HL Deb 09 June 2004 vol 662 cc276-314

3.47 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey rose to call attention to international development and the departmental report 2004 of the Department for International Development; and to move for papers.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am grateful that we are holding this debate today on international development and on the 2004 report of the DfID. I am particularly grateful to all noble Lords who have put their names down to speak. I am delighted we can for a few moments focus on these crucial development issues. I welcome the departmental report 2004, and commend it to those seeking to understand the UK's very sound development record over many years—and not just the last seven. For almost eight years, I have battled away to get greater resources for development because I have always believed that developed nations are nations that work at peace with their neighbours and with all their contacts. Today I can congratulate the Secretary of State, Hilary Benn, and the right honourable Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, on the dramatic increase in resources—a 93 per cent improvement from when I left office.

However, with additional resources come additional responsibilities. It is on that aspect that I want to concentrate, rather than picking out parts of the report—which reads well as a whole, but probably less well if I try to paraphrase it.

By 2005–06, we shall have a total UK aid budget of £4.5 billion, of which £833 million will be allocated as our contribution to the European Union Development Programme. That means that more emphasis will be needed to ensure that the EU development budget is better spent and properly accounted for, both in decision making in Brussels and through the offices of the European Union in developing countries. If we are to get the best value for money from every pound available for the developing world, we must look outwards at what our agents are doing with our taxpayers' money.

Inevitably, there are gaps in such a major departmental report. Not everything can be written down. I shall concentrate on what is probably a lack of emphasis—rather than a lack of action—on the co-ordination between donors in the field and on capacity building and institution building in the countries that we seek to assist. They are important aspects of the way in which we spend money to which we do not always give sufficient attention. In other words, we should place more emphasis on the contributions that are made, particularly those that private sector partners can make to development. All those themes are interconnected, and I believe that they are fundamental to successful and sustainable international development.

I shall declare my personal interests. My work for Africa continues through the World Bank and through my company, Africa Matters Ltd, which seeks to bring business and governments together through investment in Africa. In the wider world, my directorships bring me into close contact with developments throughout all continents.

My commitments in business have also allowed me to seek assistance for development through corporate social responsibility programmes and through skill exchanges to improve the delivery of the moneys that are available to the developing world. I am glad that the DfID report focuses, rightly, on the eight millennium development goals, with their 18 targets. It is a small section of the whole, but it is well worth taking to heart. If we could make them work, we would be a long way down the track to bringing peace and stability to the developing world.

I am not sure, however, whether the report addresses how we achieve the millennium development goals. It goes without saying that the developed world must help to reduce the appalling levels of poverty and deal with the lack and inadequacy of education and improve access to safe drinking water and healthcare, but they are also a central mission for every nation. They are not tasks for governments alone; they are responsibilities best delivered by partnership, as the report rightly points out. There is no doubt in my mind that achieving the millennium development goals depends on better donor co-ordination and the pooling of resources through all types of partnership. That is where there is much more work to be done. It is not just a question of spending; it is a question of sharing know-how across the board, if we are to meet the needs of countries in the developing world.

The reality is that, in 2005—the first milestone for the millennium development goals—the vast majority of developing countries will not be on track to achieve those goals. Worse still, a few countries will, effectively, have gone into reverse. That is a situation that we are bound to address. I know that the international finance facility that the UK Government are bringing forward is there to help front-load—to use the jargon—the aid that is available to stimulate governments to work towards meeting the millennium development goals. However, for any real chance of success through the initiative and of further success in debt reduction, we must see faster practical action and better donor co-ordination in-country. Such matters are probably a little small for the G8 nations to address at the present time, but those of us who work in the G8 nations must make sure that such measures are delivered.

The Government's leadership in reducing EU agricultural subsidies and removing trade barriers must also step up a gear, as does training for developing countries in putting their case in the successor Doha round. I hope that the Minister will comment in particular on trade access, the removal of trade barriers and the reduction of subsidies.

International development is best delivered by seizing opportunities for genuine partnerships. It is about capacity building at every level. However, without genuine national and local commitment to the programmes in the developing world and without ownership of the implementation plans, our external assistance will not help as well as it can or should. I know that some in the House may express concern about the size of donor support these days. The amounts given are very important, but the way in which the money is spent and the programmes delivered is even more important. That is why I have always concentrated on trying to give value for money: it is as valuable for the recipient as it is for the donor country.

Too often, the detailed "how" is not well enough understood by those implementing programmes, let alone being agreed with the government concerned. That holds back the maximum value for money. In some countries, we face too much donor competition. That is something that we should tackle together with the recipient countries. Although I welcome the increase in aid from developed to developing nations, I am concerned that the lack of co-ordination is leading to duplication. That does not mean best value for money. Value for money cannot be achieved without thorough capacity building. Budgetary support, which is the way in which we give much of our aid these days, is valid only when it has attached to it the capacity building that means that the money is used efficiently.

A lack of sufficient skilled people in management in government institutions, especially in spending departments, is seriously hindering sustainable growth in many developing countries. One way to tackle that is mentoring. Many private sector companies are prepared to do such mentoring, if only we could get our mind round that sort of partnership. The overseas development fellowship scheme, which has run for over 40 years, gives young postgraduate economists the opportunity to work in the public sector in developing countries in the Commonwealth. The scheme was recently extended to Rwanda, where the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning benefited greatly from it. There are similar schemes in other countries. Local empowerment can also be helped directly by the private sector. In post-conflict Sierra Leone, de Beers has helped the Government Gold and Diamond Office of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and assisted the Government there generally to raise their ability to assess their exports accurately.

Capacity building is also needed for entrepreneurship, to help to build to a thriving private sector, particularly small micro and medium enterprises, some of which are now getting support from the corporate sector. In Ghana, Unilever has set up the Foundation for Education and Development. That foundation provides business education for local entrepreneurs. To date, 75 small-scale entrepreneurs have benefited from the workshops run by the foundation. Sharing training, particularly training in science and technology, can help to stimulate local industries to become suppliers to main investors. Active investment in a factory or an agricultural production process produces real multipliers. Often, for every person employed, a family of 10 is supported. That money then feeds back into the local economy.

Just as, in the developed world, private sector development leads to the emergence of a professional middle class, that, in turn, brings benefits to society in the developing world and can help to reduce the risks of autocracy. That is why I call on DfID to support real partnerships between recipient government countries and the corporate world, so that the private sector can play its part to strengthen those governments and to become a real engine of growth in the countries concerned.

In South Africa one of my own NGOs, the British Executive Service Overseas, has been instrumental in helping to set up a social impact programme called SIPSA which particularly assists SME development. That is an example of how a well co-ordinated partnership of business and NGOs with government can raise funds from both the public and private sectors, and bring forward the technical skills that are so often missing and the management expertise that can make all the difference.

It is often said of Africa that it is a continent led by personalities. We know leadership is vital, but the structures for a fully functioning and stable democracy need to be put in place too, and people trained to work in them, so that those institutions endure and the country is not at the mercy of those in power at any given time. Only in this way will future generations benefit from socio-economic development. That is why I hope the Government will do more to build sound institutions to help win the many fights faced in the developing world, particularly the fight against corruption, which remains a major constraint to nation-building and business development—there is simply no point in investing in a country where corruption is rife.

Good governance is an absolute must, and I hope DfID will continue to place emphasis on transparency and accountability, but also give more practical training to help governments to make their anti-corruption policies work effectively. In Kenya President Kibaki is going to great lengths to reform their judicial system, and his anti-corruption commission is becoming successful in promoting better governance and removing officials who abuse power. In Ghana President Kufuor has worked significantly to reduce the extent of the corruption that he inherited over three years ago. All these efforts are only the beginning. There is so much more to be done.

I place on record my thanks to all those businesses helping in the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Their role is vital and cannot be underestimated.

The developing world has a great human and business potential too often overlooked by the developed world. I will not dwell on the size of markets or the great potential for investment—it is all there for anybody to read. Suffice to say that good returns on investment in Africa, as well as in Asia and Latin America, mean that no business should refuse to investigate the growth potential. Investment climates are becoming more stable and secure, even if there are still a few well documented places to hold back on just now. Above all, greater access to the world's markets and to business partnerships will accelerate the positive trend. More governments are showing belief in the developing world, so that it may be enabled to play a greater part in world economic growth. I beg to move for Papers.

4.2 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, it is a pleasure and a privilege to follow the noble Baroness, who has introduced the subject in a remarkably non-partisan fashion. I recall her days as Overseas Development Minister. At one stage when she teased me and asked whether I wanted to get rid of her, I remember making the disloyal remark that as far as I cared she could stay Overseas Development Minister for ever, no matter which party was in power.

Since those days one good thing has happened: the Development Minister now has Cabinet status. As she generously acknowledged, this Government have done remarkably well by way of enhancing the aid we give to developing countries. My right honourable friend Gordon Brown has taken a lead in tackling the problem of financing the solutions for poverty and development around the world, the latest one of which is international financing facilities. One must acknowledge that the UK Government, under both Mr Major and the present Prime Minister, have taken a big lead in tackling the debt problem, which has been a major problem for developing countries.

I welcome the report, but I also want to mention things that are normally not in such reports, and to try to think of a way forward regarding this problem. There is a paradox here. We have been thinking about, and spending money on, the eradication of poverty for 50 years. While there has been much progress, some problems still seem to be persistent and hard to tackle. We have learnt a lot about development—we no longer think of it in terms of capital stock and economic growth, but in terms of clean water, healthcare, literacy, gender empowerment and so on. This revolution in development thinking was welcome, and was part of the UNDP's human development report, which I had a small part in developing.

However, we may have reached the end of that revolution. We have got a stage where development programmes funded by official government aid have begun to require so many conditions that it has almost become an exercise in baroque architecture. We want schemes to have transparency, accountability, good governance, sustainability, gender awareness and participation of the poor, and all those conditions are always put before any project that is financed by official aid. This process ought to be re-examined, because we are losing sight of the principal aim, which is reduction of poverty. It would be nice to have these other what I might call "peripherals", but if poverty can be reduced by some effective means, I feel strongly that we should not reject schemes just because they do not have one or the other boxes ticked off. Looking at what the UNDP did over the 1990s, it was very easy for people sitting in New York to make new conditions. New theories of development had come together. More requirements were being put on field staff, who had a difficult problem to cope with. Is it not time to simplify the requirements for development programmes? I feel the same about the millennium development goals—there are far too many.

