Rohingya Refugees

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Tuesday 16th January 2024

(5 months ago)

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Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right that we take our responsibilities very seriously. We have those discussions at permanent-member level of the UN Security Council. I will personally take this up with Barbara Woodward, our excellent permanent representative, to see what more can be done over the coming period. Fundamentally, we have set out what we think is necessary: the aid to go in, the accountability to be in place and the pressure for a long-term solution, and, at the same time, the Government obeying the interim measures set out by the ICJ.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the failure of the international community to deal with the attempted genocide in Myanmar against the Rohingya is just one example of the failure of the responsibility to protect norms over the course of the past decade in so many places. What are the Government doing to reinvigorate the discussion on responsibility to protect at the United Nations and ensure that there is a refreshed approach to this in place that will help protect citizens who are under attack from their own Government, legitimate or otherwise?

Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton Portrait Lord Cameron of Chipping Norton (Con)
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The issue of the responsibility to protect is one we have taken forward and discuss with allies and partners. It is developing a doctrine, as it were. When it comes to this issue, we have a role; we are making a contribution and we are, I think, doing more than many countries of our size and scale. I think that there is a lot we should do to sort support ASEAN. It has set out its five principles for dealing with Myanmar, which we support, and has a co-ordinator from Laos who we want to work with. Ultimately, we should respect the fact that, in its region, ASEAN should take the lead on this issue and we can support where we can.

UN General Assembly September 2023

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 18th October 2023

(8 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the outcomes of the High-Level Meeting of the United Nations General Assembly held in September 2023.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, high-level week was a critical collective moment to tackle the growing interconnected challenges that we face by listening to the concerns of our partners, particularly in the developing world. We saw important progress made to accelerate delivery of the sustainable development goals. Importantly, the world also heard President Zelensky make the case for a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine, and the UK Government, alongside partners, led in broadening the vital international conversation on artificial intelligence.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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I thank the noble Lord the Minister for his Answer and I look forward to the publication of the White Paper, which I understand is planned for November, on the sustainable development goals. Can I ask more widely? This is perhaps directly related to the non-attendance of our own Prime Minister but also a number of other national leaders around the world—indicating, I think, a feeling of impotence at the moment on the ability of the United Nations to influence the conflicts that we see, and the persecution and violence against individuals in so many countries. Given the failure of the international community to protect civilians in Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Ukraine and most recently, of course, Israel and Gaza over recent years, does the UK now recognise that there is a need for fundamental reform of an institution that is still built around the outcome of the Second World War and is not fit for the challenges and conflicts of the 21st century? Will the Government set out at some point their intentions to take a lead in that debate?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the question of attendance, there was high-level attendance from the United Kingdom, led by the Deputy Prime Minister. As the noble Lord may well be aware, it is not the first time that has happened and it is not uncommon. The Deputy Prime Minister led the delegations in 2010 and 2013, and the Foreign Secretary did so between 2001 and 2004 and in 2006 and 2007.

The important element was the discussions and some of the outcomes. The noble Lord is right that conflicts persist around the world. I argue that we are seeing a record number of conflicts around the world, certainly in my time as a Minister. There is a need for early intervention and prevention but also engagement and conflict mediation. The structures are there but they need reform, and the United Kingdom has been at the forefront of that, including supporting Secretary-General Guterres’s common agenda for the future. It is important that we get the sustainable development goals back on track, because they are important to deliver. When you see progress being made there, it needs not just the focus of one country or two countries but a collective unity to ensure that we meet the challenges we currently face.

