Session 2010-11
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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 617-i

House of COMMONS

Oral EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE the

International Development Committee

The Humanitarian Response to the Pakistan Floods

Thursday 17 February 2011

Mr Matthew Carter, Mr Graham MacKay, Mr Jehangir Malik OBE and Ms Vickie Hawkins

RT HON Andrew Mitchell MP and mr john barrett

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 91

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the International Development Committee

on Thursday 17 February 2011

Members present:

Mr Malcolm Bruce (Chair)

Richard Burden

Mr Sam Gyimah

Richard Harrington

Pauline Latham

Jeremy Lefroy

Alison McGovern

Anas Sarwar

Chris White

________________

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Matthew Carter, Humanitarian Director of CAFOD, and Chair of the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies (CBHA), Mr Graham MacKay, Deputy Humanitarian Director Oxfam, and CBHA Board member, Mr Jehangir Malik OBE, UK Director, Islamic Relief, and Ms Vickie Hawkins, Programmes Advisor, Médecins sans Frontières, gave evidence.

Q1 Chair: Thank you very much for coming in to see us. Good morning, and welcome. I wonder if, first of all, you could introduce yourselves.

Vickie Hawkins: I am Vickie Hawkins, from Médecins sans Frontières, based here in London.

Matthew Carter: Matthew Carter, Chair of the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies, but also the Humanitarian Director with CAFOD.

Graham MacKay: Graham MacKay, Deputy Humanitarian Director for Oxfam, here also representing CBHA as well.

Jehangir Malik: Jehangir Malik, UK Director for Islamic Relief.

Q2 Chair: Thank you for that. Can I say that we are slightly pressed for time, because we have the Secretary of State coming in after you? You do not all have to answer every question. We would appreciate it if you can keep it crisp. I want you to say what you want to say, but perhaps you would just bear that in mind. I make the same appeal to the members of the Committee, to try to keep our comments and questions as brief as we can.

To start off with, we have already, obviously, taken evidence from a number of quarters, and the general comment was that the international response was somewhat slow. Of course it was, in one sense, a slowonset event, although predictable once it started. First of all, do you agree that it was slow? Was that partly because the international community was struggling to deal with Haiti, and were the two things connected? So the general response, and then perhaps you might want to address how in particular DFID responded, once it became apparent how serious the situation was. I do not know who wants to take that. Matthew, do you want to start that?

Matthew Carter: I think, as you have highlighted, there were issues with stretch within the UN system particularly with Haiti. I think the UN did struggle in the opening period, and has continued to struggle to a large extent. DFID’s response, in many ways, led the way in terms of speed and also mobilising a wider donor community. Its support of directly working with the UN has always been there, but particularly working to the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies, which allowed for a disbursement within the first four weeks for agencies to respond quickly. Perhaps if I hand over to Graham-

Chair: I think we have some specific questions for the others, so I will bring in other colleagues, and you will all get a stab at it.

Q3 Richard Burden: I think the question is probably mainly for Vickie, and it is about the interface between stabilisation and security issues and humanitarian relief. To what extent do you think that the UK Government response, specifically, was underpinned by the need to prevent further destabilisation? The second question, which perhaps you can come on to, is that MSF does not accept any government money, so it does not feel that it has that kind of conflict. However, those considerations will be in the minds of donors, and will to some extent influence donors’ actions, who will also be trying to link that with humanitarian relief. Given that fact, if NGOs are going to stay entirely independent of that, like MSF, where is the join? How do those two things come together, given the fact that those pressures will stay, both on the NGO community and on donor Governments?

Vickie Hawkins: Just to take the first question, the climate generally in the UK at the moment is one of aid being of benefit for our national security. Whether that is just through general discourse in the press, or through ministerial speeches that are making that very explicit, or press releases that go out to support particular increases in the aid budget, that is just the general climate. That is what is being said.

I think on a local level there were some decisions made by DFID that exacerbated that perception. In particular the two decisions were pressure on the UN and the humanitarian community to use the NATO airlift. That pressure was resisted by the head of OCHA at the time, and she advised the humanitarian community not to accept that advice. The second was the decision to use RAF flights to transport much of the DFIDprovided relief for the floods. The use of military assets in natural disasters, and particularly in conflictaffected natural disasters, is as a last resort only. It should be when there is not sufficient civilian capacity to do so. Also, the bottom line is that it is not a very costeffective way of transporting goods. We feel that those two decisions, made at a local level, really exacerbated this sense that the UK response was being driven by national security interests. Of course, what is important with this is how it is perceived locally. There can be that intent or not. That is not really the important issue. It is how it is perceived in Pakistan and what the local perception is of the intent behind that aid.

Coming on to the second question of where the join is, MSF’s analysis is that actually there should not be a join. This is why, as you rightly pointed out, we do not take government funding in Pakistan-also Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq-because we very firmly believe that humanitarian aid has to be distributed on need alone. If you do not do that, if you do not prioritise it on the basis of need, firstly you miss the neediest, because it is directed according to other priorities; and. secondly, you actually make the aid itself ineffective, because the identity and perception of those who are delivering the aid becomes compromised in the mind of the recipients. That threatens security, and that threatens access. That is why MSF takes this very pragmatic decision that we distance ourselves from those agendas, and therefore we do not take government funding in places where we see aid as being directed according to political and security objectives.

Q4 Richard Burden: Could I perhaps have one supplementary on that? I do understand MSF’s position on that. I suppose what I meant by "the join" was, if I can put it in terms of sides, on the NATO airlift, it was not just you against the DFID approach on that, or on the UK Government’s approach. OCHA stepped in and said, "Actually, we think that the NATO airlift is not the best way of going." However, in the event that there are two different approaches happening in a humanitarian relief situation, you and/or perhaps others are saying, "Involving the military or appearing to securitise the whole thing is at best less effective, and at worst counterproductive." There are significant donors involved there who say, "Actually we take a different view on that." I am not saying which is right. However, in terms of the relief effort, is there a problem with the co-ordination of those two different approaches? Is there a way through that?

Vickie Hawkins: We think there needs to be increased resilience on the side of the aid sector to rebut those efforts to direct assistance according to other priorities. That is our solution. If the sector itself as a whole is more resilient, is clearer as to what the purpose of humanitarian aid is, does not allow itself to get drawn into stabilisation and longer-term processes, then ultimately the aid that we are all delivering will be more effective.

Q5 Anas Sarwar: Picking up on the point about what the local people might think of RAF helicopters dropping off aid supplies, and it looking like the UK is doing it, not out of sympathy for people suffering in a crisis, but more for reasons of national security, was there any backlash on the ground to seeing RAF flights, or is it more something that was said behind the scenes, in discussion with other NGOs? Did you get a sense from local people that they were not happy about RAF jets coming in and dropping off aid? I am just wondering what others might think about it.

Jehangir Malik: I personally was fortunate enough to be on the ground within the first week, and saw the actual mayhem firsthand, at the early stages when there was complete chaos. I will try to just touch on the first subject matter first, on the slow onset and the nature of the response. Pakistan obviously does not have the best of perceptions around the world, and so the political overtures that surround it, and the climate that Pakistan has, definitely kept donors away. There was a cautious approach to the disaster, on top of which, of course, the President was here at the time, so there was a sort of diversion, as it were, towards the political nature of the disaster. This, coupled with the fact that it was a slowonset disaster in the immediate phases, meant that it took a good while, even as a DEC member agency, for us to kick the donor community into action. However, saying that, DFID, the British Government, British donors and institutions definitely led the way. CHBA was a fantastic model for us to be able to access the funding and mobilise into action, and get to the people in need in their hour of need, first and foremost.

Chair: Can I bring in Richard Harrington? I think his question follows on from what you are saying.

Q6 Richard Harrington: My question really, in the field of the Government of Pakistan’s response, is for your impressions of both the national response, but also the importance of the local leadership side of it, which we know, in the end, is the most important thing in a humanitarian response. The general consensus view is that the Government of Pakistan reacted very well, but the provincial management authority side of it was very patchy. If you agree with that, how do you think that point could be improved in future?

Jehangir Malik: Absolutely. From Islamic Relief’s point of view, we were fortunate that we were on the ground and had an extensive, established set-up, and were working with civil society and communitybased organisations from the year before, with regard to the displacement from Swat. The infrastructure for us to be able to get to the people in need was pretty strong, from our previous experience. NDMA had a huge amount of experience from the Kashmir earthquake, and we would have thought that it would have had a stronger provincial and districtlevel response, and a stronger mechanism. However, it was very much at the central level, so it was not as effective as we would have hoped to see it come into action. Other elements of the Pakistan Government, vis-à-vis the Pakistani army, were strong players on the ground in the early stages, especially with regard to recovery and so forth. NDMA, however, were not as strong as we had envisaged in the early stages, when we put them to the test.

Q7 Chair: Can I press you on that? We had an informal briefing from Lord Ashdown yesterday, who is doing a wider report. He said that the experience of the earthquake had helped the northern provinces respond, whereas by contrast the southern provinces were weaker. You seem to be disagreeing with that.

Jehangir Malik: I think that the Pakistan earthquake was a very good maturity development exercise for the NDMA, but after the Pakistani earthquake and the reduction of funds and so forth, it probably was not able to build on that momentum. If it had been able to build on that momentum it would have been a stronger NDMA. It should be an institution that is strengthened to help in the disaster preparation and recovery, as it were, so that it can play a stronger role. I think just natural resources and ability for it to be able to grow have not been there at that stage. It is there at the national but not at the regional level at this moment in time

Graham MacKay: Can I just say something else about the local leadership? I am not sure that I entirely share the premise of your question. Our perception was that there was some leadership, as Jehangir was saying about the National Disaster Management Authority. However, the central Government was trying to push out responsibility to local leadership to deal with the crisis, but the resources did not follow that responsibility. So you had well-meaning, decent people-although obviously in some cases less so-all struggling to do a job, and struggling to do it without decent resources and after many years of underinvestment.

Q8 Richard Harrington: So the structure was there, the intentions were there, but not the resources to implement them?

Graham MacKay: That is the position I think we would take.

Jehangir Malik: That is where local communities were playing a very active role, mobilising into action, with international NGOs that had prior access or had some kind of infrastructure on the ground. Our experience is that, for example, six months on, our level of rehabilitation and recovery in the north, in the KPK region, is far superior to what we have in Punjab in the south, which reflects the nature of the disaster. The disaster is a national disaster, but it has local dimensions that are very different, geographically, culturally, and in infrastructure and ability to respond. We have houses up and running in the north, and communities back taking shape. My colleagues just came back two weeks ago and it does not look as though a flood has hit the area. We have some good reconstruction, whereas in the south--Mike Walsh, the Chair of the DEC, was out with us two weeks ago--and Sindh is still very much under water. Large parts are still very underdeveloped, very hard to reach, and so it has those different sorts of dimensions to the national disaster.

Q9 Anas Sarwar: I just wanted to turn to the WATAN system that was introduced by the Pakistan Government; the cards that are cashbased and you have to go and collect them. There was some concern raised, particularly for women trying to get access to cards, queuing up, and for cultural reasons finding it more difficult. There were also concerns about local corruption and nepotism, and the whole management of the system perhaps not being fit for purpose. I wondered what you felt the strengths and the weaknesses of that were? I direct that at Matthew, Graham and Jehangir.

Graham MacKay: I can say a little bit.

Anas Sarwar: On you go, Graham.

Graham MacKay: I think we would agree with that. It was well intentioned, and a good idea, but in practice it did not work for lots of reasons. On the registration, I think you needed an ID card in order to get a WATAN card, and ID cards were often held by the men in maleheaded households. There was an issue of femaleheaded households, and how they get access to that. That is just the administrative issue, let alone the cultural issue of going to the ATMs and getting money out. Then there are lots of practical problems, such as finding an ATM with any cash in it, going to banks and things like that. I think it was-I am trying to use the right word-probably a bit disappointing, for lots of practical reasons.

