance for Development, Relief and Advocacy, which brings together Anglican churches and agencies across the world to build capacity and co-ordinate responses. I was grateful that the Secretary of State for International Development announced at the General Synod of the Church of England in February that DfID would seek to strengthen ways of working with faith communities. I also welcome DfID’s moves to establish a working group to help develop a set of practical partnership principles for development agencies working with those communities. It is to be hoped that this process will quickly achieve renewed and strengthened support for and collaboration with faith communities and faith-based organisations in lifting people out of extreme poverty. It is encouraging to note that the Economic Affairs Committee of your Lordships’ House will shortly begin an inquiry into the economics of development aid.

In conclusion, while commending the Government’s commitment to maintaining and increasing the United Kingdom aid programme, I urge the Government to revisit their decision on closing aid programmes in some of the world's poorest countries and to continue to explore ways of achieving greater impact on the lives of the extreme poor through more extensive and effective partnerships with faith-based entities and other civil society actors. The UK should be proud of its work in international development. Together we can tackle global structural barriers to overcoming poverty while working with the poorest countries and peoples—with their Governments, civil societies, faith communities and private sectors—to achieve transformation in lifting millions more people out of extreme poverty.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes Portrait Baroness Gardner of Parkes
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My Lords, it is wonderful that we are having a debate on this subject, and I have great admiration for those who are going to take that active part. I am one of the more lazy Members of the House who will, like many others, be willing to support the project but not to live on £1 a day, which sounds a real effort. I am waiting to see how it goes.

My only real experience with poverty came about because I was asked, quite by accident, to become chairman of Plan UK, an international body which helps the poorest of the poor. Baroness Blatch was to have become the chairman but, as she became a Minister, she persuaded me to agree to do it. I was fortunate to be its chairman for 12 years. When I took over we were raising £2.5 million a year in the UK and by the time I left it was £26 million. I also have the current figures: £41 million in the UK and over £400 million worldwide. So it produces quite a lot of help for people. We also know how many other charities and NGOs work very hard. Many of these schemes are operated with one another, so that various NGOs work together.

The thing is, though, that unless you supervise the work that is done in these countries, it can often be wasted effort. I visited one country where we were helping to put in a new water supply that brought water from the top of a hill down to the bottom. The people themselves were building the channels to do this. Previously, when their own local government had built the channels, everyone had dug holes in the sides and taken the water out as it came down, so the people at the bottom got nothing. However, when the people built it themselves, and it was their project and their ownership, they were determined to see that it continued to work.

Giving people the opportunity to do things, and often giving them the technical help that is needed, is a good thing. I saw in an African country a flat-pack school building that had been sent by some European country. No one had ever opened the pack or known what to do with it. It was nothing to do with the plan. It was just unused, because no one had provided an engineer to tell them how to put it together and advise them on what to do. Children were still sitting and having their lessons outside where they loved the distraction of everything around them.

All these things come as quite a shock to you when you see them. In Ecuador I visited a swamp where the houses were built on stilts. When we asked these people, particularly the women, “Why have you come and settled here in the middle of this dreadful swamp?”, they said, “For a better life”. It makes you realise just how bad their lives must have been.

In Tanzania a child was sitting by a hole in the ground with a bucket and a little thing like a yoghurt cup. Every few minutes, there would be one little cup of water to put into the bucket. We helped them to put in a pump. Now even a small child can, with their own ability, pump enough water to have a bucketful in no time. These are the things that are so important.

It is also important to give people the opportunity to help themselves. If you give a woman two chickens, as we did in many countries, they turn that into a poultry business. Those women sold their eggs and bred more chickens—they were in business. In South America, particularly in Bolivia, where people were rebuilding shattered homes, I saw people there enter into microfinance in such a way that there was a rotating fund; the woman who got the first amount of money started up her little business, perhaps then a market stall, and she was then able to move that money back into the system by repaying her loan and another woman got the money.

It has been mentioned that women are terribly important. Someone asked, “How do you choose between women and health?”, but it is not a choice—both go together. If you educate the women, they are capable of ensuring better health standards for their children. In the Philippines I saw women whose homes had been burnt down, and we were helping them. They used to go and pay off a little bit of mortgage every day, because every day they earned a small amount of money and could afford to take a few pence out of that to meet their debts. Women have a marvellous record of meeting their debts and of helping others on the way to improving things. In all the shanty towns that you see, it is the women who have brought their children and families to the outskirts of the big cities—I have seen this particularly in Latin America—because that is how they can get a job, and they can gradually see their family rise and have opportunities.

There are so many things that I could go on and on about. A basic hut in Vietnam was blown down, and we helped the woman build a new one. She was a widow with seven children, and she was so grateful for what we would consider a garden shed—except that we had put in a concrete floor. She explained that that floor meant that she would now have one-third more food for her children than she had before. When she had an earth floor, insects used to come up out of the earth and take away one-third of her stored grain.

The only thing on which I did not agree with the noble Lord when he opened the debate was the cycle of despair. I understand, and I thought that the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, made this point very clear, that statelessness must cause this sort of situation—I am sure that crises, particularly conflicts, can do it—but I have been amazed by how unbelievably cheerful these people were, living in poverty at a level that you could hardly imagine. They were grateful for any help, but they were optimists. They were all looking to improve life if they could. It makes you feel rather ashamed that you have so much and they have so little.

The noble Lord also mentioned tax measures and tax avoidance. I think that you will never get rid of tax avoidance, but gift aid is enormously valuable. He mentioned that there is now an internationally agreed standard. One of the essentials is to be sure that the money really goes to the people you want it to go to. The element of corruption still exists and can take money away from people. I remember a woman from Tanzania, speaking at a women’s meeting at the United Nations, who said, “Don’t give us money; if you give us money, we never see it. Give us soap and we’ll be able to wash our children”. This is what we have to realise: unless we can supervise what is happening, unless we have a monitoring system of some sort to see that the help really goes where it is needed, it will be very difficult.

There is hope for people. They are uncomplaining, they are optimists and they manage with so little in life that it makes us feel humble to be aware of this. I know that we all want to do whatever we can to help.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Portrait Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, on enabling us to focus on this vital issue. We have heard the statistics before but they should not lose their power to shock. In 2010 there were 925 million hungry people in the world—some 13 per cent of the estimated world population. That is nearly one in seven, and nearly all of them are in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, over half the population lives on less than £1 a day. Every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation, and usually it is a child under five.