Ukraine: Post-conflict Reconstruction

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 7th September 2023

(9 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I take on board what my noble friend has said. I assure him that we are working to ensure that the infrastructure within Ukraine is developed in a more resilient fashion. We are providing technical support. We are working on energy infrastructure. My noble friend makes an important point about cultural heritage. We are working with bodies such as UNESCO to ensure that, first and foremost, we protect those heritage sites and that, where they have been destroyed, they are rebuilt.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the Prime Minister confirmed in February that more than £2 billion of assets that previously belonged to Roman Abramovich of Chelsea Football Club were ready to be transferred to a humanitarian foundation to be spent on those impacted by the war in Ukraine. That money has not yet been transferred; the foundation has not yet been established; the humanitarian work has not yet begun. Will the Government move a bit more quickly to ensure that this happens as soon as possible?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I can confirm that that was the point my right honourable friend made. The current situation remains that those assets are frozen and cannot be moved unless a licence is issued by the OFSI department within the Treasury. I can assure the noble Lord that we are working in an expedited way with our colleagues in the Treasury to ensure that those funds can be utilised appropriately.

Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Friday 9th September 2022

(1 year, 9 months ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I echo the thanks and congratulations of the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, to the Front-Bench speakers, who all spoke so eloquently and movingly for us today. I have no wish to duplicate or repeat what they said; I just want to add a few remarks of my own.

Very few of us will be lucky enough to pass away in the place that we love the most, but we saw this week, after such a life of service, our Queen deservedly pass away in a place that she loved perhaps more than any other. That must have brought her, her family and her staff incredible solace. Balmoral was a very special place to the Queen. It was a place where she not only conducted official duties but was able to relax and have fun with official visitors and with family and friends.

Like the most reverend Primate, some of us have had the incredible privilege of enjoying those barbecues—not at Sandringham, in my case, but at Balmoral, where she would pretend to race with her staff up through the hills to the cottage where the barbecues took place. She was jokingly racing—she would always say to me that she knew that they were never going to try to pass her, but she had to pretend to be part of the race anyway and get there first. She would roll up her sleeves and help set the fire, set the table and clear up afterwards. It was somewhere where she really felt at home. As First Minister, I enjoyed those moments more than I ever expected to. My nerves went after the first year and, as the years went by, we enjoyed sharing stories and experiences.

I recall in particular when the Queen told a story about two American tourists, who had been on a bus trip and had wandered round the back of Balmoral to the rose garden, where she was tending the roses with her headscarf and sunglasses on. Of course, they did not recognise her. They broke into conversation: they asked her what it was like to work for the Queen and whether the Queen never tended the roses herself. She played along with it for five minutes or so, and they were very grateful for the opportunity to hear so much about the life of the Queen from one of her staff. They went back round to the bus to leave Balmoral, and she very quickly nipped into the kitchen, took her headscarf and sunglasses off, went out the front door and waved goodbye to the bus, only to see these two American tourists looking out the window, nudging everybody and saying that they had just spoken to her in the garden. That great sense of humour and fun was remarkable, and it was a privilege to have seen it up close.

I also appreciated, as I am absolutely certain previous and current First Ministers in the devolved Governments have, her interest in, and the time spent with her discussing, the way in which devolution was developing in the United Kingdom and the issues at play, good and bad, in our devolved nations.

We have heard a lot this week about consistency. Although her consistency was important, it was also very important that she was able to change and adapt with the times as society changed over the decades she served us. Her ability to embrace that change was, for me, just as important as the consistency of her values.

Her relationship with Scotland did not begin in 1999, but her relationship with Scotland informed her ability to embrace the constitutional changes that took place that year and to show real empathy, respect and support for the new institutions, not just in Edinburgh but in Cardiff and Belfast too. She met the new Cabinet in 1999 and she embodied the positive celebrations that we had in those early days. Crucially, in 2002, during that Golden Jubilee, she came to the Scottish Parliament again and reminded us of the importance of the long-term goal, helping us steady the ship after those rocky first three years and giving us a lead by saying that, if you serve the people, you will get there in the end. That made a huge difference to the Parliament and to Scotland at the time.

