HL Deb 29 July 1999 vol 604 cc1759-80

8.33 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what examples they have of good practice in long-term overseas development, with special reference to Africa and India.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I thank the House for the final opportunity to raise this Question and all distinguished noble Lords who will be making their contribution. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, has chosen the debate to make her maiden speech and I hope we hear from her many more times in the future. I have received apologies from other noble Lords who have been called away to overseas business.

My purpose in this week of end-of-term reports is to look ahead now that the Government have completed two years in office and invite them to set aside conflict and emergency and indulge in a little imagination in their overseas programme in answer to the question: what do we regard as good practice in international development?

Some may say it is unrealistic to ignore emergencies which are present, by definition, in the poorest communities. HIV epidemics, for example, as some of us pointed out earlier this year, undermine development in southern Africa and many other areas, including India. Malaria is another elusive enemy Floods set back agriculture. More subtly, malnutrition and infant mortality are hallmarks of poverty and can be seen as daily family emergencies.

It is hard to separate emergencies from development in our overall image of development in the least developed countries. In fact, it is sometimes tempting for NGOs and the media to shock people into a sympathy which rarely extends to true understanding of the difficulties on the ground. Yet, from time to time, it is essential to stand back and reassess the achievement of government in meeting their long-term objectives. Those have been expressed in the White Paper in the context of aid targets, broadly to halve poverty in its various forms by the year 2015. If we can in a short time examine some of that visible success on the ground, we shall gain something from the debate.

In 1996 I asked the previous government to give more attention to increasing public awareness and the accountability of the aid programme. I am pleased to say that this Government responded positively to those concerned in that campaign. Much of that energy is now rightly channelled into discussions around the national curriculum. I would meanwhile like to see more emphasis on the visible image of the measured benefits of our international development aid programme, not just splendid images of our troops or our experts in the field, indispensable though they often are.

What is happening to our aid programme? May we be told more about it or is it something to hide? Sustainable development is in fashion and I will have every reason to believe that this Government are focusing more intently on people-based programmes if they can demonstrate that they are working. We are told that the Government are moving away from the prestige projects associated with the aid trade provision, the arms race and huge power schemes such as characterised the 1980s. In fairness, much of this new direction came from the time of the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker.

Yet more is being committed to NGOs, human rights and the much vaunted rebuilding of those twin edifices—good governance and civil society. At the same time I believe the Government have not abandoned any of the tenets of British enterprise in the high-tech, information, transport and engineering industries. It is difficult in a few minutes to generalise about the good practice in international development without looking at detailed country programmes. The Minister may agree that there is an element of favouritism in the aid programme. Some post-conflict countries like Uganda and Mozambique are in favour because they now meet most of the ESAF (enhanced structural adjustment facility). Others, like Kenya and Zimbabwe, are on hold because they do not. Yet the poorest communities can manage good projects within less than good governance. The best guides are the country strategy papers and I intend to look at only two current favourites—Mozambique and India.

Here I must acknowledge the help of one NGO which I know well and of which I am trustee—Christian Aid—and in particular the work of its development policy team. I also draw on some experience with Save the Children and Care International. There is a built-in anomaly in Mozambique which is the difficulty of spending money wisely because of the war, the lack of infrastructure and the desperate lack of trained professional people. There is an urgent need for rebuilding civil society and it should become a classic case of the new style development based on what people really want.

DfID is a significant donor, on the one hand supporting programmes like railways or the customs service through the Crown Agents; on the other, looking for ways of developing health, education and social services. This means strengthening the local non-government organisations. Here I ask the Minister to confirm that the Government will work sensitively with both local and international NGOs and Churches and will not inhibit them from maintaining links with the NGO network at large. This has been a problem in many countries where foreign donors in their search for community-based development have tended to monopolise the NGOs and the community-based organisations because of their presence inside those countries. Equally, the NGOs are hoist by their own petard because they cannot afford to refuse government money, provided that it does not stifle their independence.

Having made a big commitment to Mozambique, the DfID is aware that it is too thin on the ground and now intends to strengthen its staff in Maputo. This is essential if it is to achieve one of its stated aims—an improvement in the education and health of the poor. In part, this must be done through sectoral programme aid to the Mozambique Government. However, my guess is that it will still not have the capacity to realise this aim and evaluate such a programme effectively on the ground.

The same dilemma occurs in Ethiopia. The temptation, because of the need for our skilled personnel, our consultants and our experts, will always be to remain in the important sectors of transport and public services and encourage private investment, especially along the Maputo corridor. The Government are also part of the IMF-led donor consultative group, which is behind the Mozambique Government's drive to catch up with the rest of southern Africa and even attract investors in the United States. Perhaps I may urge the Government to press ahead with their debt relief in Mozambique, which is still insufficient even after Cologne. It needs to be linked directly to the poverty alleviation targets. Unless this Government can demonstrate that link, I cannot see how they will meet their international targets. They are already approaching a 75 per cent target of bilateral spending in the poorest countries by 2002, and trying to persuade the European Commission to do the same. This is commendable.

The DfID has similar problems in poor regions of countries like India, which have not recently experienced conflict and where one would expect there to be more highly developed social services. The UK is still among India's major aid donors, third in line after Japan and Germany, and the largest contributor of grant aid. While most foreign aid is still allocated to energy and infrastructure, the UK's former ODA made a conscious effort to move away from large energy projects towards social services. Unfortunately, the same cycle has occurred. The more it concentrated on people-based development, the more difficulty it had in strengthening local capacity and meeting people's needs. In fact, a lot of UK aid has been spent, not to say wasted, not on corruption but on proper evaluation and assessment of the mistakes made and the lessons learned. The two projects concerned are the Orissa Health and Family Welfare project and the Andhra Pradesh Primary Education Project, both since re-named under DfID.

