Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

We should be grateful to the Government and, in particular, to the Minister, Andrew Mitchell, who have, in the recent past, realised the importance of this crucial aspect of development. In particular, they are prepared to use plain and straightforward language in encouraging these ends. That significant change of emphasis by the Conservatives was achieved well before the advent of the coalition, but I am sure it has the full and enlightened support of the Liberal Democrats. In this case, as we heard, the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, is very much on message. We are looking forward to seeing how the Government will put their words and intentions into practice.

One particular and important aspect of this is the statistical increase in the proportion of young people in the overall population in less-developed countries who could benefit from help in this field. In many countries, it makes strong sense to target them at an early stage as an investment to avoid multiple later problems, and that is the direction and focus of many agencies now. It is only by investing in the reproductive and sexual needs of this massive cohort of young people that we can hope to begin to achieve MDG 5.

Some of us have been agitating about a considerable setback since the Cairo conference in meeting the scale of contraceptive availability promised there. That has fallen woefully short. In this context we rightly talk about unmet need for contraception. It is estimated that more than 200 million women in less developed countries have such an unmet need.

In a recent article in the Times, Matthew Parris had an excellent summary of this population dilemma, but at the end he partly implied that we were defeated by not wanting to confront and tell people what to do. That was a distant yesterday. For the past few years, particularly since the Cairo conference, if we can meet it and respond to it, there is very much a demand and an unmet need for reproductive health, particularly from women, without the need of resorting to any forceful methods.

In talking like this we should not and do not forget the disproportionate damage to the environment and to sustainability caused by the developed world, but that was not the main focus of MDGs. To use one of the current criteria, I believe that the department and the Minister fully realise the value for money of even small investments in this field and the disproportionate effect it has on other MDGs.

7 Oct 2010 : Column 311

In addressing this subject and having read the Minister's speech at his party conference on Tuesday, where he was talking about creating a private sector division in his department, the area to which I have been referring, reproductive health, would seem to be one of the ideal candidates for such treatment. Referring to that same speech, which very much touched on previous departmental profligacy, I hope that the Minister will view the uses or abuses of the huge percentage of overseas aid which we are currently obliged to channel via the EU.

5.21 pm

Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I just have one central point to make. Everyone acknowledges that while some good progress has been made in meeting the millennium development goals, progress in too many areas, such as malnutrition, maternal mortality and HIV, has been sporadic and patchy. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that in setting the goals, no attention was paid to what should be the central motor of the development process-the provision of a free and independent media.

I speak as chairman of the Commonwealth Press Union Media Trust, which aims to enhance press freedom throughout the Commonwealth, and I declare an interest accordingly. Experience from within the Commonwealth shows how free media can contribute enormously to the development of democracy and good governance, which are the foundation stones for the achievement of the MDGs.

A media that is free and robust, such as in India, Botswana, Kenya and the Caribbean island states, calls government to account. My noble friend Lord Chidgey, to whom we owe a great debt for securing this debate, rightly talked about empowering the poor to hold their governments to account. It needs a free media to do that. A free media will also take seriously its educative role in communicating objective information. In many countries, independent television and radio have been a successful platform for social information programmes to disseminate vital health messages. But state-run media, with journalists often cowed by the threat of jail, always end up doing a government's bidding. In much of sub-Saharan Africa, including Ethiopia and Eritrea, where progress on meeting the MDGs has been slowest, this means the propagation of misinformation campaigns through which the population is often actively misled about subjects of major importance. There could be no better or more tragic example of this than the failed state of Zimbabwe, where the Government hold a vice-like grip on all information, with grave consequences for public health, which means that life expectancy is now just 33 years.

A report from UNESCO in 2007, Press Freedom and Development, outlined the strong correlation between media freedom and progress in meeting the MDGs, concluding that,

It highlighted how no country has both a free press and a very large percentage of its population living below the poverty line, how life expectancy improves as governance does and how media freedom makes it more likely that sound public health policies will be introduced. Let us look, for instance, at Ghana, which

7 Oct 2010 : Column 312

has an independent media whose freedoms are enshrined in the constitution. Its president, John Atta Mills, has worked in partnership with the media to instigate imaginative programmes to move the country forward toward the millennium goals, particularly in relation to HIV/AIDS. In Kenya, much progress has been powered by Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai and her Green Belt Movement, working with free media throughout East Africa to improve environmental conservation and women's rights.