We know empirically from observation that some problems are clustered together. Infant mortality, lack of access to clean water or to healthcare and the low position of women are strongly correlated with poverty. If we can reduce poverty, these sorts of things tackle themselves. Whatever we do with millennium development goals, we must get strictly in view that reduction of poverty is our main goal. Everything else will follow from that. One cannot reduce poverty without providing some of the conditions, like clean water, education or good healthcare. I hope that will be our approach.

I have said this to your Lordships before—we have to learn from the success of Asia in tackling poverty. The way Asia, especially in the east and south-east, has reduced poverty over the past 30 years is a remarkable story. More people have come out of poverty in that time than ever have before in the history of the world. The fact that there are still a lot of poor people is neither here nor there. People have come out of poverty because by and large governments—some of which, I am sorry to say, were rather corrupt—were responsive to the needs of their own poor. Through a rapid growth programme, which included the redistribution of assets such as land and a big emphasis on education, they were able to reduce poverty across China, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and so on.

I quite agree with the noble Baroness that corruption is bad and that one does not like corrupt governments, but I prefer corrupt governments which are effective to corrupt governments which are not. If I may say so without upsetting him even more than I have in the past, I prefer Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Mr Mugabe because eventually, whatever he is, Dr Mahathir Mohamad ultimately benefited the people that he was supposed to lead. Malaysia has come out of poverty and racial strife because of the determined effort of a government in pursuit of development. We should examine whether or not to categorise governments as those which provide good governance and those which are responsive because, basically, governments are there to cater to the needs of the poorest people in their midst.

A great deal has been said about Africa, where there is to be an African commission, and the need for good governance there. But, again, as I said in the debate in your Lordships' House on political parties, Africa misses out on robust political parties which are involved in robust political dialogue. You do not get good governance without good politics; it is not possible. You need someone inside and outside government to put a check on them and say, "What you are doing is not right" or "You are corrupt" and so on. Unless there is that level of political involvement it will be hard to establish good governance. It cannot be established from above; it has to come from below.

Finally, I wish that our newspapers were more informative and more informed about development problems. I should add, perhaps unfairly, that there was a headline in the Observer over the weekend about clashes in Sierra Leone. When I read further it became clear that the article was referring to the Ivory Coast, not Sierra Leone. The poor editor had not realised that Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast are not the same country, which is rather sad.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Alderdice

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, for introducing the debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Desai, said, she is distinguished not only by her remarkable past record in this field but by her continued commitment to it. This is very much valued in your Lordships' House.

Like her, I shall respond very positively to this important and impressive DfID report. It is good that we have such a government department. Indeed, in a report published today, the Washington-based Center for Global Development recommends that the United States Government should establish a not dissimilar agency. That report underlines the same main themes as those which underpin the challenges outlined in the 2004 report of the Department for International Development.

These are not subsidiary to our main foreign policy interests; they are not a kind of charitable addendum to the main business. They are key foreign policy challenges—terrorism, transnational crime, global poverty, humanitarian crises of hunger, plague and disaster, whether human or natural. The CGD report states that these challenges originate in, spread to and disproportionately affect developing countries, especially those which we would describe as failing states. These are countries in which governments fail to provide security, fail to provide political legitimacy and fail to meet the basic needs of their citizens. These include some countries where DfID is trying to make a difference for the better.

I am very positive about much of the general and, indeed, detailed work of DfID outlined in this very full report. In a sense, it is a part of the conscience of our country that we involve ourselves in the wider world in this fashion.

However, I wish to refer to a few problems that I see in our general approach. I am sure that others may well have observed the inconsistencies that there sometimes are in our policy as a whole, where we destroy the infrastructure of a country and then spend the limited resources that we have in trying to build it up again. Others may comment that that particular anomaly is characterised in Iraq and, perhaps notoriously, in Israel's operations in the territory of the Palestinian Authority.

But this kind of paradoxical behaviour goes much wider. I remember a number of years ago expressing concerns about the support that our Government were giving to President Fujimori in Peru because they were terribly impressed by the way in which he was tackling the war against terrorism, as it would now be described. After a couple of visits to the country, I was very concerned that the whole approach he was taking was destroying the political party infrastructure of Peru and that, whatever the short-term effects on the terrorist camp, the long-term effects would be very serious.

I am very glad to see on page 78 of the report that we are funding Transparencia, an organisation which, along with IDEA, is trying to build up the political parties. But that this is happening now, with relatively limited resources, is because of the degree of political support that was given to the destruction of these parties a number of years ago.

I notice that, as far as I can understand it, the budget for Latin America outlined on page 171 will slip by two-thirds, from £32 million in 2001–02 to £11 million in 2005–06. One must assume from those figures that, in countries like Peru, which are included in the budget, we are cutting back at a time when we should be strengthening the infrastructures. We know very well that the situation in that country is not improving at the moment; indeed, it is becoming increasingly unsteady and unstable.

So it is not only a question of being consistent—do not go in and wreck something and then have to build it up at great expense subsequently—but, when you do get involved with something, of sticking with it over the long term. One of the problems with many peace processes and nation-building exercises is that the international community becomes involved for a short time and then, just when you are beginning to turn the corner, the international community rushes off to the next emergency. Then what has been put in place, but is still unstable and brittle, begins to fall to pieces. It is perhaps less glorious to stick with the work of building up, but in the long run it is much for the better.

The anomaly of trying to build and at the same time, in another sense, taking to pieces manifests itself in other ways. There is a serious moral question about the fact that we are trying to build up healthcare staff in many developing countries. We are not achieving all of our millennium goals in Asia and Africa—for instance, we are not meeting the targets for the provision of specialist healthcare staff for the delivery of babies—and yet some of our National Health Service trusts are going to developing countries and actively trying to persuade trained staff to leave there and to come here to work.

I am absolutely for people having the freedom to travel and work wherever they choose in the world, but that is not the same thing as spending money on targeting countries that already do not have enough trained staff in order to fulfil the inadequacies of our own system. That is the kind of paradoxical behaviour which is certainly not characteristic of real joined-up government.

When I refer to DfID being part of the conscience of governance and of our country, I mean not only conscience by way of giving charitable aid but conscience by way of bringing to the attention of other components of government the untoward and paradoxical effects of other policies, whether in healthcare, defence or the other aspects of foreign policy that I have mentioned.

I am also delighted to see the attention that has been given to addressing conflict, particularly in chapter five, because conflict is one of the things that destroys development. But I am not sure how much we are learning from the experience of relatively successful work in conflict resolution. As I look at the situation as it develops in South Africa or my own part of the United Kingdom and then consider what our Government and others have done in addressing the Middle East it seems that we have not learnt and applied the important lessons. We have taken rules of thumb but not reflective thought when we come to those difficult circumstances.

There is much more that we could do in thinking about it. For example, it has become clear in recent years that the doctrine of national sovereignty cannot be allowed to run unless there is a reasonable degree of benevolence and competence on the part of the Governments of countries. Martin Woolf from the Financial Times describes some regimes as "gangsters with flags".

That does not mean that the attitude of developed countries should be to march in whether or not the United Nations is behind them and irrespective of whether the action confirms with international law. It may mean that we have to consider how to develop the international institutions and law to a new order that does not place a sacramental stamp on national sovereignty but on the other hand does not ride roughshod over the freedom of others to conduct their business with our assistance and co-operation.

This is an important report and I am glad to see it being debated, but I hope that some of the inadequacies of our approach will also receive consideration.

Lord Patel

My Lords—

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle

My Lords—

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, we were expecting to hear from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle.

4.21 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle

My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for introducing the debate. I also express my gratitude for the immense contribution to international development she has made for so many years and is still making. I want to confine my comments to one theme: the level of international aid.

As long ago as 1970 the United Nations established a target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for countries such as ours. We have been committed to reaching this target for more than 30 years and we have never made it. The closest we got was 25 years ago when our aid level reached 0.51 per cent of GNP. The Government plan to reach 0.4 per cent in 2005–06. Welcome though that increase is, we are still nowhere near meeting the original commitment.

But every once in a while there comes a moment when we signal a refusal to accept the status quo and we realise that a significant difference can be made. The Jubilee 2000 campaign to drop world debt was one such moment. The Churches were at the heartbeat of that movement. Its twin strengths were its size and its diversity. Old and young, rich and poor, rock stars and members of the Mothers' Union—I am a great fan of the Mothers' Union—joined forces in a coalition that ultimately could not be ignored.

I wonder whether your Lordships remember that when he looked out at the crowds of peaceful debt campaigners who greeted world leaders in Birmingham in 1998, President Clinton remarked, "I know a big tent when I see one". The big tent was responsible for the cancellation of much debt. Debt relief has allowed a number of African countries to introduce full and universal primary education. The job is not finished; only one-third of the debt has been dealt with, but it shows what can be achieved.

Next year we have the possibility of another breakthrough moment. There is a coming together of a number of events that offer great opportunities. Next year our Government will chair G8 and hold the European Union presidency. Next year will be the twentieth anniversary of Live Aid; and the Prime Minister's Africa Commission should be in full flow. So next year has the possibility of being another pivotal moment to tackle global poverty; a real opportunity to be grasped, if only we will.

Such a breakthrough delivered by the actions of Governments around the world will also do a great deal to make the world a more peaceful and less divided place. We all know that tackling poverty is never straightforward. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has given us some examples of the difficulties that have to be overcome. But I venture to suggest that one—perhaps the critical—indicator of the success of the Africa Commission, the G8 and the UK's EU presidency will be the level of additional resources they deliver to the poorest countries in the world.

I understand that in the next few days as part of the Government's spending review decisions are being taken about the aid budget for the next three years. Those decisions will be crucial, not just for the sake of the millions of people around our world, but also because it will be difficult for our Government to convince other countries to increase their efforts to tackle world poverty if we are not doing so ourselves.