Only after 15 years was it fully appreciated that these projects had relied too heavily on the local health and education authorities and not enough on the communities themselves. While the statistics of thousands of trained health workers and teachers were impressive, buildings were put up which were inadequately designed and located, and so not properly used. To their credit, the ODA and the DfID recognised the problems and remodelled both projects, with some involvement from NGOs. But the question remains: how can an outside government support sustainable projects in remote rural areas without either creating its own imported models or depending too much on inadequate local government and NGOs?

In conclusion, it will be hard for this Government to associate themselves too closely with the NGO and civil society world, because of local under-capacity, the pressure to find good projects, the need to relate to government structures and the demand for skills and investments which the UK can provide. However, I admit that a positive move has now been made, perhaps along the Scandinavian pattern, to identify those needs which people feel rather than those dreamt up by outsiders.

I shall never forget the recent story of some UN school furniture provided for an Afghan village. Being of the latest design, it ensured that, because the children normally sat on the classroom floor, only half of them could now be taught. The developing world is still trying to understand what developing countries and societies need and failing to come up with adequate answers.

8.44 p.m.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe

My Lords, it is an honour to speak in this House for the first time. It is rather daunting, but I am much supported by the kindness that has been shown to me on all sides since I was introduced just two weeks ago. I just wish that someone had warned me that a degree in orienteering would have been helpful in navigating the complicated corridors of the House. However, the patience and friendliness of your Lordships, and, indeed, of the officers and staff, in guiding me in this and in other ways, has been of enormous help.

I was advised that a maiden speech should be uncontroversial, so I am delighted that the opportunity has arisen to speak on a subject on which there is much bi-partisan support and one which is very close to my heart. The UK has one of the largest development programmes in the world. I know that my noble friend the Minister will be able to give us many instances of good practice, of partnerships, of good governance initiatives, of local capacity building and of the empowerment of women.

However, in my brief speech, it seemed sensible to me to look at one aspect of good practice about which I can speak with some familiarity—that is, the unique contribution of international volunteer sending agencies to long-term overseas development. These agencies, largely funded by DfID, respond to the needs of developing countries by sending aid not in the form of blankets or money, but through people with skills and experience.

I chair VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas). For 40 years, the service has been enabling men and women to live and work alongside people in poorer countries in order to share skills. Just recently, I was in Rwanda, where the educational sector has faced widespread destruction of schools and the loss of trained teachers. I was there to see the way in which 15 young teacher volunteers were working side by side with local partners to help.

I suppose that noble Lords may ask why I am so confident that this is good practice. I think that the proof is there on the ground. I shall give your Lordships just one example. In Zimbabwe, following independence, the government prioritised a rapid expansion of education to cater for young black people previously excluded from the system. The UK provided 500 volunteer teachers who taught an estimated 75,000 pupils. Eighteen years on, those same pupils are professionals in their own right—trained nationals to take the place of volunteers. This is a text book example of what we seek to achieve through capacity building.

However, many people forget that volunteering is a two-way street. Whenever I meet returned volunteers, I am always struck by their insistence on just how much they have gained from the experience. They come back energised, full of the desire to share new skills and ideas. But, in fact, for some of them—perhaps even many of them—the return home can be really negative, especially when employers undervalue their experience. So they become a wasted resource.

For many employers, in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, multi-cultural awareness is at a premium. I shall take, for example, just one employer: the National Health Service. On their return to the UK, volunteers make a crucial contribution to developing cultural awareness and sensitivity within the NHS. Professionals who have lived in Hindu, Sikh or Moslem communities bring to their work in the UK a genuine understanding—indeed, a respect and liking—for diverse cultures. By questioning values and assumptions, they can help to change attitudes.

Over 80 NHS trusts are now involved in partnerships. I hope that more trust managers will follow suit. There is no better time for employers to take action to ensure that we in this country benefit, along with our partners overseas, from this element of best practice in development. I hope that the Government will take a lead in encouraging employers to appreciate the value of volunteering. I look forward to participating in future debates in your Lordships' House.

8.49 p.m.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein

My Lords, it is an extraordinary privilege to be able to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, on her splendid maiden speech. The noble Baroness spoke about VSO, an organisation which is extremely worthwhile. I think that VSO can take pride in having such a formidable champion for its cause. That is not surprising in some ways because the noble Baroness comes from the north country and has had a remarkably successful and distinguished career in the trade union movement. My researches reveal that she was appointed to the general council of the trade union movement at a remarkably young age. Subsequently, as I understand it, she has become the chief executive of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors. Anyone who can keep a grip on that lot must have some pretty formidable talents because it must be a hard task!

I notice also that she is interested in the theatre, a love of which we both share. To a certain extent she has now moved from the audience to be a participant in something which is a cockpit of its own kind. I am sure that the whole House looks forward to hearing from her a great deal on future occasions.

We also owe a great debt to the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing this subject tonight. He has had a long career in overseas affairs. It is a complex subject. Aid covers a great variety of activities and diverse relationships. There are many aspects to it, but he spoke about Africa, which is a continent of which he has a great deal of knowledge and I regret to say I have none.

But there are similarities in the whole programme of aid which run through all continents. I have to admit that I have been extremely doubtful about the value of handing out great tranches of money to overseas governments, who generally misspend it and often it ends up in the wrong place and in the wrong hands, achieves little and is impossible to measure I have always thought it much more important to concentrate on technical assistance. Indeed the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned this aspect. We have a great deal of expertise in this country which we can deploy. We have a great deal of knowledge of certain technical subjects dating right back to the time of the Industrial Revolution.

