G8: Development Aid

– in the House of Lords at 2:44 pm on 26th January 2006.

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Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington Labour 2:44 pm, 26th January 2006

rose to call attention to the commitments made by the G8 on development aid and the case for fulfilling these commitments in 2006; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, I am grateful for this early opportunity in the new year to take stock of what was achieved in aid and development last year, and to discuss how we best build on that progress in the next 12 months. I declare my interest as an honorary chair of the council of the Overseas Development Institute.

In fact, 2005 was a momentous year. "Make poverty history" became a rallying cry not just for committed charities and NGOs but also for national governments and international institutions. The UK Government can rightly be proud of their political leadership in steering global policy through our presidency of the G8 and the European Union. Major commitments were made, notably on increasing aid budgets and decreasing debt. The most prominent undertakings, as your Lordships will remember, were made at the Gleneagles summit of the G8 countries last July. There it was agreed that official development assistance in Africa would rise to $25 billion a year by 2010, more than doubling aid to Africa compared to 2004. In addition, the European Union members had already agreed last May to increase their overall aid to 0.56 per cent of their GNP by 2010. Here, in their general election manifesto, the UK Government pledged to reach the iconic 0.7 per cent of financial funds to these countries by 2013. Overall, the global amount of aid will double by 2010.

The Gleneagles meeting also agreed to cancel 100 per cent of the outstanding debt of the eligible 18 HIPC—highly indebted poor countries. This deal has subsequently been ratified and given teeth both by the membership of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. I am glad to say that Britain is now urging similar relief for all 67 of the poorest countries.

On trade, the third important part of the development agenda, the year ended less rosily, as the Doha round talks in Hong Kong made what can be described as only modest progress. There was some movement on export subsidies, and the talks did not break down completely as some pessimists had predicted. But in 2006 we need to see a strongly renewed effort to sort out this vital driver of development. After all, the potential results of a fair trade system eclipse the benefits of both aid and debt relief. Trade can be the single most potent tool in the fight against poverty. I know my noble friend Lord Sewel, and perhaps from his reaction my noble friend Lord Foulkes, will be developing this argument later in the debate. On a practical note, I understand that there are proposals now to reconvene the WTO Doha talks at Head of Government level, and to try to make further progress. Can the Minister tell the House whether this is a real possibility in the short term, or simply a Westminster rumour?

Overall, there have been 12 months of solid, successful work, led vigorously from the front by my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the International Development Secretary. As Hilary Benn says in his latest DfID consultation document:

"Did we make poverty history in 2005? No. Did we take a big step in the right direction? Yes".

Perhaps the most significant long-term achievement has been to create a widespread international consensus on the importance of international development. In this, of course, the Government have been greatly helped by the enthusiasm of civil society all over the world. There is no question that one of the most energising forces behind the G8 decisions at Gleneagles were the Live8 concerts and all that they represented. Yet, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said a couple of weeks ago, we must make sure that 2005 is seen as the start of something, and not the end.

What should we be doing in 2006, and how can we ensure that the commitments that were made last year are translated into action and, most importantly, into real change in the developing countries? We are constantly reminded that, on the ground, little has changed so far. I have just received a letter from Glenys Kinnock MEP, who described in horrifying terms the continued atrocities in Darfur. She noted that although Darfur might have come away from the media headlines, life in the villages was as intolerable as ever. She wrote:

"Everyday women face the prospect of being raped and beaten when they leave their homes simply to find food or firewood".

Today we have heard from the International Development Committee in another place that it is calling for renewed action, both on the economic and military front, from the EU and from the UN, to try to alleviate this tragedy. I would certainly support such moves.

In addition, there should be great pressure on the EU countries to fulfil the obligations they made last May, and again through the G8 in July, on aid in general. I have already heard it said publicly that Italy and Germany will take a very long time to meet their obligations. One sceptical, but none the less informed, observer has insisted to me recently that it will be 300 years before Germany reaches the agreed EU target on assistance. Can the Minister be more optimistic about the European donors, and give us some facts about how the aid is flowing?

In the UK we have recently had a difficult problem with our own expanding bilateral aid programme. Last week the Secretary of State confirmed that we are suspending budget support for Ethiopia, one of the neediest countries in the world. Until now we have been providing about £90 million a year. This apparently tough decision has been taken in response to the human rights abuse by the Ethiopian Government, and raises all the difficult questions about how to provide assistance to very poor people when their own official channels are both corrupt and abusive. In other words, how do we prevent more aid making the situation worse in so-called "fragile states"?

Part of the solution in the short term may be to be more flexible and imaginative about how aid flows, and perhaps to concentrate more on working through NGOs such as Oxfam and Save the Children. Again, I believe that my noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton may speak further about that in his contribution later in the debate. But as the Overseas Development Institute commented last week in response to the Government's position, regular transfers of resources through budget support allow governments to build up core services, such as health, education, water supplies and road maintenance, and to pay for all the associated costs, including salaries. NGOs may be able to step in successfully to provide interim support, but are not well placed in the long term to run schools and health clinics on behalf of the government. As a result of the UK's recent decision, Ethiopia is likely to suffer from an outright reduction in social service provision, and there may in addition be macro-economic costs as the Ethiopian Government are forced to raise domestic borrowing to meet their own short-term commitments.

Situations such as that in Ethiopia face the Government with some tough decisions, and there are very few choices in front of us. As we know, respect for human rights and democratic accountability are, in the long run, fundamental principles without which any sustainable development is unlikely to be achieved. But the case of Ethiopia is another example of how, in 2006, we need to look harder at the different options for delivering the expanded aid flows we have agreed to, and at the methods of monitoring and evaluation, not just for the aid budgets themselves, but for the institutions that are receiving and delivering them on the ground. This will probably require deeper and rather more complex analysis of social, cultural and political development in recipient countries, and can only be undertaken in partnership with those countries.

It was interesting that, at the Gleneagles meeting, the eight heads of government underlined the importance of the Africa Partnership Forum, created in 2003, as a key mechanism for monitoring progress. They agreed that the partnership forum should meet twice-yearly, and it met in London last October. Progress by African partners, as well as the G8, should be regularly reviewed under a joint action plan. Will the Minister update us on how that process will be taken forward this year? What benchmarks will be agreed to measure change? What explicit criteria can be adopted for policy decisions, such as that just taken by our own Government with regard to Ethiopia?

Most importantly, perhaps, can the Africa Partnership Forum be the driver for discussion and then action to improve absorptive capacity in developing countries, particularly in supporting effective and accountable institutions: in other words, acting through the forum to give equal responsibility and above all equal ownership to the African partner countries, to ensure the high aspirations of Gleneagles are properly fulfilled?

Gordon Brown has already called on the developing countries to produce a delivery plan for the millennium development goals, and intends to table the idea formally as part of a package of proposals at the meeting of the G8 finance ministers in Moscow next month. The Chancellor is calling for a new agenda of what he called "empowerment for development" during Russia's presidency of the G8 this year. As parliamentarians, we too should play a role in making sure that development does not slip off the agenda—this debate today is an example of that—and that it does not simply become last year's topic, whether for governments, the media or, most importantly, campaigners worldwide.

The other place took a significant step in that regard on 20 January when it gave an unopposed Second Reading to my honourable friend Tom Clarke's Bill on international development reporting and transparency. At the heart of that Bill is a proposed detailed report to Parliament on international development that can be both scrutinised and debated in both Houses. As Mr Clarke said in introducing his Bill,

"It would also sharpen the responsibility of all Members to track the progress that is being made towards the millennium development goals and to push for action when that progress is not sufficient".—[Hansard, Commons, 20/1/06; col. 1080.]

I am delighted that the Government have warmly welcomed this Private Member's Bill, and for the enthusiastic support it received on all sides of the Commons. I look forward to it arriving in your Lordships' House.

In conclusion, I think I can say without complacency that development is one major policy area where the aims of Government, professionals, pressure groups and the many general campaigners, as well as those with a political interest, are similar: they are very much in line. I was interested to see that DfID's latest consultation document, Eliminating World Poverty, raised the same kind of questions about the future that I have raised today, although from a government perspective. I look forward to today's debate. I hope it will form part of that consultation process and be of interest to the Government in taking their own aims forward.

Consultation and monitoring have their place, but beyond that we must ensure that there is continued and effective global action to make the millennium development goals a reality, not just in policy terms, but for those millions of people who, at the beginning of 2006, still exist in devastating and abject poverty.

My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Spokesperson in the Lords, Welsh Affairs, Whip 2:57 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I appreciate the opportunity to take part in this debate, and am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, for putting it on the agenda today.

When I was a boy I would go to the circus. I saw a juggler there. One of the tricks that was really appreciated was that he had sticks, and he spun plates on them. There were 10 plates spinning, and his job was to keep each of them spinning. He was running from one to the other, so that nothing toppled and nothing wobbled. When we look at the crises in the world, it seems we are always trying to keep those plates spinning. As soon as one crisis seems to be easing, there is another crisis to take its place.

At the moment, so many of the organisations involved in development and relief are concentrating on Nigeria, and for my few minutes I would also like to think of the crisis in Nigeria. One-fifth of all African people live there, which gives it a population of 130 million. Two-thirds of those people exist on less than $1 a day, and one child in five will die before his or her fifth birthday. This is a situation that I know makes us all weep. Some will say that the oil revenue that has been part of the growth in Nigeria could well tackle that problem, but the income from oil is equivalent to 50 cents a day for each Nigerian. The noble Baroness spoke of heavily indebted countries deserving debt cancellation. That is less than the income in Cameroon. So I am making a special plea today for the people of Nigeria.

Nigeria's original loans totalled less than £17 billion, but, with interest and penalties, that figure soared: it more than doubled. We are all immensely grateful that the G8's solution was a cancellation in the region of £12 billion, but that still leaves more than £7.4 billion to be repaid immediately. These payments are to be made this January and this March.

Professor Jeffrey Sachs, who noble Lords may know is the director of the UN's Millennium Project, is convinced that if this money could be spent in Nigeria, it would be of immeasurable assistance to child welfare, immunisation and healthcare. DfID figures state that the United Kingdom's share of this money is £1.7 billion. If this was used in the healthcare and immunisation projects that I have mentioned, 4.2 million lives could be saved. The repayment that the Nigerian Government are required to make is twice as much as DfID gave to the whole of Africa in 2005. Now that Nigeria has a democratic government, under the new president, who are committed to reducing poverty, can we let this life-saving opportunity pass?

Many of the original loans to Nigeria belonged to a very different era and a very different style of Nigerian government. It is said that much of the money was spent on useless projects. The director general of Nigeria's Debt Management Office claims that most of the projects were fraudulent. In a recent study of 63 projects funded by foreign loans, he found that 75 per cent of the funding was for useless projects. It is a case of the sins of the fathers penalising the children.

I know that the Government's heart is in the right place. Is there no way at all in which the United Kingdom could bring new hope to Nigeria by cancelling this remaining debt as well? Will they ask the Paris Club to share in the venture with us?

