Select Committee on Environmental Audit Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the Department for International Development


Contribution to global sustainable development

  1.  DFID strongly believes that the eradication of poverty, as measured by the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals must be built on the effective management of resources if it is to be enduring. Similarly, we believe that poverty remains the central threat to the achievement of sustainable development. The recognition of this in the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) agenda means that the Summit resonates very closely with DFID's own goals and objectives. This is not surprising since the Summit is not Rio +10, it is not the second earth summit, it is the world's first summit on sustainable development.

  2.  Our general approach to the issues being discussed at the summit is set out in the 2000 publication "Achieving sustainability: poverty elimination and the environment"[1] and in the UK Government's White Paper of December 2000 "Eliminating world poverty: making globalisation work for the poor".[2] We have also done a significant amount of work on determining the linkages between more effective environmental management and poverty reduction (see paragraphs 9 and 11 below).

Contribution to the UK's sustainable development indicators

  3.  DFID does not lead on any of the four UK indicators for sustainable development, as set out in the UK's own sustainable development strategy—"A better quality of life". However, by contributing to the development of HMG's position in key international processes and associated multilateral environmental agreements, DFID makes a significant contribution to the achievement of the second UK indicator relating to the effective protection from global environmental threats. DFID has and remains active in developing the UK's policy as they affect developing countries on, inter alia, climate change; biodiversity; persistent organic pollutants; seas and oceans; and forests.


  4.  The Summit's overall objectives on poverty and globalisation reflect many of the issues raised by developing countries in WSSD preparations. These include concerns around the volume and quality of official development assistance; access to markets; the need to manage the impact of globalisation; and the potential positive and negative aspects of private sector involvement. These are key features of the White Paoer. Given this connection, DFID sees WSSD as a unique opportunity to take forward UK development and poverty elimination objectives through meaningful agreements in Johannesburg which contribute to the achievement of the MDGs. Many of these issues are also being dealt with in other fora, for example in the Doha Trade Round, and in the Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey.

  5.  Furthermore, the preparatory process is in itself an important opportunity to develop a wide understanding of key development issues—particularly the links between, poverty, environment and globalisation. We are consequently using the preparatory process as an opportunity to exert influence at home and internationally, in particular through our involvement in the development of the priorities and objectives of the EU for WSSD.


  6.  It has been agreed that the UK's overarching objective is to make globalisation work for sustainable development, especially for the poorest. We also welcome and support the more specific objectives relating to support for the New Partnership for African Development, increasing the proportion of the poor who have access to water, sanitation and sustainable energy, and looking at the issues of sustainable fisheries and marine protected areas.

  7.  DFID sees WSSD as an important opportunity to focus attention on practical actions needed to achieve the agreed Millennium Development Goals. They should be the focus of efforts at WSSD. In general, we do not think there is much to be gained by creating new targets. Efforts should instead be focussed on addressing the fundamental issues which impede the achievement of the MDGs, rather than in the pursuit of short-lived initiatives. Such initiatives can take up scarce resources and may cut across wider development objectives. It is important that we seek to build on existing efforts.

  8.  Achieving the MDGS will require efforts in three main areas:

    —  actions by developing countries themselves to implement policies which allow them to participate effectively and equitably in the opportunities which economic growth and globalisation offer;

    —  actions by developed countries to ensure a convergence of their domestic policies with the needs of the developing world. Developed country domestic policies continue to impede the development of many poor countries; and

    —  increases in the quantity, and improvements in the quality, of official development assistance.

  9.  In addition to the general UK objectives, DFID has two specific objectives for WSSD. They are:

    —  to set out the links between poverty reduction and the more effective management of environmental resources. This is a complex relationship which remains poorly understood, yet it is the key to mainstreaming the environmental into national development and poverty redcction processes; and

    —  to gain support for the OECD's Development Assistance Committee's guidelines on strategies for sustainable development and encourage the UN to take them forward. These focus on the strategic dimensions of integrating environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainability. When approached in this way, initiatives such as poverty reduction strategies can provide the basis for a sustainable development strategy.

  10.  We are pursuing these objectives in conjunction with other partners. Two high profile side events were organised at the Second WSSD Preparatory Committee meeting in New York in January. Both were very well attended with around 150 people at each.

  11.  The first event concentrated on the work that is being done to ensure a better understanding of the relationship between poverty and environmental degradation—an understanding which recognises that the poor are the most vulnerable to and suffer the most from environmental degradation. A major output of this effort is a consultation draft produced jointly with the World Bank, the European Commission and UNDP exploring the links between poverty and environment[3]. Further work will be done on the document. We expect it to be presented at a high level at the Summit itself, and the conclusions to figure in the political declaration.