There is a huge number of projects with which we can become involved such as water purification and the supply of water. This is particularly relevant in India and Africa. Not only does this employ NGOs and consultants but it also involves the deployment of people, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich said, because people can then implement the projects. There is little possibility of the funds going astray if we indulge ourselves in technical assistance programmes, which can involve the supply of both high level expert consultancy and the machinery in the establishment of the programme itself. Water purification in rural areas is but one aspect of that, but there are others such as rural electrification programmes and communications. There is a multiplicity of these things (for example, healthcare equipment and crop improvements), all of which are highly desirable in the countries to which we refer, namely Africa and India and to a certain extent Latin America, although it is a more developed area. Latin America is an area that I know more about.

I believe that if we could concentrate more on technical assistance development in the whole of our overseas programme we could achieve more effective results at lower cost and improve the lives of a greater number of people without anything going astray. I hope that this is a thrust that can be developed in our aid programme over the next few years. I very much look forward to hearing what other speakers have to say on this subject. As always, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, will, I am sure, give us an interesting overview of the Government's thinking.

8.54 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Earl for bringing this important issue before us. I congratulate the noble Baroness on her marvellous speech. She has made a great start by sticking to a four minute speech when she had eight minutes in which to speak. That seems to me quite a precedent but I am not sure whether it is one that I shall follow!

We were glad when the Secretary of State visited the General Synod last year and recognised the important role the Churches play in the long term in these important issues. I wish to talk briefly about the links of our dioceses in the Church of England with dioceses throughout the two-thirds world and of my own experience in Namibia and Zambia. I hope that these smaller experiences parallel in a sense the large-scale scene. The same issues seem to arise in both the large and the small-scale scene.

As has been mentioned, one of the strengths has been the exchange of people. Bishops, clergy and lay people have travelled both ways and have stayed, learnt, received and given. There is a tremendous exchange of people between all our dioceses and the dioceses in the two-thirds world. I refer to a recent visit of a priest and his wife who are computer experts to help the Zambian Church tackle setting up its computers and e-mail system to improve its communications. That is a small but sensible thing to do. Exchange visits of young people take place, especially choirs—which are a wonderful experience for us all—but also other youth groups. I was told this afternoon that a group of fanners from the Hereford diocese are visiting Tanzania, not just to teach the Tanzanians about agriculture but also to learn about agriculture there for their own benefit.

The experience of those at both ends who share in these links is that of a steep learning curve. As we have heard in the case of VSO volunteers, the political, cultural and spiritual exploration and discovery that people make is of tremendous value. We are fortunate when that experience is brought back to the Church here, which on the whole is receptive to it. Such awareness training produces real loyalty and commitment, and not just for an elite few because through the parish, school, college and hospital links, the awareness spreads and grows. That results in much more direct and personal giving of support and help.

As I saw in Zambia, the burden of international debt has meant that education exists on a shoestring. I saw a football made of shoestrings and other strings shared between 100 children. It gave great pleasure but demonstrated the basic lack of any kind of sporting facilities. There are schools without books, paper, writing implements and equipment. In fact we were asked by people in several schools whether the missionaries could not come back to run the schools again as they had fallen into such disrepair. Teachers there also need support and encouragement. The exchange of teachers between our diocese and Zambia has been a tremendous help and has been an eye opener for both sides. As we have heard, education resources are one example of the kind of support which really works if it is relevant. In some primary schools we found huge, unpacked sets of books that had been sent by American business schools and by various bookshops in this country. They contained information that was totally irrelevant to the school in question. There again the help must be relevant to the place it is sent.

There was a famous Christian Aid advertisement which asked people to help that body stop feeding hungry people and teach them to fish so they could support themselves. That advertisement changed many people's attitudes. I refer to the whole philosophy of getting people to help themselves. One of the tragedies in Lusaka, for example, is that international governmental aid has been used by the national government to provide subsidies that have attracted people from agricultural areas to the slums of Lusaka. As a result, in the long term local people were deprived of skills which could have supported them and much of that beautiful, fertile land was left untended. Help with a well, support for a school, encouragement and support to a church does not disable people, but strengthens them.

Even in such personal links there can be problems and pitfalls. We have heard mention of the imperialist problem. How far do we as a diocese have the right to lay down conditions for the reception and use of money? Do we trust the recipients? Do we hear them? Do we know what they really want? Do we know what would be for the best? Even at our level, we have learnt that money can hideously corrupt when there is none. At the point of entry it can divide people and destroy trust among them. Money requires care and good relationships without domination and demeaning attitudes.

Contrasts between our two standards of life are dangerous. For bishops to stay in the palace at Wells, to visit the cathedral and, worse, to visit Wippell's, the ecclesiastical outfitters, is a seduction that can cause real problems if people cannot see through it. It is easy to undermine indigenous cultural strengths by the way in which our aid is given.

So much of what we do is carried out at the local level, but it is very important. I assert that small can be beautiful. I remember visiting the Archdeacon of Odibo in Northern Namibia, who lived in a bombed-out theological college during the war. I brought some relief and encouragement that I hope was useful.

However, I remember most that we received so much. As we arrived in that bombed-out building, in the middle of a five-year drought, the archdeacon greeted us with the question, "Would you like a shower?" We said, "Yes, that would be wonderful". We had a shower and watched the water go down the drain. We then asked him how he had acquired all the water. He told us that for six months they had been saving it for our visit. The idea that somehow aid is a one-way process is quite mistaken. The sooner we recognise how much we receive, the sooner the climate in which we give aid will change.