We can take some pride in the significant increases in aid provided by our Government since 1997, for which I am grateful. We can also take some pride that the UK's aid is among the most effective in the world. Yet we are still performing relatively poorly in comparison with others. Five countries have already met and exceeded the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP. Five more countries have set a date when they will reach the target; Britain is not one of them.

We cannot be among world leaders in tackling world poverty until our aid levels reach their target. As a nation we are becoming richer and richer year by year. The richer we are, the more we have to give. The notion of giving a proportion of one's wealth to the less fortunate is a non-negotiable Christian principle.

While I recognise with gratitude the substantial increases in aid that the Government have made, I also recognise that more than 100 million children still do not go to school in our world; more than 6,000 people die every day because of HIV/AIDS; and this year alone half a million mothers will die during childbirth in poor countries.

So I want to make a plea to the Government to agree a timetable to increase our development aid and by 2008 finally to reach that target to which we committed ourselves way back in 1970.

4.28 p.m.

Lord Patel

My Lords, I apologise to the right reverend Prelate for jumping the gun. I suppose it was to try to get it over with.

I too would like to congratulate and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for securing this important debate; but more importantly for her continued support and commitment. It will not be a surprise to the House that I shall concentrate mainly on that part of the millennium development goals and the DfID report pertaining to reproductive health and rights and the government strategy on achieving the targets.

Of course I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Desai, and the right reverend Prelate had to say: eliminating poverty is the key to achieving all the millennium goals. I am a doctor, and therefore I worry about the suffering that exists.

This year is the tenth anniversary of the international conference on population and development; a halfway stage to the goal set for universal access to reproductive healthcare by 2015. There have been some gains, mainly the renewed commitment to sexual health and rights and the focus on women's needs, but not much in the way of tangible results over the past decade. On the contrary, a dramatic reduction in funding for reproductive health from some of the richer countries and donors has threatened to reverse what little gain there has been in the areas of contraception, safe sex to combat HIV/AIDS, safer abortion and family size. The UK needs to work harder to persuade nations and donors to restore their funding for reproductive health. Can the noble Baroness say what plans DfID has to engage in dialogue with countries, particularly the United States, with regard to supporting reproductive health and rights more actively?

Improvements in reproductive healthcare and reproductive health will save lives, reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, reduce population size, improve economies and help reduce poverty and hunger.

The current figure of 40 million people with diseases such as HIV/AIDS is appalling. Three quarters of people in sub-Saharan Africa live with HIV/AIDS, with the younger ones most at risk. As has already been mentioned, 6,000 youths between the ages of 16 and 24 are infected every day. Some 13 million children under the age of 15 have lost both parents. Nearly 350 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases occur every year—the women and the poorest of the country are the most vulnerable.

I turn now to reproductive health as it relates to pregnancy and childbirth, which is the main focus of my speech. Each year, as the right reverend Prelate said, 250 million women become pregnant, of whom 600,000 die every year. That is equivalent to four jumbo jets full of 350 people each crashing every day, and all the occupants dying. Nearly 10 million of those women experience life-threatening complications which leave them either dead or living with lifelong disability and ill health. Nearly 50 million pregnancies are terminated each year, many using unsafe practices, resulting in nearly 70,000 to 80,000 deaths of mostly young women. In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has a lifetime risk of dying in childbirth of one in 16, compared with one in 2,800 in the developed world.

Despite much work over the last decade, there has been little success in reducing these numbers. The goal of halving maternal deaths by 2015 will not be met. The global maternal mortality ratio has changed little. What is required is a new strategy for action on the maternal health development goals. I would be interested to know if the noble Baroness can say what plans DfID has in this field.

We have in the United Kingdom organisations with experience of working in this area in the developing world—organisations that can work with DfID to develop models of care that will produce tangible benefits and achieve millennium development goals.

Death in childbirth is the ultimate tragedy. Tragic, too, are the conditions that leave women with lifelong disability and ill health as a result of injuries sustained during childbirth. Very little, if anything, is done to help these women, who suffer from lifelong disability such as obstetric fistula. I shall describe what that is, because some of your Lordships may not be familiar with the term.

Let me describe the fate of a beautiful 13 year-old girl living in the mountains of Ethiopia, given into marriage by her family, often to an older man. At the age of 14 she gets pregnant and, despite the hard life away from home, she looks forward to the birth of a healthy child. When the time comes, she labours; she is frightened and is supported by one or two women from the village. Her labour lasts a long time—three to four days. By this time she is exhausted, dehydrated and frightened—frightened for herself and for her baby. Finally, she delivers—she delivers a dead baby. She is in utter despair, but too tired to think. She falls asleep.

A few days later, weak and still exhausted, she realises that she is leaking urine all the time. She does not know why. There is no one to help. Because she smells of urine, she is discarded by the community and left to lie in a hut far away. If she is lucky, somebody will hear of where she can be taken where facilities are available to cure her or her horrible condition. But for 2 million women in Africa alone, no such facilities are available.

There are very few facilities in Africa. They are mostly provided by people such as Catherine Hamlin, aged 78, who is still working in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, and Sister Anne Ward, who is still working in parts of Nigeria. There are very few facilities and very few trained doctors and nurses.

UNFPA has recently carried out a needs assessment exercise in most African countries that tabulates the facilities that are available. If training can be provided, more of these women could be cared for.

I hope that the millennium development goals can include help for these women. There are many from this country who are prepared to work and train doctors in Africa. There are hospitals which, if the capacity was increased and the doctors were trained, could cope with treating these women.

Prevention of maternal mortality can also prevent occurrences of obstetric fistula. While we wait for that to happen, millions of women will have to be cared for. I hope that the Government will do something about this.

4.37 p.m.

Baroness Flather

My Lords, I would like to say how delighted I was to see my noble friend Lady Chalker opening this debate. Many a time in the past we have enjoyed listening to her, and we have supported her in her work. Some people in the House may not remember her policy—children by choice. That encapsulates so much. What else is there to say? People should not be forced to have children, but at the same time they should have the opportunity to have children. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, drew attention to the hundreds of thousands of girls with fistula, young girls especially, who wander the streets in Nigeria because nobody will let them come near. This abuse of human rights is just unbelievable.

I was going to start by talking about a very large group of people who often seem to be forgotten, but now that the noble Lord, Lord Patel, has drawn attention to those women's issues, I intend to confine my remarks to the situation of women in developing countries. They have no recognisable access to any kind of human rights. Women in India and Africa do most of the work but there is no respect for them and no financial return.

I do not know whether noble Lords saw a documentary about a woman in Africa suffering from AIDS. Her husband had died, she had five children of her own—two girls and three boys—and had taken on two nephews. It was the 12 year-old girl-child who did all the work while the five louts—if I dare to use the word—did nothing but play football outside. If we allow that kind of thing to go on, under the title of "culture", we are totally failing in our duty to help the most oppressed people.

I should declare an interest. I am the director of Marie Stopes International, but, more importantly, I am a woman whose origins lie in a developing country. I have seen what happens to women in India.

Let us look at the peer group pressures on men and women. Men with a group of men will want to show off. They will drink; they will fight; they will gamble; and maybe they will womanise. What do women do? They try to save whatever little money they have for their homes and their children. In every Marie Stopes clinic and in every area I have visited, I have heard the women talk about their children's education. They say that they do not want their children to live lives like them and that they want them to have better lives. I have never heard the men say anything like that. It is important to see how the pressures work on the men and women.

There are fine success stories where the women have been the target of aid. The Gramin Bank in Bangladesh was started not for women, but when the bank found that it was the women who repaid the loans—the micro-credit—it stopped giving loans to men. It has a success rate of 98 per cent returns and it has become so rich that it has now set up a mobile phone company. Hundreds of thousands of women have benefited from those micro-credit schemes. Micro-credit is a great way to help women in rural economies.

I know of a charity that is working mainly on water, but it also helps women with some embroidery, some sewing et cetera. I have met those women. I have gone Rajasthan and spent an afternoon with them. I do not need an interpreter; I can talk to them directly. The amount of self-respect and empowerment that has come from the minute amount of money that they earn is just remarkable. They have compelled the local council to give them a place to bathe and a place to wash their clothes. One might think, "Well, what the hell is that?", but they did not have it and they have it now. We should collect examples of good practice, put them together and see how they can be multiplied, because if we are going to see any change in the developing countries, I strongly believe that it will come through the women.

We have never focused on them enough. In presentations about work, women are seen as an adjunct. Sometimes, they are not mentioned at all. When one asks "What about the women?", those giving the presentation reply, "Oh, yes. We're doing lots for women", but they do not talk about it. They do not see them as part of the mainstream and that is very disappointing.

I have spoken to some of the delegates from the UN Economic Commission for Africa. The male representative from Uganda told me, "We have to be very careful, you know. We mustn't upset the men. If we are going to do anything for the women, we must do it in such a way that the men think it's their idea". Those attitudes are not pleasant.

We all know that women are suffering from HIV. A huge group of women in India is HIV positive, but they are not allowed to go to a clinic because it would bring shame on the family. They are monogamous women. They are not the ones who go out; it is their men who infect them. President Bush says, "Ah, yes, but they should abstain". Who is supposed to abstain? Is it the men? Have the men ever abstained? If the women are to abstain, they would dearly like to. Have they the power to abstain? No, they do not. Have they the power to make the men wear condoms? No, they do not. That culture moves quite a way up to the lower levels of the middle classes. Women do not have the power to control their men's sexuality. It is extremely important that they are given ways of looking after themselves in that respect.

President Bush feels that he should not support UNFPA because it supposedly endorses China's one-child policy. No, UNFPA does not. It does not tell any country what policy it should have. I have seen its work in China. It is trying to introduce choice for the women over contraception. It is trying to help young people understand what is available and what is not, yet President Bush says that UNFPA is not an organisation to be supported.

As I am running out of time, I shall be brief. I am not asking for "equality" as we understand it in the West. I am not asking for "equal opportunity" as we understand it the West. I am asking merely for a freedom for women from fear of physical abuse. I am asking that they have access to family planning and to minimal health advice; that they learn ways of protecting themselves from the men who infect them with HIV. I am asking that they should be able to earn a little money for themselves to empower them and to give them some self-respect, as well as to be able to help their children.

Women are the key to poverty alleviation. By no means has enough been done in that respect.