I shall briefly quote some figures. In the United Kingdom, the infant mortality rate is five in every 1,000. That is a sad five. But in Nigeria, it is 100 in every 1,000. We have the ability to save those lives. Life expectancy in the UK is around 78; in Nigeria, it is 47. By cancelling this debt entirely, we can add years to the lifespan of these people. In the United Kingdom, we have 166 doctors for every 100,000 people; in Nigeria, it is only 27. In the United Kingdom, our per capita income is around $30,000; in Nigeria, it is $390. Surely we can channel our compassion into an effective response to the needs of these people. The opportunity exists to reinvest in Nigeria and return to it the outstanding £1.7 billion. This would contribute to a huge change for the better in that country.

Already, other voices are joining us in that plea. We know that 20 Members of the United States Congress have said only this month:

"We think it is inappropriate to accept this payment from Nigeria given the social crisis that country is facing".

We can add our voices today to the voice of those United States Congress men and women. By doing that, we will taking a massive step towards saving all those lives and helping all those people in that part of that problematic continent.

Photo of The Bishop of Manchester The Bishop of Manchester Bishop 3:04 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on securing this debate on a matter that, as she knows, is of great and active concern to Christian Churches and other faiths in this country. A few weeks ago, Christian and Muslim leaders, together with the British Humanist Association, publicly stated that the cancellation of debt for the world's poorest countries is an act not of charity but of justice, central to all our beliefs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has made the same point.

The statement went on to urge what the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, has just spoken so eloquently about: the need to return the huge payment required of Nigeria, including that £1.7 billion owed to the United Kingdom. But we on these Benches welcome the commitment made by this Government no longer to make their bilateral aid conditional on recipient countries adopting specific economic policy prescriptions. The challenge though is to ensure that that commitment is implemented. Will the Minister confirm how many of the 67 countries which have been named are now benefiting? The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, referred to that.

The wider commitments made by the G8 on development are undoubtedly weakened by the failure to take the giant leap that is internationally needed to end the debt crisis that we all know shackles so many poor countries and deepens poverty, although it is heartening that the IMF has ratified cancellation for 17 out of 18 countries.

We on these Benches do not underestimate the personal influence of Gordon Brown and the lead that he has taken to make poverty history. But the momentum needs to be increased throughout 2006 because, as we all know, there have been setbacks on the way. The Hong Kong deal last month was disappointing. I hope that further anti-developmental outcomes such as inappropriate liberalisation for poor countries can be prevented as we approach the key deadline in April for the agreement about the WTO's negotiating role on agriculture and industrial goods.

The Government need to work hard to prove that their statement of commitment to trade justice is genuine and to deliver, but we applaud—I say it again—the leadership that this Government have given within the G8 in achieving global agreement, such as to universal access to AIDS treatment, prevention and care for everyone by 2010. That would be a massive breakthrough if it really happened.

It will of course require continuing pressure on the G8 to keep to its commitment to replenish the Global Fund and generate increased resources. It will also require rapid expansion in developing countries of the production and distribution of generic medicines, and the strengthening of health systems that are essential if the G8 commitment to universal access is to be achieved in the time set. That, of course, also relates to debt cancellation and the consequent ability for developing countries to divert their resources.

All that must be seen in the wider context of development aid, with the Government not stepping back from their commitment to reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income spent on aid by 2013. I think that all parties are agreed on that; indeed, I think that the Liberal Democrats would like to push the target two years earlier. Nor must the Government do anything other than press, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay said, European governments, especially those of Germany and Italy, to keep to their G8 commitments. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that that will not take 300 years.

The Government must also work for increased coherence in their policy on the delivery of aid. The DTI must take a more pro-poor stance on trade and the Foreign Office must consider its policy on arms. I thought that it was a shame that there was nothing in the text of the G8 agreement about this Government's commitment to work for an arms treaty. The Government will, I know, not want to forget the role that the Churches and NGOs have, not least in matters of common concern, such as increasing the number of teachers, doctors and health workers in developing countries to help to meet the millennium development goals.

The worry about all this is the record to date of many western initiatives. Too often, the end result is far behind the commitments made and the rhetoric used. For example, it is a scandal—to use the Prime Minister's words, "a scar"—that 50 years after the independence era began Africa's prospects now seem worse than ever. Its average per capita national income is one-third lower than that of the world's next-poorest region, south Asia. Its entire economic output is a mere 1.3 per cent of world GDP; its school enrolment is falling; its life expectancy is declining; and its attractiveness to global corporations is almost nil. As President Mbeki has said, the prospect of Africa escaping precipitous decline depends heavily on western assistance.

I dwell on Africa because it is a continent that I have visited often. I have many times witnessed in towns and remote villages the results of the obscene gap between this world's rich and poor. The noble Baroness, Lady Jay, spoke of Sudan, and I made similar points in the recent debate in this House on the tragic situation there. In a debate that engages us with the G8 commitments, I feel bound to say that commitment at its best is a two-way process. Gordon Brown has asked what the developing world, rightly empowered, can do for itself. He properly urged developing countries to produce their own poverty-reduction and development plans.

I have recently been reading Martin Meredith's well informed book, The State of Africa, in which he observes that at the core of the crisis on that continent is the failure to provide effective government, apart from, of course, Mandela and, I suppose, Seretse Khama in Botswana. I quote from the book:

"Mostly, Africa has suffered terribly from Big Men and elites whose pre-occupation has been holding power and self-enrichment. That has spawned a culture of corruption at every level".

An African Union report has estimated that corruption costs Africa more than $150 billion a year, which is over 25 per cent of the whole continent's GNP. Your Lordships may be familiar with the highly publicised speech given in Nairobi 18 months ago at a business leaders' conference by the British high commissioner, Edward Clay, who graphically questioned the honesty of Ministers and senior officials.

I say all this because the partnership between the African Partnership Forum, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, mentioned, and G8 is hugely important, not least as being an observable and potentially very effective counter to this great worry, which has basis, about honesty and corruption. It is essential that this Government should do everything that they can, not only to fulfil G8 commitments on development aid in 2006, but to face up to the challenge of the enormously difficult task of addressing those issues of governance and corruption in Africa and elsewhere that so speedily undermine the very issues of aid that we on these Benches, and I am sure noble Lords across this House, so deeply desire to see dealt with and so fervently support.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour 3:13 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, on securing this important debate. We should also congratulate the Government, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State on their support for developing countries. It is important that they took the unusual step of trying to connect issues—that is always dangerous for politicians but they did so—to the global campaigns for mitigating climate change and for improving the environment, which have particularly major effects in developing countries. They also gave some teeth to that approach through their support for the appointment of a chief scientist to the Department for International Development—Professor Gordon Conway. I understand that he is slowly working through the system to ensure that everyone at DfID recognises that science and the environment are important tools in the department's poverty programme.

I declare an interest as president of ACOPS—an NGO that deals with sustainable development. I am a professor at University College, London and a member of the Advisory Council on Natural Disaster Reduction. In November, we held a conference in Ghana on coastal zones in sub-Saharan Africa. Those are the areas where many of the people in Africa live, and we have already heard about Nigeria. We organised the conference through a UK NGO and the Government of Ghana. I am afraid that we did not get support from Her Majesty's Government, but we shall tell them the important results of the conference. However, there was interesting support from the UK in the form of the Arts Council, which sent experts in various aspects of the arts in recognition of the fact that the response of societies to climate and the environment is as challenging at a cultural level as it is at an economic or technical level. That aspect will be increasingly important. It was interesting for us to see how the issues of climate and water are seen in a dramatic way in Africa.

At the meeting, we learnt how there is a steady reduction in rainfall and a rise in temperature in the coastal zones of West Africa—a source of great concern. It is also of concern at a policy level that those data are not widely disseminated. That is largely a question of inadequate funding. In fact, these important data were unknown to experts from the African Centre for Meteorological Applications to Development, in Niamey, Niger, and are unknown to experts around the world. So clearly there is a great need to make use of information that is already being obtained in Africa.

A related point is that the African centre in Niamey, which provides important advice to governments in West Africa about drought and other extreme weather events, does not have the funds to make use of the relevant research and data being published in scientific journals and reports in the developed world—in Europe, Japan and the United States. Surely, as parliamentarians, we should be concerned that the significant funds being applied in the UK and the EU to investment in tropical research are not reaching the countries affected. As part of their Africa year, DfID and Defra organised a conference and produced a tremendous report, which was completely unknown among all the scientists whom I met in Africa. Therefore, the information issue is very important. I am glad to say that my previous organisation, the UK Met Office, provides some support through the Ministry of Defence but not enough to cover even such basic requirements.

However, one should applaud the fact that DfID, through the expanded governmental programme, has contributed substantial funds for the relief of hunger and other humanitarian problems associated with the drought that we saw last year in Niger. But surely it would be worth while sending a few thousand pounds to the experts in Niger so that they can find out all the information that they need to advise their governments beforehand.

Advice given to governments in Africa by their own experts needs considerable support and help. Evidence shows that if funds are provided to governments centrally under the DfID programme through budgetary support, very little of the money finds its way to those providing vital services for information and technical assistance. Surely some new ways are needed to fund specific programmes. One might be to use non-governmental organisations and specialist UN agencies. Here, the Royal Society, for example, is developing links with scientific organisations in Africa, but it needs funds to do that.

Noble Lords may recall the remarks of the Prime Minister, who sometimes seems to think that science is simple. He suggested that the environment does not need rocket science. Actually, it needs much more complex science than rockets, which just go up and down and are rather easy. Very complex scientific questions need to be answered if integrated and more cost-effective solutions are to be found. Accra is typical of large African cities where health is affected almost as much by bad air pollution as by malaria—a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. In Nigeria, that combination is devastating for young children and also for the elderly.

Plans for slum neighbourhoods are highly controversial, as Ghanaian experts and the Minister explained how health, the environment, commerce and transport all have to be considered together. Juggling acts are performed—to take up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. In the UK we have well-known jugglers—people in town planning departments. Accra has only three planning experts in the city; the figure is 600 in Amsterdam. The Ghanaian Government appealed to the UK and other countries to second our experts. Perhaps retired experts would welcome the opportunity to help. Again DfID needs some flexible means for funding such secondments.

My second point relates to the response to natural disasters. UK citizens and the Government generously responded to the great humanitarian need following the tsunami and earthquake events in Asia. But we debated in this House how the Government of Sri Lanka regrettably had not been very effective in using the available funds. Sri Lankan friends of mine had to arrange their own containers and transport to ensure that aid really reached the affected villages. Recently the US press reported on the vital railway link between Columbo and Galle on the southern coast, which was extremely badly hit by tsunami. The railway was destroyed by a huge tidal wave, and the railway workers, who are much maligned by the Sri Lankan press as being communists, were at first actively discouraged by the Sri Lankan Government from doing anything. The Government said, "Don't do anything. There will be money coming from the aid programme, and then we will have lots of it to do the work. Don't start it or that will upset everything". Nothing happened, so the workers got up early in the morning, involved all the villagers, and the railway was back running without any aid arriving.

