Previous SectionIndexHome Page

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): First, I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Mr. Colman) on securing the time for this debate. From his speech we can all see the real interest and support that he demonstrates for the work of UNIDO and the United Nations more generally, particularly given his background in the private sector. I am grateful to him for allowing me to join him in allowing the shaft of sunlight which an Adjournment debate affords on the work of UNIDO. He spoke about his visit to India. Following in the footsteps of the Select Committee, I am going there next week and greatly looking forward to what I shall see in the course of that visit.

I want to talk first about the overall context for the work of UNIDO, about the organisation's focus, and its response to the reforms and challenges that lie ahead. I shall begin by saying something about the broader context in which UNIDO is working.

As the House will be aware, the millennium development goals provide the framework, not just for the United Nations system, but for developing countries and their partners right across the globe. Progress towards the MDGs will be reviewed in New York next September as part of the millennium review summit. We do not need to wait until then to recognise that much more needs to be done. The MDGs are seriously off-track in sub-Saharan Africa. We need to make faster progress in order to reach the goals on maternal and child mortality. We need to do more in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Together with action for reducing conflict and building peace and security, this is the biggest collective challenge for the international community in the 21st century. Peace and security are the building blocks on which organisations like UNIDO can do their work.

The millennium review summit will in particular be an opportunity for us to rededicate international effort towards the attainment of the MDGs. We know we have to do more on aid, trade and debt relief. In addition to that and to having increased resources, we need to act in a way which, in development jargon, is more harmonised and more integrated. It is what I describe as getting our act together. We have to have systems and structures, resources, effort and will that support what developing countries are trying to do to solve their own problems and to chart their own future.

That means changing the way in which we do business. That is why we strongly supported Kofi Annan's reform effort in the UN. It is why we want to
25 Nov 2004 : Column 335
see clear roles and responsibilities set across different agencies. It is why we want a system that delivers a more coherent and effective response, reduces overlap and competition and reduces the burden on recipient countries. UNIDO's work, therefore, must be guided both by the MDGs and by this process of reform.

My hon. Friend spoke eloquently about UNIDO's work in private sector development, trade capacity building, promotion of cleaner production methods and investment promotion. We need every one of those things if we are to enable developing countries to earn, trade, develop and grow their way out of poverty. One has only to look at countries such as China and India where this process is taking place. It is economic development that will be the real engine of poverty reduction.

We have to recognise that UNIDO is a relatively small specialised UN agency. Given this, and the cross-cutting nature of its work, it is vital that UNIDO get as much purchase on change as possible through effective partnership both inside and outside the UN system. UNIDO recognises this. I had the pleasure of meeting earlier this year the Director-General, Dr. Carlos MagarinŻos. I was extremely impressed. He is a strong advocate of UN reform. Under his leadership, UNIDO has focused its activities, reformed its internal management structure, and made considerable effort to find new ways of working, including building new partnerships. It is essential that UNIDO's programmes at country level be a part of the UN development assistance frameworks and build on UN-wide assessments of need.

UNIDO's work with UNDP is a good example of reform in action. Dr. MagarinŻos well understands the need to integrate UNIDO's technical co-operation work with that of other organisations more effectively. This has led to the signing of a co-operation agreement with the United Nations Development Programme in September of this year. This agreement has two parts. The first is joint programming between the two agencies in private sector development. The aim of this co-operation is to implement the recommendations of the report of the United Nations Commission on the Private Sector and Development. This joint activity will involve better links between programmes already existing in both agencies and new programmes that may be developed in areas of mutual interest. Secondly, the agreement puts in place a pilot programme that will establish UNIDO desks in 15 UNDP offices. That is a practical example of joint working on the ground.

This arrangement presents possibilities for joint working beyond that envisaged by the private sector development agreement, and enables UNDP and UNIDO each to draw on the strengths of the other. Both organisations are committed to this co-operation, which they have described as a potential model for the UN system. We await the outcome of the pilot programmes with real interest.

A further example of UNIDO's progressive approach to partnership is the memorandum of understanding signed between UNIDO and the World Trade Organisation in September 2003 on working together in trade capacity building. The Industrial Development Board was advised that the initial needs review had been carried out in all nine of the participating countries, with technical co-operation delivery having begun in two of
25 Nov 2004 : Column 336
them. Trade capacity building is part of the work that needs to be done to enable developing countries to take advantage of trading opportunities and to grow and earn their way out of poverty.

A third area of UNIDO's work that I would like to highlight is its work on cleaner production and environmental management. Half of all technical co-operation funded by UNIDO comes from environmental funding facilities, such as the Montreal protocol, which my hon. Friend the Member for Putney mentioned. This is important work in promoting and delivering compliance with international environmental agreement standards. UNIDO is very active on the promotion of sustainable energy supplies, in particular through its initiative on rural energy for productive use. Again, this work is done on a partnership basis—another example of UNIDO working with others—in the context of the Renewable Energy And Energy Efficiency Partnership, whose international secretariat is co-located with UNIDO in the Vienna International Centre.

Finally, I want to say something about UNIDO's work in Africa, the country where it is most needed, as least progress towards the millennium development goals is being made in sub-Saharan Africa. That area is in particular need of more investment, economic development and growth—the engines of poverty reduction.

We fully support—indeed, I warmly welcome—UNIDO's shift in recent years towards working in poorer countries. Between 1996 and 2002, the proportion of technical co-operation delivery in poor countries rose from 48 per cent. to 70 per cent. A rising proportion of that is being allocated to sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, UNIDO integrated programmes are running in 19 sub-Saharan African countries. That is excellent news, and the organisation is to be congratulated on that change.

The focus of UNIDO's work in Africa is becoming more and more defined by the African productive capacity initiative. That is a UNIDO programme set up with the New Partnership for Africa's Development and the Conference of African Ministers of Industry. The programme aims to develop value chains as a means of improving productive capacity in African industry. As someone put it to me earlier this evening, that means that countries will sell T-shirts rather than cotton. That describes what value chains are intended to achieve.

Mr. Colman: Will my right hon. Friend congratulate the UNIDO Warrington office on its work in setting up supply chain arrangements between UK companies and companies in developing countries?

Hilary Benn: I shall do so with great pleasure, as that is a really practical example of north-south co-operation at work, combining experience from both spheres. We have much to learn from each other in the cause of securing more effective economic integration at a regional level. The Commission for Africa is very interested in the work, and commission representatives will be discussing it with the UNIDO secretariat in the very near future.

All this work by UNIDO is highly relevant to the attainment of the millennium development goals. As I said, the progress made under the leadership of
25 Nov 2004 : Column 337
Dr. MagarinŻos is extremely encouraging. That is why, in addition to our contribution of £4.2 million each year, we have also provided training for senior management in the organisation and support for the development of a results-based management system.

In conclusion, I want to make three brief points. First, UNIDO has achieved a great deal in terms of reform and change, but it is very important that it maintain its focus on its unique contribution to the delivery of the millennium development goals. I hope that its work in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to be strengthened so that it can focus on the particular contribution that it can make to the process, given the expertise that it has developed.

Secondly, I hope that UNIDO will continue to have greater effect. It should seek to build on and strengthen its approach to partnerships, including programmes that are planned and carried out jointly. That is essential if it is to increase the scale of its work and achieve change that really lasts. The agreement with the UNDP to which I referred is encouraging, and it is important that those lessons are learned across the UN.

Next Section IndexHome Page