As UNICEF reminds us, reducing poverty starts with children. That is why I want to focus my remarks on young people and on the importance of education as a proven route out of extreme poverty. I make no apology for returning to this theme, which I raised in our debate earlier this month. It seems vital to emphasise to the UK’s Department for International Development the value for money and effectiveness of focusing its resources on basic education.

I am proud of the previous Government’s commitment and achievement in these areas, and it is a source of great pleasure to see that the coalition Government appear to have the same commitment, leading the way in focusing on women and children’s health. We know that the best start in life is critical in a child’s first few years, not only to her survival but to her physical, intellectual and emotional development. Deprivations such as lack of immunisation, malnutrition, and lack of access to household water greatly hamper children’s ability to achieve their potential, contributing to an intergenerational cycle of poverty and hunger. Providing children with basic education, healthcare and nutrition breaks that cycle.

All the evidence shows that basic education is one of the most cost-effective development interventions, and not just for the child. It aids economic growth, helps prevent HIV, improves health and prevents conflict. So I welcome DfID’s recent review of UK aid and its publication earlier this month of Changing Lives, Delivering Results, which sets out where and how the coalition Government plan to focus their aid spending over the next four years. I agree with its declaration that education is the best investment we can make,

“for global prosperity and the future of our world”.

It states that an extra year of quality schooling lifts a country’s annual economic growth by 1 per cent, yet each morning 69 million children do not have the chance to go to school. Many more fail to complete even a level of schooling to get basic skills or progress to secondary school and thus move into good jobs.

UNICEF figures show that some 13 per cent of children aged seven to 18 in developing countries have never attended school. In sub-Saharan Africa, this rate is 32 per cent among girls and 27 per cent among boys. The figure for rural children in the Middle East and north Africa is 33 per cent. However, as UNICEF says, an education is perhaps a child’s strongest barrier against poverty, especially for girls. Clearly, getting girls into school begins what DfID calls,

“a chain reaction of further benefits”.

Educated women are more likely to send their own children to school, creating a virtuous circle of opportunity and prosperity. Therefore, I welcome the promise that UK aid will take simple, practical forms, which directly encourage girls to stay on at school, such as the appointment of more female teachers and schools-based counsellors, and the funding for separate latrines. I also welcome DfID’s commitment in Nigeria, for example, to get 500,000 more girls into school by 2015 to receive an improved education. By giving 60,000 families the money that girls would earn if they were at work, along with 5,000 scholarships to encourage more women to go into teaching, we are going to the heart of many barriers that exist to educating women in Nigeria—a country with the largest number of out-of-school children in the world.

It is not just a question of pumping in aid money. We know that for the handouts to become a hands-up to national and individual prosperity and health, government aid programmes must also tackle inequality, corruption and weak institutions. As long as the poor are denied a political voice, vulnerabilities will remain. We have heard many examples today from other noble Lords that have reinforced this point. We need to be reassured that developing countries are working to ensure an equitable distribution of the rewards of economic growth. Greater powers to control their own affairs are important to local communities and individual households. OneWorld’s global poverty update in January notes that direct cash transfers, often conditional on children’s attendance at school and for immunisation, are proving effective. OneWorld also reminds us that,

“accountability through democracy and individual rights creates the environment in which governments come under pressure to end wasteful practices and corruption”.

I end my remarks with a question for the coalition Government and for DfID. How much are they willing to pressure aid-receiving countries to pursue democratic equality and diversity values as part of their aid-giving education policies? Could the Minister, in replying to that question, tell the House how pursuit of these values in recipient countries is monitored and evaluated? In the six minutes for which I have spoken, shockingly, 100 under-fives have died of starvation. UNICEF’s latest report says that,

“we have a chance to nurture a generation”—

who will be able—

“to realize their rights, laying the foundation for a more peaceful … world, in which each successive generation of children can thrive”.

That is a goal worth striving for.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno Portrait Lord Roberts of Llandudno
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My Lords, I also appreciate the opportunity to take part in this debate. On Tuesday I was in a church where many of the homeless found refuge. One or two women there went around washing the feet and legs of those who had been trudging around the streets, homeless, and sleeping—if they were sleeping at all—in various doorways. The whole scene shocked me. It was not far away, possibly: it was on Lexington Avenue in New York, where, in the midst of all the wealth, there was more than one oasis of deep sadness. Then I saw figures that showed that one family in five in New York depends on handouts to survive. The problem is everywhere; we are in a global situation where, in the midst of our comparative wealth and well-being, so many people are totally deprived.

The noble Baroness who spoke before me mentioned how many children had died in the course of this debate. Every day, 22,000 children die; one dies every four seconds. The silent killers are hunger, poverty, easily preventable diseases and treatable illnesses, which can lead to diarrhoea and malaria. Impure water is often the carrier of such diseases. We know that we can tackle such things if we have a mind to do so, and if we are ready to invest in pure water supplies, well-drilling and so on in many places. I am very grateful to those organisations that do this. As has already been mentioned, 0.7 per cent of our gross income is now ring-fenced for development aid. I do not want that to go in any direction other than to hands-on aid for the people who need it most. I understand that Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Belgium have already reached this target. We must make every effort possible to contribute in this way.

Much of the work done in the developing world—if it is developing—is done by voluntary and charitable organisations. A couple of months ago we tried to find out how much effort went into preventing and treating HIV in Uganda. One fact I was not able to find, either from parliamentary Questions or anywhere else, is exactly how many different organisations are working to this end. There are many organisations. I wonder if there is not some way, without adding a level of bureaucracy or hindering in any way, to ease, say, visas, export licences and other facilities. Is there some way of co-operating with and co-ordinating the efforts of these different voluntary organisations? I am sure that could make them very effective. I was involved at the time of the great Ethiopian famine in organising two mobile clinics that went from Wales to Tigray in northern Ethiopia. The only co-ordination was through the Vatican at that time. Even though I am a Methodist, I was absolutely delighted that the Vatican was playing such a significant role in co-ordination. Is there some way that we could co-ordinate without interfering—co-ordinate to make every project even more effective than at present?

