Poverty in the Developing World — Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:44 pm on 28th April 2011.

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Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma Lords Spokesperson (Home Office) (Equalities and Women's Issues), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Department for International Development) 1:44 pm, 28th April 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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