Surely if that is the effect of an aid programme, something must be done. We need to have systems that can be applied much faster and which are more closely related to local efforts. Once again, that may require aid agencies and DfID to work more closely with international NGOs, and perhaps give money only when something is really happening on the ground. I have seen programmes in Russia similarly delayed and delayed because aid might be coming. We should surely operate in a different mode.

As the right reverend Prelate said, the effects of government aid on bureaucracies and politicians can be almost debilitating, even though the aims are humanitarian and idealistic. Are we looking at ways of avoiding that danger? Unless we do so, there may be growing doubts throughout the aid-giving world about our programmes, which is an important issue.

Photo of Baroness D'Souza Baroness D'Souza Crossbench 3:22 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I, too, begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for providing this opportunity to debate a clearly vital issue.

The issue is simple. There are many very rich countries in the world, and there are even more very poor ones. In between there are any number of bilateral, multilateral, and private agencies all devoted to ensuring that some of the surplus wealth reaches the under-resourced, so why is there still such grinding and unacceptable poverty? The answers are almost as many as there are agencies, but one is the belief that what can be called collective humanitarian or utopian action to alleviate poverty and introduce democratic systems actually works.

Last year's G8 summit was surrounded by celebrity events and promises, and publicly expressed outrage, which of course pushed the problem of poverty up the agenda for a little while. Many of your Lordships will remember the brave claims of the 1980s that no child would go to bed hungry by the year 2000. Let me briefly run through a few staggering statistics on the transfer of money from the north to the south. The sum of $250 billion is committed each year. In the past 40 or so years it is estimated that something like $570 billion in foreign aid has been given to Africa alone, and yet most of Africa remains trapped in economic stagnation. It is further estimated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would cost 12 cents per child to prevent half of all child deaths from malaria; and an extra $3 for each new mother to prevent 5 million child deaths over the next 10 years. But the likelihood of children getting appropriate preventive medicine seems as remote as ever.

Aid is a multi-million pound business and should therefore be subject to the same kind of detailed accountability to its shareholders—that is taxpayers who provide the UN and other multilateral agencies and private charitable foundations with income—as that demanded of commercial companies. With other multi-million pound enterprises, there are economic forecasts, constant monitoring, shareholder meetings, interim reports, dividends and regular critical media comment on performance. If a given product does not meet the needs of customers, it does not sell and the company must immediately revise product and marketing plans if it is to survive. This does not happen when we are trying to deliver assistance to the poorest of the poor.

I am not suggesting that monitoring and evaluation do not take place; the conditional aid loans of the IMF and the World Bank were and are notorious for their onerous policy and outcome targets, often running into hundreds. We know that the Department for International Development has focused a great deal on proper evaluation and is probably a world leader in this field. But who actually is accountable when things go wrong or targets remain unmet? This brings me back to the issue of "collective Utopia", a phrase coined by the American economist William Easterly.

Significant aid comes in million dollar packages usually carried out by the big agencies working with partners to achieve the laudable but ill-defined millennium goals: dramatic reductions in child mortality, poverty, illiteracy, environmental degradation and so on. Weighty reports on these goals and their urgency have been produced at great cost by the IMF, the World Bank, the UN and many more, including the UK Government. The poor, who have neither the income nor the political weight, do not stand a chance in shaping, let alone insisting upon, the kind of assistance they most need and can most easily integrate. Huge programmes to transform social, political and economic conditions may not remotely touch the fragmented villages of southern Sudan or Mauritania and, far more importantly, there is no one body to whom we can point a finger when poverty grows into destitution and no one who will assume responsibility. The matter of giving to the poor has become too complex and involves too much money, too many partners, too many expectations which all appear to lead to a degree of failure. We should at least acknowledge that raising and/or spending more money is not in itself an accomplishment.

Yet aid can and does work in small, focused, well-planned indigenous programmes in which the recipients are stakeholders. The economic miracles that have occurred in many rural villages in India, for example, are probably not even indirectly due to multi-million dollar aid packages. How are these small-scale interventions to be achieved or to be repeated rather more often than they are? Here I am indebted to the work of the newly formed Evidence for Development organisation of which I have become a patron. Very simply, proper surveys need to be undertaken to establish who are the very poor, where they are and what would make them less poor in the short and longer term. Those appear to be very simple questions that are easily answered, but they are not. How is aid best delivered; what kind of participation is required and of whom; and, above all, how might one set not only realistic goals but also measurable ones for different phases of each project? If the assistance is more geared to the building of civil society institutions, what already exists to allow people to collaborate; and how could that be extended and by what means?

The message is fairly obvious. We do not take the giving of aid sufficiently seriously to understand how the poorest of the poor actually benefit. We must therefore go back to the rather untidy, difficult and time-consuming business of field research and we must get used to listening to those whom we most want to help. If flawed and/or ignorant decisions are made which, far from benefiting the poor, actually cause harm, then someone or some body must be made publicly accountable. The Bill introduced by Tom Clarke in the other place, to which reference has already been made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, will go some way to achieve that. I have no doubt that these seemingly harsh measures will focus political will and will hasten the acheivement of the millennium development goals.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour 3:30 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Jay said in her penetrating and comprehensive speech, the UK development programme has had an extraordinarily successful year, but more remains to be done to keep the Gleneagles commitments on track. I should like to go back to the underlying purpose of all this development aid—to enable states to take charge of their own development, just as we do, with loans and credit perhaps, but at the behest and with the tax revenue of our own citizens.

The Department for International Development does foster this approach, with extensive work on capacity-building of all kinds; and there are results. Investment is increasing broadly throughout the developing world—although that is not only due to DfID—even in Africa. There it is at last becoming really African. UNIDO found that the most frequent investors, leaving aside petroleum and mining, in the 10 African countries it surveyed were themselves African, and that in Tanzania more than 60 per cent of investors are African. Real GDP growth in Africa is expected to average 5 per cent by the end of this year.

But that average would be much better if it were not dragged down by countries whose economies are sabotaged by war, tyranny and corruption; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester spoke eloquently about the last. As for war, here DfID's aid programme needs to call on joined-up government. The first call is surely to reduce conflict. No development can take place—indeed it will run backward—when the state has disappeared under the impact of the uncontrollable conduct of armed militias and its citizens are without homes, services or even safety. My right honourable friend Jack Straw is on record as pressing for an international arms trade treaty. This is supported by our Defence Manufacturers Association and key trades unionists. It has the support of 43 other countries, including all the EU member states. There is an urgent need for international common standards for arms transfers to conflict-affected regions in Africa and elsewhere, and for common extra-territorial controls over arms brokers, traffickers and transport agents. I ask my noble friend, how can the Government accelerate the progress of this treaty?

Tyranny is a strange economic phenomenon. There are countries which seem to be pulling themselves out of poverty according to their growth rate—but if we look at the median, rather than the per capita income, we see a different story. And if we look at education and health, particularly of women and children, and the other human development indices, we see countries with close to as much misery as much poorer ones—and some with even more potential for instability and conflict.

The World Bank's World Development Report 2006 gives a very high place to equality of opportunity in its analysis of successful development. It cites market failures in supply of credit, land, education and, I would add, health; it adds that political inequality means that these deprivations are perpetuated over generations; and, I would add again, regional and ethnic inequality aggravate the tension caused by political inequality, and all these foment instability and conflict.

Democracy is our answer to political inequality. It is not a term beloved by all developing countries and I am attracted by Amartya Sen's description of democracy as "public reasoning" in his latest book, The Argumentative Indian, or, less succinctly, as,

"the opportunity of participatory reasoning and public decision-making".

Those practices can be valued even by people who say democracy is a western concept of only relative value. How does a western aid department foster them?

Well, first, it should recognise their existence. DflD's support for the African Union, whose female officers protect some of the women of Darfur, is a good example. Perhaps more could be made of AU milestones. The ratification of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2004 went pretty much unnoticed in the British media. The protocol on women's rights, achieved last year, is worth some western celebration, not least in view of our often-expressed abhorrence of female genital mutilation, which it outlaws. Although the abolition of such a widespread practice must be difficult, we should recognise that here are African women publicly deciding to do away with a hideous inequality themselves. I hope the DfID office in Nairobi expressed support.

Another stimulus to effective democracy is placing very great weight on internationally agreed human rights. Rights are intrinsically claimable and therefore inimical to tyranny. This must be the rationale for DfID's diversion of development aid from the Government of Ethiopia, as my noble friend Lady Jay said, because of the serious and repeated violations of rights by the Ethiopian Government. We should note that DfID will be working with other donors to make sure that poor people in Ethiopia will still receive help for education, health and water. DflD's robust refinement of policy on conditionality, published last March, says:

"The UK Government believes that the realisation of . . . human rights underpins sustainable development . . . Donors have a particular responsibility, as part of their accountability to parliament and the public, to ensure that . . . development assistance is not used in ways that abuse human rights."

That policy also shows we mean business about democracy. Here, I echo my noble friend Lady Jay's support for Tom Clarke's Bill which, if it passes, might answer some of the very pertinent questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. I hope that if it passes, your Lordships will allow me to introduce it in this House.

Finally, the UK development aid programme also needs joined-up support wherever the Government as a whole discuss our common interest in a peaceful world, in Saudi Arabia, in Russia, in Israel, in China and elsewhere. Human rights and democratic practice in one country are vulnerable to the conduct of other countries with influential investment, or with military activity. The forthcoming DfID White Paper and its innovatory consultation initiative are opportunities to discuss the inter-relatedness of all these issues. Kofi Annan summed it up:

"We will not enjoy development without security, we will not enjoy security without development, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights. Unless all these causes are advanced, none will succeed."

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 3:38 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for introducing the debate, and for reminding the Government of their promises. I also want to congratulate the Secretary of State on his determination to see through the G8 recommendations, and those of the Commission for Africa. It is difficult for him to follow previous Secretaries of State, all of whom have shown tremendous commitment to poverty reduction. It is not easy for him, or anyone, to shine in a new job when your Prime Minister and Chancellor both want to be in on the act. He somehow seems to have weathered all of that.

The Minister herself may admit that there has been some element of public relations in our aid policy, which can disguise true achievement. That should not cloud the Government's sincerity in eradicating poverty.

Last year saw the culmination of several initiatives building up to and emerging from our presidency of the EU and the G8. There is now almost a hiatus, as the cost of meeting the MDGs is measured against other spending priorities. There will be a doubling of aid by 2010—an extra US$50 billion worldwide and US$25 billion for Africa. The Africa Commission called for an increase in aid to Africa alone of $50 billion by 2015. Whether or not either of those are realistic figures, we are now closer to reaching a timetable to meet existing UN targets. However, with regard to the UK's aid budget, while delighted that we are well over half way to 0.7 per cent by 2013, I am not clear how we can justify those percentages on the basis of borrowed money.