Yesterday in this House we spoke of the core curriculum. I was late in getting up and did not get my question in. Is there not a place for a global overview in the core curriculum? It is a small world compared to the one I was brought up in. It is a world in which there is so much poverty, but so much knowledge and so much to be learnt. I wonder if our children are learning about the great needs of this world in which we live. Is there not some way that the core curriculum could involve something such as international development or world need among its subjects? We could even have partnership or twinning schemes between schools and community organisations in the UK and various places overseas. There are some; I know many churches are linked overseas in this way. Could we somehow be more positive about it? It does not take a great deal of money. All it takes is a bit of vision and enthusiasm. Could we not have such a partnership scheme? Perhaps women’s organisations in Wales could link with women’s organisations in Zimbabwe or something like that. We would then have a real link, whereby people could learn about each other and be able to help one another.

We are often critical of the tabloid press in this country. I deplore the way that some elements of that press, although not all of them by any means, comment in a totally negative fashion on asylum seekers and refugees. That closes the door to co-operation and understanding. Would any tabloid newspaper be willing to develop good relations with countries in which there is great poverty and become involved in a campaign that was not negative and did not close the door but reached out a helping hand to people who have no idea of the sort of life that people enjoy in the UK?

People have dreams. I remember hearing a children’s choir from Kampala sing and then asking them what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some of those little kids were totally destitute. One wanted to be an airline pilot, another a vet and another a nun, even though they were on Methodist premises. A sturdy little 10 year-old lad, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, said, “I want to be president of Uganda”. As I say, people have dreams. If the Government, media and people of the UK seek to build bridges between us and those who most need our help, that little lad might indeed one day become the president of Uganda.

Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick
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My Lords, I am so grateful that on the day before we are enwrapped in the euphoria of the royal wedding, as we should be, we are focusing on the needs of the most marginalised abroad and at home. There are a thousand good reasons why we should keep the needs of those 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion people right in front of us. One reason is that we need to be continually embarrassed by the failure to achieve the millennium development goals and to be continually reminded of the necessity to try to hit them. We simply must not forget that. We need to ensure that where there is good governance, such as the significantly good governance shown by DfID now and in the past, it is used to seek to embarrass those who do not live up to their aid commitments.

On 12 April the US Government announced a cut in their aid budget roughly equivalent to the aid the United Kingdom gives from its Exchequer every year. The United States still remains the largest global cash giver but it is the smallest contributor in terms of the percentage of its GDP of any major nation. Will the Prime Minister face down President Barack Obama at the G8 about his responsibility and that of his nation to ensure that development does not take place on the back of the poor, which is precisely what this Government said they would not do with aid? The figures from the US budget review announced on 12 April indicated a very revealing statistic. This is relevant to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, a moment ago. US aid development assistance will amount to $2.525 billion within a total of $48 billion, but the operation of the US aid development assistance will cost $1.35 billion. In other words, roughly half of what is being spent to aid the poor will go on administration. Will the Minister indicate the trajectory of administrative costs borne by the DfID budget as the years progress? Will we too find ourselves sucked into allocating more money to administrative costs rather than spending it on direct development assistance? That is an important point.

I want to emphasise a particular area about which I feel very strongly as somebody who works in a business setting. Next week the World Economic Forum on Africa will take place from 4 to 6 May in Cape Town. The summit will be chaired by Peter Brabeck, the chairman of Nestlé, and by Tim Flynn, the chairman of KPMG International. I declare an interest as the latter body is the partnership for which I work. I will be attending the summit in two roles: one reflecting my responsibilities at KPMG International and the other as chairman of Millennium Promise UK. The summit is one of the positive opportunities in which leaders across the continent will gather. Pretty much every viable president who is not held down by travel restrictions will attend, as will many leaders of non-governmental organisations. A vast array of people from businesses and NGOs committed to development will gather for three days in Cape Town. We will sing a positive story of the growth of Africa’s countries. Poverty, of course, is not just an African issue but we will focus on that matter.

I come back to the important question of how we ensure more effective co-ordination of the multiplicity of agencies, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, said. Will the Minister comment on the extent to which DfID sees its role as enabling fewer charities with larger budgets to focus on development assistance rather than encouraging a plethora of charities and campaigns in this area? Brilliant as next week’s campaign will clearly be, it is another one joining the long line. Eating up resources on administration and back-office facilities cannot be the right way to ensure that we get the maximum resources to the front line.

The British Government are committed to ensuring that enterprise is part of the way forward in overcoming the next round of development challenges. Enterprise, business development and microfinance have a part to play, but global and indigenous corporations have a significant role in driving investment. It is not just a matter of relieving poverty but of driving investment that embeds prosperity in countries and builds up the capacity for local work and employment. That is why it is so good that the chairmen of both Nestlé and KPMG are facilitating and leading the summit in Cape Town next week.

World Malaria Day occurred on Monday this week. We have already been reminded that every 3.5 seconds a child dies as a consequence of extreme poverty, hunger and disease, but every 45 seconds the mosquito takes its toll in all the African countries that still struggle with malaria. However, the good news is that, because of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, we are just a short breath away from seeing the end of the malarial mosquito’s dominance in a few years’ time. The Japanese corporation Sumitomo Chemical Company has provided more than 700,000 bed nets to ensure that every child and adult sleeping in a Millennium Promise village in 10 different countries are free of the impact of that mosquito. That corporation has given away the technology to allow local production of the nets in African countries. That is a responsible and appropriate engagement on the part of business.

The many businesses that have lined up behind the Global Fund, such as Chevron, News International, Standard Chartered, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and many others, prove that business has a critical role to play in partnership with bilateral development organisations and NGOs. My organisation has just taken on a five-year commitment to Pemba, a large island off the coast of Tanzania. I will visit it at the beginning of July to see for myself what a five-year plan will do for 7,000 people, with eight countries contributing the $2 million that are necessary to put in the infrastructure to provide water, healthcare, transport, businesses and educational services. Business has a role to play in this regard. It is in the frontline of ensuring that people get jobs that will provide them with prospects and opportunities, enable them to pay tax with robust tax systems being put in place, that local exchequers are able to invest in their own infrastructure and build up their own countries. I hope that the Minister will encourage DfID’s policy to bring enterprise to the forefront of development as that is the right policy.

Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for securing this very important debate and allowing us all to make a positive contribution.

I wish to focus my comments on the role of women in combating global poverty. Worldwide, women and girls bear the brunt of poverty, as was mentioned by other noble Lords earlier, and of hunger and discrimination. They comprise more than 60 per cent of the world’s chronically hungry people. Inherited hunger, when malnourished mothers give birth to malnourished children, is a huge obstacle to development in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Haiti. It is estimated that 70 per cent of those living in poverty are women. Women and girls continue to suffer from gender discrimination, violence and further human rights violations in all societies. Women not only cook for their families but sow, reap and harvest food. Women comprise well over half of all farmers worldwide. Eight out of 10 farmers in African countries, and six out of 10 in Asia, are women. For example, in Kenya, female farmers have fewer opportunities and resources than men. While women receive the same farm inputs that currently benefit the average male farmer, they have nevertheless increased their crop yield by 22 per cent.

I know from my family experience about the role that women have played in supporting their families. My maternal grandmother married at the age of 14. She was illiterate and had no opportunity to go to school because she lived in a small village in Cyprus. She fed her seven children by baking bread and selling the loaves each day for a very small amount of money to people in her village, and by taking in washing and laundry.

We know that women are crucial to unlocking sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty. As the World Food Programme’s executive director said recently,

“Women are the secret weapon to fight hunger … Our experience at the World Food Programme also shows that in the hands of a woman, food is far more likely to reach the mouths of needy children. That’s why, in emergencies like the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, we channel our relief through women whenever and wherever feasible. More than half of the people we feed, globally, are women and children”.

There is widespread agreement that educating women and girls is the cornerstone of economic and social development, and it is the key to smash the cycle of generations of inherited hunger. Empowering women in every sense is not just a female issue, but a human rights issue—the right to a peaceful, healthy and prosperous future.

Like many women, when I was pregnant I got a bit fed up with the number of people—usually men—who said things such as, “Giving birth is the most natural thing in the world. Women in Africa just squat down and give birth in the fields then go right back to work”. How many women have heard that? Not only were such comments not helpful, I found them offensive. It just is not true. The World Health Organisation says that complications during pregnancy and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries. Most women—99 per cent in 2008—of those who die while pregnant or after having a termination live in developing countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. There is an African proverb that a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave. This is the biggest health gap in the world today and one of the greatest injustices.

The millennium development goals include reducing maternal mortality by three-quarters, as well as achieving universal access to reproductive healthcare. The goals set a target of halving extreme poverty, halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, providing universal primary education and ending gender discrimination in education. We know that progress has been mixed, with action on maternal mortality being particularly slow. I should welcome the Minister’s comments on this important aspect.

Here in the UK, where we are used to discussions about motherhood focusing largely on lifestyle choices—whether to be a working mother; whether to breastfeed, and so on; there are endless discussions on “Woman’s Hour” on such issues—it is all too easy to forget that for women in large parts of the world, having a child is literally a matter of life or death. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, some of us living in the West sometimes need to take stock and reflect on how much we have.

I welcomed the UK Government’s announcement at the United Nations summit that they intend to refocus their aid programme to put the lives of women in developing countries at its heart. The key aim to invest in girls and women is absolutely right. The government commitment to doubling the number of lives of women and babies saved through UK aid by 2015 is ambitious. As a result of the new strategy, the aim is that at least 50,000 more women and 250,000 babies will survive, and millions more couples will get access to family planning. Other countries, both donors and developing nations, need to be challenged to do the same and more.

Amnesty International’s report, From Promises to Delivery, outlines crucial steps that Governments can take to deliver meaningful progress on the MDGs over the next four years. The report states:

“The MDGs promised some of the world’s most impoverished and excluded a fairer future but it is now painfully obvious that unless urgent action is taken governments will fail the most vulnerable communities”.

Three main issues—gender equality, maternal health and slums—are highlighted in the report to illustrate the gulf between the current MDGs framework and international human rights standards. I should like the Minister also to comment on this aspect and to say what progress we are monitoring and expecting. On gender equality, the report shows how the MDGs fail to ensure that Governments address women’s human rights across all targets despite their being an essential element in tackling poverty. Where gender equality is listed in the MDGs, it is limited to a single target to eliminate disparities in education.

“In Haiti … women are the unbreakable core of families and communities. This country will only be rebuilt if that core is strong and empowered,”

said Concern Worldwide’s country director. As part of its clean-up effort after the terrible earthquake, and to simulate the economy, Concern Worldwide kicked off a series of cash-for-work projects and one-off cash transfers, with women being the main beneficiaries. The director explained that:

“In getting the local economy going again with injections of much-needed cash, it makes perfect sense to make women primary beneficiaries”.

Women have traditionally played a crucial role in the progress of their families but are now pushing for a level platform by breaking taboos and inspiring others to do the same. While we know that there is a long way to go in developing countries to meet the MDGs’ three targets, women are key to tackling inequality and global poverty in developing countries. If we fail to achieve these goals—and there is a short time to go before the target date of 2015—it would be unacceptable from both the moral and practical standpoints.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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My Lords, as other noble Lords have done, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for getting this debate on the agenda. I am being selfish, because it gives me an opportunity to talk on a subject that I feel passionately and strongly about. The noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, has spoken about some of the things I would have mentioned—that is, the situation of women.

Who are the poorest of the poor in the poorest countries? It is the women. They eat last when everyone has been fed. The girl child does not get as much food as the boy child. We all know these things, and we should be talking about women, first and foremost, because they keep the family going and, in fact, they keep everything going. If women stopped working, those countries would stop working.

I begin by congratulating the Government on what DfID is doing. At last, after a long time, it has returned to look at issues that concern women—family planning, education for women and girls, and all matter of things that help women. Unless we can help them, nothing can change. It is women, not men, who will bring about change to poverty. Men have been ruling the roost for at least 2,000 years that we know of. Has anything changed? No, it has not. They do not work as hard as women; they do not take responsibility like women do; and I disagree with the noble Lord who said that, if we educate children, everything will change. Who will educate the children? The women will. It is the women whom we have to provide for. We have to give them the ability to send their children to school.

