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Good governance is about more than simply elections. We seem sometimes to think that good governance equals having elections, but my experience in visiting countries and occasionally being an observer of other countries’ elections—as other Members occasionally are—is that there is an emphasis on getting people organised so that they get to the polling booth, on organising the voting booth, on making sure that voters stamp their thumbs properly on the ballot paper, and on making sure that they are organised into lines. Often, when officials and civil servants are helping in the process of ensuring that elections take place well—they do so with the best intentions, so I say
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this without a pejorative edge—it is as if the people just need to be shepherded in the right direction, and then on the day of the election the problem is solved. Elections are sometimes seen as the end of a strategy, rather than the beginning of a process. We must focus much more on the process of politics, and on an election being a part of that process.

Let me just point out that in 1945 there were 32 countries with a universal franchise—countries that we would call democratic—and that there are now 192. So elections are taking place regularly, but I think that we have more to do, because in many cases we are a long way from having what I would describe as participatory democracy, built from the base upwards.

I suggest that we, as practising politicians, cannot leave election processes to officials. We, as politicians committed to political parties, could do much more to help build up political processes in emerging democracies, and particularly in fragile states, so that we do not leave countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo thinking that it can have an election that might reinforce the existing elite and that then the show is over. No: I hope there will be more elections, even though that one was its first for 30 years. That process will help the transformation of that society.

I particularly welcome the commitment given on page 124 of the White Paper to building links between community groups, tenants and residents groups, local government, faith communities, schools and businesses and charitable organisations here in Britain. I want a much more mutual conversation about building participatory democracy—one that does not assume that we in Britain have done it, have all the answers and have a perfect democracy. We have not, but we can learn from each other through exchanges and by building a much more mutual conversation.

Page 20 of the White Paper contains the most important passage in the whole report. Under the heading “Understanding good governance”, it refers to

That is a basis for working on the theme of participatory democracy—by building, perhaps, from the base up.

Secondly, I want to echo the points that the Secretary of State—and, indeed, the shadow Secretary of State—made about the pace of climate change. As desertification, the destruction of forests and flooding in Bangladesh show, it is the poor who pay the highest price for the lack of action in the northern hemisphere. The onus is on us to do much more, for the practical reason that they cannot: they do not have the capacity to prevent such occurrences or to address their impact. We need to do a lot more to blend the climate change and poverty eradication agendas.

Indeed, one theme that has emerged is the good will of people toward addressing climate change. They are willing to change their behaviour—to change their light
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bulbs, unplug appliances and get personally involved. I want the climate change and poverty eradication agendas to be fused, so that people say, “Can we live a bit more simply, so that other people can simply live?”, as Ghandi once said. If we are altruistic toward the environment, we might also be a bit more altruistic toward the idea of reducing the gross inequalities between the rich and the poor. We should fuse together those agendas, rather than continuing to believe that it is a question of trees versus people—an attitude that we are still a little locked into. Trees and people go together, and we must realise that fusion.

To my mind, the millennium development goals do not focus sufficiently on employment, which is an issue that does not resonate loudly in the report. Of course we need business development and economic growth, but we need a much stronger focus on employment. We must take into account the increase in the world population, to which reference has been made, and the emergence of China and India, but the real issues across the globe are going to be job generation, employment and under-employment.

The meetings that I have held in my constituency about making poverty history have been very positive, but one went wrong. It was held around the time that the Chancellor announced an extra £10 million for schools in Africa. One person at the meeting who lives in one of the poorer communities in inner-city Leeds—and who has every good will toward African countries and their development—said to me, “John, why should I support money for Africa? I am not against training and educating them, but if we do, they might be trained better than I am, and the jobs will go there and not here. What will we do about unemployment here? What about migration trends? Where will the work be within the world?” We should not draw up protectionist boundaries, but we need to address much more seriously the questions of migration and employment.

Is the growth agenda about job generation and employment? That issue is not dealt with in the millennium development goals, but it is a vital question in East Timor. Young men who participated in the conflict there and who were once armed are now standing around saying, “Where are our jobs? We have handed in our guns, but if we do not get jobs, we will start fighting again.” Exactly the same is being said in Freetown, in Sierra Leone, and in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Without work, people do not have a vision of the future.

There is another very encouraging statement on page 25 of the White Paper:

That offers a strong human rights agenda based on tackling corruption, the initiative that the Secretary of State is launching, and making good governance work for the poor.