The international finance facility is only at a pilot stage. My concern, derived from research, but also from common sense, is that the UK's present proposal leaves open the possibility that aid flows will fall after 2015 when IFF bonds start to be repaid. Surely, that will be unacceptable. What will happen in a recession or when there is a change of government? The amount of money received by the poor cannot be allowed to fall as a percentage of GDP simply because donors have been unable to raise the money. There are other aspects of the IFF that remain unclear, such as which countries will be eligible for funding and what additional conditionality will the IFF impose on borrowers. On the quality and conditionality of UK aid, I agree wholly with my noble friend Lady D'Souza on better targeting. Budget support is not working in Ethiopia, where we have heard that DfID is rightly making a stand for human rights, so aid spending will go down in one of Africa's poorest countries, and probably others.

On debt, the G8 calls for the immediate cancellation of the debts of 18 of the world's poorest countries, most of which are in Africa. This is a welcome deal: we are told that it is worth $40 billion now, and as much as $55 billion as more countries qualify. It includes writing off $17 billion of Nigeria's debt, as we have heard, in the biggest single debt deal ever. That sounds good for the poor of that country who have waited a long time: 100 per cent debt cancellation for Nigeria was seen as a key breakthrough during the G8 process. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, rightly said, it now seems that to earn it, Nigeria will have to make a huge payment of $7 billion to the Paris Club to get the remaining 60 per cent of its debt written off. In effect, that will take from Nigeria money that was earmarked for fighting poverty and securing its economy. Are we not pressing the new government, who are responding to calls for good governance and transparency, by insisting on these repayments now? Debt relief, therefore, is rarely what it appears to the public in press releases. In some countries, up to 50 per cent of the debt burden is domestic debt, which is largely owed to international banks. This domestic crisis must also be tackled.

Moving briefly on to trade, we all know that Hong Kong was disappointing, but there is a commitment to end all export subsidies and to reduce trade distorting domestic subsidies. However, this Government still support the EU policy to introduce economic partnership agreements, even with the poorest countries. I remind the Minister what the Africa Commission said quite bluntly:

"The EU must ensure that EPAs support development needs. This means not forcing poor countries to liberalise".

I know that I have raised this before, and the position has slightly improved for the LDCS, but I am still not satisfied that the Cotonou agreement is being honoured.

One of the best things about the G8 is that it intends to hand over responsibility to developing countries who will,

"decide, plan and sequence their economic policies to fit with their own development strategies, for which they should be accountable to their people".

So, for Africa, there is now the Africa Partnership Forum. A joint action plan is being drawn up to incorporate the commitments made by African governments and development partners. It will integrate Africa Union and NePAD programmes, such as the Short Term Action Plan and the African Enterprise Challenge Fund, which will be operational this year, the G8 Africa Action Plan, Gleneagles commitments and the Millennium Review Summit commitments, not to forget the African Peer Review Mechanism.

These are all welcome initiatives, but they are optimistic. You only have to look at the websites behind all these acronyms to realise how long a process this is going to be. Let donors not be under any illusion that anything much is going to happen this year.

We are making some progress towards the MDGs, although not as much as the G8 would like. For example, they would like countries to get as close as possible to universal access to HIV/AIDS treatments by 2010, but there is a $3 billion dollar shortfall in the aid programme for AIDS; or that by 2015 all children will have access to good quality, free and compulsory education, and to basic healthcare. We all know that these are admirable goals, but unachievable in that timescale.

The DfID's interesting 2005 autumn performance report tells its own story of progress, referring to 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The poverty target of 46 per cent is on an amber traffic light—no change by 2008. Primary school enrolment is only up if you take out Nigeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo—amber again, moving to red. There are not enough girls in schools; gender parity rates are declining, even in eastern and southern African schools, where we would hope to get the best results. Infant mortality is gradually declining—on a green light—but again you have to take out Nigeria and the DRC, which are still over 200 per 1,000 births. Assisted births are unchanged, partly because in Ethiopia only 6 per cent of mothers have birth attendants.

With such figures, it is no wonder that the PSA targets—in annex B—have had to be revised or redrafted. We must be grateful for this evidence of statistical honesty.

Finally, but still speaking of figures, it is worth remembering that the statistics of world poverty understandably apply to settled peoples, who live mainly in cities or in agricultural regions. The pastoralists, who occupy the marginal land, the semi-desert, the marshes and the mountain ranges of Africa and elsewhere, are generally unsurveyed and uncounted. But they are a significant number. By and large, they have no political representation and they rarely get a mention in government policies or parliamentary debates even in their own countries.

It is to the credit of DfID, of the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex and of others such as the Pastoralist Communication Initiative, based in Addis Ababa, that the voice of pastoralists is increasingly being heard. I encourage the Government to continue to strengthen this important work, which I hope will be the subject of a future debate.

Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 3:50 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I should like to add my sincere congratulations to my noble friend Lady Jay on raising this topic, enabling us, first, to emphasise the urgent need to follow our pledges, so that they are not allowed to gather dust on shelves while people starve to death, and, second, to look at the specific action that we can take or urge on others. Our role in the United Kingdom is key.

We should remember that while we cannot solve all the problems of the world—although sometimes in these Houses we seem to pretend that we can—we can take a positive lead on such issues. As all speakers have acknowledged today, the United Kingdom has been taking a dynamic lead in the past few years—both the United Kingdom Government and, spectacularly, United Kingdom civil society. To quote Gordon Brown, a key figure—as has been acknowledged—in all of this, 2005,

"has seen a new, progressive consensus under the banner of Make Poverty History", which has,

"arguably, achieved more for the needs of the poor in one short year than have all the isolated acts of individual governments in the last 100 years".

Those of us who participated in that human ring around Edinburgh in July were moved by the scale of the march and by the sincerity of all those who participated from different religions and backgrounds. It was a fantastic occasion. But we must not be starry-eyed. There is a long way to go, as a number of speakers, including the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, have said, with lots of potential pitfalls and blockages on the way.

We should remember that that key pledge of 0.7 per cent of gross national income, which was included in the G8 Gleneagles summit, was first suggested by the former Canada Prime Minister, Nobel prize winner Lester Pearson, in 1969. I was a youngster then—well, relatively speaking—and the pledge was expected to be realised by 1975. That was more than 30 years ago. It has been reaffirmed in the Brandt report, at Rio and elsewhere. This time, we have to make sure that promises are fulfilled. That underlines the importance of follow-up mechanisms. There is a plethora of international organisations, as my noble friend Lady Jay rightly said. Key, as mentioned in the Gleneagles statement, is the Africa Partnership Forum. I endorse that. However, the international organisations that I have seen while I have worked in this area are still far too weak and need to be strengthened, particularly the United Nations and its agencies.

In addition, there are no sanctions for failure to implement any of these pledges. We have relatively little leverage on countries that have been mentioned such as Italy, Germany, the United States and Japan. So far only five countries have achieved the target—Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Holland and Luxembourg. Here in the United Kingdom, we came closest to our target in 1979, with 0.5 per cent. We reached a low point of 0.26 per cent in 1997. We are now back on track, set to reach 0.7 per cent by the target date of 2013.

I do not need to make the obvious party political point. The dates speak for themselves. But I think that some of my noble friends would be disappointed if I did not point out that in spite of David Cameron's great conversion to this issue, even enrolling Sir Bob Geldof, there is not one Tory Back-Bench speaker down to participate in this debate. That exposes the reality of their interest in the issue. I think they have a long way to go.

I feel very strongly about the importance of civil society. As we know, it is important in the United Kingdom for helping to ensure that we reach the target, but also that poor countries spend wisely and properly. I am pleased that the CIVICUS World Assembly—CIVICUS is the international organisation of civil society in rich and poor countries around the world—will be held in Glasgow in June 2006, 2007 and 2008. It will be the first time that it will have met consecutively and annually in the same city, trying to build up civil society in all countries around the world and to strengthen the arm of civil society in pushing governments to meet their commitments. I am proud to have been asked to chair the host committee for those three conferences. I am already enjoying the thought of it.

There is another little question: is 0.7 per cent actually enough? President Lincoln was a tall man, and he was asked how long a man's legs should be. He wisely replied:

"Long enough to reach the ground".

We need to ensure that our target is long enough to reach not the ground but the sky, and we have a long way to go. The target of 0.7 per cent, while not yet achieved here and achieved by only five countries, may still not be enough.

That brings me to trade. While development assistance and debt cancellation are important, improving the terms of trade and removing trade barriers is of even greater importance in pulling people out from poverty. There is an interesting quote in the DfID document, which was referred to earlier, that 300 to 400 million people have been lifted out of a-dollar-a-day poverty since 1980; but, at the same time, Chinese exports grew 30-fold. They were the main driving force behind poverty reduction, and that speaks for itself.

So what do we need to do? One of the key actions is that we need to strengthen the powers of the poorer countries in the WTO in both negotiations and disputes. France has 165 staff at the World Trade Organisation; Malawi has one. Those are not random examples, but they are very illustrative. I think we should extend the example of the regional negotiating machinery, the RNM, for the Caribbean, which was set up and funded by DfID to strengthen the negotiating power of small, vulnerable Caribbean states in trade negotiations and disputes.

We also need to follow up all of this in the parliamentary forums to which we all have access—the CPA, the IPU, Parliamentarians for Global Action, and so on. I also support and commend the Bill introduced into another place by Tom Clarke. The forthcoming DfID White Paper will give us another spur, another opportunity, to pursue this issue.

Four of the most satisfying years of my life were spent as a Minister in the Department for International Development. I really enjoyed it. We had a few turbulent times with Clare as Secretary of State but—although I do not agree with her on everything—she was a great stimulus to international development. It was the DfID White Paper that first put millennium development goals on the map, not only here but around the world.

We can—and should—encourage local initiatives by local authorities and private firms. The private sector could do a great deal more for international development. I am glad to see the Scottish Executive developing its links with Malawi. We need also to concentrate on good government in developing countries to ensure the propriety of spending so that all the work we do is not discredited. I support Hilary Benn's difficult decision on the withdrawal of aid from the government of Ethiopia because of their violation of democratic and human rights. But it does make it more difficult to achieve our targets. The more governments there are that do not adhere to standards of democracy and human rights, the more difficult it is for us to achieve our targets.

Finally, we must recall why we are doing all this. I have been talking about mechanisms, targets and so on, but we are doing it because it is morally right to lift people out of poverty; to give them hope and opportunity. It is also in our interests to remove the conditions in which civil unrest and terrorism can breed. It is better for the stability and security of the whole world.

Photo of Lord Brett Lord Brett Labour 3:58 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, with others, I share a debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for bringing this issue before us. I can say with all honesty that I do not disagree with a word of any of the preceding nine speeches and so, therefore, I shall concentrate on a word that has not yet been said—and that is the four-letter word "jobs". That word has not passed anyone's lips, but do not be surprised: it does not appear in the MDGs either. There is not one word in the MDGs about employment or work.