She understood that the UK was four nations but, more than that, she understood the Commonwealth—that tapestry of nations that she did so much to nurture and support. I was amazed to get a text today at 7 am. This time last week, I was in Maganga Secondary School in Salima, in rural Malawi—a school where none of the girls had ever visited a big city or seen a television. The head teacher sent me a text this morning which reads: “On behalf of Maganga School, staff and students, I would like to sincerely express our sadness upon hearing about the death of the Queen, Queen Elizabeth II. As a school, we are very sorry for that great loss. She was our Queen, and a great personality to us all. May the good Lord be with the bereaved family.” That is the mark of the impact that she had around the world, not just for leaders, not just for history, but right now, today, in some of the poorest villages in Malawi and elsewhere.

Finally, I want to recall her kindness to my family and my staff, and her commitment to her own family—remember, she was a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother, and her family will be grieving desperately this weekend. I thank her for her support, and know that she would want us to give full support to King Charles III; I thank her for her service; I thank her personally for those treasured moments that I have. We are poorer for her passing, but we are richer and stronger for her life.

Baroness Walmsley Portrait Baroness Walmsley (LD)
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My Lords, I shall say a few words from these Benches on behalf of myself and my co-deputy leader, my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who is unable to be with us today.

Her late Majesty, like many women, was thrown into a difficult role at a time when she least expected it, yet, like many women, she pulled herself together despite her grief and got on with her job—or her calling, as she saw it. She did it in her own way, as I am sure our new King, King Charles, will also do, adapting her approach as appropriate over the years. As the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, just said, she managed to achieve a balance between consistency and flexibility, and she did it with grace, charm, dignity and dedication. She was at the heart of her family and the nation, and supported us all in good times and in bad. We will miss her among us, as she has so often been.

Everyone who met her has an anecdote about our late Queen, but I am not going to share mine today. Instead, I should like to share just a couple of things that I take away from her long life of service.

First, you always knew which side she was on. She was on my side and your side. She was on the side of all the people of our nation and Commonwealth. She wanted us all to do well. I had the impression that she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to recognise people’s achievements and contributions to the nation or their community when she honoured them at investitures and visits throughout the country. She never took sides, expect when there was a chance that her horse might win the race.

International Development Strategy

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Monday 6th June 2022

(2 years ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will announce their new international development strategy.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in doing so, draw attention to my entry in the Lords register.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government published their UK strategy for international development on 16 May this year. The strategy puts development at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy. It sets out a focused set of priorities: delivering honest, reliable investment; providing women and girls with the freedom they need to succeed; stepping up our life-saving humanitarian work; and taking forward our work on climate change, nature and global health.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lord the Minister for his Answer on behalf of the Government, and I would like to be positive: it is good that we now have a strategy. It is long overdue. It is good to see some clear priorities, and I welcome the recommitment to the sustainable development goals and to long-term, consistent planning. However, the strategy does appear to reverse a long-term commitment—under Labour, Conservative and coalition Governments—to putting conflict prevention and peacebuilding at the heart of this country’s development strategy. It is hard to find references to conflict in the strategy document. There are two, a paragraph on page 16 and a paragraph on page 30, and they appear to be an afterthought. Do the Government understand that those who live in conflict-affected and fragile states have the least opportunities, the least safety and the least hope, and that therefore they should be at the heart of the whole development strategy? What action will the Government take to ensure that the priorities they have outlined do not sideline conflict prevention and peacebuilding?

International Development

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Tuesday 8th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their new strategy for international development.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government will publish a new international development strategy this spring and it will guide our work for the coming decade and beyond. It will align our development work with the aims and objectives of the integrated review.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, in our increasingly interdependent world, successive Secretaries of State for International Development and Prime Ministers have recognised the crucial importance of conflict prevention and peacebuilding in our international development strategy. That is precisely because those who are affected by violent conflict are those who suffer from the least development and the fewest opportunities; of course, those conflicts spill over and affect us in our country too. Will the Government give a cast-iron guarantee that, in the priorities outlined in the new international development strategy, this cross-party approach will be continued and that support for conflict prevention and peacebuilding will continue to be a priority for the United Kingdom?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I absolutely can provide that guarantee. The UK is committed to working to prevent and reduce the frequency and intensity of conflict and instability, and to minimise opportunities for state and non-state actors to undermine international security. As the noble Lord said, it is absolutely in our national interest to mitigate the global impact from terrorism, serious and organised crime, and health threats, as well as regional impacts of conflict.