4.47 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, it is some time since the House has had the opportunity to debate international development issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, is therefore to be congratulated on providing this occasion, all the more so because of her distinguished record in office and the practical contribution that she made then, and still makes, to the development agenda.

I shall focus on three issues in this wide field: the interface between international development and peace and security; the EU's development policy; and the plight of children in Brazil. It has long been a truism to point out that without peace and security, developing countries are not going to be able to claw their way up the development ladder, to attract foreign direct investment, to grow their economies, to provide their people with jobs, education and healthcare. The list of countries where peace and security have broken down and, with them, virtually any external economic input other than basic humanitarian assistance is a long and sad one.

Perhaps slightly less well understood is the reverse proposition; namely, that where development has successfully got under way and where a country has been able to raise its GNP per capita significantly, the vulnerability to threats to its stability and security reduces. A considerable body of academic research indicates that, beyond a certain level of GNP per capita, the risk to a country of a breakdown in its peace and security sharply reduces.

What that demonstrates, I would suggest, is that we are not, as governments and multilateral institutions were for far too long too prone to assume, dealing with two completely separate agenda items, one involving economic development, the other involving peace and security, each with its own specificities and remedies. Rather, we are dealing with a closely linked set of problems which interrelate and impact on each other, either for the good or for the bad. However, even if that is now intellectually better understood than it used to be, it cannot be said that many governments and many international organisations have taken effective steps to address the interlinked aspects of the agenda in a coherent way. In that respect Her Majesty's Government are to be congratulated on setting up the conflict prevention pools for Africa and the rest of the world, which, I understand, are jointly managed by DfID, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the MoD. The European Union is to be congratulated on earmarking 260 million euros to back up the African Union's efforts at conflict prevention.

However, does the UN Security Council with its primary responsibility for peace and security concert its actions with the IMF and the World Bank, which have much bigger resources? Do even the different parts of the United Nations family—the United Nations Development Programme, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and others—invariably pull in the same direction? Do the financial institutions and those who manage the world's debt problems fully appreciate that the exercise of rigorous conditionality on a country which is already slipping towards state failure may only accelerate its progress towards that destination? I do not think that a convincingly affirmative answer can be given to any of those questions.

The UN High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, on which I have the honour to serve, is looking at all these matters and will, I hope, come up with some useful and sensible suggestions. If and when we do, towards the end of this year, I hope that we shall be able to look to the Government for support in getting—dare I call it this?—a more joined-up approach to handling the crucial interface between peace and security and economic development.

The European Union's development policies have few friends in this country and the leading opposition party now seems to want to do away with them altogether. I agree that the negative effect of the European Union's trade distorting export subsidies for agricultural products does grievous damage and that these subsidies need to be phased out as quickly as possible. It is good that the Commission, which negotiates on our behalf in this field, is now prepared to commit itself to doing that within a pre-established timetable. I hope that the G8 summit meeting, which is under way today, will firmly nail its colours to that target.

I also agree that the administration of the European Union's aid budget leaves a good deal to be desired, even if Commissioner Patten has instituted genuinely valuable reforms which now need to be applied more widely. However, I would suggest that the remedy of repatriating our share of this expenditure, which is now being advocated, would be a clear case of the cure being worse than the disease. It seems to ignore the fact that more than half the members of the European Union have no bilateral aid budgets worthy of the name, and probably very little will to allocate funds to such bilateral budgets. So if we break up the European Union's aid effort, the quantum of aid going to developing countries from Europe is likely to drop sharply. Is that what we want? And is it what many developing countries with which we have close and beneficial ties would thank us for bringing about? I doubt it.

The whole subject surely needs a good deal more thought. Would we not be better advised to focus on reforming the EU's aid policies rather than destroying them? I know there is great frustration at the fact that any increase in the European Union's aid budget, which we do not control absolutely, results in a reduction in our bilateral aid. However, that is not a policy which is made in Brussels; it is imposed by an organisation whose headquarters is a few hundred yards from here—Her Majesty's Treasury. When I used to tell my friends in Brussels about the negative effect of any increase in the EU aid budget on our bilateral aid, they used to smile in wonderment. None of their governments followed that practice. I suspect that they thought it was another example of British masochism run wild.

In raising the problems of Brazilian children I must declare an interest as I have a son who works with street children in São Paulo, Brazil. I fear there is some risk that our policy of concentrating on poverty eradication and shifting the balance of our aid programmes away from middle income countries—a policy for which, in general, I have considerable understanding—will have a negative impact on the excellent work that DfID has done in recent years to improve the plight of Brazilian children, about which my noble friend Lord Alton spoke so movingly when he reported back in March after a visit to Brazil.

Brazil is certainly a middle income country, but it is also one that has some of the greatest inequalities in the developing world. When the International Development Bill came before this House in 2001, the noble Baroness who is now the Leader of the House gave the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and others such as myself who raised the issue of the priority to be given to programmes for children the most categoric assurances about DfID's intentions in that respect. Therefore, I hope that the Minister in replying to this debate will be able to respond positively to the concerns that I have expressed.

4.55 p.m.

Lord Bowness

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Chalker for introducing this debate. She has a very distinguished record in this field. The debate is particularly welcome as it enables me as chairman of the relevant subcommittee to run a trailer for the European Union Select Committee report, EU Development Aid in Transition, that was published at the end of April. The committee looks forward to the Government's response and to debating that report on the Floor of the House, at which time I shall, of course, acknowledge the assistance that my committee received from many people in the preparation of that report.

This afternoon is not the occasion to discuss that EU report in detail, but it is relevant to this debate. European Union development aid features in the DfID report which is the subject of my noble friend's Motion, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, referred to European Union aid.

European Union development aid, together with member state aid, provides more than 50 per cent of official development aid worldwide, and so it is extremely important that it is both efficient and effective. Whatever criticisms have been levelled in the past, the committee found that both the quality and the speed of delivery of European Union development aid had seen very considerable improvement in recent years. We particularly noted the very frank statements from officials whom we met in Brussels acknowledging the problems of the past.

The reforms that were put in place have now produced a significant improvement in aid delivery, principally due to the establishment of EuropeAid in 2001, the introduction of country strategy papers focusing on governance and human rights, the deconcentration of EU tasks to European Union overseas delegations coupled with an improvement in accounting and monitoring procedures. That is not to say that further reforms and efforts are not necessary to complete the process. Indeed, there needs to be greater coherence between European Union development policy and the European Union's other policies on trade and agriculture.

It is fair to say that while EU development aid together with that of the member states represents more than 50 per cent of official development aid worldwide, the geographical scope of European Union aid remains controversial. The percentage focused on low income countries is only 42 per cent. The committee suggested that in the medium term the European Union should work towards developing an objective set of global criteria to help assess the need for aid rather than the present regional basis for allocations. This does not mean that countries within the African, Caribbean and Pacific grouping (ACP) would receive less aid than at present; some, indeed, might receive more. However, we believe that at present European Union aid is skewed in favour of the ACP grouping to the detriment of other low income areas such as Asia. In that respect there are advantages to the European Development Fund being brought into the principal European Union budget lines—something which I note from the report we are discussing the Government do not favour and have rejected.

We were disappointed that the draft constitution did not have a stronger focus on development aid. It is hoped that there will not be a reduction of development interests in the name of the European Union's common foreign and security policy. It is important that the next European Commission retains an independent development commissioner and puts both aid policy and aid programming functions into a single directorate-general, retaining for implementation purposes EuropeAid.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said—I hope that the committee's report will encourage him—the committee found the suggestion that European Union aid should be repatriated likely to be both counterproductive and politically unfeasible. European Union aid as opposed to bilateral aid, as the report makes clear, has a number of advantages. This afternoon is not the occasion to go through those in detail, but I shall cite a few. The European Union, acting on behalf of all member states, is in a good position to argue the case for good performance on governance and human rights. It should certainly be possible to secure greater coherence between aid and other instruments in which the European Union has competence, particularly in trade and agriculture.

Of course, there are advantages for the recipient countries in dealing with a co-ordinated group of donors. For the donors, there is value in having their aid co-ordinated in a single strategy. The picture of European Union aid is therefore considerably more favourable than is frequently painted. I hope that the Minister will be able to enlighten the House on the reasons for opposing budgetisation of the European Development Fund, but perhaps she cannot do so in advance of the response to the committee's report. I also hope that she will take note of the committee's support for the non-repatriation of EU development aid.

5.2 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, I add my warm thanks to the noble Baroness for giving us another opportunity to debate international development. In an election week, it seems appropriate to start with a little polemic on the Government's record on aid spending, which had shown so much promise. Perhaps the noble Baroness was a little too kind in her opening remarks. She and others will remember the bullish aid manifesto of 1997. We are now in the eighth year of this Government and, as the right reverend Prelate says, the target of 0.7 per cent still seems as far off as ever.

I do not doubt the commitment of the Chancellor and the new Secretary of State, but NGOs are beginning to campaign seriously on the issue. Without the international finance facility and a much greater initiative from the G8 than we are getting this week, they wonder how the millennium development goals will ever be reached. The Government have certainly moved forward with additional spending and political commitment to Africa, with greater aid harmonisation through the Development Assistance Committee. The new research into the role of middle-income countries is also welcome. However, DAC figures show that in spite of all the trumpeting our ODA is still only 0.34 per cent, which is just behind the European average. It will creep up to 0.4 per cent by 2006, which is again below the forecast EU average of 0.43 per cent. That implies an ambitious annual growth rate of 8 per cent, and I hope that the Minister can explain how that can be achieved.

Are the international development department's public service agreements too closely linked to the millennium development goals? Those goals are ambitious, as already mentioned. The education targets in Africa—they are marked green in the annual report—still seem attainable, but most of the other boxes are red or amber. My noble friend Lord Patel has given us a poignant illustration on health. When it comes to target 4 on trade barriers, one large red box indicates that the post-Cancun talks are still stalled. Perhaps the Minister will give us a more positive picture, remembering that the UK began to influence the European Union on the Singapore issues.

There was some good news on trade last week, when the WTO ruled against the US cotton producers. That means that countries such as Mali should now be able to fetch a more reasonable price for their goods. However, some argue that west African cotton farmers should also be compensated. In 2002, Mali received 37 million dollars in aid, but lost 43 million dollars simply as a result of lower export earnings due to US subsidies, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee. Without such compensation, cotton farmers in west Africa will never be on an equal footing.