Q10 Anas Sarwar: Was that expressed to the Pakistani authorities by different organisations and the NGOs on the ground?

Graham MacKay: I believe it was. I think it was generally accepted. I don't know if Jehangir-

Jehangir Malik: Yes. It is always a very difficult one, of course, reaching the most vulnerable, given the cultural circumstances on the ground, and trying to get aid to the neediest. We all try to put in mechanisms to mitigate those, but for pragmatic reasons they do not always come to fruition. It is a real challenge. We addressed those: we were meeting with the Prime Minister of Pakistan and with the Muslim Charities Forum, and we put our views across in this regard, and so forth. We experienced it in Kashmir, and we experienced it again. It is an ongoing challenge.

Q11 Anas Sarwar: Is it also true to say that the people who are poorest in Pakistan are probably the least likely to have an ID card, so they would be the least likely to access a WATAN card?

Jehangir Malik: Yes, absolutely.

Q12 Chris White: I understand everything you have said, but I think we would all agree that the principle of the system was quite good and quite sensible. Do you see something replacing it, or do you see something that could improve it?

Graham MacKay: I can talk from our own experience: a much more labourintensive system, where you are dealing with giving people a voucher, for which you have to go through quite a strong registration process. You give people a voucher for a certain amount of money, and they have to go to a bank. You prearrange with the bank, and they have a list of names, and things like that. It is a lot more managed. That is how we did a cash system. In disaster response, cash is the best thing you can do, but you need to have a well-managed system. They tried to have something that was a bit fancy with the WATAN cards, and it just did not work.

Q13 Anas Sarwar: Is that because they replicated it, having seen it from another country? Did they come up with it themselves?

Graham MacKay: I do not know the history of where the idea came from. The idea of cash in emergencies is now very well established, and there are a lot of different mechanisms that you can use for that.

Q14 Anas Sarwar: I just want to turn to the role of the military, and direct this specifically to you, Vickie. We have heard reports that the Pakistani Army played a significant role in the relief efforts. You have said that the Pakistan Army restricted and denied access to humanitarian relief. How widespread do you think that practice was, and do you think it is still occurring?

Vickie Hawkins: Before I answer that question, can I just return to the point about the RAF?

Anas Sarwar: Yes, of course you can.

Vickie Hawkins: You asked about specific backlash. I do not know of any specific backlash against that particular action. However, what you need to do is to set that decision against a context of a local population who are already incredibly suspicious about the intentions of international aid in Pakistan. They feel that it is a spill-over from the Afghan conflict that does not always necessarily have the best interests of Pakistan at heart, but is more about international community intentions in Afghanistan. Whatever the specific response was to the RAF being involved, that is the context that we are working in.

Q15 Anas Sarwar: Yes.

Vickie Hawkins: So then with regard to the military, as my colleagues have said, the military played an important role in the initial response to the floods. They were airlifting people to safe places, they were very quickly, particularly in the north, repairing damaged infrastructure, bridges, roads etc, and setting up mobile medical camps as well. You might think that from an MSF perspective we do not necessarily appreciate those, but that is not the case. If it is necessary, then absolutely the military should do it. It is just that we will not do it in co-operation with them. Their initial response was effective and absolutely necessary.

The restrictions come in when we are talking about trying to reach some of the most conflictaffected parts of the north and east of Pakistan. This, of course, was also the situation prefloods; it was not unique to the floods. We have been trying to get into districts such as Dera Ismail Khan, which is close to Waziristan, where there are displaced persons from the conflict that has been going in Waziristan for years. Then of course with the floods it was known that those areas were floodaffected, and there were flash floods. You already have an extremely vulnerable population because of the conflict, and then they become floodaffected. That is what we are talking about with the restrictions. It was the same in southern Punjab as well. Again, there were some areas that were very poor and vulnerable before, but which we were not allowed to start working in.

Q16 Anas Sarwar: Were the international donor community aware of the problem? If so, did they take any steps or actions to combat that?

Vickie Hawkins: Yes. We are aware that both the US and the UK made phone calls about those restrictions to access.

Q17 Anas Sarwar: Okay. I was just wondering whether the CBHA agrees with that position about the Army playing a positive role in the early onset of the floods, but then perhaps being a bit more difficult in the weeks and months after?

Matthew Carter: Particularly in the opening phase, where we can comment, it had a positive impact. The words we have used are that it was not politicised; it was about competence, and the level of competence we needed at that time was strong. The military had the assets to enable support and assistance to be got to the beneficiaries in the fastest and most effective way. We were very clear on that.

Chair: I can understand entirely where MSF’s philosophy is. However, standing back, in a disaster where roads and bridges have disappeared, and so forth, most people would tend to take the view that, provided it was not political, the military did have a capacity that would not otherwise be readily available. I would be interested to see how that worked. I can understand why, with a conflict situation, people would be concerned about it. I can equally take the view that it would turn things around, and people would say, "We have had trouble with the military, but they are now actually doing something to help."

Q18 Anas Sarwar: It is interesting, because the sense you get from Pakistan, and from speaking to Pakistani people, is that they have less confidence in their Government, but more confidence in their army. In actual fact they felt that if the army had not stepped in and taken such an active role, they would not have had an effective response at all. In a funny kind of sense, in the relief effort, the army has come up good in terms of the popularity and the role they placed, and the Government has come out very poorly. I just wonder whether you agree with that.

Jehangir Malik: It seems to be a very popular tune right now.

Anas Sarwar: Yes, that is true.

Jehangir Malik: That was definitely the case. The Pakistani Army has the most credible reputation in Pakistan, and as my colleagues here have echoed, they played a very important role in the early stages. The exact same thing happened in Kashmir. When the disaster happened, there was no way that international NGOs were going to reach any of those farflung areas, the mountainous regions, and so forth. Naturally, we are not going to have those kinds of resources. The military, as a last resort, kicks in and does a phenomenal job at that early stage. I think the complications and the challenges arise after that initial phase.

Q19 Mr Gyimah: The question I have is on the politicisation and also the use of the military: do you think people perceive their own military getting involved differently from, let us say, DFID using RAF jets, or do they see both in the same category?

Vickie Hawkins: Can I take that? In the case of a natural disaster such as the floods, where of course there is a very acute level of need, no one is questioning that the military must be involved in the response. They have the capacity, the logistics, etc. It is when you come down to a humanitarian crisis that is of a conflictrelated nature that the involvement of the military becomes, obviously, much more sensitive. In Pakistan, you cannot divorce the floods response from the general stabilisational effort that is going on there. However, given the scale of the floods, of course the military needs to be involved. If you rewind to the displacement from Swat in 2009, there military involvement and military control over distribution lists, etc, became much more sensitive, and very clearly much more part of a politically driven stabilisation strategy.

Chair: Matthew?

Matthew Carter: I think this is clearly why the UN and UNOCHA stood out, as well, to make this point. If you were to take another context that was not conflictrelated, for example the Mozambique floods eight years ago, which was a huge crisis across Mozambique, military assets were used and deployed very quickly, for the prime reason of logistical capacity. That was a very different context and, as Vickie has underlined, Pakistan is a totally different context, and it would be perceived differently.

Chair: You have mentioned OCHA, and the role of the UN is obviously another point of considerable interest to us.

Q20 Mr Gyimah: Obviously in terms of the role of the UN, one of the comments that I have come across is that the UN clusters are supposed to exchange information and direct action, but that a lot of NGOs felt that it did not result in directive action. They felt that it was not really productive, and not a great use of time. What I would like to understand, in a little bit more detail, is how the UN cluster system could be made more effective. We know that the response in the north was very different from the response in the south. How can we make sure that NGOs are more evenly dispersed in the crisisaffected areas?

Graham MacKay: I will give this a go.

Vickie Hawkins: Good luck.

Graham MacKay: It comes down to the quality of an awful lot of the people employed in the leadership positions in the UN. The general co-ordination of work in KPK, in the north, was generally regarded as much better. The response was much better in the north than it was in the south. The closer you get to Islamabad, the higher the quality of the people working and managing the clusters there would be. In some cases, they simply were not staffed in Sindh and Punjab. Oxfam was asked, for example, if we could lead the cluster in Hyderabad, because UNICEF, who were designated as the water and sanitation cluster lead there, did not have anybody for it. Little anecdotes like that tell you a story. There is not the depth in personnel required to run all the clusters of an emergency of the scale of Pakistan. In principle, the cluster system is probably the best option we have available to us, but it is a case of making it as local as possible, and pushing it out locally. It is a very similar parallel to the Government resources, and whether they pushed the resources and the people out to manage things at a local level as well. It is easier the closer you get to Islamabad. I guess that is probably similar to an awful lot of emergencies in countries around the world.

Q21 Mr Gyimah: I would suggest that what you need to do is to make the NGOs more effective. How do you go about building that capacity?

Graham MacKay: We have been proponents of the cluster system of investment, and appreciate the efforts that DFID has made to invest in the UN over the years. However, we are not sure how much evaluation or analysis there has been of that investment, to see what the outcomes have been, and whether we have a better coordinated NGO and UN system at a local level. The answer is debatable at the moment, I think.

Jehangir Malik: I think you are absolutely right, Graham. Our colleagues on the ground, from Sindh to Punjab to KPK, are echoing the fact that leadership at the UN level, in terms of the country structure, is something that needs to be evaluated and looked at. That is one of the things that they have asked me to relay back to you here--the fact that there is a high rate of turnover. Two to threeweek secondments, or two to threeweek periods, by any stretch of the imagination, are not going to play an effective role. That is a major issue, because it takes about that much time to just settle in, and then it just keeps rotating. Therefore there is no stability in the leadership, which would give it a consistent approach. It is very, very fluid and it does not materialise into an effective response.

Q22 Anas Sarwar: I just wanted to comment on the point of the clusters. We had a roundtable with a number of NGOs that were on the ground in Pakistan just a few weeks ago, and it was mentioned then, and also subsequently at a separate meeting I had with the Project Director of World Vision. From what she said, clusters are seen as being a positive step in the right direction in terms of co-ordination. However, just as when you have a room with 20 politicians, everyone wants to make their voice heard. It is nature, sadly, and it happens the exact same way with NGOs. What was suggested was that it might be appropriate to have a set head, as a project leader, appointed by the UN via OCHA. You could then have subclusters for perhaps each local area and each area in terms of access to food, water, home rebuilding and other such things. There would be subproject heads for each of them.

There is also a problem in the sense that, because there are so many NGOs on the ground, and you have so many people going into the cluster, everyone wants to make their voice heard, because they think, "I want to get my amount of money through the cluster, as well." Is that the most effective way of spreading the money that is there and using it most effectively? Is there not a way of perhaps finding greater co-ordination between all the NGOs and also having that project head, who knows all the NGOs already, has that relationship, and knows who is the most effective at doing what?

Vickie Hawkins: Unsurprisingly, MSF is saying something on co-ordination. Can I just say that in Haiti, as part of the health cluster, there were 600 NGOs registered. They could not even find a meeting room big enough to house them. It was incredible. Actually, however, if you looked at the bigger proportion of those NGOs, it was people there with a suitcase full of drugs. Their impact on the ground was pretty insignificant. Out of that 600, you would probably be able to take a much smaller group who were actually having a meaningful contribution, and communicate and co-ordinate between that group. You had the Health Director of WHO calling it an assembly room. Yes, perhaps we should not be striving for inclusive, but rather meaningful, co-ordination.

Q23 Anas Sarwar: In terms of DFID’s role on that then, do you think the UK, and DFID specifically, can play more of an active role in terms of finding the reforms necessary in OCHA and in the UN to try to create that system? Should DFID be showing some leadership on it? Is that something that DFID should be doing?