Philippines: Typhoon Odette

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are providing to the Philippines following Typhoon Odette.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in doing so, draw the House’s attention to my register of interests.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, we were saddened to see the devastation wrought by Typhoon Odette, known internationally as Typhoon Rai, on the Philippines on 16 and 17 December. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected. The UK has committed £750,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ emergency appeal launched on 18 December. This will go towards supporting the recovery needs of affected people, including water, sanitation and shelter. The UK is one of the top four contributors to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which is contributing $12 million to the UN’s humanitarian response plan for Typhoon Odette.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and the embassy in Manila for all its action over the last three weeks. I visited the Philippines as a VSO international volunteer shortly after Typhoon Yolanda in early 2014 and saw for myself the devastation that these extreme weather events have on a country that has weak resilience and more extreme weather events than any other country in the world. I have watched since then the way in which climate change has accelerated the regularity of these events. I have two questions for the Minister. First, will the forthcoming international development strategy properly recognise the importance of disaster risk resilience, to protect development rather than see it blown away in a matter of moments? At the same time, will the Government recognise the critical importance of volunteers in the humanitarian response to these kinds of disasters? They are most often on the ground in the community and able to respond very quickly, so will they be reprioritised in future international development funding?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I can give an emphatic yes to both those questions. The noble Lord is right to identify the Philippines as being particularly on the front line in relation to climate extremes. This is the 15th typhoon to hit the Philippines in the last year. That phenomenon underscores the acute vulnerability of the Philippines and other climate-vulnerable nations to these now unfortunately inevitable changes.

International Development Strategy

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 16th December 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

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Moved by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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That this House takes note of the plans by Her Majesty’s Government to announce a new international development strategy for the United Kingdom in 2022.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity. I draw attention to my entry in the Lords register.

This week, across the United Kingdom, families of all faiths have been worrying about how they will manage to spend the holiday season, beginning next week, with their families and, perhaps, their friends. However, my thoughts have been drawn constantly this week to those millions of people around the world for whom daily life is so unbearable and the future so threatening that, whatever small luxuries they might enjoy this holiday season, they are looking forward to 2022 with dread. Wherever they come from, those who are hungry and worried, who have been displaced and who are experiencing extreme weather events or conflict and violence, will look at the Christmas period as a time when those relentless pressures continue and are not abated.

This year, that is perhaps more true in Afghanistan than anywhere else, given the events of recent months. Not only is there drought, a vaccination rate below 10% and 2 million people in the country currently hungry as a result of this year’s events, it is reckoned that perhaps as many as 1 million children under five could die in 2022 if emergency assistance is not available. Yesterday, the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal for Afghanistan. I urge Members of your Lordships’ House to support it this Christmas and think about those in much less fortunate circumstances than us.

This is a rare opportunity to debate a strategy that has not yet been published. I therefore very much welcome this opportunity and am grateful to be able to lead the debate. I thank the Minister for attending and for what I am sure will be an interesting summation of the debate. I also thank him for his work this year in ensuring that COP 26 focused not only on climate change but on moving the emergency of our natural resource depletion up the agenda and putting biodiversity at the centre of the debate in a way that had not been the case at previous climate summits.

I thank noble Lords for speaking in the debate but I am sure that we all miss Frank Judd, who would of course have contributed today had he been with us at the end of this year, as he was last Christmas. I hope that his regular call to think about the interdependence of our world will be at the forefront of our minds in our contributions today. I made my first contribution in your Lordships’ House on 8 July 2010, speaking just after Lord Judd. At that time—it was a debate on international development—I referred to “signs of hope”. In my summation, I said:

“Let us build on them and help to build a safer and more prosperous world for us all.”—[Official Report, 8/7/10; col. 360.]


That seems like a very long time ago.