Much now depends on the new economic partnership agreements and how they can build on the valuable relationships with the ACP countries. They will have to raise their sights towards strategic and regional partnerships, while the EU takes more care with vulnerable LDCs and revives the concept of "special and differential treatment". Most people now accept that the international trading system is potentially the most valuable vehicle for poverty reduction. The question is whether the WTO, with the decision on cotton, is genuinely moving forward to equitable trade integration. Japan and the US, in particular, still need to respond positively.

Much can be achieved through the real participation of civil society in both trade and aid. For instance, a recent Christian Aid report shows how local communities in Ghana—farmers, traders and consumers directly affected by trade and especially the dumping of agricultural exports—can influence national decisions. Similar work has been done on debt relief elsewhere in Africa. However, I wonder whether governments are serious about the involvement of civil society in the poverty reduction strategy process. Sometimes one suspects that it is part of the mantra of good governance, which disguises official inability to achieve a proper process of consultation.

A lot of respected NGOs, such as the Overseas Development Institute, the Bretton Woods Project and the International Institute for Environment and Development, are questioning the adequacy of the PRSP framework. For instance, a senior researcher at the ODI has commented: In most African countries there is a tendency for PRSPs to be seen as technical planning processes". The Bretton Woods Project stated: Participation is being invoked for legitimation rather than a fundamental shift in policy making". Will the Minister therefore confirm that the DfID is doing its best, alongside the IMF and the World Bank, to monitor the effectiveness of PRSPs, which are critical? The DfID has increased its support for UK civil society, which I of course welcome, as I do the success of the partnership programme agreements.

The section on the EC in the annual report is quite candid about the European Union's failure to direct more assistance to the low-income countries, and to continue with the reform of its external assistance programmes in line with the European Development Fund. That may not surface in tomorrow's elections, but as we approach the UK presidency there will be more calls on Her Majesty's Government to speed up the reform process, of which we must all be ashamed, although the noble Lord, Lord Bowness, says that there have been improvements. On the positive side, the EU and DfID have both given solid support to communities such as the Palestinians in their sincere if desperate efforts to improve their fragile administration and stay in the negotiating process.

The debate takes place against the curious background of the Sea Island Summit, in which the interests of poor countries—especially trade and debt relief—are again overshadowed and subjected to a parade of western aspirations for the Middle East, as reflected in the latest UN resolution. I agreed with much said by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. It is evident that aid-giving itself has entered a dangerous new phase since 9/11, and I am sorry that the Government have been associated with experiments in democracy and world security at the expense of true development in the Middle East, and that that is reflected in their holistic anti-terrorist programme.

Brutal attacks on the United Nations in Congo and aid workers in Afghanistan during the past week have again highlighted the perils of helping overseas. They send a chilling signal, not least to young people, that it is no longer enough to go abroad and do good if you are likely to attract attention from terrorists or bandits with murderous intent.

There was disturbing news in Afghanistan when five Médecins Sans Frontières aid workers were killed. MSF has been working in Afghanistan for nearly 35 years and it is tragic that it has had to suspend all its operations there. Christian Aid and others have also had to suspend their projects.

The Select Committee on Foreign Affairs is due to report soon on the policies required to protect humanitarian work in areas still affected by the Taliban. The EU's Commissioner for Development, Poul Neilson, has already complained about the role of the US-led coalition and the blurring of military and humanitarian aid. Several of us have constantly mentioned this. We do not want soldiers doing aid work, we want them to protect aid workers. The Government have put up an astonishing smoke screen, claiming that security is under control when US-led forces are doing their own thing and NATO still has no unified command.

DfID and others have made an enormous investment in several regions of Afghanistan, including valuable support for local Afghan NGOs; and it is up to DfID to demand more protection from the MoD and our US allies. I hope that the Minister can assure us that she will go back and propose to her colleagues a new initiative that will take proper account of security for aid programmes in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

5.11 p.m.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville

My Lords, your Lordships' House is fortunate indeed that it has been possible for my noble friend Lady Chalker of Wallasey, with her wide experience and even wider reputation, to secure and to open this debate so pertinently. I am myself fortunate, especially as a tyro in these matters, to follow the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, whose authority on the same matters is very considerable. At the general level, I concur with my noble friend that help should always be defined by the receiver rather than by the giver. Perhaps I should preface my remarks by saying that I have been a personal friend of Mr James Wolfenson, the President of the World Bank, for nearly 50 years since we were at the Harvard Business School together, and I admire him considerably.

The thoroughly worthwhile DfID report runs to more than 200 pages and in the perhaps unnecessarily constrained minutes the Leader of your Lordships' House has vouchsafed each of us in this debate, notably in comparison with the other debate, I propose to make one provocative reference to a recent exchange at starred questions; to make one observation about substance as it affects style; to give a synopsis of one germane case history; and, arising out of the latter, to ask one question of the Minister, of which I have at her constructive invitation, given her notice. Incidentally, I join the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, in expressing surprise that Clare Short should have gone along with the recruitment of NHS staff from emerging and developing countries; and I was much moved by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, about the implications of that at the opposite end of the transaction.

First, regarding the recent exchange at Starred Questions—the Question related to the way in which economies are measured statistically in the context of climate change; in short, the argument about using current exchange rates or purchasing power parities. Some in your Lordships' House will have thought the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, who I am delighted to see in her place, "courageous" in Sir Humphrey Appleby's phrase, in telling my noble friend Lord Lawson of Blaby that he was just wrong in his advocacy of PPP, but she was patently speaking for Her Majesty's Government.

In terms of collective responsibility, I do not expect the Minister replying today to demonstrate a scintilla of dissent from the noble Baroness's position, but since the noble Baroness's asseveration, the Economist returned to the subject twice in its 29 May edition during the Recess, which concluded that measurement by current exchange rates underestimated the growth rates in emerging economies. I could not help noticing the DfID report's comments on some growth rates in Africa against the overall continental need. As the IMF uses PPPs and the world uses the IMF in its debt reduction considerations, I should be delighted if the Minister told me that DfID were to use PPP, but after the recent defence of Government practice by the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, I shall not hold my breath.

Secondly, regarding substance's effect on style—I have a close relative who has been holding positions of considerable responsibility for her age in an NGO in several central African countries. She is generally full of praise for the way that DfID handles NGOs and, particularly, for the quality of questions that they ask. She praises, too, their good methodological procedures. She felt, however, that they might sometimes—profitably for both sides—be more proactive in handling NGOs, while acknowledging that that might be a function of the amount of previous operational experience a DfID official in the field had. She thought in general that NGOs' productivity might be greater if their relations with DfID were more institutionalised.

I put to my close relative the analogous case within the UK of the concerns of voluntary sector organisations such as the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, St John's Ambulance and the WRVS at being omitted from statutory reference in the Civil Contingencies Bill. She assented immediately, citing Oxfam's recent experience of being involved in domestic poverty alleviation programmes here in the UK, where it has apparently been found that, ironically, the standard policies and procedures are inferior to some of Oxfam's practical experience in developing countries. I have no emotional capital tied up in that observation, but I pass it on in constructive mode.

Thirdly, the germane case history. Perhaps suitably for a case history, my interest is historical rather than either financial or current. For two decades I chaired a trust, although I am no longer involved, which set out originally to do archaeological research at 7,000 feet in the Peruvian Andes. After about five years it elided into rural development. In the first decade 80 per cent of the work was archaeological and 20 per cent was rural development. In the second decade the proportions were more than reversed, with 90 per cent being rural development and 10 per cent archaeological. In so far as there was a watershed—that word is not inapposite—that changed the flow. A BBC "Horizon" film showed how, after five or six years of archaeological activity, a valley that sustained 1,800 people in the days of the Incas was sustaining less than a quarter of that number by the 1970s. The key to those comparative numbers had been the Inca irrigation canals which, as the film showed, our project had opened up again.

Our project at Cusichaca is now the first site those travelling on the Inca trail see after they leave Cuzco; and it has both patiently and patently uncovered or rediscovered the entire Inca infrastructure. In the second decade, the trust moved into the next great valley; and its constituency in the third decade are two basins with four districts in each and 18,000 people within them overall. The mission is rural development by example, covering reforestation, horticulture, lots of training, demonstration centres and organic agriculture.

The trust helped create a museum and cultural centre to cover the whole constituency, both for purposes of education and tourism. There is one ongoing canal project, again, to show what can be done. As the standard manuals would approve, there is the recent creation of a local NGO with a staff of 20 Peruvians, led by a British zoologist, who was with the trust for seven years and is now married to a Peruvian girl. Similarly, a Dutch soil scientist, trained at Reading University, who was involved in the trust's second decade/second valley study, is now a consultant to the EU, but comes back to the trust's area of operations, both to visit and to train. The trust's founder, the redoubtable Dr Ann Kendall, whose doctorate is in archaeology, continues to spend four months each year in Peru, in two stretches of two months each.

The current funding comes from the EU and our own Community Fund. DfID funding, to which the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, alluded, has fallen arising from the switch of funding from middle income countries to poorer countries in general and to Iraq in particular, although anyone who knows Peru, whither I first went 40 years ago, will know that even if the population on the coast is middle income, the Andes themselves remain poor beyond description. It is the same case that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, cited in Sao Paulo, whence both my late first wife and Dr Ann Kendall came. Moreover, although the Community Fund funding is British, the fund has been criticised for going abroad and it is further enveloped in the uncertainties that surround the reorganisation of the New Opportunities Fund. So, British funding to an organisation which has been run largely on a shoestring, but has earned a substantial reputation for this country, may not remain constant.

The trust is now carrying out environmental research, mapping whole areas for their natural resources and coexistence, so as to give the local communities a handle on their opportunities. This community involvement was what made the Inca civilisation so impressive, even if it was not proof against Spanish gunfire. My question, to which I alluded at the beginning, is whether the Darwin Initiative, which is funding research into biodiversity globally and supporting environmental and biodiversity research, will also be diverted away from Peru on middle income and Iraqi grounds. If it is, it will be a classic case of policy confusion, but a clear answer from the Minister would be welcome.