9.2 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, I too want to congratulate my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe on her maiden speech. It was excellent. I am sure that her expertise on overseas development will greatly extend that already present in the House. I greatly welcome her contribution.

I also thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for raising, as he often does, such an important issue. We now have quite a gathering of Peers who are interested in overseas development.

I agree with much of what the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, said on the importance of technical assistance. The last time I spoke in a debate with the noble Viscount, he said that that was his valedictory address. I believe that he has given quite a few valedictory addresses. However, I am glad of his involvement in the debate.

I want to concentrate on the role of girls and women in enhancing social development, first, in relation to education. Education for girls is a powerful means of strengthening women's position in society, socially, economically and politically. To most people's satisfaction, the evidence is clear that if we disproportionately give resources better to educating young girls, we achieve a better result for the money that is put in. I hope that DfID recognises that fact in many of the programmes that it seeks to support.

In Kenya, crop yields have been shown to increase by as much as 24 per cent through educating female farmers properly. That is a result of improving primary education. Some DfID supported projects in India have increased primary education for young girls, thus improving their position, particularly those from scheduled castes and tribes, who find it difficult to get decent primary education. That shows good practice and proper targeting of resources currently undertaken by DfID.

My second point concerns empowering women to take control in making decisions about sex. Important aspects of that are family planning and checking the spread of HIV and AIDS. In Zambia, which I visited a couple of years ago with the CPA, DfID is supporting and subsidising the marketing of the new female condom. That is particularly important as it gives power to young women to control the spread of AIDS and HIV as well as helping them to develop safer sexual relationships. At the moment the power is disproportionately weighted against them.

The matter goes further, as it also addresses social and educational frameworks, particularly in parts of society where violence against women is quite prevalent. There is an adverse power relationship. I applaud DfID for subsiding female condoms. That kind of programme can have far-reaching and desirable consequences.

I close by saying that, from my limited experience of travelling to what we call the "two-thirds" world countries, there is a strong argument for working directly with particular interest groups and as far down the institutions as possible. When one tries to work directly with senior government departments, one often comes up against the problem of elected politicians, who are not in my experience particularly sympathetic to many of the aspirations which DfID rightly wants to fulfil. I hope that my noble friend will bear that comment in mind when she looks at the distribution of DfID moneys.

9.8 p.m.

Viscount Eccles

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl for introducing this debate. I should also like to congratulate the noble Baroness on her maiden speech. My experience of sub-Saharan Africa, which is the subject of my remarks, comes from being in the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Quite a number of those employed by the CDC have had experience with VSO, and VSO literature regularly falls through my letterbox. It is a fine organisation.

I should like, I hope not discordantly, to pursue hard values rather than soft values. That is the jargon that is employed in industry for the difference between market economics and all the subjects about which your Lordships have spoken so far. As my experience is confined to the area of market economics, I have to go down that road.

The Commonwealth Development Corporation, for which I worked for a number of years, works in about 20 sub-Saharan African countries and has some 200 investments in equity and loan capital in those countries. The Commonwealth Development Corporation Act, which recently completed its passage through this House, creates a public/private partnership and is intended to give the CDC a new focus and a new lease of life after its first 50 years. That is very welcome. The CDC is in pursuit of long-term sustainable private sector development, which sub-Saharan Africa badly needs.

There are many economic opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa but as yet no equivalence to the Asian tiger economies. It is that challenge that I want to address. The necessary condition to become an Asian tiger—I suppose that in Africa they would be called leopards—is to attract foreign capital, because such countries lack the savings and the tax base to bridge the gap between their state of economic development and something approaching ours.

It is interesting to note that, at the time of independence, the population of Malaya, as it then was, now Malaysia, was similar to that of Ghana, as was the per capita income. Now, the per capita income of Malaysia is many times that of Ghana. Yet if one looks at the underlying "gift of God", there is not a great deal of difference between the potential of Ghana and that of Malaysia. So the attraction of foreign capital is essential.

It is not surprising that such capital is difficult to attract. If £1½ billion will be invested in an Internet provider that has yet to make a profit, it will not be all that easy to obtain support for private sector developments in sub-Saharan Africa, where there is, in addition to the problems of logistics and distance, a political and economic risk that would normally make a venture capitalist or a provider of capital look for even higher returns than he would look for in developed economies. Therefore, because of our rate of technological advance, there is a great force sucking capital into the developed world and not allowing much of it to find its way into the developing world.

There have been instruments for bridging some of that gap, of which the CDC has been one. It has been charged with creating economic development in countries in, for example, sub-Saharan Africa, where it has about half of its business; and it has not been charged with achieving the kind of return that venture capitalists look for. So in those countries the CDC has found many economic opportunities.

Perhaps I may briefly give a few examples. The first is that of citrus in southern Africa. Only 15 per cent of the world's population lives south of the Equator. There are very few places where counter-seasonal pink grapefruit can be grown, for which the Japanese will pay a great deal of money. Southern Africa is one such place. Swaziland has also done that, with much support from South Africa. Tanzania has a teak planting project. The world's supplies of hardwood are under threat, as we all know, and it is a long-term project. If Tanzania could achieve a sustainable resource of teak, which it could cut on rotation, it would have a strong position in the hardwood markets of the world. There is tea production in Uganda. Luckily, even after the many years under Amin, the tea trees can be pruned back and Uganda can recreate an export business in tea.