This is about not only tackling corruption and improving accountability but building up a culture,
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here in the north as well as in the south, of what I would describe as economic justice. We should institute that concept as a different paradigm that brings together the agendas on the environment and tackling poverty. Tackling poverty is a universal challenge: north and south; urban and rural. Tackling wider inequalities is about good politics; they go together. The report helps us to realise that.

Democratic politics must be developed in depth from the base up. In African countries especially, that means taking account of the structures of solidarity, community and hospitality that already exist and working through them to blend new shapes of democratic participation.

I modestly suggest that politicians who get behind the agenda of tackling poverty as an economic and a political agenda will do much to restore faith in politics and the processes of politics. That is a challenge not only for African and poor countries but for us here and now.

5.6 pm

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The White Paper is in many ways a report card on the past and an agenda for the future. I join the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr. Mitchell) in saying that the Department for International Development is right to give itself good marks. I join, too, in some of his criticisms, although the number of international quangos that he proposed for various forms of monitoring put a chill through my heart, as I would hope that monitoring could be a matter for this House.

The Secretary of State is well able to make his own case, so let me use my time to raise some of the missed potential in the DFID report. On trade, we all learned of the suspension of the Doha round with trepidation, as we are conscious that if it fails the greatest losers will be the developing countries. Aid and debt cancellation are interim tools. Trade is the tool that countries can take to themselves; it empowers them to make their own future. While I fully support an agenda that moves rapidly towards free trade, trade agreements must allow the policy space for developing countries to adjust their economies. In the Doha round, the language used was “special and differentiated treatment”.

If Doha is revived, the timetable will be exceedingly tight and will present a big challenge to the developing countries in getting their voice heard. I hope to hear that during these negotiations DFID will be actively trying to get across the message of developing countries, because it was largely drowned out in the earlier stages. If Doha fails, what role will DFID play in the bilateral and regional trade treaties that will undoubtedly enter the vacuum to ensure that our understanding of developing country needs is properly expressed and protected? Given that the European economic partnership was not a side issue, we particularly need to know how the partnership between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries will progress. I am afraid that that issue gets left to the Department of Trade and Industry, but it should be centre stage for DFID.

What worries me even more is that we are in benign economic times. It is the easiest phase in which to get an agreement that benefits developing countries.
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However, if we lose the opportunity and major economies begin to go into recession, it will become increasingly hard to reach for that prize.

Let us consider pro-poor development. We all understand that trade and development work for a significant section of people in developing countries—India has been cited as an example many times. However, trade and development work for approximately 50 per cent. of the people in India. For at least half, there is no progress and 30 per cent. are losers, including subsistence farmers now reduced to casual labour and living at the roadside, utterly displaced. I could give many examples but I do not want to take up the House’s time. The White Paper does not include a coherent strategy for the losers from development. There are some projects and programmes, some micro finance and infrastructure and I was glad to read the language of social security in the document. However, there is no consistent and coherent approach to tackling the needs of the group.

There must be a partnership between Governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community but many of the solutions will be counter-intuitive. For example, a solution may mean reinforcing the way of life of those who will continue in subsistence farming and not convert to commercial farming. I met Dalit women in Andhra Pradesh and, for them, the commercial farming happening around them is the greatest threat to their existence. It is not an option for them because of the land that they farm. They are faced with either joining the commercial flow of life and becoming casual labour or finding a way to reinforce their traditional style and approach. There is no consistent discussion of that in the White Paper.

Many of the most vulnerable people and many of those who lose out are women. As I have said in other debates, the Department for International Development’s language is full of references to gender equality and the importance of women, but does that translate into delivery? A good example is retrovirals to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. There is hardly ever a programme to follow up the women who have been identified as HIV positive. The system does not regard them as significant in the way it should.

Disability is a cross-cutting issue. There are 400 million disabled people—the population of a large country—in the developing world, yet disability, because it is a cross-cutting issue, never makes it to the top of any agenda.

I want to speak about climate change and low carbon development. Yesterday, I heard part of the Secretary of State’s speech in one of the Committee Rooms. He said that he had been treated rather unfairly by the Environmental Audit Committee. I therefore reread the relevant section in the White Paper. Frankly, it is timid. We have 10 years in which to act on climate change or reach a tipping point. The urgency of the matter is not conveyed in the language or the programmes.