Graham MacKay: DFID have invested in that quite a lot, and we would really like them to evaluate what has been going on and try to hold the UN system to account on that. Just to come back a little bit more on what Vickie said, the picture she has painted in Haiti is absolutely accurate, and that was what we understood from the water and sanitation system. However, I think you had the opposite problem in Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan. There was not enough capacity on the ground. There was not enough leadership on the ground. There was a very different issue. There were not the suitcase NGOs in Pakistan. They did not exist there.

Vickie Hawkins: Yes.

Graham MacKay: So I think it is a very different problem.

Chair: Do you want to come back, Sam?

Q24 Mr Gyimah: Yes. You made the point that in Haiti you had too many, and then in Pakistan there were too few, they were too thinly dispersed, and the capacity was not necessarily there. Looking at the UK’s response-the UK NGO response, specifically-how did the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies help, as far as the UK’s NGO response is concerned?

Matthew Carter: I think that the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies is in its infancy. It was created early in March last year, and its primary focus is allowing for fast disbursements of money in the opening days. It is a fund that has been set up with the consortium of agencies, and with DFID funding to allow for money to be transferred within 24 hours. It is unique in its identity and what it actually provides. One of the big problems we have for different agencies, particularly smaller and mediumsized agencies in the UK, is having that frontloaded money. It allows them immediately to go in to do those first assessments, to look at how a response can be made. It is a groundbreaking area, and it did speed up the response. The second part of CBHA, the Consortium, is about building capacity, both national and international. One of the real beacons within it is creating new leadership within the humanitarian community, but at local levels-not at an international level. That is a programme that is being pushed out and trialled in different countries around the world at the moment.

Jehangir Malik: I think the CBHA is another shining example of Britain and the international development agencies in the United Kingdom taking the lead and showing the way, as it were. The CBHA is a fantastic mechanism for making money available at an early stage, because nobody had bank accounts full of cash ready and available. Again, it is funded and supported by DFID. It is only two years old, but the track record in its two years, at this moment in time, has been a phenomenal mechanism to be able to activate the agencies at that first 24 or 48-hour stage. It enables them to get the money across to where it is needed, and prepositioned the British aid agencies in an excellent position. This is a fine example of clear understanding, a working mechanism and reaching the needy in their hour of need.

Q25 Mr Gyimah: Could you just shed some light, briefly on what makes it so effective? It has been going for just two years, but it is obviously working.

Graham MacKay: It is the speed. As Matthew said, it is the 24 hours, the quick dispersal mechanism. The sums are not great, but they are seed money and they kick things off. They get people into a country. You compare that against four weeks for getting money through the UN CERF system. If you want to have an impact in an emergency you have to do something in the first four weeks. You have to do the bulk of your work then. If you do not get money until four weeks after, then where is your impact?

Matthew Carter: The other thing to add is that it is 15 agencies who know each other. It works as a sort of peerreview type process. For example, when we’re responding, we know that Islamic Relief, or we know that Oxfam is better on water and sanitation, because that is what we do. We are a group of professionals. We can release that money to the right and appropriate agencies more quickly.

Q26 Alison McGovern: I just want to go back to the question of leadership. There has been an indication of some of the problems with the UN system. What do you think the UK’s role should be in driving UN leadership? Clearly there is the exemplification of good working that we have just been talking about, but what else should the UK be doing to show leadership? How do we tackle this problem of talented individuals? The longevity of placements has been mentioned, but what are the other things that ought to be addressed?

Matthew Carter: I think I will have a first stab. It is a recognised problem. One of the things that happened in Pakistan-and we suffer from it ourselves, as agencies-is that you put in your best staff in the opening few months and then those staff are pulled out. It is about leaving behind a sustaining qualified capacity and leadership-that is the big thing.

Overlaid is the fact that the sector and the system, the humanitarian global system, is hugely stretched at the moment. It is also a sector that fewer people are coming into, funnily enough, and not the right people. It is something we have to address. I don't think there is a quick fix solution. However, again, CBHA is in its infancy in looking at how you create new leadership.

Just to repeat myself, we are not looking to create international leadership but local leadership and local capacities, which has to be at the heart of it. I think it was a failing within Pakistan that we saw, where good people came in, set things up, left, and built no local capacity to even think about taking over from where they left off.

Vickie Hawkins: Can I just add something about the multihatting of resident co-ordinators? When you have resident co-ordinators, who are also expected to act as humanitarian co-ordinators, the net result is that the humanitarian responsibility that they have inevitably gets subordinated to the political responsibility. When you are multihatting people, particularly UN leaders, particularly in an acute situation like the floods, you are asking them to do an impossible job.

Q27 Chair: In that context, Paddy Ashdown suggested that the UN ought to have, as he put it, a cadre of specialist humanitarian disaster co-ordinator people. Therefore it should not be the resident UN head who does that job. It should be somebody who is immediately pushed in to do it. Firstly, do you think that would be a good idea? I suppose the more serious question is, do you think the UN is capable of organising itself in that way?

Vickie Hawkins: What you are asking the UN to do in that case is to review the integrated approach that they have taken on. In the early 1990s in Afghanistan, when there was the Strategic Framework for Afghanistan, there was the decision then to pilot the UN’s integrated approach. The result of that has been that in situations where there is an integrated UN approach, the humanitarian agencies are subordinated to the political one. That is a very significant approach and decision on the side of the UN. I do not know if there is openness to review UN integration.

Q28 Chair: It is quite disappointing, isn’t it, that at the time of the earthquake Pakistan was supposed to be the progenitor of the one UN, and it did not work very well then. Then you have, several years later, another disaster, and the same concerns seem to be there. The UN does not appear to be learning very much.

Jehangir Malik: Whether it is the international NGOs or the United Nations, the key here is, as pointed out earlier, that it has to be transferring the leadership to the locals. Where specialists are brought in to do their specialist area of work, they have to be always trying to inculcate and institutionalise an understanding to say what will be a sustainable solution in terms of human resource. The local teams have to play an active role with the local team with a view to handing over to be able to take the lead. They also have to hopefully develop local teams to play that leadership role very closely with the parachutedin specialists. That will allow us to leave something very tangible behind, and bring up the entire human resource sector, as it were. Transferring ownership naturally would then play a vital role in that.

Q29 Chair: That raises the whole question of lessons learnt and planning for the future. Again-it is fresh in our minds because it was yesterday-Lord Ashdown said that the incidence of these kinds of disasters is likely to increase in frequency and intensity, for various reasons. He was not talking just about Pakistan, but we are talking here about Pakistan especially. Some of the reasons for this are to do with climate change, some are to do with increased seismic activity, some are to do with greater urbanisation, meaning people are concentrated in situations where the impact is likely to be greater. Those were some of the things that he was identifying. We have had two major disasters, and I take Anas Sarwar’s point that there is a dichotomy between the military and some concerns about the capacity of the civilian Government. Given this, what should Pakistan itself, and the international community, be doing to ensure that they actually have, if you like, a permanent capacity to respond?

Graham MacKay: There has been plenty of investment. I can answer more easily for the international community than for Pakistan. For the international community, there has been plenty of investment in the UN by the British Government and other Governments, and how accountable has that investment been? What have we all collectively got for that investment in UN capacity? It has been considerable, over the years.

Q30 Chair: In Pakistan specifically?

Graham MacKay: I am talking for all responses globally. I am not talking about the funds to respond to the crisis. I am talking about the funds used to build the capacity of the UN institutions and the role they have to play. I just wonder what evaluation there has been on that. That would be the first step that we would have to do on that, but because of Pakistan I feel less comfortable.

Q31 Chair: Jehangir, you are saying that you need to have local capacity. Do you have a view, firstly, on what the Government of Pakistan could be doing? Then, perhaps, given that we are a major partner and donor within Pakistan, do you have a view on what more DFID could do, to support the Government of Pakistan’s ability to do it? I suppose that is what I am asking for.

Jehangir Malik: Absolutely. Again, looking at those two major disasters and the ongoing disasters, whether manmade or natural, in the country, for the NDMA to have a meaningful role, it has to be able to make sure that it is not just sitting centrally. It must be able to get out to the districts and to the regions. Civil society and community mobilisation cannot just be a nice buzzword. It has to come to fruition. You have to see it actively engaged at the community level. I think that the NDMA, from a disaster-preparedness point of view, has a role in being able to mitigate the impacts of the disasters that are unfortunately more likely to happen.

Currently I believe that the NDMA plays a role just centrally, and it kicks into action to the best of its ability, under the leadership of General Nadeem, and the likes, as it were. However, it needs to have a much more proactive role, when it is a quieter time period, in building that infrastructure to be able to reach those areas from a disaster response and preparedness point of view. At the end of the day, it is the Government of Pakistan’s responsibility, and we can help to play a role in that, but that is something that really needs to be prioritised at the Government of Pakistan level.

Q32 Chair: Matthew Carter?

Matthew Carter: Just to fully support that, one of the things that was recognised during the response phase was that the big agencies were totally stretched. In discussions with DFID, DFID were saying, "What are we going to do? We do not have the capacity." One of the big reflections then was the mobilisation of communities and civil society. That has to be the way forward. It is what CBHA members bring. You have those agencies who can deliver large-scale operational programmes, and those who primarily work through building civil society capacity. They have to go hand in hand. There is not one solution to fix all this. It is a combination of both.

Jehangir Malik: Having said that, just to add to Matthew’s point there, for that to be effectively reached on the ground there must be a perception of impartiality, neutrality and our independence. Those are critical ingredients for us to be able to mobilise those communities. Trust, in a place like Pakistan, is absolutely critical. If you want to reach the people in their hour of need, the military can come in and everybody can come and do their bit and play a major role in a collaborative mechanism.

However, at the next stage, in order to mobilise the communities, to engage with the communities at a quiet level and at a less intense level, then trust is a major aspect. If the local communities have suspicion, or perception of politicisation or of any other kind of agenda other than the humanitarian agenda, the aid workers will come under attack. The aid efforts at large will be largely ineffective, and we may again see what I witnessed in Kabul-being confined to walls within a humanitarian compound, and not reaching much outside that area. It is all intertwined. Therefore, our neutrality and our perceived impartiality are absolutely critical to achieving peace, security and the wider stabilisation, I believe.

Q33 Anas Sarwar: Jehangir, picking up on that slightly broader question about the diaspora community, you had a situation in the UK following the floods where the diaspora community raised hundreds of thousands of pounds. For example, in the city of Glasgow, £300,000 was raised. That did not go through the DEC or anything like that. Right across the country you had diaspora communities raising hundreds of thousands of pounds in different charity events. You also had diaspora communities collecting their own medicines, collecting their own clothes, and collecting their own money. It comes back to the trust aspect: they do not trust NGOs and they do not trust the Government. They think it is all politicisation, and so they want to go over and give the money themselves, or they want to fill up the back of a truck and go and drive the truck themselves. The number of phone calls I got from people saying, "I am stuck at a checkpoint. I have a truck full of medicine here. I do not want to give it to anyone, because I am not sure what they will do with it. I want to make sure I go and give it to my village, myself."

How can DFID work together with the NGOs to try to get the trust within the diaspora community? How can it get all of those fundraising efforts, all of the energy and time, and actually get it in a more co-ordinated way, and deliver it on the ground? This is not just for the Pakistan situation. It could be in other crises that happen right around the world, where the diaspora community come together. It is a slightly broader point, but I just wondered what you think.

Vickie Hawkins: To be honest I would let the NGOs do it themselves. It is about our relationships with the local population. I am afraid that, from MSF’s perspective, we are much more cautious about taking DFID money today than we were five or six years ago.