Development cannot be imposed; it can be only facilitated; and an independent media, with well trained journalists, is the best facilitator that there can be. If we are going to meet the ambitious targets of the MDGs by 2015, much more will have to be done to improve issues of governance, of public information and of press freedom, the three catalysts of change. Will the Minister ensure that greater attention is now paid to these issues and that the Commonwealth in particular is urged actively to encourage the development of free and independent media, which will be the precursor to the progress we all so desperately want to see?

5.25 pm

Lord Boateng: My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, for instigating this debate, I declare an interest not simply as a global board member of Food for the Hungry, a faith-based developmental charity, and an adviser to Light Years Inc, a champion of the African producer, but perhaps more importantly as the grandson of a small to medium-sized cocoa farmer, first in the Gold Coast and then in Ghana, and indeed the beneficiary of a cocoa marketing board scholarship-a link between urban and rural that made a real difference to the quality of education in Ghana. All too often, a false dichotomy is made in the African context between the rural and the urban.

The World Bank has drawn attention to the fact that around 70 per cent of the millennium development goals' target group live in rural areas, particularly in Asia and Africa. For the most part, for the rural poor agriculture is a critical component of the success of the MDGs. Even though structural transformations are important in the longer term, more immediate gains can be made for poor households' welfare through agriculture, which can help them overcome some of the critical constraints they now face in meeting their basic needs. Thus, a necessary component of meeting the millennium development goals by 2015 in many parts of the world is a more productive and profitable agricultural sector. Yet this is threatened by the fact that, as statistics show, support in aid for agriculture has fallen by 43 per cent since the mid-1980s. Recent data indicate that although the decline has slowed a bit-indeed, there is some hope that it may now be rising-the share of aid given by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, of which we are one, has declined from 17 per cent in the late 1980s to 6 per cent in recent years.

Attainment of the MDGs therefore requires that we heed the World Bank's suggestion and go with its policy plan for 2010-12, which puts the emphasis on growth through an agricultural action plan. I hope the Minister will give us an assurance that the United

7 Oct 2010 : Column 313

Kingdom intends to put its efforts, and indeed its money, behind this plan. It has to be said, I fear, that perhaps we in the last Government did not do all we could to support agriculture. That is a fact. Looking at the figures, we see that the UK devotes less than a percentage point of its aid to agriculture. Its contribution is some $23 million, which represents 2.8 per cent of the DAC total. That really is not good enough. The World Bank has indicated that it needs to see a much greater emphasis on the part of donors if the trend of decline in agricultural production is to be reversed and if we are to have any hope at all of meeting the millennium development goals.

Kenya has shown the way in this. It is possible to end the sterile debate between smallholders and large owners and between commercial farming and farming by smallholders in rural areas by integrating the two. The point has been made by Dr Stephen Mbithi, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya:

"Until African agriculture is commercially viable there will always be hunger in Africa".

There are many innovative and exciting ways in which we can help; I hope that we do.

5.29 pm

Baroness Flather: My Lords, I also thank the noble Lord for securing this debate, but I also express the hope that there will be a longer debate at some stage. Too many of us feel deprived by the short time available to speak, and we would like to talk about this very important subject at length.

I take issue with the noble Baroness, Lady Kinnock. I have always agreed with her on most things but at the last summit, under the leadership of Prime Minister Gordon Brown, women were never mentioned as being at the heart of MDGs. This is the first time that the summit papers have mentioned that women are at the heart of MDGs. At the previous summit only Denmark and Liberia said that the MDGs can be met only if we concentrate on women; however, on this occasion every single paragraph has women at the heart of it.

The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke about African agriculture but he did not mention that 70 to 80 per cent of African agriculture is in the hands of women. Once again, unless women are at the heart of the millennium development goals, nothing can change in Africa. The women could be helped to do better through co-operatives, for example. We should look at best practice in other places. In India there are 10 organisations called "self-employed women's associations", which are all co-operatives. They all do different things in different parts of India extremely successfully. Why not look at that model and start an agricultural co-operative movement in Africa? Then they would be able to feed not only a few people but maybe the whole of the continent.