One hears people ask, "Why cash crops? Why exports?" The answer is that unless these countries can create export economies they cannot buy the things that they need to modernise those economies and make progress. Not all of it will be done by handouts; it must be done by trade and economic development as well. That is true also of many other projects. Reference has already been made to Zambia. A cement plant in the public sector in that country, which caused pollution but did not have the necessary capital to bring it up to date, was re-privatised. Shares were issued to the Zambian public, which they took up briskly. Today that company is in a partnership with cement plants in Malawi and Tanzania.

One turns to telecommunications. Without telecommunications one cannot run a modern economy. It is extremely unlikely that sub-Saharan Africa will ever be hard wired with telephone systems. Luckily, there are cellular telephones. If one seeks to export tea from Uganda it is as well to have a telephone to inform one of market prices all over the world. Without a telephone one is in the dark.

Although all of that may sound rather conventional and pedestrian, it is only through the creation of productive enterprises that provide employment, cash flow, profits and taxes that one can have long-term development that leads to self-sustaining growth. Africa requires self-sustaining growth. We must do all that we can to assist in the long-term economic progress of sub-Saharan Africa, and we should not despise market mechanisms.

9.15 p.m.

Viscount Waverley

My Lords, DfID has rightly identified security in the context of dealing with poverty as a new priority. The situation in Sierra Leone was a major threat to peace and security within the West African sub-region. The Lomé peace agreement was signed on 7th July between the Government of Sierra Leone on the one hand and the Revolutionary United Front on the other. Yesterday, in recognition of this the Sierra Leone contact group, representing 23 countries, met in London to seek ways to further its implementation. President Kabbah attended.

While Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on being the facilitator of the agreement, the role of the United Nations, regional governments, ECOWAS, particularly the Commonwealth secretariat's special envoy, Dr Moses Anafu, are acknowledged as pivotal. Interestingly, even the World Service of the BBC played a role in enabling the peace negotiators to make contact with the rebel forces.

The people of Sierra Leone have peace after many years of brutality and the horrors of war. They are a traumatised nation and require urgent international help to sustain the benefits of peace. The Lomé agreement has set itself a number of testing objectives that require the total commitment of all parties if they are to be achieved. It is appropriate to remind ourselves that the rule of law and respect for human rights is fundamental to the continuance of peace, and that the ongoing support of ECOMOG and the United Nations, in its peace-keeping role, is deemed essential.

The rebuilding of Sierra Leone's armed forces to ensure the country's security is also of paramount importance. Experiences in Zimbabwe made us aware of the delicacy of persuading rebel forces to hand in their weapons. Implementation will be difficult, although I envisage that the programme of cash for weapons is a useful incentive. That said, location and subsequent security of these weapons is a matter of real concern and will need careful handling.

Signatories to the agreement must address the problem of reconciliation between those who perpetrated crimes and the victims. Humanitarian assistance to the victims of the war, particularly the countless limbless children, will need to be co-ordinated. A truth and reconciliation commission has a vital role to play, and its prompt implementation will assist the peace process.

Finally, and arguably most important, the agreement addresses the problem of demobilisation and the re-integration of former combatants. It is in that context that I should like to ask the Minister a number of questions. In so doing, I declare that, in greater part, I facilitated a meeting between President Kabbah and a British logistics company that I have occasion to advise. What will be the role of our armed forces and police in this peace agreement?

A number of nation states, the United Nations, the World Bank and NGOs have committed aid in various forms. How is this to be co-ordinated and what are the priorities? What provision has been made for the logistic support of the military equipment already given to Sierra Leone? Previous experience dictates that, without proper back up and technical support, equipment soon deteriorates and becomes unserviceable.

Do adequate workshop facilities exist to sustain the promised programmes of aid? Do we need to recruit specialist teams and provide the necessary infrastructure that will provide the long-term stability of the security forces?

Finally, what provision has been made for the resettlement and training of ex-combatants who have been persuaded to hand in their weapons? The point is—and I echo the views of President Kabbah—that demobilisation and training for civilian life are essential factors if we are to encourage and prevent ex-combatants taking up arms and returning to the bush.

These questions need to be answered if we are to sustain the peace in Sierra Leone. I would be grateful if the Minister will undertake to write to me with the answers to any specific questions that she feels unable to address this evening.

9.20 p.m.

Lord McNair

My Lords, I too add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Earl for introducing this debate. Although I know that we have a little more time, I promise to be brief.

I begin by declaring an interest. I am the patron of RICO, the Black International Construction Organisation. BICO's members are civil engineers, architects, designers, surveyors, transport planning specialists and other professionals working in the built environment—housing, infrastructure and commercial construction. BICO is an NGO dedicated to promoting grass-roots development in poorer countries.

The first point to be made is that in one respect there are no examples of good practice which follow the policy laid down by the Minister for Overseas Development in her White Paper, Eradicating World Poverty. She very wisely stressed the importance of involving members of ethnic minority and migrant communities in the development process. So far, there are no examples of good practice which follow this criterion. There are, of course, other criteria, but since the Secretary of State took the trouble to include this in her White Paper it is only fair to assess progress in that direction. Why has more progress not been made? Lead time is, of course, an issue. Is the culture of the department resisting the implementation of this policy?

The experience of BICO's members is that there is a problem here, although there are some indications, some straws in the wind that look as though they may be blowing in a helpful direction. The problem is that the selection procedure for consultants for projects naturally contains, as part of the department's own due diligence procedures, a requirement that consulting firms such as civil engineers, transportation engineers, and so on, must already have completed 10 such projects of a certain size. This creates an instant glass ceiling. How does a firm obtain the experience if it is denied the opportunity to tender?