Q34 Anas Sarwar: I do not mean local people on the ground in Pakistan.

Vickie Hawkins: I know, but I am talking about the diaspora communities as well. We work hard to build our relationships with the Somali diaspora, the Pakistani diaspora, etc, because of course there is a direct added value for our operations. However, we do it on the basis that we are independent. I really want to echo those words. It is absolutely vital for our acceptance. We have to build up understanding slowly over time, and just make people aware that we are there on an independent basis, on the basis of need alone. My response to that would be that NGOs need to do that themselves on the basis of their own identity and their independence from political agendas.

Chair: You are saying some quite important things.

Q35 Alison McGovern: I have a very quick question. You said, "We are being much more cautious about taking DFID money now than we were five years ago." What has changed?

Vickie Hawkins: As I said earlier, there is a general climate today in the UK that the aid budget is good for our national security. That message is filtering through in all sorts of ways. Of course it is not just the UK. We have heard it very explicitly in the US for many years now, and the European Union also seems to be moving in that direction. I would say that the public nature of that explicit link between aid and national security has become much more evident in the UK in past months than ever before.

Q36 Chair: Are you talking about how the British public perceive it, or how the Pakistani public perceive it? I think what you are saying is quite contentious. We have had the debate about the securitisation of aid, but it is still the case that UK aid is untied. It is focused on poverty reduction. It is trying to deliver impartial results. It is difficult to say that that has fundamentally changed, and yet you are saying that MSF’s attitude towards that has changed, and that you regard being associated with DFID as tainting your independence and your ability to deliver.

Vickie Hawkins: No, we are concerned about what people think about association. It is not so much a criticism from MSF. It is all about what the people think-in the places that we work, that we are talking to, and that we are negotiating access with. I am afraid there have been public statements made in recent months that aid, including humanitarian aid, is good for our national security-that it makes the streets of London safer. For us, as the aid deliverers, that blurs the understanding of who we are if we are seen to be associated with that particular donor. We are aware that armed groups in the places that we work look at our websites. They work out where we get our funding from. They test our claims of independence. It is all about perceptions, and being able to demonstrate that we are as independent as we claim we are.

Q37 Richard Harrington: Jehangir, I would like to press you on Anas’s point, if you do not mind. I will just tell you very briefly, in 30 seconds, my experience. I was asked in my constituency of Watford to do an appeal on behalf of Islamic Relief. I got a letter from Andrew Mitchell, and we had a very nice dinner-a smaller scale than yours in Glasgow, but it is a much smaller population. I was besieged by constituents saying that I was very wrong. "Do not give money to these people. You cannot understand about corruption in Pakistan. It will not get there. My uncle’s brotherinlaw’s sister in my village-by the way, a village can be 1,000,000 people, as you know-they will get it through." I do think there is a huge selling job on the diaspora. It seems to me that for a lot of people, and my Pakistani population is fundamentally a workingclass population, your organisation is perceived as being with DFID as a kind of institution, and they do not trust institutions. There is probably not much to answer. It would be best to answer his question, but I would bear that in mind.

Jehangir Malik: Thank you very much. Time does not allow for us to discuss it-I think we would need another hour to go into this subject. Fundamentally, trust and independence and partiality, doing what we say and saying what we do, are absolutely critical. Pakistan, for a variety of reasons, has a very negative perception from corruption and from all other areas, which make it less trusting. The diaspora community raised over £30,000,000 for the floods-incidentally, separate from the DEC appeal, which has raised £69,000,000 so far in the last six months. That is a phenomenal amount. Just under £10,000,000 came through Islamic Relief, so we are very familiar with it, in the first eight or 10 weeks. You can see the outpouring of generosity from the diaspora.

I would like to say, Chair, and everyone here, that I would like to think that we have had an improvement from the previous situation with Kashmir, with flybynight agencies and so forth. Two things happened: the DEC messages, the media behind us, and being able to push the fact that international aid agencies are the best sort of solution under these circumstances, given the complexities. We had a bit of a learning experience, a less healthy experience in Kashmir, where a number of attacks, losses and so forth happened. I think the community is maturing, but we are far from solving the issues. Your constituents would quite rightly say that they have a better way of going about it.

It is not limited just to the working class: we had big personalities and TV presenter personalities that want to do it by themselves. Sometimes you cannot stop them. We are not in a position to stop anybody taking a suitcase of money to Pakistan. What we can do is advocate. What we are doing through the DEC agencies, through our platforms, is advocating that the international NGO set-up is the best way to get your money across. Secondly, establishing the Muslim Charities Forum as a co-ordination body, to be able to give trust to the constituency, is a better model. That money has a direct channelling source and we can see the impact on the other side. However, it is a longterm solution, especially with the diaspora community. They have instant information and knowledge, and sometimes international aid agencies would not have that level of information.

Chair: You have raised a number of those points. Simon has a question, perhaps as a final thing, given the time. Would you all have the same view that DFID’s stance compromises your association with them? Is it a point of concern? I want to ask you that, because obviously MSF has a very specific position. It would be interesting to hear whether the rest of you take a similar view. Sam, you have a question.

Q38 Mr Gyimah: Just picking on the point of DFID’s stance, I think it is worth pointing out, when people ask these questions about the public statements, that the Coalition Government is committed to the Millennium Development Goals. We are increasing funding from 2013. International Development is one of the few Departments whose budget is ringfenced and we are going to 0.7% of GNI. When you talk about public statements, it is worth noting that there are a number of statements there, but in terms of actual substance, being committed to the Millennium Development Goals is not really politicising the issue.

Chair: Not only that, but Sweden has a particularly good reputation for both being neutral and independent, and the Swedish Development Minister will say: "You do have to tell the Swedish people that there is a benefit in what you are doing. It is altruism, it is because it is the right thing to do, but it is also about saying: ‘It should help reduce poverty, and therefore the pressures of migration and terrorism, and so forth.’" That does not seem to me, in itself, to taint it. What would be different would be if the money was actually going out of the proper overseas development assistance, and going into public order issues, security, intelligence and so on. Of course those are real issues. Sometimes the language may create that impression, but we have to judge whether the money is actually going after that kind of rhetoric. I just want to have a roundup.

Jeremy Lefroy: Just very briefly, I would like to make the point that when we were in New York we met the President or Chairman of the UN Parliamentary Assembly, and he made the very same point. He was the former President of the Federal Republic of Switzerland, and he said, "As far as we’re concerned, there are two main aims. There is the humanitarian and moral ground, and the pragmatic ground for security." That is the President of the UN Parliamentary Assembly. Would that mean therefore that the UN itself is tainted?

Q39 Richard Burden: When we come to write up the report we will obviously have some of these discussions ourselves. I want to concentrate on questions to you. I would just like to know how far the concerns about being tainted by the local perceptions of Western/Northern/DFID policies go. Vickie, when you said at the start that this is a pragmatic position in the context of Pakistan, from that I understood you to mean that because of the particular political and security situation in Pakistan, the issue of being linked with DFID is a more serious question than it might be in Country x or Region y. Now is that what you are saying, that we are talking on a countrybycountry basis? In a sense, the statements about the links between security and aid may be made in one context, but heard or reported on websites in another context. There may be a statement made about Iraq, for example, that is reported on a website in Pakistan. Are you saying that your concerns about British policy on this mean that you do not feel that you can have an association with DFID at all? Or are you saying it is just in the Pakistan context? I would like to know other people’s views on that.

Chair: Perhaps this can be our final question. All of you can answer.

Vickie Hawkins: Just to clarify MSF’s position on the funding, we take no government funding in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iraq, as I said. That is very much, as you said, a decision that is taken according to what we feel will best facilitate our access on a local basis. It is specific to those particular countries because of the geopolitical agendas at work.

However, as you say, what is said now in one part of the world reverberates into another. We are a global village, and there is no such thing as being able to make a local decision that does not have international reverberations of one sort or another. For that reason, we are careful about our funding policy generally, internationally. At the moment, as I said, we would be cautious. We are more cautious than we used to be about approaching DFID for funding, particularly in conflict settings. That is our general status quo.

Q40 Chair: At a time when DFID is putting more resources into conflict situations.

Matthew Carter: We would recognise DFID as a key donor, a key actor on the international stage. £136 million into Pakistan puts it in the top three of large donors. That funding is vital. I think our position as CBHA, as a BOAG member-British Overseas Aid Group-as CAFOD, is continually to work with DFID to ensure that that level of transparency remains, but recognising the tensions between aid and security. That is always going to be there, but we have to battle to ensure there is transparency, and have that robust relationship with DFID.

My final comment is on something slightly different: the importance of DFID remaining at the top table in relation to bringing about change in the UN. Some people think that when DFID steps away from that, that will bring about greater change, because they have been such an instrumental player. Something has to change within the UN, and DFID has been a key player in driving that change. If their position was lost there, what would happen? I don't know.

Graham MacKay: Oxfam’s position on this is that we did not take DFID money over Iraq, because the British Government was seen as a combatant in that particular scenario. That is where our line is drawn. We do take DFID money around the world in many places. We take it in Pakistan. Our perception of DFID’s funding is that it seems to be reasonably fair. They tried to push money down to Sindh and Punjab, where it was most needed, and they did not have any bias towards any particular sectors, or anything like that. I think it was a case of maybe wanting more funding for the health sector, but we thought generally the funding policy was reasonably fair in Pakistan. It would be fair to recognise that. There are other ways in which we have to deal with the issues of acceptance with the local community, and we work a lot through local civil society and local NGO groups. That is a different tactic.

Jehangir Malik: Absolutely. We do implement funds and projects through DFID in Pakistan, and other parts of the world. Our key here is, again, being able to have trust with the local communities. That peopletopeople contact is absolutely critical to our sense of safety and security, as it were, in being able to ensure that we reach the needy and the most vulnerable, even those that do not have the WATAN cards or those that are inside. We have the ability to reach those people, coupled with the fact that we are Islamic Relief, so therefore the perception of agenda would not be as great as it may be with other agencies. We can then be in prime position to be able to look at the good work historically that DFID has done. As my colleagues have pointed out, it is a key donor. It is a key player. It is a beacon of light in terms of international development in many, many areas. We hope that we can advocate and have that robust discussion with DFID to be able to keep that robust direction, as it were, in pushing the international development agenda and working with the international NGOs like us, through CBHA and the other agencies. With those discussions in place, we hope and advocate that DFID continues to play a key role in this respect.

Chair: Can I thank you all very much for what I think was a lively and informative exchange. From this Committee’s point of view, clearly we strongly take the view that our job is to be aware of the dangers, if you like, of how DFID or other international agencies or partners are perceived. Our job is also to hear what criticisms and comments there are, and also to make sure that we feed in what we can to ensure that we are not tainted by what is actually done, and that it is open, accountable, transparent, untied, propoverty reduction and humanitarian aid. That is a role for this Committee. To have evidence, and the comments you have all made, is very important to us. We appreciate what you have said this morning. I have let it run on a little bit because the Secretary of State is running late, but thank you very much indeed.

Matthew Carver: Thank you.

Graham MacKay: Thank you.

Vickie Hawkins: Thank you.

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Secretary of State for International Development, and John Barrett, Head of the Pakistan Flood Response Team, DFID, gave evidence.

Q41 Chair: Good morning, Secretary of State. Thank you very much for coming in to see us in this final session on the response to the floods in Pakistan. I think you had noticed that there is a topical issue that has cropped up in relation to Afghanistan, and I just wondered if you would just briefly tell us what the situation is. A number of us have been contacted by the media about the fact that the Kabul Bank has been taken over by the Central Bank of Afghanistan and that the IMF are expressing more than concern about the situation and the implications for international funding. Can you just give us an indication of what the British Government’s take on this is and whether it is leading to any kind of review of what you and your Department are doing or how you are going to be doing it in Afghanistan?