I always say that we are hampered in what we want to do for women by some powerful people, one of whom recently visited us-and we paid for his visit. I mind that. It is despicable that an institution has a leader who systematically deprives women of their normal human right to choose whether or not to have

7 Oct 2010 : Column 314

a child. I mind the fact that it is an institution that is riddled with child abuse and yet we invite its leader to visit us-and we pay for it. That is a very bad thing.

At every meeting and conference you attend, who stops you from talking about abortion and about women's sexual health? At the ICDP conference last year, Saudi Arabia and the Catholic Church made us take out the term "women's sexual health". What a load of nonsense. What world are we living in? We are not living in Christ's day and, anyway, they did not have any contraception then. We have to look at our world and go with it. Unless everyone here will stand up and be counted, the lives of the women will not change. It is time we started doing that. I get very upset.

I am tired of hearing about empowerment; I am tired of hearing about equality. Have we got equality in this country? Every time there is a debate everyone shouts, "We do not have equal pay; we do not have equality; we do not have this; we do not have that". You think that the African women will get equality? No, they will not. Get them food first.

5.34 pm

Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of Concern and as a special envoy for conflict resolution for the Government of Ireland.

Before I start, I must take exception to some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather. Her description of the Catholic Church, to which I belong, is inaccurate and offensive. I do not have time in this debate to deal with the issues at length, but I must register that fact.

We are all familiar with the millennium development goals and the targets and indicators and we can, through those indicators, measure the extent of the achievement of the goals. There can be no doubt that some of the targets are very crude and questions may be asked about the validity of some of the statistics being presented as evidence of achievement. One can question, for example, the validity of a target that measures children's enrolment at primary school but not their completion of primary school; or the target that measures a woman's access to one session of antenatal care before pregnancy as being antenatal care in pregnancy. Notwithstanding this, much has undoubtedly been achieved through the focus created by the MDGs.

It has been commented today that some developed countries use the financial crisis as an excuse to pull out of or default on aid commitments. The commitment of the coalition Government to maintain the UK's aid commitments is to be welcomed. I also welcome the fact that the coalition Government's agreement develops the previous Government's proposed new global development action plan by prioritising sanitation, a target for which there is a very high failure rate. Without sanitation, the achievement of all the other goals is profoundly more difficult. I also welcome the statement that the Government will recognise the vital role of women in development and will promote gender equality and focus on the rights of women, children and people with disabilities to access services.

7 Oct 2010 : Column 315

At times of such economic difficulty, we will be challenged to remain faithful to our commitment to the MDGs. Inevitably, the amount of money dedicated to aid in this country will decrease, because it is assessed by reference to a percentage of gross national income. There will be less money in the next five years for those who are in need. It is therefore vital that aid is incisively targeted, with measurable and specific outcomes and real accountability.

It is profoundly important that, in the process of seeking to achieve these goals, donor countries do all they can to ensure that their contributions are underpinned by two significant objectives. The first of these is ensuring that, in so far as is possible, development aid is used in the context of capacity-building in the host country. It is laudable for donors to build schools and hospitals using imported labour, or even prisoner labour. The consequence of such strategies, however, is that there is no development of local capacity that will enable the host country to build in the future. The partnership of imported labour and local labour is a fundamental necessity, even where the consequence may be to delay the completion of the project. I therefore ask the Government to ensure that aid is linked to capacity-building at a local level as it is delivered.

The second significant objective that should underpin development aid focused on the achievement of the MDGs is that there should be ongoing risk analysis to ensure that the strategies adopted are buttressed by adequate provision for security and do not add to or create conflict. Many of the countries seeking to achieve the targets inherent in the MDGs are either emerging from conflict or still engaged to some degree in it. At present, some 42 million people are displaced either internally or as refugees. In the granting of aid, do the Government assess the risk of conflict consequential upon it? Is there a requirement for an early warning/early response system to deal with such conflict locally?

Women continue to be disproportionately represented among the uneducated, the unemployed and those in marginal employment. It is fundamentally important and necessary that, in countries that are emerging from conflict and that are the subject of UK donor aid, there is a clear link between the UK strategy to achieve the MDGs and the obligations placed on the country by UN Security Council resolutions.

