Philippines: Typhoon Odette

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 5th January 2022

(2 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they are providing to the Philippines following Typhoon Odette.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in doing so, draw the House’s attention to my register of interests.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, we were saddened to see the devastation wrought by Typhoon Odette, known internationally as Typhoon Rai, on the Philippines on 16 and 17 December. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected. The UK has committed £750,000 to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ emergency appeal launched on 18 December. This will go towards supporting the recovery needs of affected people, including water, sanitation and shelter. The UK is one of the top four contributors to the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund, which is contributing $12 million to the UN’s humanitarian response plan for Typhoon Odette.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his Answer and the embassy in Manila for all its action over the last three weeks. I visited the Philippines as a VSO international volunteer shortly after Typhoon Yolanda in early 2014 and saw for myself the devastation that these extreme weather events have on a country that has weak resilience and more extreme weather events than any other country in the world. I have watched since then the way in which climate change has accelerated the regularity of these events. I have two questions for the Minister. First, will the forthcoming international development strategy properly recognise the importance of disaster risk resilience, to protect development rather than see it blown away in a matter of moments? At the same time, will the Government recognise the critical importance of volunteers in the humanitarian response to these kinds of disasters? They are most often on the ground in the community and able to respond very quickly, so will they be reprioritised in future international development funding?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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I can give an emphatic yes to both those questions. The noble Lord is right to identify the Philippines as being particularly on the front line in relation to climate extremes. This is the 15th typhoon to hit the Philippines in the last year. That phenomenon underscores the acute vulnerability of the Philippines and other climate-vulnerable nations to these now unfortunately inevitable changes.

International Development Strategy

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 16th December 2021

(1 month ago)

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Moved by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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That this House takes note of the plans by Her Majesty’s Government to announce a new international development strategy for the United Kingdom in 2022.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity. I draw attention to my entry in the Lords register.

This week, across the United Kingdom, families of all faiths have been worrying about how they will manage to spend the holiday season, beginning next week, with their families and, perhaps, their friends. However, my thoughts have been drawn constantly this week to those millions of people around the world for whom daily life is so unbearable and the future so threatening that, whatever small luxuries they might enjoy this holiday season, they are looking forward to 2022 with dread. Wherever they come from, those who are hungry and worried, who have been displaced and who are experiencing extreme weather events or conflict and violence, will look at the Christmas period as a time when those relentless pressures continue and are not abated.

This year, that is perhaps more true in Afghanistan than anywhere else, given the events of recent months. Not only is there drought, a vaccination rate below 10% and 2 million people in the country currently hungry as a result of this year’s events, it is reckoned that perhaps as many as 1 million children under five could die in 2022 if emergency assistance is not available. Yesterday, the Disasters Emergency Committee launched an appeal for Afghanistan. I urge Members of your Lordships’ House to support it this Christmas and think about those in much less fortunate circumstances than us.

This is a rare opportunity to debate a strategy that has not yet been published. I therefore very much welcome this opportunity and am grateful to be able to lead the debate. I thank the Minister for attending and for what I am sure will be an interesting summation of the debate. I also thank him for his work this year in ensuring that COP 26 focused not only on climate change but on moving the emergency of our natural resource depletion up the agenda and putting biodiversity at the centre of the debate in a way that had not been the case at previous climate summits.

I thank noble Lords for speaking in the debate but I am sure that we all miss Frank Judd, who would of course have contributed today had he been with us at the end of this year, as he was last Christmas. I hope that his regular call to think about the interdependence of our world will be at the forefront of our minds in our contributions today. I made my first contribution in your Lordships’ House on 8 July 2010, speaking just after Lord Judd. At that time—it was a debate on international development—I referred to “signs of hope”. In my summation, I said:

“Let us build on them and help to build a safer and more prosperous world for us all.”—[Official Report, 8/7/10; col. 360.]


That seems like a very long time ago.

In the years following that debate, the new Government appeared as enthusiastic as the previous one about international development and making a positive contribution overseas, with the establishment of the Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which evolved over the years into the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, and the commitment to 50% of ODA going to fragile and conflict-affected states. The commitment given by the previous Government to spend 0.7% of GNI on official development assistance was also enacted during that period.

