My Lords, focusing UK aid on fragile and conflict-affected states is central to our development efforts and makes a significant contribution to our national security. All UK bilateral and multilateral aid is currently being reviewed, ensuring a greater focus on results and maximising the impact of every pound spent.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. What discussions has her department had on improving the interface between different government departments to support fragile and conflict-afflicted states so that they do not become a future security risk? Can she also explain what the Government are doing to assist these states in the achievement of the millennium development goals?
My Lords, the Government's strategic defence and security review set out a clear vision of enhanced UK work on upstream conflict prevention. Building on this, DfID, alongside the FCO and MoD, is taking the lead in developing the Government's new Building Stability Overseas strategy to be published in the spring. This strategy will set out how we will use development, diplomatic and security tools in an integrated approach to tackling conflict and instability overseas. No fragile state has yet achieved a single millennium development goal.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that her statement about getting value for money for every pound spent from the development budget will be very welcome? Can she tell us which precise, ring-fenced developmental objectives were met by the transfer of £1.8 million from the DfID budget to finance the visit of his Holiness the Pope?
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House welcomes the fact that all parties here are aiming for the target of 0.7 per cent by 2013. As we are all going in the same direction, does the Minister agree that there should be even more consultation, even at a ministerial level, on how our overseas aid is targeted and spent?
My Lords, my noble friend raises a very important point. We are carrying out the bilateral and multilateral reviews and having a great deal of consultation with a great many organisations precisely to ensure that all our aid is focused on getting the best results for the poorest people in the world.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that in failing or failed states, where often straightforward development projects are impossible to mount, it is entirely proper, as a precursor to resuming development, to provide money to help these states? Is that view shared by the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD?
My Lords, as the noble Lord is aware, our goals are common across the OECD and our multilateral partners, and our aim is to ensure that our investment-every penny that we spend-is directed towards ensuring the best outcomes. He is aware of that.
My Lords, one year ago this week the previous Government launched the Civilian Stabilisation Group, allowing 1,000 UK citizens to be deployed to fragile and conflict-affected states. The current Government have promised to expand the work of that group. Can the Minister confirm for us today that the budgets will be available for the new stabilisation response teams and that the UK will continue to press the United Nations to make its own ambitious proposals on the international response for civilian secondments in a way which will enhance and add value to the UK's own Civilian Stabilisation Group?
I should first like to pay tribute to the great work that the noble Lord did when he was a Member of another place. I should also like to congratulate him on the work that he is continuing to do to ensure that the relationship between Scotland and the African countries is maintained. The United Nations is of course one of our key partners; but, as I said, we are going through the multilateral and bilateral review process. This process will ensure that we are able to target and focus all our aid budget on the programmes and countries that need it the most and where the outcomes are best achieved.
Is my noble friend aware that DfID's practical help in demining in Sri Lanka has been enormously welcome and pretty successful? But as the refugees-more than 270,000 of them-have nearly all now returned home, the crying need is for infrastructure, particularly in the health field. Will she, with DfID, look at the possibility of building at least one hospital in the northern region of Sri Lanka?
My noble friend is absolutely right about the work that DfID has done to try to reduce the suffering caused by landmines and the explosive remnants of war. As I have said several times over, we are coming towards the end of our reviews. These really can give us a greater focus on where our aid will go. However, healthcare and education are key to supporting the work that we do.
My Lords, how will Her Majesty's Government respond to the request made only last week by the International Development Select Committee for a list of exactly which countries will qualify as fragile and conflict-affected states, which will therefore be eligible to receive increased funding?
My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. She will also be aware that the reviews are coming to a conclusion. They will be able to lay out all the questions that the Select Committee raised as well as the ones that she has asked.
The noble Earl is absolutely right about education for girls and women. Women and girls are at the heart of all the work we are doing, particularly in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan which will be our key priority. The Secretary of State has therefore said that 30 per cent of the aid budget will be focused on our fragile states.