5.20 p.m.

Lord Chan

My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for securing this debate on international development—an area of concern in which she has a distinguished reputation. It was during her time as Minister for Overseas Development that I had the opportunity, together with colleagues from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, to work in Orissa and the five northern states of India over a period of 10 years. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that.

I welcome the DfID report of 2004 with its analysis of policies to help the poorest countries to achieve the millennium development goals. Aid for developing countries continues to be as necessary today as it has been over the past four decades. Of course, mistakes were made in the past when donors expected the recipient countries to repay debts with interest. Thankfully, Her Majesty's Government have been at the forefront in cancelling the debts of poorer countries.

Much has been said about the millennium development goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger and the achievement of universal primary education. Those require infrastructure, good governance, a lack of corruption and other issues that seem to be rather difficult to achieve.

Other MDGs—particularly those relating to health—are more likely to be achieved in local communities. They are dependent on the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, and they include reduced child mortality, improved maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other infections, and ensuring environmental stability and partnerships for development.

I shall focus on the "how to" in three areas: first, the empowerment of women; secondly, the need for a reliable supply of medicines and equipment; and, thirdly, partnership learning and working among developing countries, particularly among health workers.

The empowerment of women is essential in achieving those MDGs. Such empowerment is surprisingly not difficult to achieve in local communities. In most traditional societies, women decide on what families eat, which includes the growing of food, and how children are nurtured. Therefore, the use of micro-credit has been very helpful and productive. The missing ingredient to enable women in developing countries to influence the health of their families is the opportunity to receive information and support on how to improve health and well-being.

Examples abound in poor communities of the positive contribution that women make when they are supported by community development teams. I have seen groups of illiterate women in urban slums and villages in India who sing songs about the care of babies, about weaning foods and also about how to make oral rehydration fluids using salt and sugar for treating their babies with diarrhoea. As a result, babies and young children in those communities gain weight and remain healthy, and their mothers use health services appropriately.

Success in those settings depends upon partnerships between trained and motivated health workers and local women, who are given the opportunity to take control to improve their lives and the well-being of their families. Basic information on local food which is nutritious for infants and children, the availability of vaccinations against serious childhood infections, such as tuberculosis, and the protection of children against endemic malaria are important.

Co-operation and partnerships between, for example, the UK non-governmental organisations and local communities through capacity-building are very important and productive. The NGO of which I am chairman—the Malaria Consortium—has been engaged in capacity-building with people in Uganda and Ghana, where we have offices with more employees than we have in London.

Where women are literate, as in the southern Indian state of Kerala, substantial improvements are made in maternal health, child survival and, with appropriate services, the control of diarrhoea and respiratory infections in children. All those improvements have been achieved in spite of Kerala being one of the economically poorer states of India. Similar results have been achieved in Sri Lanka—again, one of the poorer countries in south Asia.

Urban slum improvement projects in other parts of India have also led to local success with improvements in the health of children and mothers. I had the privilege of taking a group of Indian health service leaders and workers from urban slums to Thailand to meet their Thai counterparts to discuss how to run public health schemes and manage HIV/AIDS. My Indian colleagues were encouraged to see progress being achieved in other Asian settings which they could adapt for their communities. And that visit was made 10 years ago.

When replying, perhaps the Minister will inform your Lordships of efforts that are being made by DfID to encourage governments of developing countries to learn from the examples of best practice in other communities in their own or neighbouring countries through visits and working partnerships.

A regular supply of effective medicines in local communities is essential for the treatment and maintenance of health. What proportion of DfID's budget is allocated to this essential service? Training of health and community workers is another essential if countries are to achieve the MDGs. Partnerships with other developing countries that have achieved success in local communities is important. As many achievements in local communities are led by non-governmental organisations, to which other noble Lords have alluded, to what extent does DfID support their work in developing countries?

Finally, DfTD could also influence better donor co-operation so that health services in communities in poor countries could be more joined up. For example, condoms provided for HIV prevention should also be distributed by reproductive health workers. Concern for death rates in children under the age of five should be better focused on infants—that is, children in the first year of life. That should encompass the healthcare of women, including contraception, so as to ensure a birth interval between one pregnancy and another of about 18 months. We can do more to improve the healthcare of mothers and babies in order to fulfil the MDGs.

5.28 p.m.

Baroness Northover

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for introducing this very important debate. As others have pointed out, she does indeed have a formidable record in this field. The debate is extremely timely, given the backdrop of the G8 meeting in Georgia this week. It is good to hear that at last the UK seems to be prevailing on our US allies in terms of negotiating debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries. I hope that the noble Baroness can fill us in on the progress of those talks.

But we are discussing this issue against a wider backdrop. Countries in the developed world have been at odds with each other over the Middle East and, in particular, over Iraq. Achieving the millennium development goals seems as remote as ever, with the possibility—in fact, as we have heard, the probability—of many of the poorest countries going backwards by 2015, largely because of the AIDS pandemic.

Of course, with a more local backdrop, we have the European and local elections tomorrow. In these elections international issues have been on the agenda far more than is often the case. Europe and Iraq have been key issues, but little attention has been given to the plight of those suffering from AIDS in Africa, or even to those being starved, raped and murdered in Sudan.

There is a strong interest in international development in the UK, but so often it is eclipsed by concerns closer to home. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle has pointed out, it was in 1970, almost 35 years ago, that the UN set the target for countries to reach official development assistance of 0.7 per cent of GNP. By 1975, the UK had reached about 0.5 per cent, but by 1997, that had slipped to below 0.3 per cent. As other noble Lords have said, the Government are to be credited with bringing up that level currently to 0.34 per cent, but it is still a long way short of the 0.7 per cent target.

In the next four weeks the Government will determine their overall spending plans for the next three years. Can the Minister tell me whether she believes that the Government will have a timetable for reaching 0.7 per cent in the spending review? Other countries have reached that point, including Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden and others have a timetable for doing so, including France, Spain and Ireland. One of the planks of the Irish presidency of the EU was to agree the timetable. Until the UK has pledged 0.7 per cent on aid, some countries have said that they are reluctant to support the International Finance Facility, which has yet to get off the ground.

So much for the size of DfID's budget, but what about how it is spent? In the very full report, DfID emphasises that it is, committed to spending 90 per cent of our budget in the world's poorest countries by 2005–06". Surely it has been little short of disastrous that so much effort and money over the past year or so has been spent on Iraq. We read that the UK aid budget is set to increase to £4.5 billion by 2005–06, which is welcome. But how can it be justified that £544 million has been pledged by the UK Government to Iraq up to March 2006? Whatever the rights and wrongs of overthrowing the regime, doing so without true international support, and thereby bringing on ourselves the responsibility, with the Americans and few others, for reconstructing Iraq has surely completely distorted DfID's budget and its direction.

Why is it that the reconstruction forced on us by the UK's actions comes out of the DfID budget which is supposed to help the poorest in the world? Can the Minister tell me which countries are, therefore, suffering cutbacks as a result of this policy, this distortion in the budget?

My noble friend Lord Alderdice and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, have pointed to the serious reduction in aid to Latin America. I note DfID's almost complete withdrawal from the Pacific. Obviously, the UK cannot be involved everywhere, but when areas that were supported by the UK are suddenly dropped, while expenditure on Iraq hugely increases, surely the Government should be held to account. No expenditure at all is to be allowed in the Pacific after 1 April 2004. That is an area which includes one failed state—the Solomon Islands—which until recently was a UK responsibility. Fiji is also politically unstable. It is not likely that the EU will take up responsibility here, given that it has no long-term interest in the area. Can the Minister tell me what future she sees for the poorest areas in the Pacific? Have any agreements been made with others to ensure that the poorest in those areas do not lose out?

Can she also tell me how the department weighs up the relative merits of expenditure on Iraq and Afghanistan, a country with great poverty, but which, as is also claimed of Iraq, has significance for instability far wider than the country itself? As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has pointed out, if a country reaches a certain point in development, it is more likely to be stable. These things are indeed interlinked. What intercessions has DfID made to other government departments and to international organisations about the need for security in Afghanistan so that reconstruction can take place, so that the poppy harvests can decline, in the way that the Chancellor has promised, and so that stable government can thrive?

When Lakhdar Brahimi left Afghanistan he impressed on the world how important it was that security was provided there. He noted with some irony how readily troops were provided for Iraq while Afghanistan was neglected. As my noble friend Lord Alderdice has said, we have to see policies through if stability is to be achieved.

The MDGs place particular stress on the need to improve the position of women and girls. I support what the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Chan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, have said on that. I note with some interest that the vast majority of the photos in DfID's annual report are of women and girls. It was quite difficult to find boys featured among them. I trust that in many ways that reflects the nature of what DfID is doing.

At this point I turn to the gravest crisis facing the poorest nations and that is the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which of course afflicts women and girls even more desperately than men and boys. As the All-Party Group on Africa stated in its report published on Monday, the AIDS epidemic is an exceptional threat to African societies and states as well as to millions of African people. It requires an exceptional response". It has the potential, to tear apart social fabric, destroy developmental gains and plunge some regions into decades of stagnation and insecurity". The urgency of this crisis, I must say, does not shine out of the DfID annual report. There is a page of text on AIDS compared, for example, with three and a half pages of text on Iraq. Yet the threat to world order, political stability, economic growth and the future, not only of Africa but surely far wider, as the disease spreads and as its after-effects are felt, is far more significant. Can the Minister tell me how many members of staff serve in DfID, how many work full time on Iraq, and how many work full time on HIV/AIDS? To what extent is the problem concentrated within a unit, and to what extent is it tackled in every department and at every level? Can she also say when DfID will produce its comprehensive plan on AIDS? What proposals might that bring forward to help AIDS orphans?

I believe that my noble friend Lord Alderdice is right. He describes as paradoxical the effects of some policies that work against the effects of others. Surely allowing the AIDS pandemic to spread, while we are theoretically trying to achieve the MDGs, is at the least paradoxical.

Nevertheless, the Government are to be applauded for putting international development higher on the agenda. But it seems to me that there is a long way to go and it is very clear that Iraq has been a major diversion from the needs of the very poor. We must all hope that, with the passage of the latest UN resolution, the time will rapidly come when Iraq properly governs and secures itself so that attention can once more be effectively addressed to the needs of the poorest in the world.

