Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-48)



Tony Worthington

  40. Just so there is no ambiguity, earlier you said that conditionality did not work, but we have heard constantly this morning about transparency, about accountability, about partnership and I cannot believe you mean that, that you just give the aid and do not look at what has happened to it.
  (Mr German) The plethora of conditions does not work. Nobody gives aid without having a view about where it should go and how it should be spent. It is a question of striking a balance between ownership and conditionality. You have to have a view and as a donor you have a right, even an obligation to have a view about what the money is spent on. In that sense it depends whether you call it conditions or ... It is a question of definitions. What is not apparently helpful is where you have in many cases literally hundreds of conditions, many of which cancel each other out. It is a question of striking a balance. I do not think anybody would be arguing totally unconditional aid is realistic.
  (Ms Ross) Donor harmonisation, coupled with donor and recipient countries setting those criteria and conditions together rather than them being imposed, that is the conditions being negotiated, is what the discussion between Andrew Natsios, the Director of USAID and the Development Minister from Sierra Leone were about. What she was proposing was not that she was advocating no conditions but that any conditions should be agreed and negotiated between governments and that they can be met and that they are reasonable rather than this one-size-fits-all approach to conditionality which is that you must hit this, this, this and this for us to be able to give you money.

  41. So it is not that conditionality does not work but you must have the right conditions.
  (Ms Randel) The process for setting the conditions has to be right. There will always be conditions because the ultimate condition is that you cease to transfer any funds and that is a sort of conditionality. It is the way they are set, whether they are owned by the developing country government, whether the developing country government is setting the plan, all those sorts of things. It is a bit of a shorthand to say that conditionality does not work, the old form of imposed conditionality on the whole seems not to work.

  42. If you were measuring aid would you rather have 0.7 per cent or good progress towards the Millennium Development Goals?
  (Ms Ross) They are not mutually exclusive. You need one to achieve the other.

  43. The point is that I find the 0.7 per cent a bit depressing. I am all in favour of it, but it is a lame-brain thing. It is a mantra and it is an input thing and not an outcome thing. Would you not prefer to be measuring success of aid by outcomes rather than inputs?
  (Ms Randel) That is a really interesting point. What changed when Shaping the Twenty-First Century document came out in the mid-1990s, which was the basic thing that started the Millennium Development Goal process, was that it was saying measure the results, look at what is happening; most of the money is not coming from aid it is coming from developing countries so look at where poverty is being reduced. I do not think many people would disagree with that. What then completely disappeared was the whole responsibility for the input side and for the development assistance side. You do need to see where the development assistance is contributing towards those goals but clearly the goals are what matter and if there were a way of achieving them without 0.7 per cent we would not be arguing for it.

  Mr Battle: I was rather intrigued by the comments about language and the Americans understandably refusing to refer to 0.7 per cent, but what kind of language did you use as a surrogate to refer to the Millennium Development Goals? It seems to me that what one person referred to as the deep grammar of all this is quite significant in terms of the politics. May I support the Chairman's request to give us much more on your view of where that policy is going? Is it sheer pragmatism? Is there an ideology behind it? Is it day to day? We have to get to grips with the language; without that there is no consensus and we go no further forward. Could you perhaps say a quick word about the proposed UK Council for International Co-operation, that would be helpful as well?


  44. How do the Americans describe the Millennium Development Goals? Please tell us more about the UK Council for International Co-operation.
  (Mr German) It is just an idea. I have a paper which I can let you have copies of with an outline idea[17]. Essentially the idea is that development co-operation in the UK is extremely widespread. Within your constituencies there will be a few people whom you will know of as being the usual suspects who write to you occasionally about aid and so on, who may speak to you, but on the doorstep it does not come up when you talk to people. However, that is because it may not be right at the top of people's political consciousness. However, if you look at people's individual actions, there is extremely widespread support for international co-operation at a personal giving level and I do not suppose there are very many churches or schools in your constituency which in some way or other are not involved in international co-operation. It is atomised and therefore it is very invisible. The idea would be to have a high level political body which would make visible this very, very strong and consistent support for international co-operation, which would provide a means for people to exchange information and reinforce the overall political commitment to international co-operation. The ideas are in detail in the paper.

  (Ms Ross) "Internationally agreed goals, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration". There are various reformulations of that wording. It was a tactic to wear people out basically.

  45. What we should like to understand is: why this wordplay? What one needs is a sheet of paper with on the one hand what the United States is doing and on the other hand your understanding of why they are doing that. All of us are used to wordplay, but there is usually some very real reason for it. Why is there this wordplay? We should like to have an understanding of that.
  (Ms Ross) What we can do for you is put you in touch with our counterpart in the US, so you have an opportunity to talk to US NGOs as well.

  46. We should find that very helpful, because a number of us individually and the Committee collectively are going to go to the United States this year and it would be very helpful to meet American NGOs who could explain American thinking to us.
  (Ms Vazquez) What the UN negotiator explained in the prepcom is that the US and all governments signed the Millennium Declaration at the Millennium Summit, but the document that outlines the Millennium Development Goals with the number of indicators and deadlines was a document which was produced after the summit by the UN called A Road Map Towards the Millennium Development Goals. The US negotiator argued that the US had not properly endorsed that document and that was a document post the summit so they could not accept—

  47. So they do not object to the destination, they are just objecting to the road map of how you get to that destination.
  (Ms Vazquez) At the end it was a negotiating tactic to add pressure.

Tony Worthington

  48. What intrigues me is the percentage given for humanitarian aid which is a very large percentage of what the world gives. How much of that is US wheat, which has already been bought by the US Government to support US farmers? It would be that kind of information which would be very, very helpful so we can say, "You are counting that as aid, but in fact what you have done is you have bought it up already".
  (Ms Randel) One area where Britain is particularly virtuous is on not counting as aid the cost of supporting refugees in Britain for their first year of residence, which is a legitimate ODA expense under DAC rules. About $1 billion of US aid is for supporting refugees in the US.

  Mr Colman: In addition to the situation in terms of support for the Mid-West farmers in the United States, the other side is the dumping of pharmaceuticals which are no longer seen as being of any use within the United States or within Europe and are dumped abroad. What percentage of that is in fact coming into these figures?

  Chairman: Thank you very much for having come today. We have given you rather a lot of homework. Thank you very, very much. You have been involved in the process very closely and we are very grateful to you for giving us help on that.

17   Not printed. Copy placed in the Library. Back

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