5.38 pm

Lord Bates: My Lords, I follow the noble Baroness, Lady O'Loan, in stressing the importance of conflict resolution in achieving the millennium development goals. At the United Nations General Assembly in New York on 22 September, my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, made what some may recall as a radical observation. He pointed out that 22 of the 34 countries furthest from reaching the millennium development goals are in the midst of, or emerging from, violent conflict. He might also have pointed out that not a single country that is currently defined as fragile or conflict-affected has reached any of the millennium development goals-that point was eloquently made by my noble friend Lord Chidgey in so ably opening this debate.

7 Oct 2010 : Column 316

The world of development professionals can often be perplexing and confusing for lay people. It is surely axiomatic that armed conflict drives hunger, displaces refugees, assails human rights, denies justice, erodes equalities, destroys crucial infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals and roads, thwarts education and disease prevention, undermines systems of governance and law, unleashes corruption and ravages the environment. It may therefore be surprising that conflict resolution or peace building is not mentioned in the eight millennium development goals. It is incomprehensible that conflict reduction should not be mentioned in the underlying 21 targets against which attainment of those goals will be assessed. It is utterly depressing that conflict reduction or peace building should not even appear among the 60 indicators underlying the 21 targets and eight goals.

That is not just my view. The G7+ group of countries that are affected by conflict now has 17 members, including many of the most fragile states such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Sierra Leone and Chad. When the group met in Dili in Timor-Leste, some frustration was expressed at the inadequacy of the millennium development goals, which totally ignore-to use their words-the importance of peace and security as a prerequisite for development. The group's host, Emilia Pires said:

"Aid is given based on MDG criteria, and from our experience we have found out that before we can get the MDGs, we have to do a few things first. We have to have peace and stability ... It means that you have to build peace and then you have to build a state to manage the whole thing. Peacebuilding and statebuilding must come before the MDGs and if you look at all the literature of the MDGs, it doesn't talk about that".

That is the point that the G7+ countries make. If people are bewildered as to why the $37 billion which is spent on the one-third of the world's poorest who are in conflict-riven countries is not having more effect, that might be part of the answer.

Let me conclude on this point: I am a politician; I believe in politics; and I believe in democracy, in the parliamentary process and in the rule of law. I believe that each human life is sacred and I abhor violence as a means of dispute resolution, for it places human lives, hopes and aspirations at the disposal of tyrants. I simply cannot understand why the political class do not ensure that peace and security, which we take for granted in this country, have primacy in our efforts to tackle and alleviate poverty around the world.

5.41 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, that very powerful speech leads into my contribution as chair of the All-Party Group on Street Children, which received a powerful presentation in July on Protect for the future: Placing children's protection and care at the heart of achieving the MDGs. That piece of research was produced with the help of Save the Children, Railway Children, the International Children's Trust, Retrak, the Consortium for Street Children, ChildHope and War Child.

If the millennium development goals are about children's futures, there is still quite some work to do in putting protecting children at the heart of those goals. Let me give just a couple of examples of very

7 Oct 2010 : Column 317

practical things that should be done to help children. I refer in particular to street children, especially those who lose their homes as a result of conflict-although that is an extreme example-or as a result perhaps of family violence or of migration to escape rural poverty. In any event, the effects on the children are often very similar.

One of the greatest effects is lack of access to education. If a child does not have an address, it is very hard for the child to go to school. If the child cannot buy a uniform and the school requires a uniform, it is very hard for the child to go to school. Even the lack of a birth certificate can have a crucial effect on a child's future chances in life, as that can make it hard to migrate across borders or possibly to get any sort of job. The need to ensure registration of all children at birth, so that they have a document, might sound bureaucratic, but it is actually a great necessity.

A few schemes offer a perverse incentive, such as those that offer money for the fostering of children. The report found that, in some cases, children were put into foster care so that the money could be accessed. Such perverse incentives need to be guarded against.

All those issues, particularly protecting children, apply in spades to girl street children, who are more vulnerable, more at risk and more subject to the issues that the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and my noble friend Lady Tonge raised about sexual health. Before these children even reach adulthood, they are pregnant. I am sorry to say that in a lot of cases well meaning NGOs run by the church prevent contraception from being given to those girl street children.

