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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Jay said in her penetrating and comprehensive
 
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speech, the UK development programme has had an extraordinarily successful year, but more remains to be done to keep the Gleneagles commitments on track. I should like to go back to the underlying purpose of all this development aid—to enable states to take charge of their own development, just as we do, with loans and credit perhaps, but at the behest and with the tax revenue of our own citizens.

The Department for International Development does foster this approach, with extensive work on capacity-building of all kinds; and there are results. Investment is increasing broadly throughout the developing world—although that is not only due to DfID—even in Africa. There it is at last becoming really African. UNIDO found that the most frequent investors, leaving aside petroleum and mining, in the 10 African countries it surveyed were themselves African, and that in Tanzania more than 60 per cent of investors are African. Real GDP growth in Africa is expected to average 5 per cent by the end of this year.

But that average would be much better if it were not dragged down by countries whose economies are sabotaged by war, tyranny and corruption; the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester spoke eloquently about the last. As for war, here DfID's aid programme needs to call on joined-up government. The first call is surely to reduce conflict. No development can take place—indeed it will run backward—when the state has disappeared under the impact of the uncontrollable conduct of armed militias and its citizens are without homes, services or even safety. My right honourable friend Jack Straw is on record as pressing for an international arms trade treaty. This is supported by our Defence Manufacturers Association and key trades unionists. It has the support of 43 other countries, including all the EU member states. There is an urgent need for international common standards for arms transfers to conflict-affected regions in Africa and elsewhere, and for common extra-territorial controls over arms brokers, traffickers and transport agents. I ask my noble friend, how can the Government accelerate the progress of this treaty?

Tyranny is a strange economic phenomenon. There are countries which seem to be pulling themselves out of poverty according to their growth rate—but if we look at the median, rather than the per capita income, we see a different story. And if we look at education and health, particularly of women and children, and the other human development indices, we see countries with close to as much misery as much poorer ones—and some with even more potential for instability and conflict.

The World Bank's World Development Report 2006 gives a very high place to equality of opportunity in its analysis of successful development. It cites market failures in supply of credit, land, education and, I would add, health; it adds that political inequality means that these deprivations are perpetuated over generations; and, I would add again, regional and ethnic inequality aggravate the tension caused by political inequality, and all these foment instability and conflict.
 
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Democracy is our answer to political inequality. It is not a term beloved by all developing countries and I am attracted by Amartya Sen's description of democracy as "public reasoning" in his latest book, The Argumentative Indian, or, less succinctly, as,

Those practices can be valued even by people who say democracy is a western concept of only relative value. How does a western aid department foster them?

Well, first, it should recognise their existence. DflD's support for the African Union, whose female officers protect some of the women of Darfur, is a good example. Perhaps more could be made of AU milestones. The ratification of the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in 2004 went pretty much unnoticed in the British media. The protocol on women's rights, achieved last year, is worth some western celebration, not least in view of our often-expressed abhorrence of female genital mutilation, which it outlaws. Although the abolition of such a widespread practice must be difficult, we should recognise that here are African women publicly deciding to do away with a hideous inequality themselves. I hope the DfID office in Nairobi expressed support.

Another stimulus to effective democracy is placing very great weight on internationally agreed human rights. Rights are intrinsically claimable and therefore inimical to tyranny. This must be the rationale for DfID's diversion of development aid from the Government of Ethiopia, as my noble friend Lady Jay said, because of the serious and repeated violations of rights by the Ethiopian Government. We should note that DfID will be working with other donors to make sure that poor people in Ethiopia will still receive help for education, health and water. DflD's robust refinement of policy on conditionality, published last March, says:

That policy also shows we mean business about democracy. Here, I echo my noble friend Lady Jay's support for Tom Clarke's Bill which, if it passes, might answer some of the very pertinent questions posed by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza. I hope that if it passes, your Lordships will allow me to introduce it in this House.

Finally, the UK development aid programme also needs joined-up support wherever the Government as a whole discuss our common interest in a peaceful world, in Saudi Arabia, in Russia, in Israel, in China and elsewhere. Human rights and democratic practice in one country are vulnerable to the conduct of other countries with influential investment, or with military activity. The forthcoming DfID White Paper and its innovatory consultation initiative are opportunities to discuss the inter-relatedness of all these issues. Kofi Annan summed it up:
 
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3.38 pm

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, for introducing the debate, and for reminding the Government of their promises. I also want to congratulate the Secretary of State on his determination to see through the G8 recommendations, and those of the Commission for Africa. It is difficult for him to follow previous Secretaries of State, all of whom have shown tremendous commitment to poverty reduction. It is not easy for him, or anyone, to shine in a new job when your Prime Minister and Chancellor both want to be in on the act. He somehow seems to have weathered all of that.

The Minister herself may admit that there has been some element of public relations in our aid policy, which can disguise true achievement. That should not cloud the Government's sincerity in eradicating poverty.