Andrew Mitchell: On the Kabul Bank, I am very happy to write to the Committee giving them an update today, if that would be helpful. This is a quite longstanding and thoroughgoing scandal. My Department is funding a full forensic audit of what has happened and we will look very carefully, together with the IMF, at the result of that audit. But it is clear that there has been some disgraceful behaviour by senior Afghans in respect of the bank and its lending policy. I know that quite a large chunk of that money has been repaid. There was evidence of it being used to buy property in Dubai, for example. Obviously, once we see the forensic audit, we will be able to consider, in the light of factual information, more clearly what needs to be done, but it does have a very negative effect on financial probity issues in Afghanistan.

Q42 Chair: I appreciate that. Does it have any implications for the way DFID and, indeed, the international community can deliver their financial support and development assistance within Afghanistan?

Andrew Mitchell: We have always been very clear that we are operating in a context where we are seeking to increase significantly our development support for Afghanistan. When the Prime Minister was there last year, he announced a significant uplift in British development support, but we do not operate directly through the Afghan Government; we operate through the trust-fund mechanism, which means that, very largely, we are paying out taxpayers’ money on the basis of reimbursable receipts, and that is the right way to address that issue.

Q43 Richard Harrington: I am sure you are aware, but from our point of view I think the Telegraph writing a story about our aid to Afghanistan in the context of the bank is very much along the line of the Daily Mail and the interview you gave to the Financial Times about India, with the announcement earlier this week. It is just whipping up public anti-aid and support sentiments. I am sure your Department is very aware of it and I am sure everyone around this table is completely resolute in the way we deal with these things. I think the Afghanistan thing is a way of exploiting this whole, "Charity begins at home-why are we ring-fencing DFID?" kind of thing, but I am sure you are far more aware of this than we are.

Andrew Mitchell: We are all of us equally aware, and I am grateful to Mr Harrington for making the point. I think that, with the announcement coming shortly, almost certainly on 1 March, of the results of the Bilateral Aid Review and the Multilateral Aid Review, our constituents and the British taxpayers will be able to see that the Coalition Government is completely refocusing the way in which we do development, looking at results and outputs-all the things we discussed when you first invited me to come before the committee, Mr Chairman-and also setting up independent evaluation of British aid through the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which is now starting its work. I think it is that-the lock on the results so that people can see where their money is going, the much greater transparency and the independent evaluation of aid-that will give our constituents the necessary confirmation about the changed way in which we do development now. We are doing development in a very harsh economic climate, for reasons that the Committee will be very familiar with.

Finally, on your point about charity beginning at home, I think that if you look at the way in which people across Britain supported the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal on the floods in Pakistan-the subject of our discussions today-you can see the innate generosity of people across Britain to people who are in desperate circumstances. What I always say to my constituents, and I am sure you say to yours, Mr Harrington, is that charity does begin at home, but it does not end there.

Chair: I want to close this, but I think Jeremy Lefroy wanted to put a question. I think we need to get on to Pakistan.

Q44 Jeremy Lefroy: Yes, I appreciate that and, with your permission, Mr Chairman, I will just follow up on that. In response to a written question of mine, your Department-or you-stated that there had been, I think, four projects in this financial year where funding had been stopped as a result, perhaps, of investigations or perceived irregularities, which was a considerable increase on previous years. I wondered if that was as a result of increased irregularities in the aid system or a tougher approach to the use of taxpayers’ money.

Andrew Mitchell: I hope that it is the second. There is no doubt that Coalition Ministers and the Department are absolutely focused on fully implementing the zero tolerance to corruption policy that we have, and that must be right, because not only does corruption undermine the whole support for Britain’s significant development programme in the way that Mr Harrington described, but of course it also massively lets down the people who we are trying to help in the countries where we are working.

Q45 Chair: Thank you, and thank you for your indication. If you feel that there is more you wish to put in writing to the committee, we would obviously appreciate it.

Andrew Mitchell: Yes, we will do that.

Q46 Chair: Thank you for accepting that question. It does seem to be out there and we felt we needed to take advantage of that fact. On the Pakistan floods, which obviously happened in the middle of the summer holidays-and actually, reading the DFID submission to the Committee, it seemed to fall quite heavily on your personal shoulders-the impression one gets is that you were very much directing traffic. Was that the way it actually was? Given that it happened when it did, were there enough key staff in place? What kind of problems were caused? Did that affect our ability to respond quickly?

Andrew Mitchell: It did happen during the summer. As you say, Mr Chairman, I was actually on my annual sojourn in Rwanda when the floods crisis first hit. Of course, because I was in Rwanda, where there is a very strong DFID office, I had full communications and was able to grip it from there. I then was briefly in Tanzania and came back to the UK. So, I think the key person, inevitably, is the holder of my office, and so I was here. Also the office in Pakistan was very fully manned at the time, and that helped as well. I can give some details of that if it would be helpful to the Committee, but I think we were there at the time and I am not really aware of any staffing deficiencies at our end that in any way impeded what we were doing.

Q47 Chair: To avoid just going straight into anachronisms, CHASE-the Conflict, Humanitarian and Security Department-co-ordinated the response, as it does. In the last Parliament the Committee visited the headquarters in Victoria Street. How do you think CHASE performed on this occasion? I will just ask you that question first and then perhaps compare it with other organisations.

Andrew Mitchell: This was my first emergency crisis as Secretary of State. The first thing that happens, of course, is there is a conversation between me and CHASE, and I was immediately aware of the very strong, deep experience that exists in CHASE and that, I think, enables Britain to give very strong leadership on these occasions. That was certainly the experience on this occasion. I was obviously extremely reliant on the advice from CHASE, and the senior officials in CHASE gave me outstandingly good support.

Q48 Chair: We will, obviously, explore in more detail, as we have done with other witnesses, the role of the UN, and it is not your responsibility other than being a partner, but how do you think the CHASE response compared with the UN response?

Andrew Mitchell: The UN response, in terms of the cluster system and leadership on the ground, was patchy, and I think one should be clear about that. But I also want to make it clear that the sheer scale of what was happening on the ground was wholly unprecedented. What you had was an area flooded the size of England; you had some 20 million people caught up in this, of whom, from memory, about 12 million were displaced. This is a scale of disaster that was completely unprecedented, and I was able to see it for myself when I went to Pir Sabaq, when I went on my first visit to Pakistan on 19 August. I do not think there is any Government in the world that would have been able to operate really effectively faced with a disaster of that scale.

The way in which the different clusters performed, we can come on to in a moment, but in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for example, 10 years of rain fell in one week, which is a once-in-a-century weather event. For those of the Committee who are interested in these things, I looked up the level of water flow that resulted from the flooding. The mean flow in the Thames out there is 66 cubic metres of water per second; at the peak of the flood, the Indus was flooding at over 40,000 cubic metres of water per second, and that happened continuously for over three weeks, so the scale of what happened there is awesome. I saw in Pir Sabaq a high-water mark of 12 feet above the ground, and it is hard to imagine the terror that must have struck particularly children and older folk who are less mobile as this wall of water moved through Pir Sabaq, destroying their homes, all their possessions and, of course, their livelihoods as well.

In a sense, it was a very good place to go. I went with Baroness Warsi to Pir Sabaq, because, up on the hill above it, quite soon after the floods and the water receding, you could see how the international aid effort was getting going. I saw how Oxfam was getting water through to very large numbers of people who were in temporary accommodation; Islamic Relief, for example, with the shelter that they were providing; some basic healthcare getting in; basic food and some nutrition as well. So, I want to emphasise to the Committee that, although we rightly look at what the UN did, we rightly look at what the NGOs and others did, this was an unprecedentedly difficult situation to address. Also, I think, within Pakistan, there was a better performance, for example, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa then there was down in Sindh, and that was partly because there were NGOs and other organisations there in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. That is because, of course, it was near the earthquake and, therefore, there was some experience in dealing with these crises as well.

Q49 Chair: We had the benefit of a briefing from Lord Ashdown yesterday, which I think you also had, on his independent report, which will be published in the next few weeks. He was very strong on saying that the first 72 hours’ response was crucial, and that what you did then was really important, and that value for money was a secondary consideration at that point. Do you agree with that, and do you think, having said that, that the value for money and rapid response were proportionately balanced? Obviously, you are going to see his review and you will make a judgment when you see it, but are you minded to take the view that DFID may have to increase the funding it diverts into humanitarian response?

Andrew Mitchell: On the first point, there is no question that the ability of the government, or other non-governmental organisations, to react on the ground in the first 72 hours is absolutely critical. It defines the extent of the crisis and the depth of the misery that emerges from it. If you look at, for example, the effect of the earthquake in Chile, contrast it with what happened in Haiti. Because Chile had the sinews of governance to be able to attack it, you see a wholly different and disproportionate ability to react. If you look at what China did in their earthquake, for example, again you see how very quickly they were able to take the necessary steps to mitigate the effects. So there is no question at all that Lord Ashdown is right about that.

The second point I would make is that Lord Ashdown’s report, I think, will have far more significance than just for Britain in what he says about the way we address these things. I think everyone would agree that it was time to have a really good look at the way we handle emergencies and our response to them, and although I have not seen the final report, I am aware of the emerging findings of Lord Ashdown’s report, and I think that he and his review will have done an enormous service both to Britain in how we handle these crises and to the wider international architecture. This is an independent report, unlike the Bilateral Aid Review and the Multilateral Aid Review, which are reports of the British Government. This is a report to the British Government and I am very much looking forward to seeing it.

On the third part of your question, which was about putting in more funding, I have an open mind on that. We are not deciding how to fund any of the humanitarian multilateral agencies until after we have seen Lord Ashdown’s report. Although the Multilateral Aid Review will announce our conclusions on many of the 43 multilateral agencies, it will not announce our conclusions in respect of funding for the main humanitarian relief agencies.

But I want to make one final point on this, which is that although it may be necessary to increase funding and to make money available in significant amounts at the start of one of these dreadful crises, it is not necessary to turn your back on the absolute priority, which we have on all our aid and development, of seeing what the results are. There were days in the early part of the flooding when we were mobilising where I obliged the officials to work late into the night to tell me what the results were going to be of taxpayer funding, because I do not think, even in a humanitarian crisis, you can expect the British taxpayer just to dole out funding unless they can be sure the money is really effective.

So, from the beginning of the crisis, the question that I was asking of our team in Pakistan, to which they responded magnificently, was, "Fine, you can have the money, but I need to know what it is going to achieve. What are the results on the ground? What does it mean for water and sanitation? What does it mean for nutrition, particularly for children who are not getting fed properly? Tell me the results this money is going to buy, so that I can in turn explain to the very generous people in Britain and to British taxpayers why we are spending the money."

Chair: Certainly, I think the members of the Committee who met Lord Ashdown yesterday were impressed not only by what he said the British Government could do but also by his suggestions for how the international community might respond better, which we hope will be taken forward. But we will see that when we see it published. Can I just bring in Jeremy Lefroy, who had a supplementary, and then Richard Harrington?

Q50 Jeremy Lefroy: Thank you very much, Chairman. Secretary of State, I well remember the situation when you were in Rwanda responding to it, because I was there, as was our colleague Pauline here. If I may just recall one particular incident, which both impressed me and raised a question, we happened to be together when you received a message that there was a planeload of supplies ready to take off to go to Pakistan at that very time, and DFID were seeking your permission to send it and you gave that permission. That was very late at night and that showed me that DFID were absolutely working on this and we must give full credit to the team, but it also raised a question about delegation. I wonder whether you, on reflection, would delegate more to officials in terms of final decisions than perhaps is the case at the moment. Perhaps you are constrained by rules of accountability in terms of the amount of money involved. Is there anything that you think we can learn in terms of delegation for the future from that?