5.45 pm

Lord Patel: My Lords, professionally I am an obstetrician and I have witnessed the death of a mother in childbirth. It scars you for life. Therefore, I applaud the Government's new commitment to save the lives of 50,000 mothers.

One of the four drivers of the reduction in maternal mortality has been capacity building in the health system, particularly in trained and skilled birth attendants, including for emergency obstetric care. The UK is well placed to deliver on this. Professional organisations such as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives are very experienced in this area. DfID already works through its five-country programme in sub-Saharan Africa with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. I hope that it will engage again with the professional organisations to meet its commitments. The methodology lends itself to interventions around contraception and essential obstetric care. This module can be quickly rolled out on a hub and spoke principle, as exemplified by the success of the partnership project in Malaysia, which is being spread into surrounding countries, such as Indonesia.

I am also encouraged that DfID recognises in its document that, for every woman who dies, 20 more suffer disabilities such as the terrible condition of obstetric fistula. I work with professional organisations to help to train doctors and nurses to care for such women. It is estimated that 20 million women with

7 Oct 2010 : Column 318

obstetric fistula exist in sub-Saharan Africa alone; there are many more in south-east Asia. Their tales are heartbreaking. Let me read some. A 26 year-old woman from Equatorial Guinea said:

"I endured 5 days with delivery pains. I was finally transferred to the hospital and the foetus was dead. After 3 weeks, I started to feel constant flows in my vagina, and the odour was very bad. The situation has persisted for 10 years".

A 22 year-old woman from Bangladesh said:

"Nobody wants to stay with me due to the smell of urine. Even my husband sometimes blames me for my condition".

A 48 year-old woman from Mali said:

"I am distasteful in the eyes of others. It is God's will".

Another woman said:

"Everyone has rejected me. Cure me or kill me".

It is possible to cure these women. All that is required is a commitment to do so. When you cure them and you see their faces, it is like magic. A 48 year-old woman from Tanzania said:

"I did not know that one day I would be like other women, because the problem was so big".

Another woman said:

"When I returned to the village, those who did not believe that I was healed were embarrassed when I saw them. I have become a person again".

Hitherto, DfID has not felt that it needs to do something for these millions of women with obstetric fistula. I hope that it changes its mind. Through the work of professional organisations, these women who suffer from long-term disability and who live a living death can be helped, just as the death of women in childbirth can be prevented.

5.49 pm

Lord Brett: My Lords, I join others in expressing appreciation for the endeavours of the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, in getting this debate. I share the frustration of other noble Lords at the time limit: four minutes is not sufficient to develop the argument. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, on that, but I do not agree that the previous Administration did not put women at the centre. I say that not as a former spokesperson for that Government in this Chamber but as someone who worked for a half a decade when the millennium development goals were set as vice-chairman and then chairman of a specialised United Nations agency-the International Labour Organisation-where time and again I saw the British Government in the vanguard of pressing the issue of women.

I also join the appreciation of others that the Government-the Conservatives, with their Liberal Democrat allies-have enshrined a commitment to the 0.7 per cent. We should not lose that as an important fact, but I must admit to asking when we will see that enshrined in legislation. I can think of no reason why the draft legislation prepared by the previous Administration, which had all-party support, could not have been put swiftly into legislative form. That would have been a powerful signal at the special summit which we had last month.

There have been MDG successes. We may not shout about them about too much, but the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, mentioned malaria. HIV/AIDS is down by 25 per cent in sub-Saharan Africa. Child

7 Oct 2010 : Column 319

survival rates are up and 42 million more children are in education. The poorest part of the world-that is, living on $1.25 a day-is down from 58 per cent to 51 per cent. Yet that does not beg the question, which a number of noble Lords have raised, that many of the MDGs are seriously off-track.

Clearly, the world economic crisis has exacerbated that situation, with over 50 million of the poorest now being denied their escape from poverty by that very financial crisis-that was a point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, made. Another reason is that our colleagues in the developed world have not met the commitments that they made in the 10 years of millennium development generation that we have gone through, and if they do not meet those then the task will of course be very difficult. Add to that the whole question about areas of conflict, which was eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and others, and MDG achievements remain quite formidable.