There is another reason why it is important to give effect to the department's policy to which I have referred. It is now widely recognised that development needs to be culturally sensitive. Indeed, there is a project in northern Zambia to be tendered for. It would be quite inconceivable, given the terms and scope of the project, for a wholly European consulting group to complete the project. Black-led NGOs have to be involved. It is really quite simple; there is no option.

I suggest to the Minister and her department that partnering arrangements are necessary to enable black-led consultancies to acquire the necessary track record to enable them to give effect to the intention expressed in Eradicating World Poverty.

9.24 p.m.

Lord Redesdale

My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, as I have done so often. I also commend his ability to raise once more the issue of international development, even at this late stage in the Session. I should also like to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, and to commend her on her admirable maiden speech. I know that she also worked for the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, and I believe that she will be a welcome new member to the small happy band who speak on development issues. It is my contention that good practice in development depends on the implementation of democracy, especially in emerging economies.

Development in Africa and India has always been hampered by poverty. However, the two new threats to successful development that threaten the 2015 DfID target of reducing poverty are the AIDS epidemic and international debt. I had assumed that I would have only a short time in which to speak, so I shall target my speech on AIDS.

AIDS, I believe, will be the greatest challenge to successful development. In the two decades since the first cases of AIDS appeared in the US and Africa, over 47 million people are estimated to have been infected with HIV, nearly 14 million of whom have already died. More than 80 per cent of people with AIDS come from Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Africa, causing one-fifth of all deaths on the continent. Six in every 10 HIV-infected men, eight in every 10 infected women and nine in 10 infected children live in sub-Saharan Africa. That accounts for nearly half of all the new infections worldwide.

The implications of these statistics are that the progress of nations is measured in the life expectancy of their people. HIV is robbing 20 years from the people of Africa and, as a result, taking 20 years off developmental gains. AIDS in these countries is intensifying their need for debt assistance which in turn is crippling their development. The reduction of HIV infection rates is dependent on what has been proven to work: information, education and improved services.

I should like to focus on one country in Africa in which I have lived and worked. It has also been mentioned by a number of other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness. When I first went to Zimbabwe I worked in clinics throughout the north of the country. The overall impression among the people was that AIDS was a problem that was being brought in from outside. The belief was so entrenched that it hampered education about prevention.

That probably leads to one of the facts I have found most shocking. Zimbabwe is the world's most infected country. Approximately one-quarter of the adult population is HIV positive. In many urban areas infection runs to 40 per cent, and in the army it is 80 per cent. This brings life expectancy down to an estimated 38 years. Zimbabweans are now unable to obtain modern anti-retro viral drug combinations due to an annual health budget of £5.50 per person. I may be wrong, but I looked up some figures on National Health Service spending on each AIDS patient in this country. I worked out that £5.50 would provide about five hours' treatment a year.

The effects of rapid AIDS infection during 1991–96 had no visible effect in the early years. I visited a large number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa and for many years AIDS was an issue that was seen to be surrounded by shame and was ignored. However, today, some years later, profound effects are being felt and the general performance of these countries is suffering. The problems include poor school attendance by young children due to sick parents being unable to afford school fees or needing them as carers at home.

Savings and investment suffer as households burn up slim reserves due to an absent family breadwinner. There is also the malfunction of the financial sector. The crippling impact of HIV and related pay-outs for sickness and disability prevents individuals buying adequate life insurance. Negative HIV tests are prerequisites for significant cover. Eighty per cent of people wanting cover in fact decline to take the test. Absenteeism is high and staff turnover results in less incentive to train.

In the case of Africa, the impact of HIV is particularly intense, killing its strong, its productive and its parents, those on whom a well functioning society relies. The DfID has concentrated in its work against AIDS on education, the availability of condoms, the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, which, through research funded by the DfID, has proved to be one of the major causes of infection, and uncontaminated medical blood supplies. The work of the Churches has been extremely useful in reducing the AIDS infection rate.

The real hope for the future lies in the development of an affordable vaccine. I shall ask a question which I have asked previously. I hope the Minister will realise that if I am given the opportunity I shall ask it again. Will the Government look again at increasing the amount of money being spent on the development of an affordable vaccine? If the progress that has been achieved in successful development projects is to be maintained throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the problem of AIDS has to be tackled.

9.31 p.m.

The Earl of Northesk

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is to be congratulated on raising this matter, the more so because of his impeccable timing. I shall say more about that later. But it would be remiss of me if I did not begin by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick. We have all enjoyed her contribution today and I am sure that we all look forward to hearing from the noble Baroness on many occasions in the future.

Of course, it would be impossible to give an adequate answer to this Question without reference to appropriate criteria. Happily, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, these are clearly defined in the 12 strands of the Government's approach to international development listed in the White Paper. I wish to touch on one or two of them.

Strand 6 avers that the Government will: Ensure that the full range of Government policies affecting developing countries, including environment, trade, investment and agricultural policies, takes account of our sustainable development objective". Given this, does the Minister agree that it is important that, good practice in long-term overseas development", as a generality, needs to avoid too ethnocentric a bias? It seems to me that this lies at the heart of the sensible comments of my noble friends Lord Montgomery of Alamein and Lord Eccles.

It is an obvious point, but most accept that technical assistance—indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, paid tribute to volunteering and the right reverend Prelate delineated the role of the Church and NGOs—is a much better mechanism for overseas development delivery than cash in hand. Not only does it target resources at "the purposes intended" but also ensures that those most in need, as well as projects that will provide the most sustainable outcome, are the beneficiaries of those resources, both financial and human.