It is surely the case that we have a moral responsibility, as others have said, to the poorest in the world, but we also have, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed out, a self-interest in the greater stability that economic development produces.

5.40 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Chalker for initiating this afternoon's debate and for introducing it with such wisdom. I echo the comments of other noble Lords in recognising the long and ongoing commitment my noble friend shows to the field of international development.

Today's debate presents us with an invaluable opportunity to examine the very important contribution the Department for International Development has made over the past year. As is so frequently the case in your Lordships' House, we have heard this afternoon many knowledgeable, moving and enlightened contributions. I welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, to the Dispatch Box for this debate, but I cannot disguise my disappointment that a debate on something as fundamental as the international development annual report, covering such a vital subject, is not being replied to by the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, who has such long experience in the field.

In speaking to the report, I would like to address several of the key geographical zones in turn before finally turning to the more holistic role that DfID plays in supporting some of the world's poorest societies.

As we have heard many times, 1.1 billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Of these, 70 per cent live in rural areas, working in agriculture. We have heard, too, that the current combination of agricultural subsidies in developed countries and trade barriers to protect their own products continues to contribute to ongoing poverty.

I start with the situation in Africa, where the vast majority of the poorest countries are situated. We note that DfID spends almost 50 per cent of its bilateral assistance in this region. Tragically, for too long their progress has been held back by conflict, on which I want to concentrate.

Only today, in a Statement in the other place, we heard yet again that the Janjaweed militia is responsible for massive violence, that a climate of impunity prevails in Darfur, and that the Government of Sudan permit the Janjaweed to exercise a reign of terror over the Darfurians. As the Secretary of State said, we have a responsibility to do all we can so that Darfur does not descend into genocide.

Conflict, as we see in Darfur, is a major contributor to world poverty. Indeed, page 107 of the report points out that of the 40 poorest countries in the world, 24 are either in the midst of or have recently emerged from conflict. It is also important to recognise the important contribution that peace-keeping operations can have in reducing poverty. We welcome the fine report, A Case for Change, by Nicola Dahrendorf, produced by King's College, London, that DfID commissioned to address this issue, and I declare an interest as chairman of its council.

We also welcome the progress that has been made in providing improved access to healthcare and education. However, not all the progress in Africa has been as good. The ongoing scourge of HIV/AIDS continues to blight the continent, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, mentioned. It is spreading though a mix of cultural traditions, lack of education or, in the case of Zimbabwe, ill-thought-through land reform. There, the displacement of thousands of farm labourers has led to the spread of the disease. I fully agree with the stirring speech of my noble friend Lady Flather on the plight of women in developing countries.

Good governance and national responsibility have a major role to play in those countries where health education has been pushed to the fore. There have been significant reductions in new cases of the virus, and I pay tribute to the work of the Government of Uganda. Moreover, a global strategy coupled with good governance might help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS. We would like to see the Global Fund for health ring-fenced to promote pharmaceutical research into an affordable cure for HIV/AIDS, and not have its efficacy reduced to a general pot of money, as publicly advocated by the former Secretary of State for International Development.

In Asia, there has also been progress. In Afghanistan, no longer at war—despite some of the reports we have heard from the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich—economic growth is up 30 per cent, and 4 million children have returned to school. We acknowledge the work that DfID has done in Burma, where there has been considerable progress since the communist regime, where the UK is the largest co-financier of the fund for HIV/AIDS.

We do however note with interest the statement that DfID is involved in a 100 million dollar loan to provide schooling for 2.4 million children in China. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten the House on the reasoning behind a loan to support education in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

I turn to the situation in Europe and the Middle East. Particular progress has been made in Iraq, and we pay tribute to the work DfID has done in supporting this. In particular, we welcome the £0.5 billion the Government have pledged up to 2006 for reconstruction projects and humanitarian assistance. The funding will go far in improving the lives of Iraqi people in their unfolding democracy.

We note the additional funding for the Palestinian negotiation support unit which provides advice to the Palestinian Authority on how best to approach negotiations with Israel. It has been suggested, however, that this organisation has, since the collapse of the Camp David negotiations, been involved in spreading anti-Israeli propaganda. Obviously, with any funding it is important that the Government can trace the use to which it is put and I ask the Minister what checks are in place to ensure examples such as this do not become the norm.

I turn to the global situation and I agree with many noble Lords who have rightly mentioned Latin America that the lack of support for those countries is quite shameful. We welcome the clear progress that the Government have made in the area of debt relief, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, where 100 per cent of the debt owed by most heavily indebted poor countries has been written off. However, current procedures in debt relief—namely, HIPC—are bureaucratic and slow and are failing the people they were designed to help. If further progress is to be made in relieving poverty in developing countries, urgent reform of debt relief and HIPC in particular is required. What guarantees may be provided to support those countries that have not yet achieved decision point or completion point?

Finally, I turn to the important roles of aid and trade. Noble Lords who have read the report will have seen that in the opening pages Her Majesty's Government set out the important role that aid has to play. Indeed, successive governments have all realised that aid is crucial in moving some of the world's poorest countries away from the millstone of poverty. However, we must not underestimate the importance of trade in establishing robust and sustainable free market economies. I fully endorse the support of my noble friend Lady Chalker for private sector contribution.

With regard to the department's fourth target of reducing trade barriers between developing countries by 2005 and the Doha development agenda, I find it difficult to see how this target will be met in the light of the collapse of the Cancun meetings in September last year. We welcome the Doha development round and the subsequent meetings because we view free trade as more effective and sustainable than aid in isolation. While we recognise the need for aid, our priority is to liberalise markets and thus have free trade as the key propagator for global wealth development.

Following on from this, we could establish an advocacy fund for developing nations that would be paid for by the richer countries of the world. The advocacy fund would in turn allow poorer nations to pay for the necessary expertise and legal advice in order to hold their own throughout future world trade talks. We support a rapid return to the Doha development round in order to pursue free trade as the most effective remedy in curing world poverty.

I am sure all noble Lords will agree that aid should always add value and help countries to help themselves. We are grateful to my noble friend for reminding us of the importance of European Union aid. Yet, as my honourable friend the Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, John Bercow MP, recently said in a speech to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there is a chronic contradiction between aid policy and trade policy … For every dollar western taxpayers give to poor countries, those countries lose two dollars through barriers to their exports to the developed world". All too often it seems what the UK Government give in overseas aid is more than outweighed by what we take away through trade subsidies or sanctions.

Truly effective aid requires fair trade. As we have heard from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle during the debate, even if countries meet the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GDP for government aid, the sum remains insignificant when compared to the potential of trade. When faced with a choice between giving people money and enabling them to earn money, the latter is surely preferable.

In this encouraging report we read of aid, debt relief, development of affordable medicines and more trade with many of these countries. These are all laudable aims, but which will have little effect on a country being torn apart by constant conflict. It is easy to forget when talking about war that each figure represents the death of an individual—someone's father, mother or child. In Darfur alone it is estimated that 2 million have died. With this one example it is easy to see how conflict is the fundamental contributor to world poverty.

It would be churlish of me not to recognise the importance and significance of last week's celebrations of 60 years of peace and prosperity in Europe after centuries of bloody battles. This peace is due principally to the European Union and the NATO alliance, but also to the democratic freedom and good governance of individual countries. This can only emphasise how important it is that everyone who has the privilege to vote, in whatever election, does so.

5.52 p.m.

Baroness Crawley

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, for securing this debate and in doing so I acknowledge her most impressive record and experience in this field. I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this excellent debate for their very constructive and often challenging remarks, and for their positive comments on the Government's policy towards international development.

As 2005 approaches, we are reaching a critical time for global political commitment and UK leadership in the field of international development. The 2004 DfID departmental report—I thank all noble Lords who have made encouraging noises on the report—sets out the work that DfID undertakes through bilateral and multilateral channels in more than 125 countries around the world and aims to give a balanced picture of UK success stories and areas where much more needs to be done and how we intend to achieve that.

Progress towards the internationally agreed millennium development goals is mixed, as many noble Lords have said. On current trends it is unlikely that more than two goals will be met by 2015: the goals relating to income poverty and improved access to safe water. Globally, 104 million children still do not go to primary school; 10 million children die each year before their fifth birthdays from largely preventable diseases; and 1.1 billion people are still living on less than one dollar a day.

Each UK government department has to measure progress against a set of objectives that make up its public service agreement; a mechanism first implemented in 1999 that provides a coherent and dynamic focus for the department's work. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, said, DfID's 2003–06 public service agreement is linked directly to the millennium development goals.

The millennium development goals have been referred to by many noble Lords. The department is on track to meet 17 of the 28 indicators linked to the objectives. There has been a significant reduction in the proportion of people living on one dollar a day. The ratio of girls to boys enrolled in primary schools has increased. The effectiveness of the international development system has been enhanced. However, enormous challenges remain, as we have heard today from many noble Lords, particularly those relating to under-fives and maternal mortality rates, tuberculosis detection rates, the poverty focus of the EC and the stalled World Trade Organisation talks.

The constraints to progress against the millennium development goals and the public service agreement vary considerably between geographical regions. They include particularly the impact of HIV/AIDS and barriers to trade, in addition to ongoing conflict, poor governance, inequality and exclusion, and human rights abuses. The scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is staggering, as the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said, with nine new infections occurring globally every minute. That is quite simply killing development in many countries. Life expectancy is dropping and deaths among skilled workers and young people are undermining prospects for future economic growth. The social consequences for women and children in particular—a matter raised by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Flather and Lady Northover—are devastating. In Botswana it is estimated that life expectancy will drop from 65 years in the early 1990s to 27 years by 2010.

The UK Government's call for action on HIV/AIDS is the start of a process that will take us beyond our 2005 presidency and focus on stronger political direction and improved funding. On donor co-ordination and HIV/ AIDS programmes, we are fully supportive of the UN and World Health Organisation efforts to secure HIV treatment for 3 million people in the developing world by the end of 2005, including 2 million in sub-Saharan Africa.