  12.  On strategies for sustainable development, DFID along with UNDP, UNDESA, the Government of Ghana and the Royal Danish Government co-sponsored a major multi stakeholder workshop in Accra in November 2001. The aim was to gain broad agreement for the DAC principles but, more importantly, to back the UN reformulation of them, since it is only through the UN that we can expect to achieve broad international endorsement. The outcome of the workshop was reported to plenary at the WSSD Second Preparatory Committee by both the hosts, Ghana, and the UK, on behalf of the organisers. Six follow-up publications and reports have been prepared to reinforce and disseminate the lessons learned from the work on strategies for sustainable development. We are now developing tools and resources to support implementation.


Internal DFID Co-ordination and MISC 18

  13.  The poverty, sustainable development and globalisation themes which underpin WSSD mean that DFID has a crucial role to play in formulating and promoting UK objectives. Consequently, significant resources have been dedicated to WSSD preparations.

  14.  Environment Policy Department has lead responsibility for co-ordinating WSSD activities in DFID. Two staff members are deployed full time to co-ordinate activities and work closely with colleagues in DFID and other government departments, in particular DEFRA, DTI and FCO. Recognising WSSD's broad development agenda, an office-wide WSSD Co-ordination Committee chaired by a Director General was established in November 2002. This Committee ensure a coherent DFID input into the monthly Whitehall WSSD Sterring Committee Meetings and to MISC 18. It also provides briefing to the Secretary of State who places a high priority on WSSD.

Other WSSD Preparations

  15.  In addition to MISC 18, DFID has and will continue to advance UK priorities in a number of other important areas. These include:

    —  effective participation, under DEFRA'S leadership, in the UN co-ordinated preparatory process. Two preparatory committee meetings have already been held and two more are planned ahead of Johannesburg. The Secretary of State will also attend the final ministerial level preparatory meeting in Jakarta, at which she will co-chair a ministerial round-table organised by the Global Environment Facility on financing sustainable development.

    —  efforts to encourage support for WSSD and high-level attendance by Development ministers at Johannesburg. The Secretary of State has written to all OECD Development Minister's urging their participation; and

    —  effectively articulating UK objectives in the European Union, which provides the formal link for the UK into the WSSD preparatory process. This is an important task, especially given the EU's position as the world's largest donor and the important external impact on the EU's domestic policies (most notably subsidies and trade policies).

  16.  DFID has not undertaken or contributed to any special review of its WSSD preparations.


  17.  Since 1993 DFID has employed a system of policy information markers to track the targeting of bilateral commitments and expenditure against priority policy objectives of the development programme. This allows us to improve our monitoring and evaluation of development assistance so making us more accountable against our broader objectives. This system is compulsory for all commitments above £250,000.

  18.  In 1993 additional markers—the so-called "Rio Markers"—were introduced specifically to assess DFID's contribution towards achieving the objectives of Agenda 21. These markers relate to sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, desertification and sustainable forest management. They complement earlier environment management and planning markers. A full record of commitments against these Rio markers is attached.


  19.  Given the resonance of the WSSD agenda with DFID's priorities and the opportunity it offers to focus attention on poverty and development issues, DFID has provided substantial support to the preparatory process in a number of countries. DFID environment advisers are working together with FCO Environment Attaches to promote awareness of and interest in a number of agreed priority developing countries. These include Indonesia, Bangladesh, Brazil, India and South Africa. DFID country programmes have provided financial support to in-country preparatory processes. EPD has made a further £150,000 available to support these efforts. In addition, £1.25 million has been provided to the Government of South Africa as a contribution to the costs of hosting the Summit.


  20.  DFID is actively supporting the DEFRA led WSSD Communications Strategy. This comprises, inter alia, a dialogue with NGOs and the production of a popular leaflet outlining UK WSSD objectives and priorities. In addition DFID is using the current round of Development Policy Fora to raise environmental issues and the profile of WSSD more generally. A popular version of EPD's publication on the linkages between poverty reduction and the environment is about to be published. Arrangements are also in place to manage media handling for the Summit.

February 2002

1   Published by DFID, ISBN 1861923120. Back

2   Cm 5006, December 2000. Back

3   "Linking Poverty Reduction and Environmental Management". Policy Challenges and Opportunities. A contribution to the WSSD process. January 2002. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 25 April 2002