It now appears, courtesy of paragraph 47 of the report of the recent summit in September of last year in New York, that a policy of fair globalisation was strongly suggested and it was resolved to make the goal of full and productive employment and decent work for all, including for women and young people, a central objective of its relevant national and international policies, as well as its national development strategies. In that sense, it is opportune that at Davos the World Economic Forum has on its agenda a new item, one which has never been there before, called "creating jobs". My director general—I declare an interest as the United Kingdom and Ireland director of the International Labour Organisation—yesterday put a statement before it of how the ILO sees the world of development and the world of jobs. I do not believe that in this day and age you can divorce development from globalisation. They are intertwined and interlinked.

It is important to look at where we are in terms of the bottom line. The bottom line here of eradicating poverty has to be through the mechanism of providing jobs. As the Secretary of State Hilary Benn said last Friday, in opening the consultation on the White Paper:

"Poor people in poor countries want the same things that we do here—they want to have a decent job, to meet their basic needs, to lead a fulfilled life, take good care of their children and have a role in their community and in society".

However, my director general yesterday reported in Davos that we have a world that is sliding into an unprecedented global jobs crisis. Half the workers in the world are the working poor, living in families that survive on less than $2 per day. They work in a vast informal sector—from farms to fishing and from agriculture to alleyways—without benefits, social security or healthcare. All those components, in our view, put together, add up to decent work. Unemployment when it means people with no work at all is at its highest point ever, and it continues to rise. In the past 10 years, official unemployment has grown by more than 25 per cent, and now stands, according to ILO figures, at 192 million worldwide, or 6 per cent of the global workforce—but we all know that that is a very small tip of a very large unemployment iceberg.

When people cannot find work at home, they migrate, and in the present climate labour migration easily becomes a source of tension—not to speak of human trafficking and other similar activities. That seems to be a phenomenon worldwide. We have hope that global growth will provide the solution. The good news is that global growth looked quite healthy in 2005, at 4.3 per cent, and the world output increased by $2.5 trillion. Unfortunately, that is not creating the jobs required simply to employ those entering the labour market, not to mention the many legions of those unemployed. We shall need to create some 14 million jobs each year over the next decade just to keep up with the number of people seeking work. Therefore, our problem is very simple. The policies that we are putting in place today do not seem to have the results that we wish for them—in other words, we are not meeting the need for people to get out of poverty by having a job.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, referred to China. One can see a correlation there between employment and raising people out of poverty. It is not as if the global jobs crisis hits the poor alone; it will have substantial political effects, none of which is likely to be too pleasant for any of us. In democratic countries, in Africa or elsewhere, where unemployment or informal employment is high, people are expressing disappointment that democracy is not delivering economic benefits. That threatens to undermine democratic institutions. One issue is that of youth unemployment. Half the world's unemployed—some 86 million—the ILO recognises as being young people. Young, unemployed, educated people without a future or a job are a real fundamental threat to democracy and stability in a number of African countries, if not on a wider scale.

People are asking whether governments, the private sector and indeed democracy can deliver decent work. There is a creeping growth of protectionist tendencies which is undermining those efforts to make a fairer world with regard to trade. Demands for a greater migration control are coming with xenophobic overtones and undertones, and they are growing. Elections are now being won or lost on more and better jobs issues, and the credibility of newly democratic counties with newly democratic governments is undermined when those politicians cannot deliver. In their place we will find populist, authoritarian or extreme ideological players.

The ILO believes that it is not all gloom, but it requires a very real shift in thinking. In fact, we need a paradigm shift in economic and social policies. We need to put decent work objectives at the centre of national and international development effort and we need a new balance of economic and social policies that stresses macro-economic stability as well as policies aimed at formalising markets, improving competitiveness, expanding social protection and channelling the abundant entrepreneurial energies of people working in the informal economy. In addition, economic growth continues to be a necessity and an objective as a means of achieving economic development and job creation. It is that job creation part that seems to be missing from the policies that we now put forward.

In DfID there has been something of a change of policy. A document was produced some months ago that made the point that economic growth must be part of any poverty reduction strategy. That is a step in the right direction. The UK Government's record, as other noble Lords have said, is a well-deserved one. The plaudits may not be as big as some of the brickbats they get for not having achieved more, but they have done a tremendous amount and continue to be the great hope in achieving change across the broader G8 spectrum of countries.

We need to see how that can be done. The White Paper coming up is an opportunity for civil society to contribute, which, as people have said, is so important. It is a way of looking at what we are doing and how we are doing it. There is a real need for the international organisations, including my own, to raise their game. There is a need for much greater coherence in the United Nations. There is a problem when we have people coming in and all trying to help, whether it is post-tsunami or post-Darfur, and there is no coherence. There is much in the UN reform package that the UK Government are pressing that is overdue and well deserved. In the ILO we are trying to play a full part in that. We are grateful to the UK Government because the UK is the second largest funder of the International Labour Organisation—the largest funding comes from the United States. It is recognised in the partnership agreements that the ILO has that employment and the provision of decent work is playing a growing part in how the UK Government see their international development work.

There is one other area on which the UK Government could put some emphasis. If we get wealth created from globalisation, how do we distribute it? Not, frankly, in the way it is being distributed in China at the moment, creating a few multimillionaires with poverty surrounding them. We do so by introducing decent social security as part of decent work. Decent pensions, decent sick pay, and other decent social benefits are a way of sharing wealth. The UK Government could again provide a lead to ensure that decent social security becomes something that is wanted in Europe and other parts of the world. Only three countries in Asia have got it to any extent: Australia, New Zealand and Japan. It is another area in which we can achieve the kind of outcomes that really seek to eradicate poverty wherever it occurs. If the UK Government and the Minister could take notice of this and the statements I have heard from other colleagues and offer some leadership, they will find that there are other countries not as far advanced that would be willing to join with us.

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 4:07 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I owe an apology to my noble friend Lady Jay for being late when she opened the debate, which I congratulate her on securing. A lot has been said already by many people, and expertly, on the G8 and Gleneagles commitments. I will take a different angle, and also relate to some of the things said by my noble friends Lord Foulkes and Lord Brett.

First, it is right that we make the commitment we have made. It is amazing that a Prime Minister and a Chancellor of the Exchequer have gone out of their way for the first time in British history and put their names to a commitment to international development. We have to recognise that this has not happened before. Although we attempted to sneer and raise objections, the sheer sincerity and passion that they have brought to this cause has to be appreciated. Our view of development and how these MDGs are going to be achieved are still somewhat talked down. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, showed some scepticism about some of these things. We tend to think that sums of money spent or committed crank some kind of handle, and out come things that we like to see, such as falling infant mortality.

The process, of course, is much more complex. Even the best that aid can do is limited compared with what local society can do; we need to understand more thoroughly why, in cases such as Nigeria, which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, discussed, it is often not a lack of resources per se, but the way they are used and funnelled that is the issue. For some time at such meetings I have been saying: "Let Africa learn from Asia". It is very interesting that right now we are not agonised about Asia. Twenty years ago it was a basket-case. I remember Henry Kissinger saying in the mid-1960s that if only India and China could feed themselves, all the world's problems would be solved. Today we do not talk of India and China just feeding themselves: they have become global economic powers.

There is a lot to learn from Asia, because it has a similar experience of colonialism. It has had problems of population growth and of what people used to think were inappropriate cultural values regarding development, family structures and so on. An important part of the Asian case is what I might call responsive governance. They are not always democratic—very often they are not—but Asian governments and political arrangements have always been responsive to what the grassroots have said. Few Asian politicians have fled abroad and lived in the south of France or stacked up their money in Switzerland. In Asia there has been very little of the outflow of capital that happened in Africa. We have to understand why this happens. Why is it that even the most corrupt Asian leader displays his wealth at home and not abroad? Why does he feel so rooted in the culture?

Others have said that civil society is important, but so is a political society in which opposition government is responsive to the needs of the people it serves. Somehow, through some process, there is that communication. We need to encourage, through our various efforts, that kind of responsive political society in Africa. Ultimately development will be the responsibility of the country's political society. Civil society may help, as may NGOs, but eventually it is responsible political leadership that will have to deliver development. We have to think about how we do that.

My noble friend Lord Foulkes mentioned trade. Its importance in development cannot be exaggerated. It is the reason why Asia and Africa reversed their fortunes. Africa was ahead of Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, and almost the 1970s, but then Asia moved ahead because it committed itself to open economies, to trade and to building up a private sector—with government help—that could efficiently compete abroad. It is only when the private sector can create productive jobs, and where private sector businesses are profitable, that we will see the economy grow at rates sufficient to eliminate poverty.

Trade is important. I was disappointed by the way the European Union behaved in Hong Kong. Despite the best efforts of Peter Mandelson, it is still a fact that the EU is a villain when it comes to world trade negotiations. The protection of a small number of European farmers is holding up real liberalisation. That is a great shame. Our Government are committed to a much more generous settlement in the Doha round, and the obstacles do not come from the British side. The EU is a disgrace so far as international trade negotiations are concerned. Whatever it may give by way of aid, it takes away more through its distorted trade policies.

There is not much time left before the forthcoming negotiations in Doha. I know that the hands of the EU negotiator, Peter Mandelson, are tied because 26 other governments are involved, but we urge him somehow to convey that a settlement which is generous to developing countries, both to the least developed countries and middling—developing—countries, is absolutely essential for the eradication of poverty in the world.

It is heart-warming when people show their commitment and when they march to make poverty history, as they did at Edinburgh. But by way of a damp squib, I have to say that, in economics, not only are there no free lunches, but there is no fast food either. It is all going to take a lot of time. Debt cancellation is a great thing, but what it saves is the flow payment that you have to make to service the debt. The resources which come to the developing country whose debt has been cancelled are not £17 billion or whatever it is, but what was being paid to service the debt, which is a fraction of that amount. We have to calculate not only how much debt has been cancelled, but precisely how we improve the flow of resources to those countries, partly from debt cancellation and partly from aid.

There is a third factor which we should not underestimate and which today is larger than the flow of foreign aid: the flow of private capital. How we make these economies, poor as they are, suitable for receiving the flow of private capital is the third crucial element in encouraging growth.

I draw confidence from the case of Asia that poverty can be eased. While it has not been eradicated there, it has been considerably reduced. If Africa can learn from Asia, it too can reduce poverty.

Photo of Lord Hughes of Woodside Lord Hughes of Woodside Labour 4:18 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I join in the congratulations offered to my noble friend Lady Jay on introducing this debate. It is certainly a good time to do so, with a White Paper on the future of our aid programme having gone out to consultation. It has been a very exciting 12 months. We have had the Africa Commission; the G8 summit; and the massive demonstrations of the Make Poverty History campaign. There has been only one blemish in the past 12 months; that is, that some of the campaigning organisations have derided the decisions taken by the Commission for Africa and the G8 and have said, "It was all a publicity stunt to massage the egos of the politicians".