I know of the many terrible things that are done to women, because I have been involved in development for 18 out of the 20 years that I have been in your Lordships' House. I have seen projects and the situation of women. I have visited the fistula hospital in Addis Ababa, where there are rows of cots with little bundles on them. You cannot see them without getting tears in your eyes—I might break down, so I apologise in advance. I asked them, “Are these all very young girls?”. They said, “No. Most of them are very malnourished”. The women cannot give birth, either because they do not have the strength or because they are too young.

In Nigeria you can buy a girl of 12 for two goats—and they do. I have a new friend from Nigeria. When her mother became a widow, his brothers came and took everything away from the house. They not only took every thing away, they took his two younger wives as well because they could work. They left my friend’s mother with all the children—13 of them—with nothing to feed them on and no possibility of looking after them. She parcelled out the children to friends and neighbours—one child here, one child there—and eventually got a job cleaning toilets in a hospital for £30 a month. Then she took back all the children. My friend was educated by the Commonwealth Countries League education fund. She put herself through university by going to Lagos overnight and buying things that she could sell in her town. She did this constantly to pay for her university education.

Women are incredible. Give them an opportunity and they will grab it and run. Three-quarters of Indians live on 30p a day. Yesterday, the Secretary of State said that the poorest people are in India. Certainly, the most malnourished are. All statistics tell us that Indians are the most malnourished people in the world—even more so than Africans. Yet India is booming; that is the other side of the coin. There is so much money in India now that it makes you feel ill, because it is in your face all the time, in every city—money, money, money. They say that Indians have $3 trillion in Swiss banks. None of it goes anywhere; it sits in the banks, or is spent in India in a grotesque and obscene way. Nothing is spent on the poor. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett wrote to Indian billionaires to try to arrange a meeting. They did not even get a reply. The billionaires did not say that they would not come; they did not even reply. This is the position in India, despite the fact that it is booming.

To some extent it is right to ask why a lot of aid should go to India when the Indians do not want to help themselves. The Government give money for poverty alleviation, but where does it go? It goes to all the hands that it passes through: hardly 5 per cent reaches the poor. Corruption is a cancer in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent. It is horrifying to see how little of what is provided reaches the people whom it is meant to reach.

I have talked about all the things that I worry about. Now I will say something about how we can start changing extreme poverty. We should start employing women. In India and Africa, people will not employ women. I was told by a number of big businesses, “Women are not trained”. Of course, the boys come out of their mothers’ wombs ready trained. It is a question of giving training to women. They learn very quickly; they are hungry for everything. If you help a woman to earn money, what does she do? Does she gamble or drink? No, she spends it on her family. She sends her children to school and improves her health and that of her family. The only way to change the future is to work with women and give them opportunities to earn money. That will change them within weeks and months, not years. It is not a question of education; they will not get education. However, if they have the resources they will certainly give education to their children. No man has ever said to me, “I want my children to go to school”, but every woman in every project that I have visited has said, “I want my children to go to school. I want my daughters to go to school. I do not want them to have my sort of life”.

Providing family planning and financial resources is the way forward. Women in India are used as hod carriers. My builder was appalled to hear that. The Indians do not see them; they do not see what women do. Let us make a plan to help women to earn money, because that is the way forward.

Lord Loomba Portrait Lord Loomba
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I start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for today's debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, said, the subject of extreme poverty, especially relating to women and children, is very close to one’s heart.

More than 1 billion people around the world live in extreme poverty. Many of them go to bed hungry every night. Every year more than 11 million children die before their fifth birthday. More than 500,000 women die in pregnancy or childbirth. Sadly, these people are victims of extreme poverty. Poverty is the lack of basic human needs such as clean and fresh water, nutrition, healthcare, education, and clothing and shelter, because of the inability to afford them. Fundamentally, poverty is a denial of choices and opportunities, and a violation of human dignity. It means a lack of the basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having land on which to grow one's food or a job to earn one's living, and not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and the exclusion of individuals, households and communities.

The world has become chaotic in recent years, mainly due to poverty. There is a lot of terrorism and many people are dying of hunger; so many wrong things are happening. Unfortunately, extreme poverty is prevalent both in developing and developed countries. According to Oxfam, 13.4 million people in the UK live in poverty—20 per cent of the population. According to Save the Children, 1.6 million children live in severe poverty in the United Kingdom.

In 2000, the United Nations established eight millennium development goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty, education, gender equality, the empowerment of women and a global partnership for development. I declare an interest as founder and chairman trustee of the Loomba Foundation, a UN-accredited global NGO. My charity is committed to raising awareness of the plight of widows and children around the world who are suffering through poverty, illiteracy, HIV, malaria, conflict and social injustice.

In many developing countries in south Asia and across Africa, when a poor woman loses her husband she loses her place in society. She is left on her own without any help. She is poor, uneducated and with no job, and has to depend on her children, who become the breadwinners for their family. Where do the children work? They work on the streets, where often they get involved with crime. They also work in factories where child labour abuse is commonplace. The aim of the Loomba Foundation is to promote the fundamental freedoms and human rights of widows and their children around the world by raising awareness of the gross injustices that women face when losing a husband, and by removing the stigma associated with widowhood.

The Loomba Foundation works together with UN bodies, government officials, leaders and advocates to fight for the more than 245 million widows worldwide who suffer dreadful prejudice and discrimination, by promoting gender-sensitive reform of national laws and policies; eradicating anti-widow superstitions, traditions, and social practices; promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment; implementing poverty-reduction strategies; and promoting opportunities for the education of widows and their children. The Loomba Foundation is educating children of poor widows in India and the selection of the beneficiaries is made without regard to religion, gender or caste.

During 2006-08, our community-based project, launched in partnership with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Unite charity, benefited 1,500 HIV orphans in five townships outside Johannesburg. In 2007, the foundation became a global partner with HRH Prince of Wales’s charity Youth Business International and is empowering young widows by setting up businesses for them in Kenya, Uganda, Syria, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. The Loomba Foundation and Oxfam GB are working in Rwanda through a partnership programme to enrich and empower the lives of widows of the genocide.