By way of example, the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce said: Public utilities are not efficient. Electricity is sporadic, roads are inadequate and communication is poor. All this increases the cost of doing business in Nigeria and impedes our ability to compete globally. In this context, privatisation is the key". Does the Minister agree with this view that Nigeria's development is effectively being stifled by the failure to provide proper public facilities?

I turn to strand 7. This cites the commitment to, give particular attention to human rights, transparent and accountable government and core labour standards, building on the Government's ethical approach to international relations". All well and good. But it will not have escaped the attention of the Minister that Select Committees of another place have expressed considerable concern here. As one item in the press puts it, their reports highlight, double standards in Labour's efforts to promote 'good governance' amongst repressive regimes". Can the noble Baroness clarify how proposals to give extra aid to countries that Amnesty International has identified as perpetuating grave abuses of human rights—for example, Pakistan—advance the cause of human rights?

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the attempt to facilitate "joined up" government in the sense of cross-departmental application of human rights principles. But this raises a question. Few would argue anything other than that the policy of selling our gold reserves has acted detrimentally upon developing countries that rely on gold as a major source of income, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa. We have all read of the mounting tally of job losses in the gold-mining industry. Thus the policy is impacting most seriously upon those for whom government international development policy has been designed. That being so, were the Department for International Development and the Secretary of State consulted about the potential repercussions of the policy in advance?

This leads me to strand 9, which could be said to address some of the wise counsel of my noble friend Lord Eccles, in that it states that the Government will, encourage financial stability and the reduction of the external debt of developing countries to sustainable levels". Again, there is an obvious question: what financial stability in the developing countries has been encouraged on the back of the policy to sell gold?

I turn briefly to the welcome speech of the Secretary of State yesterday. In the context of the annual £3.3 billion EC aid budget, she said: The weaknesses in the EC's development work are serious and we let down the European inspiration if we allow this to continue". None of us can have any complaint about a desire to root out bureaucracy, mismanagement and a failure to ensure that funds are targeted effectively. That, after all, underpins the 12 strands of the Government's policy approach. Thus, can the Minister confirm that the Government are actively promoting the Secretary of State's views with our partners in Europe? Moreover, can we expect that the Secretary of State will in due course be as robust in her approach to other multilateral and international aid organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank?

The Government, on the back of their commitments in the White Paper, have in place what amounts to a code of best practice for delivery of our overseas development strategy. That is very welcome. I would not wish my comments tonight to be seen as carping. The point should be made, and has been made, that there are many excellent examples of successful implementation of that strategy. However, what should concern us is that, equally, there are more examples than is comfortable where it is not working. I simply express the hope that the Government will be rigorous in ensuring that the virtues of their policy are imposed across the board.

It is worth making a final, more general point, which is about what one might call the creative tension between government and opposition whenever this topic is explored. Every government, from the day after they are elected, live in a space where compromise is king. Every opposition revel in the luxury of purity of thought and opinion. But it is the duty also of every opposition to expose small compromises so as to strangle at birth the large compromises, the gross mismatches between identified tyrannies and our open cheque book. I hope that the debate has contributed to our understanding of this duty which is in truth a duty of care.

9.39 p.m.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing this important debate. His commitment to development issues is well known in this House. I should like also to congratulate my noble friend Lady Warwick on a notable maiden speech. I hope that we shall hear more from my noble friend in development debates in this House. I can assure her that such debates are always conducted with knowledge and expertise.

I shall speak in general terms. There are extensive examples of good practice projects in the country strategy papers which the Department for International Development has published. Noble Lords have given a number of examples in the debate.

World poverty is an immense problem, with a quarter of the world's population subjected to extreme poverty. There are no quick and easy solutions. That is why the Government have undertaken to mobilise domestic and international resources, and given a commitment to a determined long term assault on poverty.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, mentioned our commitment to a set of internationally agreed development goals to be achieved by the year 2015. Those goals are ambitious, but they are achievable with strong development partnerships. Most of all, success depends on the commitment of southern governments and on the vision, determination and example of southern leaders.

In Africa we have seen in recent years what can be achieved by progressive governments in countries such as Ghana, Uganda and South Africa. Clear definition of our goals is of course important. But we need effective policies which will deliver results, and we need to take practical steps to ensure effective delivery. That is what good practice in long term development is about. It is about developing and implementing the right policy and it is about delivering those policies in ways which are effective, efficient and economical.

Let me say a word about our development policy principles. Our commitment is to coherent policy making—a point referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. At national and international level, trade investment, agriculture and environment policies must all support development. The debt burden of the poorest countries must be reduced if they are to be able to allocate funds for development, and especially for development of the skills and capacities of their own people.

The east Asian crisis has shown us that transparency and accountability are important if development is to be sustained over the long term. Sustainable development is achievable only if the right conditions—what we call an enabling environment—can be established. This would include development of a sound, consistent policy framework including a secure and stable economic and political environment which is open and equitable.

We need a sound, well co-ordinated institutional framework with an appropriate balance between the public sector and a well-regulated private sector. We need local leadership and ownership. We need sufficient local capacity and revenue. We need protection of the physical environment and in particular avoiding unsustainable exploitation. And we need consistent and well co-ordinated support from donors and the international financial institutions.

As I said earlier, committed partnerships are the foundations of successful sustainable development. We need long-term partnerships based on a predictable level of resource, and part of that resource transfer is of course technical assistance—a point which was promoted by the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, and other noble Lords.