In the years following that debate, the new Government appeared as enthusiastic as the previous one about international development and making a positive contribution overseas, with the establishment of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which evolved over the years into the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, and the commitment to 50% of ODA going to fragile and conflict-affected states. The commitment given by the previous Government to spend 0.7% of GNI on official development assistance was also enacted during that period.

The emerging consensus, which was perhaps stronger than it had ever been in our country, was that the UK’s role as a development superpower was a key part of our soft power around the world and not just a moral obligation—it is a moral obligation, of course; I will always insist that that is the primary purpose of the contribution that we make—but it was also in our own self-interest in building a better and safer world for all. Even in 2019, after all the division of the previous two or three years and that very divisive election campaign, there was still some consensus between the parties and their manifestos. The party that won that election, of course, had firm manifesto commitments to increase spending on girls’ education, end malaria and maintain the commitment to 0.7% of our GNI being spent on official development assistance.

How different 2021 has been. In a year when our call to action should have been much stronger than ever before, with so many around the world suffering from vaccine inequality and the economic, educational and health challenges of lockdowns, we were the only leading nation in the world to cut our official development assistance. In a year when millions of youngsters missed out on school and millions of girls will not return to school, we cut the funding that we were going to give to girls’ education. In a year when we led the climate summit in Glasgow and had a responsibility to show an example to the rest of the world, we fell short on transitional funding for the countries that will suffer most from climate change and will now potentially suffer most in the transition to a greener future. This year, we have seen the migration and displacement of people go to their highest levels ever. We have seen the number of people around the world in extreme poverty go up, rather than down, for the first time in a generation. We continue to see vaccine inequality causing difficulties and problems in every part of the world.

Since 2010 and that speech I made in my first month in your Lordships’ House, I have tried very hard to work on a cross-party basis on international development and conflict issues, and to build friendships and collaborations across this House and another place to ensure that we take this agenda forward. I have tried to be optimistic at all times—even at the end of 2021, when I believe that the Government have made so many mistakes in this area of policy. I will try to be optimistic again today because the integrated review gave a commitment to a new international development strategy. It said that we would continue as a country to be a world leader on development. It said that we would restate our commitment to poverty eradication. It said that we would align our development spending and work with the Paris Agreement. It said that we would continue to work to achieve the SDGs by 2030. I welcome those commitments; I want to see them at the heart of this new strategy.

Today, I do not want to talk about how much is in the budget or how we spend the money; that is, the mechanics of delivery. I want to concentrate and what and why. This review should be an opportunity to review some of the inexplicable decisions that were made in 2021, such as the decision to almost completely clear out all UK funding for mine clearance around the world, which was just shameful. It should also be an opportunity to reinforce bilateral programmes again and give our ambassadors the sort of clout they could have had with an FCDO that was on the front foot rather than the back foot.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, recently suggested in your Lordships’ House, it should set out a plan to work towards 0.7% being back in place, not just as a hope, an aspiration or a surprise in some budget in two or three years’ time, but as a step-by-step rebuild of the capacity and the spending. Also, much more importantly, it should set out priorities and a strategy. The objective and purpose of that strategy should be our contribution to the international effort to eradicate extreme poverty. That is the primary purpose of our official development assistance. The primary purpose of international development work should be to leave no one behind.

There is, of course, a role for the UK and others to contribute to immediate emergency humanitarian needs and, of course, we build into these strategies environmental considerations, the need for economic growth to sustain development, and the need for better governance and security, but poverty reduction is the moral purpose of development and the best way to ensure that our interests are met in the long-term, as well as the interests of those who suffer extreme poverty.

I suggest three key priorities for this strategy, which we hope will be published in the new year. First, it should be crystal clear throughout that we align our development spending and our work with the Paris Agreement and now, of course, with the agreements that were reached in Glasgow, and that we support the continuing UK COP 26 presidency by ensuring that we are working in a joined-up way between our development work and our work towards a greener and more environmentally friendly world. We should not be substituting development spending for the spending on the other initiatives that the Government should be pursuing in the UK’s role as president of COP 26. We should focus our development spending on supporting just transitions and mitigating the impacts, and on disaster resilience in the meantime for those countries that suffer the most from extreme weather events and climate change.