It is very dangerous to say that, first, because politicians will say, "Why bother?". They do not expect plaudits when they do good things, but they should not be denigrated. Secondly, it is a grave mistake to say to the millions of people who were involved in the Make Poverty History campaign, "You didn't achieve a thing". Many of those people who took part in Edinburgh had probably not engaged previously in serious political discussion or involvement in these matters. We should encourage them to do so. We ought to say that it is true that we haven't made poverty history, but that we have made a very good start.

A lot has been said about accountability. I say in passing, although it is extremely important, that I welcome my right honourable friend Tom Clarke's Bill in the other place. I hope that we will see it soon in this place, where we can give it a great deal of progress.

There have been many reports about poverty in different continents, and globally, which have gathered dust and come to nothing. My noble friend Lord Foulkes mentioned the Pearson report. We all had high hopes that something would arise from that, but it has not happened. I think that the Commission for Africa will succeed. For the first time, there was a real engagement between the north and the south. There was a real partnership in drawing out the Commission for Africa. It has many recommendations, of which I will mention only two. The first is capacity building, which means that we have to try to make sure that the governments in the under-developed or developing world can use the aid money to the best effect to the benefit of their people. That can be very difficult to do.

The second recommendation, which is of the greatest importance to Africa, relates to peace and stability. If we do not have peace and stability, we have carnage and the slaughter of the innocents that is going on as we speak. That has a long-term effect, as well as immediate effects. In December 2004, under the auspices of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, I went to Angola, which was just recovering from 30 years of war. I had previously visited the country in 1975, when the colonial oppressors—Portugal—had been moved out. The difference made in the intervening years was devastating. The effects of the war are there to be seen. What had happened in that period, which I frankly had not appreciated, was that the capacity of government at every level to control events had gone. People had forgotten how to govern, because the only issue that mattered was winning the war. That is perhaps a lesson that we have to learn in other parts of the world, although I simply mention that in passing. We have to do everything that we can to try to help the people there to overcome the debilitation caused by the civil war and to get back on an even keel.

I have a specific question for the Minister. I apologise for not giving her advance warning of it. I do not expect an answer today, but I hope that she will write to me. There were persistent rumours over a year ago that DfID was about to withdraw from Angola. When they came back, the three MPs—Jeremy Corbyn, John Cummings and Ronnie Campbell—went to see the Secretary of State, who gave an absolute assurance that there was no question of DfID withdrawing from Angola. These rumours are coming out again. I know that Angola is a very oil-rich country—perhaps people think that it does not need assistance. However, it needs assistance and it needs to be confident that it has friends who are willing to help it in times of trouble. I hope that the Minister will convey that message. Perhaps we will hear about that.

Books have been written about development for many years. One of the first that I read was in 1953; it was called The War on World Poverty: An appeal to the Conscience of Mankind and was by Harold Wilson. In 1973, Judith Hart—my noble friend, as it turned out—wrote Aid and Liberation. Harold Wilson and Judith Hart approached the matter from slightly different ends of the spectrum, shall I say. Throughout that time and ever since, there has been a constant debate over how we can deliver. How can we make sure that the aid actually reaches the people? The truth is that we do not know yet.

There is a debate on who should decide priorities. I think that it is now agreed that aid with strings—with the metropolitan country deciding what the priority should be—has gone. A sub-debate is also going on. Within the countries, who should determine priorities and who should be in charge of delivery? Some believe—and I think that the Secretary of State accepts—that major issues of roads, transport and infrastructure can be dealt with only by the state. However, at another level, there is also a real debate about the role of civil society and the NGOs. In my limited experience—I do not pretend that my experience is exhaustive—many NGOs and civil society bodies are hostile to government. They are not necessarily politically hostile, in the sense that they disagree with the political objectives of the government; they just do not like government. In many cases, they want to determine the priorities. I can understand governments saying, "Hold on a minute; we're the elected body and we must determine the priority".

Yet we should not come down too hard and fast on one side or the other. One of the disappointing things about modern society is that we all want certainty. There must be a magic bullet—a solution—so that we can say, "That's good, we've solved the problem". In issues of poverty throughout the world, there is no one solution. Every one of us must be involved, and every part of society, whatever one's views, should be encouraged to take part.

I want to mention two points in response to the comments of my noble friend Lord Brett about growth, development and investment. A lot of people, including my noble friend Lord Desai, say that we need investment to promote growth. One criticism of, for example, President Mbeki—it is a valid criticism in that it is factual—is that an enormous amount of investment has now gone into South Africa. That investment has produced a lot of jobs but it has also destroyed many of them. The developing countries are no different from our own country in that investment in modern technology destroys as many, if not more, jobs than it creates. We have the capacity to absorb some of that damage because of our wealth and our welfare system, but many of the countries that we speak about do not have the capacity to counter that. Clearly we have to do something to offset those effects.

There is no doubt that in discussions as far back as 1953 and in the Pearson report it has been said that there must be an end to export subsidies. That is agreed without question. It has been said that there must be fair trade, but it has not happened. The developed world has said great things about how we have a moral duty but it has not delivered on that moral duty. We have to deliver in many respects.

Over the years we have had our disappointments, things have happened that we have not liked, and we have been associated with things that perhaps we would not have wished to be associated with. But I believe that the prospects of making poverty history are better now than they have been over the past century and certainly in this century.

Photo of Lord Sewel Lord Sewel Labour 4:27 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking and congratulating my noble friend Lady Jay of Paddington on securing this debate. I want to concentrate to an extent on trade liberalisation because I am an advocate of that, but I do so, for once, in the cautionary context of the reform of the European sugar regime. I shall draw heavily on the report of our own Select Committee on the European Union, Too much or too little? Changes to the EU Sugar Regime.

Pre-reform, the EU sugar regime possessed all the worst aspects of the common agricultural policy. There may still be some noble Lords who remember how much I love the common agricultural policy—not a lot. The features of the regime were import controls, export subsidies and domestic quotas. It led to a system in which the European price of sugar was approximately three times the world price. It crowded out efficient European exporters and cost the EU taxpayer £1.1 billion a year in the great tradition of the common agricultural policy. It also cushioned inefficient European producers, and we ended up with the wonderful example of Finland being a sugar producer.

The WTO-driven reform—and it was WTO-driven—tackled export subsidies to a large extent and brought in a price cut. The price cut was not as large as some of us would have wished. It was a cut of about one-third so that the European price was approximately twice the world price. Noble Lords may be thinking "so far, so good", but there is a "but" and it is a big one. There is the real possibility that the cost of reform, particularly in human terms, will be borne disproportionately by some of the poorest workers in some of the poorest communities in the developing world.

Cane sugar producers in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries—the so-called ACP countries—enjoyed preferential access to the European market. They sold into that market not at the world price but at the European price. The fact that those countries were ever sugar producers is very much a legacy of empire, and as such, we have a continuing responsibility towards the workers.

The reform of the sugar regime will impact differentially on the ACP countries. Some of them are already competing, or are close to being in the position to do so, at the new price level. There are others who, with modernisation, new investment and restructuring, have the potential to become efficient and competitive. But, there are others—especially in the Caribbean—who are among the poorest and most dependent on sugar. Because of constraints of scale or difficulties of production, they simply cannot reorganise to compete at the new price. For them the outlook is bleak. Not only is sugar production, which underpins the local economy, unlikely to survive, the social infrastructure, which itself is largely dependent on the sugar industry, is very much under threat. That is potentially disastrous.

In some countries it is difficult to see where alternative economic opportunities lie, at least in the short term. The worrying thing is that there is an alternative agricultural crop; the trouble is that it is highly illegal.

What has been the EU response? For European producers there is a general level of compensation costing around €6 billion. For ACP countries there is €40 million in 2006, and I understand that the Commission proposes a time-limited annual fund of €190 million from 2007. There is a slight query about how this was reported in Hansard. I think a typo got into the Answer given by the Lord President on 11 January when a £ sign replaced the € sign. It makes a difference.

Set against the scale of the problem, this is a far from adequate response, especially for those countries that have no alternative but to get out of sugar. It is often a staple crop. There is a danger that the EU will be seen as more keen to cushion its own producers from the problems of market adjustment than to protect some of the poorest communities in the developing world from the most brutal aspects of economic change. That is unacceptable.

The ACP countries that can modernise need sufficient aid to enable their industry to make that transition and become efficient and effective producers. For those who have to get out of sugar, the challenge is much more difficult. There is an urgent need to at least maintain some form of income support in these countries before their economic base disappears, or to at least stabilise the position. Development strategies must be identified and put in place. I echo what has already been said that they cannot be imposed top-down. They must work with the people and communities, and attract private investment as well as state development aid. EU development aid is vital in this context, however. It is difficult to see how effective strategies could otherwise be put in place at a level of funding which gives them at least the best chance of succeeding.

Changing so fundamentally the industrial and economic base of a country cannot be achieved overnight. It is beset with significant economic and, perhaps more importantly, social and political dangers. If that goes badly wrong—there must be a risk of that—we, at least in part, will be responsible.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Development) 4:35 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, for securing this timely debate and introducing it so comprehensively and effectively. Once again, your Lordships have demonstrated a huge breadth of knowledge and concern about international affairs and how best we tackle appalling poverty across the world.

The Make Poverty History coalition must be congratulated on bringing the issue of poverty in developing countries to such prominence. They have brought it into the centre of British politics. It is often difficult to get competing charities to work together. They need and wish to get their own name out into the public arena, otherwise they starve themselves of funds. To decide that, in fact, their ultimate aim is much more important than their individual efforts, and to subsume that to a collective effort, was quite extraordinary. I would like to see similar examples in other fields, such as cancer, where there are myriad charities.

The involvement of Bob Geldof and, in particular, his concerts—which clashed with marches, on occasion—caused some concern. It is a tribute to the Make Poverty History coalition that they were able to work with this and harness the amazing effect of those concerts. Certainly, my 16 year-old son came away from the Hyde Park concert moved and motivated. He had had no plans to attend the Edinburgh marches. It takes different approaches to strike the right chord for the right audience. For many young people, the concerts—and the sight of the girl from Ethiopia—struck that chord. It certainly did for my children.

The G8 countries—especially the UK, because of its pivotal role—were asked in 2005 to deliver key promises to the developing countries. Africa is the only continent that is going backwards in efforts to reach the MDGs, as we have heard. For example, if current trends continue, sub-Saharan Africa is not predicted to reach the first of the MDGs—that on halving poverty—until 2147. One in every five Africans is affected by conflict, an area which the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, rightly emphasised. Primary school enrolment and completion in Africa are the lowest in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has around 30 million people infected with HIV/AIDS.

Make Poverty History had three aims to tackle such terrible problems: increase aid, reduce debt and open up opportunities for trade. This debate focuses on the G8. That is, as others have said, perhaps a pity. It is surely through economic development and trade—as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and others have said—that real progress will occur. We ourselves took that path, of the agricultural and industrial revolutions, with the rapid expansion of trade, especially in the 19th century. Trade had opened up and funded renaissance Italy. Trade has opened up China and India. Trade promotes—or should—job creation, an issue rightly raised by the noble Lord, Lord Brett.