In 2009, the Loomba Foundation started a new project in association with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and SolarAid in Malawi and Kenya. Through this important partnership we work with rural communities in both countries to use solar power to fight poverty and climate change. The Loomba Foundation published the comprehensive research study last year, Invisible, Forgotten Sufferers—The Plight of Widows Around the World, which revealed the plight of 245 million widows and 500 million children around the world who suffer in silence. There are 100 million widows who live in poverty struggling to survive; 1.5 million widows’ children around the world will die before they reach the age of five. We have presented the book to UN Secretary-General His Excellency Ban Ki-moon, the honourable President of India and the US Secretary of State, among many other dignitaries. I am arranging for a copy to be placed in the Library.

At the 65th UN General Assembly last year, the United Nations declared 23 June as International Widows Day. The declaration was made unanimously by all 192 member nations. Noble Lords can see how important this issue is. We are proud that it was the Loomba Foundation which initially launched International Widows Day at the House of Lords in the UK in 2005 and has ever since campaigned tirelessly for the UN recognition. The UN-recognised International Widows Day is an effective platform for national Governments, NGOs, corporates and individuals to focus and highlight the plight of impoverished widows throughout the world. It is indeed the commencement of a journey to restore widows’ rights and empower them, which will also enable the UN to meet the millennium development goals on extreme poverty, healthcare, education, equality and empowerment.

I am glad that through our educational and empowerment programmes, my charity has been able to give respect and dignity to widows and help them to break the vicious cycle of poverty. However, we need to do more.

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead Portrait Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead
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My Lords, I also thank my noble friend for initiating what has been a very timely debate. He mentioned the Global Poverty campaign and Positive Women, an NGO which is small, effective and remarkable in many ways and which I also know very well. My noble friend has shown his expertise and commitment. I have worked over a number of years with him as both of us have similar views and interests in international development.

This debate, as it always strikes me, has again been extremely impressive. Your Lordships show not only a real grasp of the issues but a passion for working for change. There is the global commitment to halving poverty by 2015. The millennium declaration is a unique compact between the north and the south and represents a consensus across the world that world poverty is a global problem. Poverty means that if you are a woman you walk several kilometres every day to collect water and firewood. It means suffering from diseases that were eradicated in rich countries decades ago. It means that children whom I have met on many occasions will never hold a pencil, never mind touch the keyboard of a computer. It means that you live in a dangerous and unhealthy environment. It means that you and your children will often go to bed hungry. It means that you are powerless, voiceless, fearful and marginalised. Malaria, HIV/AIDS and maternal and child deaths kill millions every year. Add to that the conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and then we understand why there is a perception that Africa, in particular, is a wasteland of poverty, conflict and disease.

This is not a time for pessimism and cynicism. Great leaps forward have been made and more is certainly needed and possible in the battle that has to be waged against the endemic inequities which keep the people poor, excluded and powerless. Some countries have suffered serious setbacks and economic growth has been extremely unequal. The UN asserts that while the gaps in human development across the world are narrowing they remain huge. Now, however, is not the time to peddle doom and gloom about these issues, but rather to show that aid works and that effective development can and must be supported. That is why donors should focus on what they do best and should work with Governments on health, education, good governance, and support for justice and taxation systems.

In the current financial climate we hear many horror stories but those alone will not bring the necessary responses and justified support for international development which we need to see. Pictures and words about pathetic and supplicant people engender a sense of hopelessness about what can and must be done to make poverty history. A central plank of the Government’s development policies is to work on fragile states and to seek the objective of value for money. Would the Minister care to comment on the view that increasing aid to fragile states is hardly consistent with the value-for-money objective? Is the Minister aware that the National Audit Office has warned DfID that serious efforts have to be made to minimise the clear risk of fraud and corruption in countries where governance and financial systems are weak?

Indeed, Andy Sumner, a very respected development economist, has statistics showing that more than 80 per cent of DfID’s bilateral aid to Africa and Asia by 2014-15 will be going to countries defined as “very corrupt” by Transparency International. Is that not a cause for some serious concern? When we read the inevitable stories of mismanagement of UK development assistance, how then will the Secretary of State justify claims on value for money and how does DfID propose to deal with the clear risks that exist in this situation? Are there plans to ensure that civil society, faith groups and parliaments have access to information that makes it possible for them to track and monitor government expenditure? Is DfID engaged in supporting that in countries where we work?

As many noble Lords have said, a critical element in the arguments that we make about tackling extreme poverty is gender equity. If we do not achieve the MDG targets, we will not achieve gender equality; if we do not achieve gender equality, we will not meet the MDG targets. Extreme poverty erodes the skills, experience and networks that, through women, keep communities going. There is a perfectly justifiable priority for tackling the most intractable MDG—as others have mentioned, it is on maternal mortality—but such is the low value, status and respect given to women that we will not see the fundamental change that we need if we are to be able to save those precious women’s lives.

We say this in the context of an OECD report that projects that aid will increase at about 1 per cent a year compared with a 13 per cent annual growth rate in the past three years. We should therefore be concerned that additional aid to low-income countries is likely very soon to be outpaced by population increases. Fifteen DAC members that are EU countries are promising a collective target of 0.7 per cent in 2015. One of them is the United Kingdom. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are absolutely sure that the 0.7 per cent target will be reached by the UK by 2015? Does the Minister agree that in the current circumstances innovative sources of financing development must be found? Will the Government support calls for increased taxation of the UK’s financial sector, which according to the Institute for Public Policy Research could raise an extra £20 billion of revenue every year? The revenue that accrues could be used to tackle poverty at home and abroad and to meet the effects of climate change. This so-called Robin Hood tax has widespread support. The European Parliament recently adopted a position backing the idea of a tax that ensures that financial services make a contribution to the cost of recovery from the banking crisis. Global agreement on such a tax would be best, but the UK’s stamp duty demonstrates that it is possible to introduce a successful, well designed financial transaction tax without undermining competitiveness. According to experts, a levy, even at the very low level proposed, is expected to raise funds that can contribute to global collective goods, especially green technology and development aid. Would the Minister care to comment on whether it is likely that the UK will support the view of Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy that now is the time to move forward on the financial transaction tax?

May I also ask whether the UK will join members of the G20 that urge greater control of food speculation? Does the Minister agree that the activities of commodity investors and hedge fund managers have exacerbated the increases in food prices that we have seen and the resulting hunger and increased poverty?