Last year saw the culmination of several initiatives building up to and emerging from our presidency of the EU and the G8. There is now almost a hiatus, as the cost of meeting the MDGs is measured against other spending priorities. There will be a doubling of aid by 2010—an extra US$50 billion worldwide and US$25 billion for Africa. The Africa Commission called for an increase in aid to Africa alone of $50 billion by 2015. Whether or not either of those are realistic figures, we are now closer to reaching a timetable to meet existing UN targets. However, with regard to the UK's aid budget, while delighted that we are well over half way to 0.7 per cent by 2013, I am not clear how we can justify those percentages on the basis of borrowed money.

The international finance facility is only at a pilot stage. My concern, derived from research, but also from common sense, is that the UK's present proposal leaves open the possibility that aid flows will fall after 2015 when IFF bonds start to be repaid. Surely, that will be unacceptable. What will happen in a recession or when there is a change of government? The amount of money received by the poor cannot be allowed to fall as a percentage of GDP simply because donors have been unable to raise the money. There are other aspects of the IFF that remain unclear, such as which countries will be eligible for funding and what additional conditionality will the IFF impose on borrowers. On the quality and conditionality of UK aid, I agree wholly with my noble friend Lady D'Souza on better targeting. Budget support is not working in Ethiopia, where we have heard that DfID is rightly making a stand for human rights, so aid spending will go down in one of Africa's poorest countries, and probably others.
 
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On debt, the G8 calls for the immediate cancellation of the debts of 18 of the world's poorest countries, most of which are in Africa. This is a welcome deal: we are told that it is worth $40 billion now, and as much as $55 billion as more countries qualify. It includes writing off $17 billion of Nigeria's debt, as we have heard, in the biggest single debt deal ever. That sounds good for the poor of that country who have waited a long time: 100 per cent debt cancellation for Nigeria was seen as a key breakthrough during the G8 process. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, rightly said, it now seems that to earn it, Nigeria will have to make a huge payment of $7 billion to the Paris Club to get the remaining 60 per cent of its debt written off. In effect, that will take from Nigeria money that was earmarked for fighting poverty and securing its economy. Are we not pressing the new government, who are responding to calls for good governance and transparency, by insisting on these repayments now? Debt relief, therefore, is rarely what it appears to the public in press releases. In some countries, up to 50 per cent of the debt burden is domestic debt, which is largely owed to international banks. This domestic crisis must also be tackled.

Moving briefly on to trade, we all know that Hong Kong was disappointing, but there is a commitment to end all export subsidies and to reduce trade distorting domestic subsidies. However, this Government still support the EU policy to introduce economic partnership agreements, even with the poorest countries. I remind the Minister what the Africa Commission said quite bluntly:

I know that I have raised this before, and the position has slightly improved for the LDCS, but I am still not satisfied that the Cotonou agreement is being honoured.

One of the best things about the G8 is that it intends to hand over responsibility to developing countries who will,

So, for Africa, there is now the Africa Partnership Forum. A joint action plan is being drawn up to incorporate the commitments made by African governments and development partners. It will integrate Africa Union and NePAD programmes, such as the Short Term Action Plan and the African Enterprise Challenge Fund, which will be operational this year, the G8 Africa Action Plan, Gleneagles commitments and the Millennium Review Summit commitments, not to forget the African Peer Review Mechanism.

These are all welcome initiatives, but they are optimistic. You only have to look at the websites behind all these acronyms to realise how long a process this is going to be. Let donors not be under any illusion that anything much is going to happen this year.

We are making some progress towards the MDGs, although not as much as the G8 would like. For example, they would like countries to get as close as
 
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possible to universal access to HIV/AIDS treatments by 2010, but there is a $3 billion dollar shortfall in the aid programme for AIDS; or that by 2015 all children will have access to good quality, free and compulsory education, and to basic healthcare. We all know that these are admirable goals, but unachievable in that timescale.

The DfID's interesting 2005 autumn performance report tells its own story of progress, referring to 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The poverty target of 46 per cent is on an amber traffic light—no change by 2008. Primary school enrolment is only up if you take out Nigeria, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo—amber again, moving to red. There are not enough girls in schools; gender parity rates are declining, even in eastern and southern African schools, where we would hope to get the best results. Infant mortality is gradually declining—on a green light—but again you have to take out Nigeria and the DRC, which are still over 200 per 1,000 births. Assisted births are unchanged, partly because in Ethiopia only 6 per cent of mothers have birth attendants.

With such figures, it is no wonder that the PSA targets—in annex B—have had to be revised or redrafted. We must be grateful for this evidence of statistical honesty.

Finally, but still speaking of figures, it is worth remembering that the statistics of world poverty understandably apply to settled peoples, who live mainly in cities or in agricultural regions. The pastoralists, who occupy the marginal land, the semi-desert, the marshes and the mountain ranges of Africa and elsewhere, are generally unsurveyed and uncounted. But they are a significant number. By and large, they have no political representation and they rarely get a mention in government policies or parliamentary debates even in their own countries.

It is to the credit of DfID, of the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex and of others such as the Pastoralist Communication Initiative, based in Addis Ababa, that the voice of pastoralists is increasingly being heard. I encourage the Government to continue to strengthen this important work, which I hope will be the subject of a future debate.

3.50 pm


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