We have just gone through yet another stage of the so-called development round of the WTO, with anything but development on the agenda. What progress can the Minister report from Geneva, where discussions are currently ongoing? Are we close to any kind of ministerial agreement on making progress? When will we see, as the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, demonstrated, the relief of poverty put at the heart of those negotiations?

Turning to the G8, in my view the most important commitment was that there should be universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment by 2010. The main concern now must be to convert that rhetoric into reality. As ActionAid has put it, exceptional action will need to be generated if increased resources are to be forthcoming to make drugs affordable and accessible and to strengthen health services. Perhaps the Minister can tell us what exceptional actions will be taken to try to achieve that. Unless the US, Japan and the European Union can be persuaded to contribute on a far larger scale, that cannot be delivered.

For me, Botswana is something of a template. Gates and Merck have put vast resources into tackling aid there at every level: prevention, attempts at culture change, free ARVs to all who come forward who need them, universal testing offered to anyone who comes through the health system or anyone who wants to be tested and a strengthening of the health system. That is in a country where almost half of the adult population is now infected with HIV/AIDS. So if the AIDS pandemic can be reversed, surely that is where we might hope to see it. That shows the level of investment now needed, not only across sub-Saharan Africa, where the pandemic currently rages, but in India, China, Russia, elsewhere in eastern Europe, the Caribbean and worldwide.

I note that after the global fund replenishment conference, which was held in London last September, there was a $3.3 billion shortfall. That was immediately after the G8 meeting which made the pledge. What action will the UK Government, among other G8 nations, take to ensure that this gap is filled? As other noble Lords have said, there are fears that some G8 countries may not be able to fulfil the commitments that they have made on AIDS. Germany and Japan cause particular concern. I would like to know what is being done about that.

Progress on development will be undermined if progress is not made on climate change, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, so clearly put it. The poorest countries of the world suffer the most in that respect. That can be seen if one looks at the effect of the desert expansion on the conflict in Sudan. There is still no clear recognition of the scale and urgency of that problem. At the G8 there were no targets or timeframes for reducing emissions in line with scientific understanding. When will the G8 put into practice at least the agreements that were made three years ago at the world summit on sustainable development to assist Africa to reduce the effects of climate change and disasters?

The G8 has confirmed the proposed deal by the G7 finance ministers to cancel 100 per cent of debt owed to multinational institutions. That is a significant step, but it is worth bearing in mind that it will provide fewer than $1 billion this year—the equivalent of no more than $1 per person in the countries that are due to benefit. The money to pay for debt relief seems to be coming from overall aid budgets and so does not represent new funds. As my noble friend Lord Roberts, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, have said, one apparent breakthrough in the G8 process was the 100 per cent debt cancellation deal for Nigeria, but it turns out, as ever, that that is not quite as it seems. I look forward to the Minister's comments on why that is the case.

One area that was aired last year was the need for a fully funded UN disaster relief standby fund. The slowness of the relief effort in Kashmir shows how necessary that is. I note that Hilary Benn is trying to drum up support for that. I would like to know what progress he is making.

Rhetoric is not reality, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, and others have said. What of implementation? The African Partnership Forum, which consists of donors and members of the AU, has been mandated with overseeing the implementation of the G8 agreement. It is in the process of agreeing a joint action plan which should be reviewed for the first time in October 2006. A copy of that action plan has been posted on the DfID website, but I have been told that it appears to be incomplete. What is happening on that? What is being done—as the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza made clear in her devastating critique must be done—to ensure that more aid is more effective aid and is not simply wasted?

Last year was a triumph for Make Poverty History. Of course, all that might have been secured was not secured. But in terms of bringing this issue to the forefront of people's minds, competing with earlier versions of "Big Brother" and suchlike, it was a stunning success. All political parties must respond and have done so. Our task as an opposition party is to welcome what the Government have done so far and to encourage far more effort, especially in delivering immediately what is needed for HIV/AIDS. Without that, a generation will be left as orphans and will then die from that awful disease. We can do no less than take this campaign forward for them.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development 4:46 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for initiating the debate. Africa's problems affect us all, at home and abroad, not just in requests for development aid, debt forgiveness and emergency relief but in lost opportunities for overseas investment, marketing and, as the noble Lord, Lord Brett, said, jobs. In the UK, Africa's instability increases the number of refugees and asylum seekers from conflict areas and oppressive regimes and places more demands on British troops to serve as peacekeepers. We all agree that there are overwhelming humanitarian grounds for development aid to Africa. Money, not necessarily aid, is needed to provide the basic infrastructure and services that we all take for granted but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, so rightly stressed, we have to start with peace and stability.

The continuing prevalence of diseases such as polio and malaria, which are curable with sufficient well targeted resources, is a global embarrassment. Polio should have been wiped out by the end of 2005. That deadline has slipped to the end of 2006. The final eradication of the disease is still achievable and will demonstrate what focused development aid, with a clear aim, can achieve. What steps are being taken to prevent further slippage of the deadline? This near-success gives hope in the continuing fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS which, as many noble Lords said, is a major crisis tearing apart more and more communities and families.

Those are all good reasons for increasing development aid and supporting the millennium goals set by the UN. The debt relief announced last year was welcome, as we heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, as was the Chancellor's increase in the aid budget to 0.47 per cent of gross national income. Can the Minister assure us that that will increase to 0.7 per cent by 2013? It is vital that these reasons are not dictated by sentiment and media hype and that we continue to address the issues once the media spotlight has gone. As many noble Lords said, we cannot help many millions of people lift themselves out of poverty, disease and instability by treating them as passive recipients of periodic food aid. The recent near famine in the Sahel was a preventable crisis, fully anticipated by local organisations and made worse by promised but undelivered aid, yet funds were not forthcoming until the media showed starving children on television.

If we wish to continue giving indefinite aid to Africa, we must concentrate on development aid that gives Africans the tools to help themselves. Yet, as the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, stressed clearly in her most interesting speech, so much of our aid is not directed in that way. It is given, restriction-free, to governments that are among the most corrupt in the world. It is wasted on high-profile, ill thought-out statement projects. It often hires expensive western consultants to find out how further aid should be spent. In the worst cases, it has been said that both oil and aid consolidate corruption. Of course, not all development aid is misspent or wasted. Much good has been done with our money. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, spelt out that the sums spent in Africa are enormous, so clearly there is something wrong with the lack of results.

We often hear stories of African presidents buying fleets of luxury cars rather than providing clean water for their population; clearly, development aid should not be channelled through their political systems. I repeat: good governance, accountability and transparency are key. What safeguards exist to make certain of having greater transparency and accurate reporting of DfID's accounts, so that the UK pledge to achieve the UN millennium development goals will be met by 2013?

An inconsistency in approach needs to be examined. Why does the European Union trumpet the success of the Kimberley process, which restricts the market in conflict diamonds, yet fails to ban the illegal timber imports that come from exploiting the Congolese rain forest—particularly following allegations that Zimbabwean logging firms, supported by Zimbabwean troops, are milking those resources? Why are we considering wiping clean Nigeria's debt of $17 billion, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, when we have increased our arms sales to that country tenfold in the past five years? We have heard fascinating ideas, as always, from the noble Lord, Lord Desai, on Nigeria's case versus the Asian problems and answers.

I have had little time to address all the issues, but this speech would not be complete without a quick look to the immediate future of the G8 and, by association, its commitments as a whole. Those will be determined by the Russian presidency, which has not yet been mentioned this afternoon. The use of gas supplies as a political tool earlier this month added to growing concerns regarding the direction Russia seems to be taking. What plans do the Government have to discuss the G8 commitments with its new president? Will the Government ask President Putin to look at how the disappointing results of the WTO December meeting affect those commitments and how he will ensure that the G8 is in line to double targeted and accountable aid to Africa in real terms by 2010?

The Government's commitments at last year's G8 summit were well intentioned. We welcome the priority that Africa is being given, but there are still so many unanswered questions. I hope that the Minister can assure us that the DfID White Paper review, due this summer, will take account of the concerns raised today. We need to be reassured that African governments and the new president of the G8 genuinely share our determination to create a better future for the people of Africa.

Photo of Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Baroness Royall of Blaisdon Government Whip 4:54 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lady Jay for having secured this important debate, which provides a fine opportunity to keep development on the agenda. Like so many noble Lords who have spoken today, she has a strong interest, expertise and a fine reputation in international development. International development issues are a key policy area for this Government. As president of the G8, we were able to secure vital advances on aid, particularly to Africa, on debt relief and on climate change. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that we will maintain a constant dialogue with Russia during its presidency of the G8 to ensure that all parties fulfil their commitments.

That 2005 would provide an unprecedented opportunity to improve the lives of millions of poor people in Africa was never in doubt following my right honourable friend the Prime Minister's announcement that Africa would be one of the two priorities for our G8 presidency and, of course, his chairing of the Africa Commission. Africa also featured prominently in the UK's EU presidency, which culminated in agreement on a new strategic partnership between Europe and Africa. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, clearly set out the impact that the fragile situation in Africa had on the UK and Europe. The right reverend Prelate was right to dwell on Africa and the results of the obscene gap between rich and poor. In relation to corruption and governments, I assure him that we share the concerns about the damaging effects of corruption on development, for we know that corruption hits the poorest people the hardest. Tackling corruption is an essential part of our poverty-reduction objectives. At Gleneagles, the G8 agreements included helping Africa to fight corruption—for example, through increasing support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

I note the point raised by my noble friend Lord Desai about responsive governments in Asia and the lessons that might be learnt in Africa. I hope that that might be dealt with in the White Paper. Many of last year's achievements would simply not have been possible without the coalition of NGOs, trade unions, church groups and others that formed the Make Poverty History campaign and the similar campaigns throughout the world. Through their lobbying and engagement, they played a key role in raising awareness of international development issues and the injustice of global poverty. It was a fine example of the way in which real change can be brought about by politics and how coalitions of people working together to influence governments on a global level can bring about change. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, referred to collective action to alleviate poverty—for a collective utopia. It is our duty to manage that utopia in the interests of humanity.

More and better aid, debt relief and fair trade are critical components of delivering a more just and less unequal world. Aid well spent makes a real difference. The proportion of people in developing countries living in extreme poverty has fallen from 28 per cent in 1990 to 22 per cent now. That is still a gross injustice. Our goal must be to eradicate poverty, but real progress has been made. For example, the number of children at school in Mozambique has doubled in five years, and nine out of 10 children in Tanzania are now enrolled in school. Noble Lords have rightly welcomed the Private Member's International Development (Reporting and Transparency) Bill, currently under consideration in the other place. The Government strongly support that Bill. We look forward to it arriving in this House, especially now that we know that it will be piloted by my noble friend Lady Whitaker.