The second priority that should run right through the strategy is a focus on girls and women. The new Foreign Secretary has already mentioned economic development as a key priority, and of course we want to see economic growth in the developing world that sustains development over the longer term. Women’s economic empowerment, bringing women to the centre, will be by far the best investment for the long term to secure sustainable economic development. Alongside that, equal access to health, human rights, and the freedom to enjoy a childhood without being married early or having your body abused are fundamental, as is the need for girls’ education, not just in primary school but right through secondary school and into further and higher education. Education is the great liberator. I think that the Prime Minister understands this and believes it. I implore him to turn it into action and funding, and to deliver more than just the words of the commitment.

The third area, which the Government have had a reasonably good record on over the last decade, is the commitment to conflict-affected and fragile states; I sincerely hope that that will be at the heart of the new strategy. Support for peacebuilding and conflict prevention has been the hallmark of UK development work for two decades. In that debate in 2010, I said that

“development is the mortar of peace.”—[Official Report, 8/7/10; col. 360.]

Development and peace are completely interlinked. Nelson Mandela said that you cannot get peace without development and you cannot get development without peace. We see today in Ethiopia how quickly incredible levels of development can fall apart when conflict re-emerges. We see in Afghanistan that without governance and stability, and without trust in institutions and a functioning democracy, how people’s lives can be turned around in a matter of months.

We must retain our commitment to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. I would like to see the strategy reaffirm the commitment to 50% of the budget going to those states and these projects and development initiatives, putting democracy, human rights, trust in institutions and the rule of law, fighting injustice and protecting security at the heart of our development work. It is long-term, tough work, working with people—not “to” people or “about” people. This work is vital and makes such a difference. We have a ready-made framework for these priorities and for our development work if, as the G7 said in Cornwall back in June, we are serious about launching a drive towards what was then called the “build back better” world—a slightly strange title for a new initiative but welcome in its positivity.

The sustainable development goals agreed in 2015, which the UK played such a role in agreeing, pulling together and then promoting, address the key social needs of the world. They address the economic growth and security that are required to deliver those needs, and they address the foundations of a better-protected planet and of peace and security that will ensure that will ensure that development can be consistent and sustainable. The integrated review said that achieving the SDGs by 2030 remained a UK commitment. In the words of the Prime Minister at the last election, it is a ready-made framework for sustainable development and for building back a better world. I hope that those goals are embraced as part of this strategy.

In conclusion, I refer to the speech made by the new Foreign Secretary earlier this month at Chatham House, where she laid out her priorities. She talked in that speech of a “network of liberty”, of putting freedom, in economic and political terms, at the heart of the UK’s vision in the world. Liberty comes in many forms. You cannot trade if you do not have anything to trade. Freedom from oppression, fear and violence is important, but the freedom which allows people to go to school, to earn money, to have a job, to see opportunities and to take them up—these are the freedoms which will change the world. Just as I said in 2010 that development is the mortar of peace, I believe that development is the enabler of freedom. I hope that the new Foreign Secretary remembers that when she agrees this international development strategy.

We can all do better than we did in 2021 as we go into 2022. We should clearly resolve this Christmas and into the new year that 2022 will be very different from the 12 months that we are leaving behind. I beg to move.

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and the detailed way in which he has addressed the issues raised in the debate. Even where we disagree with him, I respect and appreciate his engagement. I look forward to that continuing in early 2022 as we move towards the launch of the strategy.

Like him, I am not going to delay everybody by going back over the arguments that have just been made, but I do welcome and am grateful for the contributions that were made around your Lordships’ Chamber in support of the priorities that I outlined in my introduction—of climate and net zero, of girls and women, and of conflict prevention and peacebuilding—which will be at the heart of this new international development strategy. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Hodgson and Lady Sugg, for their eloquent advocacy of the importance of positioning girls and women at the heart of international development and change around the world.