Much hope was placed on the special summit where, despite the pledging of $40 billion to a global strategy for women's and children's health-as the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, reported-and for agriculture, in the eyes of many the summit remained a failure. It brought no serious commitment to put the MDGs back on track. Turning to our own Government, despite my appreciation of their endeavours to maintain the 0.7 per cent in very difficult times, many fear that the temptation to raid the DfID funding for other commitments will be irresistible. That view was confirmed rather than confounded by the leaks from DfID about many key international commitments being dropped-a point made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London-and that the budget is to be put under the control of the national security council.

Time certainly does not allow for the development of those arguments, so I restrict myself to asking the Minister a number of questions. I recognise that he may not be able to answer them in the 10 minutes available, so perhaps he could answer them in writing. They are as follows: do the pledges that the Government made at the millennium development goals summit on maternal health represent new funding from the UK Government? How do the Government intend to meet the commitment to spend £500 million per year on malaria? Does DfID intend to reduce funding on any other health-related expenditure from the department's budget in order that the pledge to spend £500 million per year is met-in other words, is that new money? Do the Government intend to launch the "My Aid" fund, and when? Will the Government fund the BBC World Service from the DfID budget?

Baroness Verma: My Lords-

Lord Brett: I have three other questions. I will happily put them in writing to the Minister; that guarantees that I will get a reply.

5.53 pm

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Chidgey for asking this Question for Short Debate, and I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. My noble friend explained the situation

7 Oct 2010 : Column 320

with his usual skill and with balance. I will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible; where I cannot, either I or my noble friend Lady Verma will write to noble Lords. I have listened very carefully and-with a few understandable exceptions-I agreed with everything that noble Lords have said today.

Progress has been made on the millennium development goals or MDGs. However, it has indeed been uneven and on a number of our goals we remain significantly off-track. In Africa, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds; as my noble friend Lord Chidgey told us, that equates to 1 million per year. Every year at least one-third of 1 million women die due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth.

The UN MDG summit in September was a crucial moment for the world to renew our global commitment and redouble our efforts to meet the goals by 2015. The UK approached the summit seeking an ambitious agenda for action in the final years. Work by the UK behind the scenes and in public helped to achieve this, and the UK's leadership on sticking to our promises was instrumental. The summit resulted in unprecedented global commitments to save 16 million women and children, reverse the spread of malaria and tackle hunger and undernutrition. We were successful in doing this in spite of the tough financial conditions.

In sum, three elements contributed towards the summit's success: renewed political commitment, new concrete commitments and increased public awareness of the MDGs in the UK. Since their conception in 2000, the MDGs have provided a global rallying point towards eliminating poverty. The summit this year gave global momentum for the final push and highlighted the unique role that the UK has and will continue to play in driving this agenda forward. More than 140 world leaders attended the summit to recommit themselves and their countries towards meeting the MDGs. First, throughout the summit, including more than 80 meetings, the international community's respect for the leadership that the UK has shown on the MDGs was abundantly clear. The UK was often praised for standing by our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on official development assistance from 2013, and in enshrining this pledge in law. The noble Lord, Lord Brett, will understand that it is when parliamentary time allows, but the most important thing is that we actually do it.

Prior to the summit, the UN Secretary-General referred to our pledge of 0.7 per cent as visionary. The Secretary of State for DfID and the Deputy Prime Minister made it clear that we expect other countries to live up to their promises on aid. It was also a very useful opportunity to drive through the UK's key message on the importance of focusing on results and accountability, making progress on the most off-track MDGs and the underlying importance of resolving cross-cutting issues such as conflict, raised by my noble friend Lord Bates, and climate change, to achieve all the MDGs. That point was made by my noble friend Lord Chidgey and others.

Secondly, the summit resulted in a number of substantial commitments on the most off-track MDGs. The most significant of these were the Secretary General's event on maternal health and the UK co-hosted event

7 Oct 2010 : Column 321

on malaria. The maternal health event generated $40 billion of financing and policy commitments. The UK pledged to save the lives of 50,000 women, 250,000 children and to help 10 million more couples gain access to family planning by doubling our efforts. The UK pledge on malaria was similarly strong, helping to reduce deaths from malaria by 50 per cent in the 10 highest burdened countries, backed by an increase in funding to as much as £500 million per year by 2014. Policy commitments from developing countries, such as extending bednet coverage and eliminating tariffs on health commodity imports, will also have a great impact on the fight against malaria.