The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, was right to point out the importance of this Bill. The provision of aid is complex, but I am glad that she recognises the excellent reputation of DfID in accountability and evaluation. But, of course, commitment to aid is not enough. We need other donors to contribute their fair shares. That is why, at the Gleneagles summit, the commitment to increase official development assistance by US$50 billion a year for all developing countries by 2010 was a significant advance. Half of that increase will go to Africa, doubling aid to the continent over the next five years. EU member states led the way on this when they made an historic commitment to double annual EU aid to all developing countries by 2010. The 15 member states also committed to achieving the UN's 0.7 per cent ODA/GNI target by 2015, but the UK, like some others, intends to do better than that. On present plans, we will reach 0.7 per cent by 2013.

As my noble friend Lady Jay and others have mentioned, it is important that G8 and EU members keep to their commitments on aid volumes. How they do that is up to them. We are encouraging them to sign up to the international finance facility. The EC and EU member states are reviewing progress and volume commitments in May 2006. We welcome the increase in aid, but the Government recognise the need for the development assistance to be made available more quickly to developing countries. My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal for an international finance facility, the IFF, will supplement the aid increases by raising funds for the sale of bonds on the international capital market.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said that front loading must not mean a drop in aid flows post-2015. The Government believe, however, that aid flows beyond 2015 could be considerably higher than the current levels of aid, even allowing for IFF bond repayments. Higher GNI will mean larger flows, if the ODA/GNI ratio remains constant. We expect that the ODA/GNI ratio will get closer to the 0.7 per cent target by 2015, and we expect new countries to have become donors by then.

As a first step, last September the UK, together with France, Spain, Italy and Sweden, launched a new international finance facility for immunisation. Alongside additional contributions announced by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the facility will ensure the provision of an additional US$4 billion over the next 10 years to tackle some of the deadliest diseases in some of the world's poorest countries. Those additional resources could save the lives of 5 million children by 2015 and more thereafter.

It is entirely unacceptable that 30,000 children die unnecessarily each day as a result of poverty. That is why DfID is supporting work to strengthen health systems to deliver better and more equitable health services in developing countries. That includes improved services for mothers and babies and support for a number of international initiatives to combat diseases that affect children. Those include Roll Back Malaria, the Partnership for Safe Motherhood and Neonatal Health, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation and research into child survival.

The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked what DfID's role had been in improving co-ordination on tackling AIDS. As she will know, in March the UK hosted a meeting—Making the Money Work—of leaders from donor and developing country governments, NGOs and civil society. As a result, the Global Task Team was established to make specific time-band recommendations to improve co-ordination and to enhance the quality of national responses.

My noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton provided a striking illustration of what I think could be described as an aid culture. Aid dependency is certainly a risk that DfID recognises and addresses at the design phase of a programme. It was difficult, however, for development partners to manage that risk post-tsunami. Some implications were not taken account of. Steps have now been put in place to try and address them. For example, support was provided to enable individuals to work on rebuilding their villages for wages. That promoted ownership of the recovery process and reinstated the damaged work ethic. I note the important issues that he raised about scientific and other information and the fact that such advice to governments in developing countries was essential. Clearly, more work is needed on those issues, and I hope, again, that that might be addressed by the White Paper. I should add, however, that DfID does provide small sums of money for activities such as sponsoring visits to key events, so that participants from developing countries can attend.

As well as aid, some countries need more debt relief. The heavily indebted poor countries—HIPC—initiative has already delivered US $70 billion in debt relief to 27 of the world's poorest countries. Again, the Government recognised that more needed to be done. At last June's meeting of the G8 finance ministers, a ground-breaking initiative was agreed, under which HIPCs will receive 100 per cent cancellation of their remaining multilateral debts to the institutions. Under the initiative, debt relief worth up to US$50 billion will be delivered to 38 poor countries that have demonstrated their commitment to poverty reduction and sound public financial management. This will free up resources for more spending on health and education and accelerate progress towards the MDGs. Debt cancellation will go ahead immediately for 19 countries—13 of which are African—as they have already reached completion point under the HIPC initiative.

My noble friend Lord Hunt asked about the Defra/DfID report on climate change in Africa. Apparently the report was discussed at the G8 Environment and Development Ministerial held in the UK in March, as part of our presidency. The report recognised the need for more work to be done on climate change in Africa, and that is now being taken forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, raised the very important issue of Nigeria's debt. The Paris Group agreed a debt deal to write off about 60 per cent of the value of Nigeria's outstanding debts. For its part, Nigeria has agreed to put the annual savings of around US$1 billion into a fund to be used for poverty reduction programmes, including employing an extra 120,000 teachers and putting 3.5 million children into school. The Nigerian Government requested the debt deal in support of their own economic reforms and development strategy. The UK worked very hard to help secure this deal, which provides at least US$1 billion a year to be used for poverty reduction. In addition, DfID has already announced that it is doubling its aid to Nigeria. Her Majesty's Government believe that it is important to support the ownership, sovereign right and accountability of the Nigerian elected government in their policy choices.

A fundamental conclusion of the Commission for Africa, fully supported by the UK, was that Africa must steer the course of its own development. African leaders at Gleneagles embraced this new vision for the continent's future, recognising the opportunities and their role in addressing its challenges, including peace, security and governance, to which my noble friend Lady Whitaker referred.

After the success of Gleneagles, the Government looked to the UN Millennium Review Summit held in New York last September to keep up the momentum. The need for urgency on all sides was underlined, as was the need for developing countries to produce more ambitious national strategies to combat poverty. The UK's development objectives for the summit were largely met. Importantly, there was also agreement on responsibility to protect and the establishment of the new Peacebuilding Commission.

As noble Lords have emphasised, notwithstanding these agreements, the international community is still failing people in Darfur. The situation there is abhorrent. Today's report from the International Development Committee is a powerful critique. Her Majesty's Government have been leading efforts in this area and must continue to do so by providing humanitarian help; making sure that the AU force comes up to its full strength; maximising pressure on the parties to co-operate; and supporting the transition of the AU mission to a UN peace support operation, if agreed by AU Foreign Ministers. I assure noble Lords, however, that we will maintain our focus on Darfur even when the television cameras have left.

If we are to see an end to poverty, it is crucial that all the pledges on development in Africa made at the G8 summit are implemented rapidly. I am pleased to report that there has already been considerable progress in a number of areas, including donor pledges to replenish the global fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria by US$3.7 billion for 2006–07; the launch of the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa, to which the UK has committed US$20 million over two years; and the launch of the Investment Climate Facility to which we are contributing US$30 million over three years.

There is still much to be done on trade. The noble Earl mentioned Economic Partnership Agreements and his fear that they will undermine development. The Government have been working very hard to promote the development aspects of Economic Partnership Agreements, and we believe that they will now truly deliver for developing countries. As my noble friend Lord Sewel pointed out so graphically, we have to work with people on the ground who are affected by development policies when we devise and implement them.

In response to my noble friend's point about sugar, DfID has made £260,000 available for sugar protocol countries in the Caribbean to help prepare their country plans on how they will use the EU's transitional assistance. That is a very small part of what we are doing and I shall write to my noble friend with further information.

At Gleneagles, G8 leaders reiterated their political commitment to an ambitious outcome to the WTO's ongoing Doha development round. We were disappointed by the outcome although some progress was made. A fair opportunity to trade is not enough, so the UK is committed to tripling the amount of aid for trade that we provide to developing countries to £100 million a year by 2010. We will continue to work with our partners this year to ensure an ambitious and pro-poor outcome to the Doha round. Some key players are meeting this week in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss the next steps this year. We await the outcome of these discussions. I am afraid that I have no further information about a possible meeting of heads of state but I truly hope that it will take place in the near future.

In 2005 we did not see an end to poverty but we did see the promises needed to help bring about that end. Donors and African countries alike recognise the need for an effective forum to monitor, review and report progress against these commitments. That is why it was agreed that the Africa Partnership Forum should be strengthened to carry out this role. The forum brings together representatives from Africa at the national, regional and pan-African level, as well as the continent's major development partners. It will monitor progress against the commitments made in 2005 by Africa and its development partners on the basis of a joint action plan now being developed. The support unit being set up to enable the forum to carry out its responsibilities will work closely with the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development.

The joint action plan will set benchmarks. There was a meeting of AFP co-ordinators in London early this month to draw up an action plan. It is now being circulated to the members for agreement at the next meeting in April. APF will monitor, review and report on progress towards commitments made in 2005 by Africa and the donor governments.

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development announced on 19 December, he has placed in the Libraries of both Houses a Gleneagles implementation plan for Africa. This sets out what has already been achieved and the Government's views on the key milestones that need to be achieved on Africa and development in the next 12 months following the Gleneagles summit. The plan will be updated monthly as further progress is made. One of the milestones, of course, includes agreement by the heads of state, at a UN GA special session on AIDS, on a road map to universal access to AIDS treatment by 2010.

My noble friend Lord Foulkes and other noble Lords referred to our consultation paper on eliminating world poverty and the forthcoming White Paper. I trust that many of the issues raised in today's discussion will be addressed in that White Paper. The consultation is an extremely important process because the ideas of NGOs, Churches, trade unions, business and other interested groups will help the Government in preparing their new development plans. We recognise that the Government certainly do not have a monopoly on ideas.

As to Ethiopia, of course the situation there presents the Government with tough decisions. But good governance, human rights and accountability must be respected. Although we have withdrawn our general budget support, the UK remains committed to supporting poor people in Ethiopia. We are therefore working with other donors and the government to design a new mechanism for providing funds, using government channels in a more transparent and accountable way, so that basic services such as education, health and water can continue to be provided throughout the country and we can be sure that aid will reach those who need it.

As my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, 2005 is remembered as the start of something, not the end. We have not yet made poverty history but we have made a good start. Now we must work together with developing countries and other donors to deliver the historic commitments made last year. In that way we can and we will make a real difference to the lives of the poorest and most needy people in the world. That is not just morally right, it is in our common interests to do so.

Photo of Baroness Jay of Paddington Baroness Jay of Paddington Labour 5:14 pm, 26th January 2006

My Lords, I am grateful to all those who have taken part in this excellent debate and grateful to the Minister for her comprehensive and on the whole rather encouraging reply. As usual in your Lordships' House, I have been overwhelmed by the diversity of expertise and experience which your Lordships have brought to bear on this problem. Against that background of diversity, it is very hard to bring out any common themes without sounding somewhat platitudinous and being obvious. However, it is worth repeating that one common theme underlying the whole debate has been the general agreement that the issue of aid and development must stay at the top of the international agenda for governments, civil society and for all of us involved in the legislative and political process. In addition, we must do that not for reasons of morality or charity, although they are very important, but because this is about justice and security for the whole global community.

What is the way forward? The most often used words in the debate were "coherence", "transparency", "accountability" and, above all, "partnership". That has been re-emphasised again in the Minister's reply. I look forward to further opportunities to scrutinise the White Paper, to scrutinise again the commitments of last year and to consider the Bill proposed by my right honourable friend Mr Clarke when it reaches your Lordships' House. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.