Andrew Mitchell: I think we always look at that, and you are right. I think, in relation to the particular planeload of kit that was leaving, they were not so much seeking permission as telling me that something was taking place, which we had already agreed. I emphasise that, in Rwanda, we have incredibly good communications because we have a very strong DFID office there, and so, with modern communications, the physical distance was not really a factor. It was in Tanzania, which is why I returned from Tanzania so rapidly.

In terms of delegation, I think we have to strike a balance. I think we got it right. In terms of George Turkington and his team on the ground in Islamabad, in terms of the joined-up nature of the UK platform, the use of defence assets to help, and the use of advice from other Departments across Whitehall, I think all of that worked pretty well, but I am certainly not so confident that I would not want to look very carefully at all the lessons that are being learnt.

I think that, in terms of lessons-learning from Pakistan, Lord Ashdown’s report will be extremely important, simply because they focused very clearly, as part of their learning mechanism for the report, on events in Pakistan and how they were handled. So, I am sure that that is right. We’ve got our own internal review within DFID on how we handled it and what lessons are to be learnt, and we are a confident organisation. We have to look and see what did not go right and what did go right, and learn the lessons accordingly.

Q51 Richard Harrington: Thank you, Secretary of State. A follow-on: you explained how you told your officials that you wanted to know exactly what the money would be spent on and how it would be distributed. In terms of your very popular policy on outcomes being a measure of taxpayers’ money being used, when will feedback be actually published in terms of outcomes for this particular humanitarian aid money? Leading on from that, may I ask you about the £134 million, which you announced was pledged for this purpose. Has it all been distributed up to now? Also, it is an impossible question, because you have to decide, but how do you decide, with Haiti going on, with Pakistan, how much funding is allocated to each? It must be extremely difficult for your officials and you to do this, but if you could explain a little bit about the process, it would be very helpful.

Andrew Mitchell: Let me try to deal with all three points. First of all, on Haiti, we are not in the lead, and I should be very clear about that. As I said in the House yesterday, there was a specific intervention to try to make sure that cholera did not spread out of Haiti and, through Oxfam, to help communities in the north of Haiti and through other organisations in the northeast. We were very strongly involved in the early hours of the emergency in Haiti and, of course, the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal in Haiti was very strong, but we are not in the lead there. It is an American lead particularly, and also a French and a Canadian lead, and that is right, because we cannot be everywhere and we must be sensible about that.

In terms of the funding for Pakistan, all of the money is now allocated, but £20 million of it has not yet been spent or passed out from the centre, and that is happening any day now. We have been very careful to track that £134 million, and you can see it on the monitor. It is one of the innovations we have made that, on the floods monitor on the website, you can follow where British taxpayers’ money is being spent. Of course, there was the tremendous response from across Britain, to which I referred in my first answer, to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal, and that money goes directly to the NGOs, who I think have also, as part of their work in this crisis, become better at articulating what they are doing with that funding, and that is a very good thing.

In terms of what you were kind enough to describe as our popular policy on results, let me announce them now. As of 31 January, results achieved with DFID funding-British taxpayers’ funding-comprised the following: 2,145,000 people provided with safe drinking water; 323,000 people provided with access to latrines and washing areas; 1,739,000 people received hygiene kits and also sessions on how to use them; 603,000 people were able to access basic healthcare through the efforts of the British taxpayer; 754,000 women and children received supplementary or therapeutic feeding for malnutrition; 521,000 people received food for a one-month period; 1,252,000 people received emergency non-food items; 1,133,000 people were provided with emergency shelter and support to rebuild their homes; 270,000 people were provided with seeds and fertiliser; and 276,000 people were provided with fodder for their livestock. So, those are basically the results that we agreed and that we then funded, and that my officials, working very closely with the cluster system and NGOs, have then been able to deliver. That is the answer to your first question.

Q52 Jeremy Lefroy: Thank you-very comprehensive. It is well known, obviously, that DFID are the largest donor and, as you said, the lead on this, but there has been some comment that, although DFID was the largest donor, it was not necessarily the most significant driver of strategy. In fact, Lord Ashdown, at one stage, actually said this, although I must say for the record that, most recently, he has been far more complimentary about DFID’s leadership role. I wonder if you would care to comment on the question, "Was DFID the main driver of the strategy internationally?" and, if not, why you think that was.

Andrew Mitchell: That falls into two parts. On 19 August, after my visit to Pir Sabaq, I decided that a much more significant response was required from the international community. Following discussions with my officials and with Downing Street, I flew straight to the United Nations General Assembly in New York and set out, in a short speech, why I thought the response from the international community thus far had been wholly inadequate; I think those were the words that I used on that occasion. The reason I went there was not to seek to dictate the work on the ground, which I am not an expert on. Although I have strong views, it would have been quite wrong for the Development Secretary to do that.

What I went there to say was that there was a massive shortage of support, and the thing that the international donor community could do would be to fund it. I had a very large number of meetings in the margins of that session in New York to try to persuade others to fund. I have here the list of funding. Of course, the United States of America have provided something like $680 million; private individuals provided $342 million; then Japan, $221 million; the European Commission, $183 million; Saudi Arabia, $151 million; and-this is disbursed-the United Kingdom, $114 million. Those are the largest bloc, but others came in as well. I remember discussions taking place while I was there which have led to Australia producing $82 million, Canada producing $72 million, and Germany $42 million. Then the figures become less significant: very strong support from the UAE at $12 million; Italy, $10 million; France, $4 million. So, there is a patchy response in a sense, but the purpose of my visit was not to try to persuade people about the specific interventions on the ground-that is a matter for the UN and the UN cluster system-but clearly there was a massive need for funding.

In terms of the UN system on the ground, which, as I said, was patchy, my take on this is that, in terms of agriculture, where the FAO were in the lead, and food, where the World Food Programme were in the lead, the cluster system worked reasonably well-that was quite good. In terms of shelter, I think the effect was middling. In terms of water and sanitation, and particularly nutrition and protection, I think it was not good, and lessons need to be learnt from that. I think that I intervened several times by phoning up the Secretary General to ask for more senior support from New York.

We particularly asked, for example, for David Nabarro, who is one of the most senior and expert officials in New York from Britain on issues of water and sanitation, to be sent to Pakistan. He was very tied up with work on the Millennium Development Summit and could not come and, in the end, we got Dr Ronald Waldman, who we pushed for very strongly from the United States, and he came and he did a very good job. So, there are lessons to be learnt about how the UN operated in that disaster, but do let us be clear that no organisation would have been able to cope with the extent of this disaster, for the reasons I set out earlier.

Q53 Mr Gyimah: Secretary of State, thanks for those numbers you read out in terms of the outcomes achieved. What would be helpful for me to know is how you go about setting the targets and expectations in that particular context. Did we meet our targets and expectations? Thirdly, related to that, if you have a disaster like that and we spend most of our budget on it; what then happens subsequently in terms of our bilateral aid to the country?

Andrew Mitchell: On the last point, there is no blueprint for that. Quite a lot of the funding was redirected from other activities, including activities in Pakistan, but equally there is a reserve for these sorts of contingencies, which we can draw on, and I think that that works quite well.

In terms of how we allocate the funding and what targets we seek to achieve, that comes from discussions with my officials on the ground. They were very strongly engaged, both travelling to affected areas, in discussions with the Government of Pakistan, and in discussions with the United Nations. I had a number of discussions with the new head of OCHA, Valerie Amos, who came in during the middle of this and did an outstandingly good job in gripping the resource that she had with OCHA and making sure it was effective on the ground. One of the first things she did was to convene the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, the IASC, which is part of the international architecture, whose job it is to sort out the modus operandi. You talk to everyone, you take expert advice, you try to understand what is happening on the ground, because, of course, this was a wall of water that was moving, so one of the reasons why it was easier in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was because Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a victim of flash-flooding, so it came and went, whereas in Sindh the water has lain there for many months and is still there in parts of Sindh.

So you have to understand what is happening on the ground, trying to keep ahead of the emergency and how it is developing, and think also, in both the emergency phase and in the recovery phase, about what you should be doing. For example, we determined that, in the recovery phase, it was essential to make sure that winter wheat was planted; otherwise, there would be an ongoing food emergency when the wheat was not there to be harvested. We determined it was extremely important to try to get agriculture and irrigation, cleaning up villages and so forth, so that people could again look after themselves, and of course helping livestock to survive, which families and communities absolutely depend upon, and getting kids into school through temporary accommodation, so that another year of schoolchildren would not miss out. Understanding what is happening is something that our experts on the ground are extremely good at, and then we try to respond rapidly to assist with that.

Q54 Alison McGovern: Briefly, Secretary of State, you have made great play of your money in, results out. What are you going to do if the Daily Mail keeps writing stories about British taxpayers’ money being wasted in foreign countries? What are you going to do if your strategy for answering their questions does not work?

Andrew Mitchell: This is an ongoing issue. It is not going to be resolved overnight. Remember, this is an area of public policy that animates our constituents like nothing else. If they see, for example, as they did in the flooding, that British leadership is delivering for people who are desperate, they are incredibly generous and incredibly supportive. If you look at the profile of the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal on Pakistan, I stand to be corrected but I think it is the only appeal that ever has intensified and gone up as time has gone by in terms of public generosity and support. But on the other hand, if our constituents see money being stolen or spent badly, they go ballistic about it, and rightly so. So, this does animate people, and the Daily Mail and, I believe, the Daily Express will take a very strong view on behalf of their readers. They are right to do so because we expect 100 pence of delivery for every hard-earned British taxpayer’s pound we spend on this.

You say, "What if it goes on?" It will go on, to some extent-there is a healthy debate here-but I believe there is an overwhelming opinion in Britain, which is exemplified in the House, where all parties are in the same place on this, that Britain’s development programme is enormously important, it is morally right, it defines our values as a Government and a people, and it is also in Britain’s national interest. All of Britain’s development budget is spent in Britain’s national interest in that sense, and this is a powerful argument that I can make and you can make, and we should be making it.

The other thing is that the Coalition Government’s policies of focusing not on inputs and large money announcements, which just antagonise people, but on the outputs and outcomes and the results, is something that I think is much, much more compelling. The focus on transparency-everything over £500 that we spend being on the website and the focus on independent evaluation of British aid-also helps to put the case. I am absolutely confident that, over the next few years, we will be able to ensure that our fellow citizens feel about Britain’s development effort in the same way they feel about the work of our armed forces: that they view it with great pride and enthusiasm. That is what we must try to achieve. I am convinced that, with the emphasis on transparency and independent evaluation, the Daily Mail and Daily Express in asking these questions-they are the right questions to ask-will increasingly see that the answer to their questions is a very positive one.

Chair: The Committee will ask the questions too, Secretary of State, but we will also publish the evidence in response.

Q55 Anas Sarwar: I just want to pick up on something you said to Sam. Firstly, in terms of redirecting funding from other parts in Pakistan, DFID has committed £134 million to the flood relief effort. Just to be clear, is that additional money on top of the existing Pakistan aid programme, or is that existing money within Pakistan that is being redirected to the floods?

Andrew Mitchell: It is some of both. The way in which we approached the funding for the disaster was to work out what was required, and then to fund it. It was a sort of second-order issue from where that money came. If we found that, in the budget, there were some things we could not spend, we would take it from the Pakistan allocation, but equally, where that was not possible, it came from outside. But I just want to be very clear to Mr Sarwar that the guiding principle-and I am sure that everyone in Britain would expect this-was to get support rapidly to people who were in desperate straits.

Q56 Anas Sarwar: I absolutely accept that. What proportion of that £134 million then is additional money?