The stalled world trade talks at Cancun were a major disappointment and the UK Government are absolutely committed to an early resumption of multilateral trade negotiations. The stakes are high, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has implied. Estimates suggest that a 50 per cent reduction in trade protection measures by both developing and developed countries could result in a welfare gain for developing countries of around 150 billion dollars per year. As noble Lords will know, that is three times what they receive in aid. This could lift 300 million people out of poverty by 2015, as the noble Baroness said.

Noble Lords have stressed that the international community must now move on to deliver on the Doha commitments to improve market access, to reduce and agree a date for ending all forms of export subsidies and to reduce trade distorting domestic support.

The challenge to the millennium development goals is particularly daunting in sub-Saharan Africa where poverty levels are the highest in the world. Less than 1 per cent of global foreign direct investment goes to the region. Africa's share of world trade is also less than 1 per cent and 29 million Africans are infected with the HIV virus.

The UK Government are committed to tackling the challenges faced by sub-Saharan Africa. The Commission for Africa set up this year provides an opportunity to take a fresh look at the problems facing Africa, both past and present, and to recommend a new way forward. This is not a UK commission. More than half the commissioners are African and it aims to draw on the expertise of as many African organisations as possible, in particular the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa's Development. The commission has agreed six principal themes to be considered over the next six months: investment in people; conflict and peace-building; the environment; governance; the economy; culture and participation. Its recommendations may mean difficult choices for the international community and Africa, but new solutions must be identified if the Millennium Development Goals are to be relevant for the majority of Africans.

The United Nations millennium development goals stock-take next year will provide a harsh reality-check. It is currently estimated that sub-Saharan Africa will reach neither the poverty goal nor the child mortality goal until 2150—some 150 years beyond 2015. It will be imperative that we use this stock-take to gain renewed commitment from the international community as a whole to meeting the millennium development goals within the agreed timescale. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle has rightly said, 2005 will offer an important opportunity for the UK Government to increase the international political focus on development as they take on the presidencies of the G8 and the expanded European Union. The way forward is clear—we must ensure that sufficient financial resources are provided, and that these are used to optimum effect if real progress is to be made. Again, the right reverend Prelate underlined this issue in his contribution.

First, the volume of aid must be increased. The 2002 Monterrey Financing for Development Consensus committed international donors to providing significant additional aid by 2006. We now need to live up to these commitments. The UK Government are gradually moving towards the United Nations target of 0.7 per cent of our gross national income being allocated to official development assistance. We aim to reach 0.4 per cent in 2005–06. I take note of several noble Lords' criticisms on the speed of that development. We are also strongly supporting the proposed International Finance Facility which aims to more that double the total aid provided globally to more than 100 billion dollars a year.

Secondly, in addition to providing more funds, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, has highlighted, the effectiveness of that aid must be improved. In the last year for which we have figures, donors started 35,000 activities with an average size of 1.5 million dollars. It is almost impossible for developing countries to keep track of these initiatives, and to draw maximum benefit from them. DfID has worked closely with others to implement the principles established in the OECD Rome Declaration on Harmonisation in 2003, which aim to encourage a more integrated approach from international donors. DfID has reduced its number of projects and focused more on poverty reduction budget support and sector strategies intended to support partner governments' own poverty reduction agendas. Thirdly, well-informed, evidence-based policy is critical to good decision-making on both aid allocations and intervention. DfID is working to improve its policies through greater research and improved analytical methodology, and has reorganised its policy division this year to provide more focused analysis, advice and expertise.

Given sufficient political will, progress is possible. There are already success stories to be told. Ongoing conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa have fallen from 19 to two over the past four years. The heavily indebted poor countries initiative has released 1.7 billion dollars since 2001 for social expenditure and poverty reduction in 27 countries. Over the past four years, DfID has helped India to increase primary school enrolment to 90 per cent. In conjunction with other agencies, DfID has helped to save 1,000 lives in the immediate aftermath of the Barn earthquake in Iran. It is estimated that DfID's aid lifts 2 million people permanently out of poverty each year.

I will do my best to answer as many of your Lordships' questions as possible, and those that I do not reach I will follow-up in correspondence. The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, asked about DfID and private companies, and what action we are taking to develop these partnerships. DfID is working on a number of fronts to promote greater corporate responsibility and greater partnership with the private sector. Successful examples include the extractive industries transparency initiative launched by the Prime Minister in September 2002 to promote full transparency of payments and revenues in the oil, gas and mining sectors in developing countries. There is also the support for the ethical trading initiative, an alliance of businesses, non-governmental organisations and trade unions designed to improve working conditions in global supply chains. The noble Baroness also asked whether the poverty reduction budget support is given in conjunction with help for capacity-building. Capacity-building is provided in conjunction with the budget support, often within the area of public financial management systems among others. An important indicator of whether budget support will result in poverty reduction is whether the recipient government's public financial management systems are effective.

The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, asked what DfID is doing to improve access to trade and reduce trade barriers. They will know that the Government acknowledge the damaging effect that dumping and trade-supporting subsidies have on developing countries' agricultural sectors. Commodity dependency—and the associated vulnerability to high volatility prices—also remains a major development problem. Our priorities for the round are getting agreement on the issues that matter most to developing countries: agriculture; nonagricultural market access; and special and differential treatment to help poorer countries adjust to open markets.

The noble Baroness raised the issue of corruption as did my noble friend Lord Desai. She asked whether we are training for reducing corruption. We are not training specifically, but DfID provides a wide range of support for developing countries to tackle corruption—through strong enforcement action against corruption and money laundering such as effective anti-corruption agencies and financial intelligence units, and through necessary preventive measures such as improved public sector financial management and better parliamentary oversight.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, raised very strongly the issue of the 0.7 per cent target. I have covered that to some extent. They also asked me directly about a timetable, as did other noble Lords. I will no doubt disappoint them by saying that the UK Government have not as yet committed to a timetable for reaching the 0.7 per cent target. However, I am sure that the strong appeal of the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords will be noted.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, asked in his very moving contribution what plans DfID has in developing a new strategy for meeting millennium development goals for reducing maternal deaths. A new strategy on maternal health will be launched by the department in the coming weeks. As the noble Lord knows, DfID is committed to reducing the appalling toll of deaths of mothers and new-born babies. We are focused on building better health systems able to meet the challenges of delivering quality care in the resource-starved settings that are often found systems able to provide access to quality reproductive health services, prevent and safely manage unwanted pregnancies, and provide skilled attendance for every birth backed by ready access to emergency obstetric care.

The noble Lord also raised the question of how DfID is promoting programmes for treating women with obstetric fistula. I am sure that the department will be very willing to discuss this most important area of women's and girls' health with him at his convenience.

The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, spoke about the USA with regard to contraception and reproduction programmes. They asked what plans DfID had to engage in dialogue with countries such as the USA to promote reproductive health and rights more actively by restoring their funding schemes. They will know that DfID has a long-standing commitment to support reproductive health and rights. We are a leading donor to UNIFEM. DfID engages with international partners in strengthening global leadership and raising the profile of maternal health on national and international agendas. Although we agree to disagree with the United States on those policies, such as those on condoms and abortion, that does not preclude us from working closely with the United States on sexual and reproductive health in a number of countries.

The noble Baroness, Lady Flather, the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Chan, and others emphasised the empowerment of women. We agree that gender equality and the empowerment of women are essential prerequisites for the eradication of world poverty and the upholding of human rights.

I was asked a specific question by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, about street children in Brazil and the consequences of DfID's policy on middle-income countries. I can say to the noble Lord—I hope that it is good news—that the Government's reprioritisation of funding to middle-income countries will not affect the work being done with street children in Brazil, which is supported by DfID. United Kingdom NGOs will continue to have access to funding through DfID's Civil Society Challenge Fund and through their partnership programme agreements with DfID for such projects. DfID currently supports one such project through the Civil Society Challenge Fund scheme.

The noble Lords, Lord Hannay of Chiswick and Lord Bowness, asked about EU aid policy and our response to it. We are, of course, in favour of turning the European Union into an effective player in aid policy. It is the third-largest aid agency in the world. Recent EU reforms are starting to push things in the right direction, and we are looking to build on those positive developments. That will not give noble Lords the complete answer, but, no doubt, we will get that in the coming weeks and months.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, asked a specific question about the Darwin Initiative—a biodiversity initiative. Last year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs contributed £4 million to the Darwin Initiative, which is a small grants programme that draws on British expertise in biodiversity to promote conservation and the sustainable use of resources in less-developed countries. Since its launch in 1992, the Darwin Initiative has committed over £35 million to more than 300 projects in over 100 countries. Defra's contribution to the initiative will rise to £7 million in 2006–07.

I have run out of time and will not be able to answer other questions from noble Lords now. Noble Lords can rest assured that I will answer in writing.

The next 10 years are crucial, if we are to demonstrate our political commitment to tackling poverty, injustice and inequality. In 2005, we must seize the opportunity to demonstrate international leadership and ensure that political commitments translate into reinvigorated efforts to reduce global poverty.

6.14 p.m.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey

My Lords, I thank the Minister and the 12 other noble Lords who spoke in the debate. We will inevitably sympathise with the Minister, in trying to sum up such a wide debate. I remember the situation well.

I beg the Minister and the department to consider again how we can achieve better co-ordination and collaboration, not only with other donors but also with governments. I ask DfID not to be cowed by Finance Ministers, who always want to direct everything. That is why I made particular play in my comments on capacity building of extending capacity building in foreign countries to the spending departments, not just to financial management. However good the IFMIS systems are, support will be of value in lifting people out of poverty only if the spending departments get it right, not just the Finance Ministers. I know that the Minister and the department will put special emphasis on trying to get easier trade relations between the developing world and the developed world, but training in those countries to enable growth in their export industry is vital.

It would be wrong to go over the debate, and it is impossible to sum it up in 20 minutes or in two. I take to heart what the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, said about the health issues. Unless we get the health issues right, we undermine so many of the other things that we do. For many years, my companies have trained two people aged 20, in order to have one active and working at 40. That is the scale of the problem. It is not just HIV/AIDS; it is malaria and TB, about which we can take far more preventive action than we, as donors, encourage countries to do.

I thank everyone who has been involved. It has been a good debate. We probably do not have them often enough. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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