I shall finally make one small point. Many Members of this House have spoken of making poverty history. There are things that we can do. New sources of finance are one of them, and hope I have made a case for them. What we have to do is to make sure that we make poverty history and not our future.

Baroness Verma Portrait Baroness Verma
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My Lords, I join all noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, for securing this important debate today and for his most informed speech. I know he is passionate about his work on conflict prevention and resolution and on Malawi. I am sure he will agree with me that the quality of contributions today has been outstanding. While a number of questions have been raised, on the whole we can say that the whole House is committed to seeing that British aid produces a sustainable and positive outcome on the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The British people have consistently demonstrated their generosity and their far-sightedness in responding to the needs of the poorest people in the world. That is why the coalition Government’s decision to live up to Britain’s international development commitments, despite the difficult economic circumstances we face, is something that we believe the whole country can be very proud of. We will not balance the books on the backs of the poorest because we know that it is in our moral and national interest to help to achieve the millennium development goals. British aid has already helped half a billion people lift themselves out of crushing poverty, saved the lives of 6 million children through immunisation and put tens of millions more children into school.

However, the scale of the challenge is immense and we need to deliver more than ever before by focusing our effort where the need is greatest, not only saving but transforming millions of lives by providing access to food, clean drinking water, basic healthcare and education. Our approach is defined by our determination to deliver the greatest possible return on our investment, both for the world’s poorest people and for the British taxpayer. That is why since the election we have undertaken three reviews: of our bilateral programmes, our support through multilateral organisations and our response to humanitarian emergencies.

The results of the bilateral aid review have enabled us to direct UK funding to the countries where it will have the most impact on the poorest people. For example, we have scaled up our programmes in countries such as Pakistan and Ethiopia, where British taxpayers’ money can help even more people to access basic necessities. We are ending programmes to countries which do not need aid, such as Russia and China, and we will instead work in partnership with them to help reduce poverty around the world. We will invest more of our resources where the need is greatest and where our money will have the most impact. Other donors will continue to work in countries where they are better placed to help.

I disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, about India. India may be a growing economy but there are more poor people in India than there are in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. This is therefore not the time to end our aid—

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I did say that India has the largest number of poor people; I also said that there is now an increasingly large number of very rich people who are not doing very much.

Baroness Verma Portrait Baroness Verma
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We will work with India to encourage those very rich people to help the poor people but in the mean time we will focus on the three poorest states–Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa—and start to make a transition away from aid towards a partnership in which we will work together to build prosperity in the world and reduce poverty wherever it remains.

The multilateral aid review took a long, hard look at the value for money offered by 43 of the multilateral organisations through which Britain has, until now, invested aid. It assessed the relevance of each organisation or fund to the UK’s development objectives and their ability to deliver results on the ground. This rigorous and robust exercise which reported in March has provided, for the first time, a comprehensive overview of the strengths and weaknesses of each multilateral agency or organisation. The review confirmed that the multilateral system is a critical complement to what the UK Government can do but it also found evidence of significant weaknesses.

The review has helped the UK to make evidence-based decisions about how we deliver funding through all of the multilateral agencies to make the greatest possible impact. This includes significant increases in funding to some of the best performers, and a withdrawal of DfID core funding from four organisations that make a poor contribution to UK development objectives. The review has also given a real impetus to efforts to improve the international system. It has generated significant interest in other countries, civil society and the institutions themselves. We will be working with all of these stakeholders to strengthen the ability of the multilateral organisations to deliver value for money and better results on the ground. Improvements will benefit both the taxpayer and those living in poverty.

The humanitarian emergency response review, which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, proposed placing humanitarian response and resilience to disasters at the heart of the development agenda, better integrating it with development programmes. This is a challenging vision for DfID and for other development agencies, and we are now considering all the noble Lord’s recommendations. The Secretary of State for International Development will present DfID’s response to the report in the coming weeks.

I shall address some current situations. It is critical that change in the Middle East and north Africa is met with and supported by an ambitious and effective international response. DfID is working with the EU, international financial institutions and the UN to ensure timely and generous support for greater political openness, better governance and economic opportunity for all. In addition, our bilateral programmes in Yemen and the Occupied Palestinian Territories continue to support delivery of basic services for the poor and vulnerable, and to address humanitarian needs.

In Libya, Britain is taking a leading role in international efforts to protect civilians from ongoing attacks by the Gaddafi regime and to help avert a humanitarian crisis. The situation in the west of the country is getting worse every day. Towns, including Misrata, are under siege and civilians lack access to basic necessities such as food, water and electricity. There is also a shortage of some crucial medical supplies. The UK was one of the first countries to support the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people. So far, we have given more than £13 million for medical and food supplies and emergency shelter, and assisted the evacuation of more than 17,000 vulnerable people.

We are increasing our efforts to tackle poverty in a number of conflict-affected and fragile states. Helping to address conflicts in the developing world, and fighting poverty among those caught in wars and violence, must be central to our aid policy if we are to help end global poverty. Nine of the 10 poorest countries in the world are fragile states. In Africa, more than two-thirds of the poorest people live in countries affected by conflict and fragility. Not a single low-income, fragile or conflict-affected country has yet achieved a millennium development goal.

That is why this Government have committed to invest 30 per cent of UK aid in fragile and conflict-affected states. We are taking an integrated approach, bringing a sense of unity and common purpose to Whitehall to tackle instability and conflict overseas. This work will make a real difference to the health, education, safety and opportunities of the some of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

The World Bank’s World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, released earlier this month, has emphasised that citizen security, justice and jobs are all needed to break the cycle of violence and conflict. The UK is already investing in results in these crucial areas. For example, the bilateral aid review sets out how we will create 200,000 jobs in Afghanistan, train 3,000 Somaliland police in human rights and establish 300 community security schemes in fragile areas of Pakistan.

I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, supports DfID’s programmes which place emphasis on women and girls. Like her, we strongly believe that transforming the lives of women and girls is the only route to helping eliminate poverty. This House has debated these issues a number of times recently, including in celebrating the centenary of International Women’s Day. However, the challenges remain. Not only do girls and women suffer disproportionately from poverty, with a third of a million women dying from avoidable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, but 10 million more girls than boys are out of school. My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes spoke about women holding the key to faster progress on poverty reduction. She spoke about the two chickens given to a woman to start a small business. Recent research has shown that, for example, a $10 increase in women’s income achieves the same benefits to their children’s health and nutrition as a $110 increase in men’s income. That is what I call value for money.