Andrew Mitchell: It is quite hard to give you a direct answer to that. I can try to write to the Committee, if it would be helpful, and show you from where it came. Some of it will have been reallocated within the programme, principally because it could not be spent on the original purposes for which it was intended, and some of it will have come from the regional programme-part of the regional programme is, of course, meant to be spent on disasters-and some of it will have come from the wider contingency.

Q57 Anas Sarwar: A written answer would be helpful because it would be interesting to see if, for example, money that was going to education and for schooling for girls is being redirected. I am sure it is not, but it would be interesting to have that information from the Department. Just moving on, you mentioned the role of the UN and how, sadly, the international community did not react quickly enough, and there are lessons to be learnt for the UN and the international community on that. What proportion of the total UN appeal has been met to date?

Andrew Mitchell: The proportion of the UN appeal that has been met is, I think, 63%, but I will find it in my notes. Is that correct? I will just give you the exact figures, which I think I have here somewhere, but 63% is the figure that comes to mind.

Q58 Anas Sarwar: Is that 63% of what they were hoping to get in from Governments, or is that 63% of money they have got that has been spent?

Andrew Mitchell: As at 7 February, the UN appeal of some $2 billion is 63% funded. One can compare that with Haiti, which was 65% funded. Including contributions outside the formal appeal, the total international funding is judged by the UN to be about $2.3 billion, which is the largest ever amount for any emergency. I should emphasise to the Committee that the constraint now is not on funding; it is on the capacity to deliver on the ground.

Q59 Anas Sarwar: Just to be clear: is that 63% of the appeal total they are looking for that has been met, or 63% of the total they have got has actually been spent on the ground?

Andrew Mitchell: 63% of what they asked for has been funded.

Q60 Anas Sarwar: Has come in to the UN/

Andrew Mitchell: Yes, that is correct.

Q61 Anas Sarwar: Is there another assessment of that 63% of the target, which was $2 billion? So they’ve got 63% of $2 billion.

Andrew Mitchell: $2 billion is the 63%. Is that correct?

Q62 Anas Sarwar: $2 billion was the target; 63% is what has come in.

Andrew Mitchell: Yes, that is correct.

Q63 Anas Sarwar: Of the 63% of the $2 billion that has come in, what percentage has actually been spent on the ground?

Andrew Mitchell: 60%, so our element is much higher.

Q64 Anas Sarwar: So, in terms of the UN saying, "We have got a set target of $2 billion to be spent on the ground in terms of disaster management," in actual fact it is not $2 billion; it is closer to $1.2 billion. Of that $1.2 billion, it is only about 60% of that, so it is closer to $700 million.

Andrew Mitchell: No, it must be much more of that, because of the total figures that have been spent. Would it be helpful-

Q65 Chair: Well, if it will answer the question, come to the desk. I would prefer it if you came and sat beside the Secretary of State.

John Barrett: Simply to say that the-

Q66 Chair: I am sorry, can you introduce yourself?

John Barrett: My name is John Barrett. I am the head of the DFID team in Islamabad leading the flood response. The UN finds it very difficult to report to us or to the Government of Pakistan exactly how much money they have disbursed. We understand their best estimate is that about $720 million has been spent as of the end of last month by the UN and, as reported to them, by NGOs and other implementing partners.

Q67 Anas Sarwar: In terms of DFID and yourself as the Secretary of State, have we expressed our disappointment at the fact that we have set a $2 billion target as the UN, we have only been able to achieve 63% of that target in terms of income, and of that income, only 60% has actually spent on the ground?

Andrew Mitchell: The architecture of spending is a matter for debate and discussion. As for Britain’s contribution, my predecessor, Hilary Benn, was instrumental in driving through the CERF fund, which was meant to ensure that, when these emergencies take place, you do not have to hand round a hat on all these occasions. This is a debate in which I urge the Committee to join, and it is part of the reason why I went straight to New York from Islamabad, to urge those who can to help produce funding for support.

Q68 Anas Sarwar: I want to move on to the situation that still exists on the ground and get some information. What is the estimate of the number of people still living in camps or without adequate food and shelter for the winter?

Andrew Mitchell: The numbers who are still in camps, I think, is 170,000, and we believe now that there is adequate support for them on the ground. Of course, the main thrust is to try to get them back home, and there are new funds in place where we are able to get support through to individual families so that they can face those needs, but the main thing is to get them home.

Q69 Anas Sarwar: Are they quite equally dispersed around the whole flood areas or are there certain difficult areas that we have not really been able to get into?

Andrew Mitchell: As I said, in the north the floods have receded and, therefore, the recovery stage is much further forward. In Sindh, sadly, that is not the case, but on a more positive note, many of us were extremely worried in the autumn that, because the water was lying in Sindh and not draining-Sindh is built on clay-there was a very real danger of an epidemic of cholera and waterborne diseases breaking out. That is why we took considerable steps to try to mitigate the danger of that, which has largely been successful.

Q70 Anas Sarwar: In terms of the role that the Pakistan Government can play alongside the private sector and also UN agencies like the World Food Programme, what continuing effort has been made to try to get the levels of nutrition higher, particularly in the south? Is there sufficient funding coming from the World Food Programme? Is the private sector engaging in that process in terms of trying to build capacity in the affected areas?

Andrew Mitchell: The work of the private sector has been good. There is not a problem with funding. Nutrition is incredibly important and, indeed, protection in camps as well, both of which we have tried very hard to ensure that we tackle. It may be worth my just saying a word on that point, on the Citizen’s Damage Compensation Scheme, under which the Government of Pakistan introduced this cash transfer programme based on bank cards. It was bold, ambitious and, actually, quite successful. Payments were in the order of £150 to some 1.5 million flood-affected households. This initiative was scaled up at the point where 30,000 cards were being issued per day at one point. It is a very effective way of getting funding through to families and communities that have been very badly affected by it. We are, in principle, willing to fund this programme in the next phase, together with the World Bank and other donors, subject to our being absolutely certain that the probity of it is firm.

Q71 Anas Sarwar: From the last session we had with four representatives of the NGOs, we had a discussion about the diaspora community and about the fundraising that they did for the flood relief. A representative from Islamic Relief told us that £30 million was raised by the diaspora community, outwith the DEC appeal. One of the concerns that you have from particularly the diaspora community, which partly relates to the relationship and confidence they have in the Pakistan Government, is a very low level of trust of NGOs, governments-both the Pakistan Government and international Governments-and global agencies about their effectiveness, transparency and accountability, and fears that aid and support are given for political reasons rather than for the alleviation of poverty. What more can DFID do as a Department to build that relationship with the diaspora community and build that confidence so that we can get better co-ordination of that money going in and then make sure we are maximising the benefit for Pakistan itself and any other country that might be affected by such tragedies?

Andrew Mitchell: You are absolutely right: that was exactly the concern of the diaspora community. When I came back from my visit to Pakistan after the floods, I did a big meeting in Birmingham with large numbers of the diaspora community, and that was exactly what they were saying. Of course, none of our funding goes through the Government, so that was quite helpful.

In terms of the diaspora community and, in particular, remittances, remittances ran at $743 million a month before the flooding. They then went up about 18% to $874 million per month, so there was a huge increase in support from the diaspora community. Of course, private philanthropy, both national and international, as we can see from the UN Financial Tracking Service, in spite of the difficulties with that, show that private donations totalled some $230 million as of this month, which is 15% of the total and the second largest source of funding. So, it is not only the diaspora communities who fund it through their families; it is also local communities who were just outside the affected areas in Pakistan also supporting communities that were directly affected by the flooding. I went to visit, in a military camp, a military school that had been turned over to the local community who had been flooded out of their homes and who were living there, and the military and others had given up their homes to make sure that accommodation and food was available. That too is an example of private philanthropy coming to bear.

Q72 Jeremy Lefroy: As a follow-up to that, which is perhaps slightly more general but does specifically relate to remittances by diaspora, I think a number of us have been somewhat concerned that the diaspora in the UK who would be making remittances particularly in an emergency like this and may be making them directly to Pakistan, very much for charitable purposes, would be missing out on tax relief under Gift Aid. As part of the assessment of the reaction to the emergency, might it be possible to look at that particular aspect, because it could be that considerable sums of money that could additionally have gone in terms of tax relief through Gift Aid mechanisms were forgone because of the need to get money out very quickly by the diaspora?

Andrew Mitchell: It is an interesting point-let us reflect on it. The Government having got agreement from the Treasury for the very significant increase in development funding, I would be very loath to go back to the Treasury and ask for anything in addition to that through the taxation system.

Q73 Jeremy Lefroy: May I just come back on that? As we all know, the purpose of Gift Aid is to encourage individual donations rather than it coming through the Government. Clearly, there is an implication for the Treasury there, but in order to persuade citizens that their donations are of even more value, that might be something that Government could look at for the future.

Andrew Mitchell: Let us reflect upon that.

Q74 Alison McGovern: You have already covered, Secretary of State, your role in liaising with the UN and your view on cluster systems. In terms of the effectiveness and distance travelled of the UN humanitarian system, do you think it is better than it was five years ago?

Andrew Mitchell: Yes, I do. It is clearly moving in the right direction, but I think that Lord Ashdown’s report will give us plenty of food for thought on how we move it more quickly in that direction.

Q75 Mr Gyimah: You have obviously covered the unprecedented scale; together with the slow onset, you can see how the floods took both the national and international community by surprise, which raises the issue of disaster preparedness and reconstruction. Do you think the floods could have been predicted at all and could their impact have been significantly reduced as a result?

Andrew Mitchell: I do not. I think that this is a once-in-a-hundred-years event. Something that takes place once a century is an unprecedented event.

Q76 Mr Gyimah: The reason is because, apparently, there was some information-and this is just based on press articles-from European weather-monitoring systems and, had that information been shared with Pakistan, they would have probably been better prepared. I wonder whether that is something that DFID could look at doing further down the line.

Andrew Mitchell: We certainly should do everything we can, given that expert advice suggests that there will be more of these disasters, alas, in future years. There will be more frequent and more severe weather conditions, partly as a result of climate change, which is already unavoidable. So I think early warning work is enormously important. Indeed, there is clear evidence in many countries that there is a strong focus on that: the use of mobile phones to give people advance warning of changing weather patterns is something we are increasingly seeing in Africa.

Q77 Mr Gyimah: So, I take it DFID will be putting together some specific measures as far as this is concerned, which takes us back to the financial aspect of it and whether, responding to humanitarian situations like this, we will be including disaster reduction into the way we look at things.

Andrew Mitchell: Yes. Firstly, the cost of this disaster-nearly $12 billion; that includes both humanitarian and reconstruction costs-represents nearly 10% of global spending on international development, so that is a wake-up call both about the effect of climate change and also the importance of disaster preparedness. I am pretty confident that Lord Ashdown’s review will make clear that issues of preparedness are very central to how we tackle this in the future.

Q78 Mr Gyimah: Great. Could you just shed some light on how you would integrate this into your development programmes?

Andrew Mitchell: Integrate what?

Q79 Mr Gyimah: Integrate disaster reduction into development programmes.

Andrew Mitchell: It is something that we do on the ground. In every country where we have a bilateral programme, we are acutely conscious of this. For example, a very senior official from my Department is currently in Nepal looking at precisely that, because of the dangers that inevitably exist in that country.

Q80 Mr Gyimah: What plans do you have to strengthen the support for the HFA framework.

Andrew Mitchell: For the…?

Mr Gyimah: The Hyogo Framework for Action. What plans do you have to strengthen the support for that?

Andrew Mitchell: They are emerging. Actually, that is an issue. Can I write to the Committee on that issue, rather than take up time now, because I think that might be the most helpful way to address that point?

Chair: I was slightly distracted at one point and I was-

Andrew Mitchell: I was trying to speed up, Mr Chairman.