We all know that the poor suffer most from climate change, which could involve, for example, flooding, because of their dependence on agriculture, water scarcity or conflict. Darfur is an example of a conflict in which climate change and population movement has played a role.

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The White Paper contains an excellent analysis:

I looked for a suggestion about how to find the £40 billion a year, but the White Paper includes little more than talk about supporting the World Bank’s energy investment framework. We must scale up our effort. I agree with the right hon. Member for Leeds, West (John Battle) that it is essential to bring together the pro-poor and climate change agendas. The two are not in conflict and we must find a way of weaving them into our approach. That does not get the rich countries off the hook. We created 70 per cent. of the CO2 pollution in the atmosphere, and we must deal with it. I come from a council that has taken direct action on those issues, and I look forward to hearing support for that action on both sides of the House—that has not happened locally, but I hope that it will happen here.

Time is short, so I shall raise the remaining issues fairly quickly. I am concerned about DFID’s shift from programme support to budgetary support—I am not concerned about the principle, but I am concerned about the way in which the balance between the two has been struck. Governments should make their own decisions, and we provide budgetary support to recognise and facilitate such decision making. Civil society is the group that holds Governments accountable, and funding must come from outside Government control if it is to be independent and effective.

DFID has acknowledged the difficulties of building the environmental agenda into budgetary support, because it is extremely difficult to provide aid to fragile states through a budgetary support mechanism. Many NGOs wonder whether the pendulum is swinging too far, and I have a suspicion that much of the motivation behind the shift into budgetary support is to cope with the difficulties presented by the Gershon cuts, which are reducing resources and manpower in DFID at a time when the budget is growing. Budgetary support is a lower manpower strategy, which has made it the direction of choice. However, that is not how policy should be driven, and DFID needs to consider that point.

I hope that some of the hon. Members who were responsible for the brilliant report about conflict and development will speak in this debate, so I shall be brief on that point. The White Paper lacks clarity on conflict and resolution. Page 47 of the White Paper includes a wonderful picture—I do not know what an opium poppy looks like, but I am willing to guess that that picture shows an opium poppy field, and it looks like an advert for the excellence of the crop.

The White Paper does not address the tension between foreign policy on the one hand and reconstruction and development on the other. In Afghanistan, the US mission is search and destroy, while the UK mission is said to be reconstruction and development. In Lebanon, we supported the destruction of our own reconstruction. In Palestine, it is unclear whether we are committed to development or whether we are merely providing life support for a failing and declining economy.

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In conclusion, I join other hon. Members in saying that this subject, which involves a five-year plan for the poorest people in the world, is far too important to be crushed into a two-hour debate on a Thursday afternoon, when only a handful of hon. Members are present. The underlying issues deserve the attention and scrutiny of the House. If we act collectively, we can make sure that those issues come to the Floor of the House far more frequently.

5.18 pm

Joan Ruddock (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab): I congratulate Ministers on this DFID White Paper, which is both inspiring and sober. It gives us hope on what can be achieved and warns of the great hurdles ahead. I also congratulate the production team, because this excellent document is beautifully presented, easy to read and composed of 100 per cent. recycled material.

My main parliamentary interests are the environment and gender, so when I joined the International Development Committee, I brought those issues to my deliberations, and I see the White Paper from that perspective. Nowhere is global co-operation more vital than in tackling climate change. As the Gleneagles communiqué noted, around 2 billion people lack modern energy services, and global energy demands are expected to grow by 60 per cent. in the next 25 years. Before the ink was dry on that communiqué, the scientists were telling us that the situation was even more critical. As the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) said, the tipping point for irreversible change could arrive by 2020.

The consequences for development are awesome, which is why I greatly welcome chapter 7 of the White Paper, with its stark headlines, “Climate change poses the most serious long-term threat to development and the Millennium Development Goals” and “Developing countries will need support to adapt. The costs will be huge.” As other Members have said, the effects of climate change will bear down hardest on those who depend most on environmental factors for their livelihood. Last year, in Malawi, our Select Committee saw the terrible effects of the previous year’s drought, and the dependency of people on foreign food aid. In neighbouring Mozambique, we saw the devastation brought by floods and torrential rains. As the White Paper says, three of the four natural disasters—droughts, floods and cyclones—are weather-related, and 97 per cent. of deaths from natural disasters occur in developing countries.

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