The Government are therefore committed to putting girls and women at the front and centre of international development. DfID has published A New Strategic Vision for Girls and Women, committing us by 2015 to saving the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies, allowing at least 10 million women to access modern methods of family planning, supporting over 9 million children in primary education, of which at least half will be girls, and 700,000 girls in secondary education, helping 2.3 million women to access jobs and 18 million women to access financial services, and working in at least 15 countries to prevent violence against girls and women.

We also campaigned hard for the creation of the new UN Women organisation, headed by Michelle Bachelet. We were one of the first to provide funding for the establishment of the new agency and we look forward to its first strategic plan so that we can provide longer-term funding. We are delighted that Mrs Bachelet will visit Britain on 16 and 17 May.

We want to empower women to make choices for their own and their families’ health, and to make pregnancy and childbirth safe for mothers and babies. The noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, highlighted the great plight faced by many mothers not just in poor countries but in this country too. People—often men—think that childbirth is easy. I wish that they could have a jolly good go at it just once.

As I said earlier, at least a third of a million women and girls die in pregnancy and childbirth each year and 500 million give birth without skilled care. At the end of last year, the UK Government published their Choices for Women framework for results, which sets out how UK aid will save the lives of thousands of women and children. The framework also contains specific commitments to deliver results for the poorest women, who have the greatest need but are being left behind, by focusing on the poorest 40 per cent of households. It also has a particular focus on education for adolescents to build girls’ capability to make healthy choices.

Another example of our very practical approach to improving the health of poor people relates to vaccinations. Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective health interventions available. Our support to the GAVI Alliance, which increases access to immunisation in developing countries, has so far has helped to immunise 288 million children in the world’s poorest countries and to prevent 5.4 million deaths between 2000 and 2009.

At the Davos World Economic Forum in January 2011, the Prime Minister also announced that the UK would double its commitment to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, provided other donors step forward with additional contributions and countries build polio eradication into their routine immunisation programmes. An additional 45 million children will be vaccinated against polio as a result, most of them in the poorest and remotest regions of the world.

Transparency is essential to delivering and demonstrating results so that taxpayers in the UK see where aid money goes and citizens in poor countries can check that it is being used properly—and shout if it is not. The Government’s UKaid Transparency Guarantee increases the amount of aid information published. DfID was also the first donor to publish information in line with a new international aid transparency standard.

The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, mentioned the importance of wealth creation and economic development. We all know that the private sector is the crucial engine for economic growth, which provides new jobs, new opportunities and new markets to lift people out of poverty. However, not enough has been done in the past to support the private sector. DfID has now set up a new private sector department to become more business-savvy and work closely with private sector—both in the UK and with entrepreneurs in poor countries—to drive private sector growth.

DfID will over the next four years increase access to microfinance using technologies such as mobile banking and give small and medium-sized enterprises greater access to financial services. That will help 50 million people and small firms to get access to savings, credit, insurance and other financial services, which is critical to helping them withstand economic shocks, increase their incomes and pay for basic services such as health and education.

It is the world’s poorest who will be hit first and hardest by climate change, yet they are least responsible for its causes and least able to cope with its effects. Left unchecked, climate change will cruelly impede our progress towards development goals and jeopardise our existing gains, but it is not just poor countries and poor people that will be hit. There will also be a knock-on effect on our security and national interest. That is why the UK is showing international leadership in supporting poverty reduction by helping developing countries to adapt to climate change, take up low-carbon growth and tackle deforestation.

For example, in Bangladesh, we have made it possible for more than 90,000 homes to be raised on other platforms to protect 500,000 families and their livestock from seasonal monsoon floods. On low-carbon development, we will give greater emphasis to partnering developing countries to help them attract private investment.

I am running out of time, so I will march through responses to some of the questions asked. The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, asked about the publication of the stabilisation strategy; it will be published in the coming months. As soon as it is, we will inform him. He also asked whether education will now not be a priority. Education is fundamental to everything we do; it is the key to beating poverty and the greatest investment we can make for global prosperity and the future of our world.

The noble Lords, Lord Chidgey and Lord McConnell, asked about the European Union. The MAR found that the European Union budget programmes are less poverty-focused than the EDF, but that they address some of the key issues that other organisations cannot. Therefore, it is important that we ensure that the programmes reform their systems to deliver the best outcomes. The noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, also asked about the publication of country office plans. Operational plans for all DfID country offices and for departments in the UK will be published during May.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, whom I wish well on her five days of living on less than £1, made the point that we have many challenges ahead. They will be addressed only if everyone signs up to the commitment. That is why we encourage other donors to live up to their commitments—what they have promised and pledged—but also to commit to 0.7 per cent of GNP, as the UK has by 2013. To answer the question of the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock, that will be legislated for. The noble Baronesses, Lady Warwick and Lady Kinnock, asked about the conditionality of UK aid on good governance. I agree that that is crucial, but we must not abandon those countries that do not have good governance. It is really about making sure that what they are doing has oversight from donors.

I have run out of time. To those to whom I have not responded today, I promise to respond in writing.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her responses. We look forward to further clarification of any points that have not been addressed in her closing remarks. This has been an excellent debate. Contributions from several noble Baronesses and others on the importance of women and girls’ empowerment and education have brought that issue to the forefront. My colleagues in Positive Women, for which I am raising funds next week, will be delighted to hear that. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and others mentioned the importance of going beyond Governments to civil society and faith groups to ensure that our aid and development work goes as far and as deep as possible.

We were all inspired by the captivating speech of the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, which brought home to us the critical importance of these issues for the people affected by them, not for the institutions or Governments. The whole debate has been not only a call to action but also an inspiration to those like the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, and I who, over the next week, will live below the line on less than £1 a day. When the noble Baroness and I first debated together back in 1987 in an STV studio in Scotland, we could not have imagined that today we would be speaking on the same subject with the same passion and with the same outcomes in mind. It is good to have been able to take part in this debate on those terms.

We look forward to the challenge, and we hope that the hundreds of people who will join us next week have been inspired by the unity of purpose and call to action that the House of Lords has displayed today. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.