Chair: No, that is fine, because it is an important issue. We had a very lively discussion from the previous witnesses, which I think Richard Burden would wish to address, about the role of the military, and also the security issues and how they affect the image of the aid community.

Q81 Richard Burden: In the north of the country, clearly this wasn’t simply a disaster that was awesome in its scale, but the issue of conflict also gave it a very specific and quite serious dimension. From your perspective, Secretary of State, how do you feel that the conflict in the north actually impacted on the ability either of the UN or its agencies, NGOs or donors such as us to deliver humanitarian aid to those in need?

Andrew Mitchell: Paradoxically, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ability to deliver, as I said earlier, because it was near the earthquake and because there were some systems on the ground, was better than elsewhere--better, for example, than in Sindh, where there were virtually no NGOs at all. Although the north is, as you said, conflicted, on the ground, in terms of delivery after the disaster struck, there was greater effectiveness in the north than there was in the south.

Q82 Richard Burden: Partly because the military were there and the military have got the assets and the organisation to do that?

Andrew Mitchell: That was not the aspect I was referring to; I was referring to the fact that there were NGOs and others there. That is partly true. I don’t know what your former witnesses said about this, but clearly it is very difficult in a situation like this, where you have soldiers who have been deployed in an offensive capacity in villages coming back with aid and support. It is not an easy situation to manage and that is a complication on the ground. This gets caught up in the wider debate about the operation in conflict zones and so on, where I do not agree fully with the Oxfam report that has been published. I think that we should be active in development terms in very conflicted areas, because the people who live there are doubly wretched: not only are they poor but they are also caught up in conflict and, therefore, I think that there is no contradiction in trying to do development and humanitarian relief in areas of conflict.

Q83 Richard Burden: I am not sure whether the debate is whether or not you should be active, or we should be active; it is a question about what that activity should consist of and perhaps the context in which the activity takes place. For example, in Pakistan, one of the areas where there was some debate was over the use of NATO, and NATO aircraft, in that relief effort. From an effectiveness point of view, it may well have been that the use of NATO aircraft would have been a sensible thing to do and, as I understand it, that was something that Britain was supporting. Nevertheless, both a number of NGOs on the ground and, interestingly, OCHA said the impact of this in terms of confidence of people on the ground and perceptions could actually be counterproductive. Do you think they may have been right on that? Did they have a point? Whether or not they were right, how do you and the international community resolve those very genuine debates about how you deliver aid in conflict situations?

Andrew Mitchell: Firstly, let us be clear that Britain is a very strong supporter of humanitarian aid, which is blind to the rights and wrongs of a conflict but which seeks to get through support to very desperate people. If you talk to the ICRC, they will tell you that we are one of their strongest supporters and we are absolutely true to that humanitarian principle, and that is enormously important. In the floods, I remember a particular conversation with the Secretary General, where I was urging him to make use of military assets, and I think the position of the UN, as I recall, was that they would have been happy to use NATO assets but they wanted to use NATO civilian planes rather than military planes, so there was that fine distinction, if you like.

I am in favour of using all assets in these emergencies to support desperate people, with the proviso I just mentioned about the troop deployments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other areas, and the difficulties of instilling confidence in populations you are trying to assist. The RAF made a number of flights to bring much-needed relief and assistance, and I am enormously proud of the contribution that the British military made in that respect. We were able to provide a much-needed bridge that we bought off the military to supply as part of our much bigger bridge provision for the disaster. The role of the military, and particularly the British military, limited though it was, was enormously important.

Q84 Richard Burden: I do not think the debate is really around intention; at least I did not pick up from the NGOs that, in a sense, those who have been critical doubt either the expertise, professionalism and commitment of the UK military or certainly the intention of DFID, which has a really good reputation internationally. It is much more the question of the interface between the intention and how that is perceived on the ground and, if it is not perceived in the way that we would wish, whether that itself can undermine the aid effort.

The point that was put to us, for example, is, if there is perceived to be a UK agenda, and the development and aid effort is reported as being about our national interests--perfectly rightly, and in fact you have said this today--and those national interests are perceived to be about, for example, the military activity in Afghanistan, in the north of Pakistan the aid effort is seen to be all about British and American ambitions in the area and people will be told, "You are being used". If that is how it comes over to people, does that get in the way of the aid effort? Is that something where we just have to say, "That is just one of those things; we can plough on regardless," or do we need to be a bit more sophisticated and sensitive to that and, if so, how?

Andrew Mitchell: I think we are very sensitive to that point. Let me just make clear that we had three military flights and seven civilian flights, which brought 4,500 tents and nearly 15,000 shelter kits into Pakistan-much-needed equipment. In respect of the overall point you are making, the whole of Britain’s development budget, as I think we are agreeing, is spent on Britain’s national interest, because it is in our interest to eradicate these appalling extremes of poverty that disfigure our world today. Some of Britain’s development effort is in Britain’s security interest, undoubtedly. The work we are doing in Afghanistan is part of Britain’s security interest. The reason we are in Afghanistan is because it was a base for terrorists who wished to attack us and kill us, but long after the last British combat soldier has gone from Afghanistan, we will still be doing development work there, because Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. I am trying directly to confront your point about Afghanistan.

What I am saying is that I think it is confused thinking to say that working in conflicted states somehow contaminates development. Not only do I believe it does not contaminate development, but I think it is to reach out to some of the most wretched people in the world.

Q85 Richard Burden: But who is saying that international donors should not work in conflict areas? As I understand it, that is not the argument; it is how one works in conflicted areas, who does what, and the relationship between that and the security and foreign policies of those countries.

Andrew Mitchell: I think I hear some people say that the development effort alongside the British military effort in Afghanistan is somehow contaminating development policy. My argument is that that is completely wrong.

Q86 Chair: We had a robust statement from MSF, who will not accept Government aid in conflict zones such as Pakistan and Afghanistan, and others, who quite strongly said that was because-the things you have just said-that there is a security and national-interest consideration that somehow taints, compromises or corrupts the objective of aid, and they do not want to be associated with it. Quite specifically, MSF says, "We believe it damages our integrity and independence to be associated with DFID for that reason." I think it is interesting in your earlier remark that the Red Cross do not appear to have the same inhibitions, and yet would probably normally use the same arguments.

Andrew Mitchell: You have put your finger, Mr Chairman, on the point that there is a debate here. We are passionate supporters of MSF. We know them very well. We respect them hugely and the impact they have. I am sure this is a developing debate that will be resolved well.

Q87 Richard Burden: Could I just ask one final question on this? As far as UK policy is concerned, would you see a distinction between the approach that the UK may make and the extent to which it is sensitive to these issues, and that might influence what it does, if the context is one of humanitarian aid, with the very specific rules around what humanitarian aid is meant to be about and broader questions of development?

Andrew Mitchell: I hope I am being very clear that, on the humanitarian principle, which you articulated, we are absolutely in the same place. What I am saying is I think some of the sensitivity that is shared by MSF and Oxfam, but not by others, as the Chairman was just saying, is misplaced, and I think we need to thrash this out and try to persuade some others that it is misplaced.

Chair: There are some questions on the cluster system.

Q88 Anas Sarwar: I have a quick question on UN co-ordination. One of the concerns that was raised by several NGOs is basically the cluster system: it is not moving in the right direction in terms of co-ordination, and one example was given of 600 organisations represented at one cluster meeting. I just wonder what leadership the UK can take in trying to reform the cluster system and make it work better in terms of identifying a project head and them having sub-clusters, with, again, sub-heads, to make sure there is a more co-ordinated effort rather than just talking shops and wasting time and resource. I am just wondering what leadership DFID can take on that.

Andrew Mitchell: That is one of the reasons why I set up the Humanitarian and Emergency Response review, precisely because I think that co-ordination-this is true across lots of areas of development, not just humanitarian relief-is a big issue that we have made progress on-the cluster system itself was progress-but there is still long way to go. I am pretty sure that, when all of us have a chance to read and reflect on Lord Ashdown’s review, we will see that he is targeting that area as well, and I am very hopeful he will come up with some interesting ideas on how to progress.

Q89 Anas Sarwar: Can you give us an assurance that the UK will be leading from the front in that debate?

Andrew Mitchell: I can give Mr Sarwar that assurance, yes.

Q90 Chair: That probably leads to the final question. This Committee produced a report in 2006, nearly five years ago, on the response to humanitarian disasters. That was also focused on Pakistan. We went to look at the earthquake, or the post-situation of the earthquake. Precisely on Mr Sarwar’s question, the cluster system was pioneered in Pakistan. It did not work very well, and then we have had another mega-disaster and it did not seem to work any better really-that is the impression one gets. Is that because it was a mega-disaster of a different scale and maybe it is impossible to plan and co-ordinate, other than to respond as best as you can? On that final point, how much do you think DFID has the capacity to push the international community to come up with some better solutions and responses to these kinds of disasters?

Andrew Mitchell: The cluster system undoubtedly worked better this time as a result of the experience that had been gleaned from before and, of course, it is interesting to note that General Nadeem, who was in charge of the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority and who had been very active as a soldier during the earthquake, was an active head of the disaster authority during the flooding crisis. Having that continuity was significant in making the system work better than it would have otherwise. Of course, as a soldier in the earthquake, he had been able to issue orders, which were obeyed, and with a civilian working with the disaster authority it was obviously not so easy to achieve the necessary results. I think that progress was made, but I would go back to my earlier point to which you alluded, which is that this was a disaster that was greater than the earthquake, the Boxing Day tsunami and the events in Haiti all rolled into one. It was just the sheer scale of the disaster that would have defeated any organisation on earth.

Q91 Chair: Just to repeat my last question, the Committee was in New York with the United Nations in November. Previous witnesses have given credit for the fact that DFID commands respect, provides pressure and can actually help influence outcomes, and obviously Lord Ashdown is going to be making some recommendations along those lines too. How strongly do you believe DFID has the capacity to help the international community find better ways of co-ordinating and responding to these kinds of disasters? I am not asking you to be arrogant; I am asking you to be genuinely objective about what you think our capacity is.

Andrew Mitchell: My conclusion to your questions, Chairman, is that DFID is probably the organisation best placed anywhere in the world to have that effect. I do not want to sound as though I am being complacent in any sense, but I think that DFID’s reach, expertise and experience within the system out on the ground, operating through its bilateral programmes around the world, being at the forefront of relief on many of these disasters, having a pivotal position in New York, working incredibly closely with the UN and the multilateral system, the fact that we have engaged in this Multilateral Aid Review, which is being watched and appreciated not only within the system itself where, for some organisations, it is quite an edgy exercise, but in the donor community too, gives DFID unprecedented leadership.

I am absolutely determined that Britain, not least building on the consensus that exists politically about the importance of this, will continue to exercise very strong leadership on all these issues through the fact that we are a significant donor, through the fact that we have very significant expertise in how you handle these issues, and through our very strong engagement through the G20, the G8, the Security Council-and the Commonwealth, indeed-which gives us huge authority, based upon our expertise, to exercise very strong influence as these decisions are made and as these issues develop.

Chair: Thank you for that, and I think we will look forward with interest to see how that progresses. Obviously, we will make our own comments and our own report, and I am sure Lord Ashdown’s review will have quite a significant contribution. Certainly, from the briefing we have had, it seems to me some quite imaginative thinking and suggestions are coming out of it. Can I thank you very much indeed for coming in again and giving us the benefit of your evidence? I appreciate that you obviously took a personal role in providing leadership in this situation, which is not insignificant. It is not terribly helpful, I guess, when you are in the middle of a different operation in Rwanda to find that you are actually co-ordinating an international relief effort out of London, so it was fortunate that you were perhaps in Rwanda and not somewhere else, but thank you very much anyway for giving us that evidence.

Andrew Mitchell: Thank you very much.