An example of a long-term partnership is the ten-year agreement signed by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development with the Government of Rwanda. The agreement commits us to a fixed level of funding against measurable progress to be achieved in areas such as national reconciliation, good governance, poverty reduction and good economic management. We hope that the agreement will provide a framework around which other donors can also plan their long-term assistance. In India we are developing similar understandings with partners at state level.

Of course, central government cannot do everything. Local government, the private sector and civil society all have important roles to play, and local ownership is crucial. Local government can bring decision making for development closer to the people directly concerned. Civil society plays a key role in holding governments accountable, both in the North and the South, and in ensuring that citizens can realise their rights.

Local participation in ownership, including the participation of women and socially excluded groups, is essential for development if intervention is to work effectively and to be sustained over the long term. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the important role of the churches, and I would have to say that this is not just at local level, which was the point made very powerfully by the right reverend Prelate; we have also seen their important role in the debt campaign, which was a large international campaign.

Many projects and programmes supported by DfID promote community management, and there are examples of water supply and sanitation projects in India, Zambia and South Africa. We have education projects in Malawi and India. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that we want to ensure that we are working sensitively with NGOs on the ground.

I would also like to say to the noble Viscount. Lord Eccles, that the state and markets also need to play a proper role. We know that authoritarian states are economically inefficient. We have learnt that unregulated markets lead to corruption, inequality and social exclusion. Sustained poverty reduction requires the engine of private sector investment to drive it. The noble Viscount referred to the important role of the CDC in driving some of this investment. That is why the Government have created the public-private partnership and, underpinning that partnership, stressed the importance of the CDC's investment policy.

Let me now turn to some of the specific points that were raised by noble Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich mentioned Mozambique. We have fully and actively supported extending debt relief to Mozambique, and our wider policy on debt relief is focused on ensuring that the benefits of debt relief reach the poor. The Mozambique Government's poverty action plan, adopted in April of this year, provides a framework for achieving this.

The Government's commitment to increasing expenditure on health and education and improving quality and access, will also generate direct benefits for poor people. My noble friend Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede talked specifically about the importance of educating women and girls. Taking account of gender is a key dimension of good practice across all aspects of international development, and the removal of gender discrimination is one of the Government's key development objectives. Gender equality is essential for the elimination of world poverty, and we will shortly be undertaking an evaluation of our progress in this area.

The noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, spoke specifically about Sierra Leone. During her recent visit there my right honourable friend Clare Short and President Kabbah agreed that top priority for bringing security and stability to the country was to implement the disarmament, demobilisation and re-integration programme as a start to rehabilitating the communities which have been devastated by the conflict. Teams from the UK are helping to train a new democratically accountable Sierra Leone army and they are also helping to establish the civilian structures necessary to ensure democratic control of the military. Given the time available, I shall write to the noble Viscount on the other points he raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned health and in particular HIV/AIDS. UNAids reports that 33 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, 95 per cent of them in the developing world, including 70 per cent of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Some 5 million people in India are infected. AIDS is contributing to worsening poverty and increased inequality. Good practice in combating HIV/AIDS is based on prevention and our growing knowledge of what works. We take a fourfold approach. First, information is important; secondly, condoms must he used to prevent infection; thirdly, STD treatment should be given; and, fourthly, blood must be safe. We are helping poor countries across Africa and in India to work on the basis of those four areas of good practice.

As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, knows, the Government have put resources into seeking a long-term vaccine for HIV/AIDS, but that is a long-term aim. Prevention is important.

The noble Earl, Lord Northesk, spoke about Nigeria. I am afraid that time does not permit me to go into detail, but I can say that as we re-engage with the Government of Nigeria, we believe that our priorities should be to look for opportunities to strengthen economic management alongside the World Bank and the IMF; to encourage the government to develop a coherent strategy for poverty reduction; to look for opportunities to strengthen public institutions; to replicate and develop the successful aspects of our decentralised projects in health, education, rural livelihoods and water; and to continue to build on our relations with civil society groups. I shall write to the noble Earl on his other questions and I shall also send him copies of our institutional strategy papers which cover the European Union and the UN.

Good management is critical in delivering good results consistently over the long term. However, sustainable development depends critically upon the management capacity of our national partners. We are working across the programme to enhance management skills and knowledge. Part of that capacity building is achieved through the commitment of volunteers, a point made eloquently by my noble friend Lady Warwick, An important aspect of good management is effective monitoring and evaluation. I can assure the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that in recent years DfID has improved the quality of monitoring and evaluation in all its projects. Reviews and evaluations are carried out jointly with partner governments and increasingly to promote effective aid co-ordination in collaboration with other donors.

I say to the right reverent Prelate that we are also committed to ensuring that those who are intended to benefit from development are able to make their voices heard. Participatory monitoring and evaluation is one mechanism for ensuring that that happens. Another is the use of participatory poverty assessments which seek the views of poor people about what matters most to them.

It is also important that we recognise good practice, learn from it and share lessons learnt. The lessons that we learn need to be fed back systematically into policy, planning and implementation.

I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord McNair, that ethnic minority groups are not involved in the development process. We have engaged in extensive civil society consultation and sought to include ethnic minority-led organisations in the development process. There are many examples where the department has supported organisations to enable them to access resources from the department.

In closing, I repeat that it is unacceptable that one in four of the world's population should be living in abject poverty. Changing that will not be easy. It will require concerted, long-term effort but we now know what works and what good development practice looks like. I endorse entirely the comments of my noble friend Lady Warwick that we need to build on and share experience and expertise; not only north-south but south-north. The world is changing. We must all give greater prominence to valuing diversity and difference and learning from it.

House adjourned at four minutes before ten o'clock.

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