In addition to thanking everybody who has spoken and taken the time to wait to make their contributions on this last day before the Christmas Recess, I will make two brief points before concluding. First, I strongly support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, about the inconsistency in some of the bilateral decision-making. It is inexplicable that countries such as Malawi and Zambia, which have had such democratic transformations over the last two years, were treated so badly when others were not. In Malawi, there is confusion and dismay over that decision. There is a deadly serious drugs crisis in Malawi’s health service at the moment which will cost hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives in the new year. It was not caused by the UK aid decision, but it was not helped by it either. I hope that these decisions will be revisited and that a consistency of principle is applied to future bilateral programming.

Secondly, 37 years ago this month my good friend Jim Diamond, who has sadly passed away, had his first hit single as a solo singer with “I Should Have Known Better”. That should perhaps be a motto for the Government, after some of the decisions that were made this year. Jim went on the radio as the Band Aid single was launched and asked people not to buy his single any more, but to buy the Band Aid one instead. With 37 years of experience, we might now have some question marks over some of the lyrics of the Band Aid single, but at that point it marked a change in the debates in this country about our international relationships. That was happening at the same time as the old international battles of East and West were starting to come to an end, at the end of the 1980s. We were looking more at North and South, sustainable development, extreme poverty around the world and our contribution to tackling it.

This Christmas, as we talk about good will to all people and peace over these next days, I hope we remember that they are not just concepts and aspirations for Christmas but should apply all year round. Our compassion and determination to tackle these issues needs to go into 2022 and beyond with much more commitment, sensible decision-making, belief and ambition than we displayed in 2021. With that, I wish everybody a merry Christmas, a happy new year and a much better 12 months to come.

Motion agreed.

International Development Strategy

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their international development strategy.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, noting my interests in the Lords register, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is leading work on a new cross-governmental international development strategy. The strategy will establish an ambitious and positive vision for the UK’s approach to development in a new global context. It will set out the UK Government’s strategic development goals and demonstrate how the UK plans to remain a leader on development. It will be published in spring 2022.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the terribly sad events in the English Channel in the past 24 hours will shame this generation in history for our failure internationally to cope with displacement and the millions of people who are running from fear or poverty. They cross dangerous seas because they are either terrified of the lands and people they have left or because they believe there is no other route to a better life. Do the Government agree that the best way to help those people is to ensure that they can have a better life in the countries from which they originate? To do that, we need to support safe and secure societies and sustainable development, so will the sustainable development goals of the United Nations be central to the new international development strategy, and will the Government continue to support the important work on conflict prevention and stability that has been a mark of UK international development over the past 15 years?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, the Government strongly agree with the arguments put forward by the noble Lord. The IDS priorities are fairly straightforward: honest, reliable, sustainable infrastructure in developing countries precisely to deliver the progress and stability necessary to avoid the situation that we saw yesterday; delivering Covid-19 vaccines; life-saving humanitarian support to those who need it; getting more girls into school; preventing sexual violence in conflict; and leading the fight against climate change and environmental destruction.

Nutrition for Growth Summit

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 13th October 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. I assure her that the issue of KPIs, in terms of our development spend, is consistent across many areas of budget. I used the example of Bangladesh earlier. We have seen infant mortality fall there from the direct support we have provided on various programmes, particularly among those under the age of five. That shows the real benefit of our investment in such parts of the world.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the cruel and short-sighted cuts to official development assistance already implemented will have a significant impact on nutrition and other life-saving programmes. That budget is now further threatened by the suggestion that the Chancellor might include IMF special drawing rights against the ODA budget rather than as additional aid. Can the Government give a cast-iron guarantee that there will not be further cuts to official development assistance programmes as a result of this proposal from the Chancellor and that the rest of the Government will stand up to him and this time say no?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord may have noticed, we have a new Foreign Secretary. One of the areas that I know my right honourable friend has prioritised is to look again at the issue of the aid budget. The noble Lord makes an important point about SDRs and I can assure him that we are engaging in very robust discussions with the Treasury.