The summit was also notable for the extent of developing country engagement, not only in the financial and policy commitments-one-third of the $40 billion commitment came from developing countries-but also in leading side events on issues of concern, such as climate change, fragility and conflict. We also saw substantial commitments from the private sector. Johnson and Johnson aims to help as many as 120 million women and children each year over the next five years, and of the NGOs, World Vision committed $1.5 billion over five years. All these groups have vital contributions to make towards achieving the MDGs.

The summit concluded with the formal adoption of the outcome document, Keeping the Promise: United to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This important document sets out a focused framework for the efforts over the final five years. Thanks to lobbying by this Government, that includes an annual review mechanism on the outcomes of the summit, which will be administered through the UN Economic and Social Council.

Thirdly, the summit provided a focus for increased public awareness of the MDGs and development issues among the UK and overseas public. UK civil society played a major role in this, particularly in organising various media events involving the Deputy Prime Minister and the Secretary of State in the weeks leading up to the summit.

I will do the best I can to answer questions. The noble Lord, Lord Brett, asked about the 0.7 per cent GNI, and I have answered that. I should point out that we are bound by the strict OECD definition of "overseas development assistance", and every penny must be used to encourage the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Kinnock and Lady Tonge, the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and many others raised the issue of reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, including family planning. The Government are reorienting our aid programme to put women and children at the heart of it. DfID is developing a new business plan on reproductive, maternal and newborn health that will set out how the UK will save the lives of at least 50,000 women in pregnancy and childbirth and 250,000 newborn babies, and enable 10 million couples to access modern methods of family planning over the next five years.

My noble friend Lord Moynihan raised the important issue of sport and development. We are supporting sport programmes in developing countries by working

7 Oct 2010 : Column 322

through International Inspirations, a charity set up by the 2012 UK London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The charity supports development projects such as training teachers and sports coaches.

The noble Baroness, Lady Uddin, raised the most important issue of rape as a weapon of war. Her Majesty's Government abhor the use of rape as a weapon of war, and tackling this problem is something we take very seriously. The UK strongly supports action at the international level and has been a key supporter of UNSCRs 1325, 1820, 1888 and 1889 to protect women and girls in armed conflict and maximise their role in peace-building. DfID is driving international action to empower women and girls. Under its new structural reform plan we will pilot approaches to eliminating violence against women and girls.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, asked whether the Government should not be more concerned about the post-2015 agenda. At the end of the summit, the UN Secretary-General announced his intention to initiate a consultation process on what comes after the MDGs, and the UK will play its full part in the process.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, said-and I too have noticed this-that there is a particular problem associated with poor or absent obstetric care. His points reinforce the importance of our commitment to reproductive, maternal and newborn health, especially obstetric care. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London raised the role of faith groups and their importance. We welcome the role of faith groups in development. The Government were pleased to welcome the visit of the Pope. My noble friend Lord Black talked about the need for a free media and the relationship between media freedom and MDG progress. He is absolutely right.

The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, asked about the recently announced private sector department in DfID. This new department brings additional capacity, particularly to work on innovative approaches with the private sector and leveraging private investment into basic services in communities. It brings much of DfID's private sector work into one place, it allows a stronger input from business itself in development operations and it has a strong remit to make the whole of DfID more private sector friendly. None of this has existed before. The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, mentioned agriculture. I would like to say more about that but I have run out of time. However, I point out that supporting infrastructure is extremely important for agriculture.

In conclusion, the UK ensured that the summit rallied the international community to accelerate efforts to achieve the MDGs in the final five years. We can be justly proud of the contribution that we made. However, there is still much work to be done, not least in ensuring that this momentum is carried forward through other international meetings, including the G20 summit in Seoul, and that commitments made are followed through. The coalition Government will use every tool at our disposal to ensure that the international community delivers on its commitment to meet the goals by 2015.

House adjourned at 6.05 pm.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page