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Lord Jordan: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate. Yes, 2005 could prove to be a watershed in the fight against poverty in the developing world. The decisions taken this year by leaders of the developed nations on this issue will be a measure of their determination to tackle the world's greatest injustice. Britain has taken a significant lead on this vital matter. The initiatives taken by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and the Department for International Development, especially those that affect Africa, can have far-reaching beneficial consequences.

When, in September 2000, governments around the world signed up to the eight millennium goals, the new century seemed to offer the real promise of a breakthrough in ending the poverty and suffering of millions of people. But in September of this year, those same governments will have to conclude that, on present trends, the millennium goals will not be met. There has been progress but, when it is set against the
 
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enormity of the work still to be done, in the business of moving the mountain of world poverty we are still digging in the foothills.

The appalling statistics on world poverty must throw down the gauntlet to world leaders at this year's millennium review and provoke them to show more commitment and determination to honour the promises that they made five years ago. Undoubtedly, the serious reversals in the fight against poverty in Africa will rightly overshadow the millennium review's work.

The seriousness of the situation on that continent cannot be overstated. The Prime Minister's Commission for Africa initiative will provide a much-needed focus and a springboard for the resolution of some of the continent's many and massive problems. On current trends, poverty will not only not be halved on that continent by 2015, it will have increased by 86 million. Because of the ravages of AIDS, the continent's clock on life expectancy has been turned back.

The main factor causing the failure to meet the millennium targets is lack of resources. The failure to fulfil the financial promises made at Monterey and Johannesburg means that now all developed countries must commit to meeting the 0.7 per cent of GDP by 2015. Five countries have already reached the target, and Britain is among a group of nations committed to reaching it. International pressure must now be brought to bear on those countries that can and should pull their weight on this issue.

Gordon Brown's initiative on financing for development is an important means of increasing aid and eliminating debt to achieve the millennium goals. America would do well to recognise the degree of self-interest that it has in backing that proposal to the full. But whether it is aid or debt relief, the one condition that must be observed is the transparency of seeing that it is transformed into more schools and hospitals and invested in job creation.

Countries should own and dictate the way that their poverty reduction strategies are drawn up and delivered, but they have an obligation to donors and the people of their country to show that what the aid was intended to achieve is being delivered. Never again must the system be as weak as when Nigeria was being given 1 billion dollars in aid while its President Abacha and his family were robbing the people of that country of 3 billion to 4 billion dollars.

The murderous human consequences of conflicts such as those that have ravaged some African countries are tragically clear, but the legacy for survivors is a guarantee of poverty. The present UN peacekeeping force is a sad shadow of what is required to restore stability in conflict-ridden states. No nation should have the right to an autonomy that permits its government to slaughter its own people or do nothing while its people are slaughtering each other. The UN should not have the right or excuse to stand aside.

If a small proportion of the 900 billion dollars that the world's nations spend on arming themselves was
 
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spent on building a highly trained, properly equipped UN peacekeeping force with a clear authority to stop murder, it would be a significant contribution towards conflict resolution and a major step forward in the fight against poverty.

If we are looking for an effective weapon to tackle poverty, governments and international agencies should increase the involvement of trade unions and non-governmental organisations. They comprise men and women who are present and know what is really happening at the point of crisis—the place where solutions must be delivered. Trade unions, in particular, see decent work of the kind championed by the International Labour Organisation as being at the heart of poverty elimination. This year, through Britain's role in chairing both the G8 and the European Community, the Prime Minister and others have a unique opportunity to challenge the conscience of the developed nations and to urge them to think and act radically on aid and debt relief. In doing so, Britain will positively and decisively influence the course of the world's struggle to eliminate world poverty.

Lord Rea: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Jordan for that cogent and stirring speech. My noble friend Lady Whitaker has chosen the right timing for this debate. As she and others reminded us, three very important statements on relieving world poverty have just been published. There is the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech in Edinburgh on 6 January and his subsequent remarks in Africa; there is the OECD report on development assistance; and, last but not least, Jeffrey Sachs's UN report on the progress, or should we say lack of progress, towards meeting the millennium development goals. At the same time, the NGO consortium, Make Poverty History, has launched its campaign.

The remarkable fact is that they are all singing from more or less the same hymn sheet. To be effective, the attack on world poverty, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, must move simultaneously on three fronts. Many other noble Lords have described these; they are: effective—I stress that word—aid for infrastructure building; debt cancellation; and fair trade, so well discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and my noble friend Lord Desai.

But these are measures that those in the development field have been advocating for decades. It is excellent that these policies are now being advocated from positions of influence, but there is still more rhetoric than action, compelling though some of the rhetoric is. For that reason, I very much hope that the Chancellor and the Prime Minister will use all their persuasive skills at the forthcoming G8 meetings and at the EU summit when we take over the presidency. The method advocated by my noble friend Lord Desai to persuade other countries to our point of view may need some refinement. It would not be helpful to lock them up in a room and refuse to give them the key until they have agreed—but I understand precisely what he was getting at.
 
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As many noble Lords have said, Gordon Brown is now calling for a new Marshall plan for the developing world. I can remember when, 20 years ago in your Lordships' House, my late friend Lord John Hatch, a lifelong friend of Africa, called for a Marshall plan for Africa. But a different government were then in power and those who knew him will remember that John Hatch lacked the diplomatic approach. He was the only noble Lord that I can remember who provoked a Motion that, "The noble Lord be no longer heard", when he once harried a Minister in true Paxman style.

It is almost impossible to do justice to the millennium project report—the Sachs report from the United Nations—in a short speech, but I should like to mention two of the many important points made in the overview of the report which has been published. It highlights the strong relationship between poverty and what it calls "adverse income shocks" on the onset of conflict. The converse is also true—that the risk of violent civil conflict declines steadily as national incomes increase. Conflict resolution therefore obviously has to be a top priority, because development cannot occur where civil society is disrupted.

Under the heading "Escaping the poverty trap", the report states that investment in human capital,

My noble friend will need no reminder of how important that aspect of development assistance is within the overall strategy. I hope that funds for this sector will be maintained and, if possible, increased. Some would like population matters to be considered as a ninth goal for the millennium.

On a different tack, I draw my noble friend's attention to a small but highly important organisation, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. It is a Swiss-based multinational foundation. This consortium promotes research and development of drugs for diseases that predominantly affect millions of poor people in the developing world—tropical diseases such as sleeping sickness or trypanosomiasis, Chagas's disease and Kala-Azar, as well as TB and malaria. It is not profitable for big multinational pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs for those diseases, because poor people in the developing world who suffer from them cannot afford such drugs.

The DNDI uses innovative methods of harnessing resources, including public/private partnerships, to develop the drugs. It has a draw-down fund which needs around 150 million dollars a year in replenishment. In a few years, it has identified around 50 promising new compounds, but needs more support. If a meeting is not already in train, I suggest that my noble friend or one of his senior officials meets a representative of the DNDI to discuss future collaboration. That could well be very beneficial to the poorest people in the world.
 
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6.22 p.m.


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