The emerging consensus, which was perhaps stronger than it had ever been in our country, was that the UK’s role as a development superpower was a key part of our soft power around the world and not just a moral obligation—it is a moral obligation, of course; I will always insist that that is the primary purpose of the contribution that we make—but it was also in our own self-interest in building a better and safer world for all. Even in 2019, after all the division of the previous two or three years and that very divisive election campaign, there was still some consensus between the parties and their manifestos. The party that won that election, of course, had firm manifesto commitments to increase spending on girls’ education, end malaria and maintain the commitment to 0.7% of our GNI being spent on official development assistance.

How different 2021 has been. In a year when our call to action should have been much stronger than ever before, with so many around the world suffering from vaccine inequality and the economic, educational and health challenges of lockdowns, we were the only leading nation in the world to cut our official development assistance. In a year when millions of youngsters missed out on school and millions of girls will not return to school, we cut the funding that we were going to give to girls’ education. In a year when we led the climate summit in Glasgow and had a responsibility to show an example to the rest of the world, we fell short on transitional funding for the countries that will suffer most from climate change and will now potentially suffer most in the transition to a greener future. This year, we have seen the migration and displacement of people go to their highest levels ever. We have seen the number of people around the world in extreme poverty go up, rather than down, for the first time in a generation. We continue to see vaccine inequality causing difficulties and problems in every part of the world.

Since 2010 and that speech I made in my first month in your Lordships’ House, I have tried very hard to work on a cross-party basis on international development and conflict issues, and to build friendships and collaborations across this House and another place to ensure that we take this agenda forward. I have tried to be optimistic at all times—even at the end of 2021, when I believe that the Government have made so many mistakes in this area of policy. I will try to be optimistic again today because the integrated review gave a commitment to a new international development strategy. It said that we would continue as a country to be a world leader on development. It said that we would restate our commitment to poverty eradication. It said that we would align our development spending and work with the Paris Agreement. It said that we would continue to work to achieve the SDGs by 2030. I welcome those commitments; I want to see them at the heart of this new strategy.

Today, I do not want to talk about how much is in the budget or how we spend the money; that is, the mechanics of delivery. I want to concentrate and what and why. This review should be an opportunity to review some of the inexplicable decisions that were made in 2021, such as the decision to almost completely clear out all UK funding for mine clearance around the world, which was just shameful. It should also be an opportunity to reinforce bilateral programmes again and give our ambassadors the sort of clout they could have had with an FCDO that was on the front foot rather than the back foot.

As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, recently suggested in your Lordships’ House, it should set out a plan to work towards 0.7% being back in place, not just as a hope, an aspiration or a surprise in some budget in two or three years’ time, but as a step-by-step rebuild of the capacity and the spending. Also, much more importantly, it should set out priorities and a strategy. The objective and purpose of that strategy should be our contribution to the international effort to eradicate extreme poverty. That is the primary purpose of our official development assistance. The primary purpose of international development work should be to leave no one behind.

There is, of course, a role for the UK and others to contribute to immediate emergency humanitarian needs and, of course, we build into these strategies environmental considerations, the need for economic growth to sustain development, and the need for better governance and security, but poverty reduction is the moral purpose of development and the best way to ensure that our interests are met in the long-term, as well as the interests of those who suffer extreme poverty.

I suggest three key priorities for this strategy, which we hope will be published in the new year. First, it should be crystal clear throughout that we align our development spending and our work with the Paris Agreement and now, of course, with the agreements that were reached in Glasgow, and that we support the continuing UK COP 26 presidency by ensuring that we are working in a joined-up way between our development work and our work towards a greener and more environmentally friendly world. We should not be substituting development spending for the spending on the other initiatives that the Government should be pursuing in the UK’s role as president of COP 26. We should focus our development spending on supporting just transitions and mitigating the impacts, and on disaster resilience in the meantime for those countries that suffer the most from extreme weather events and climate change.

The second priority that should run right through the strategy is a focus on girls and women. The new Foreign Secretary has already mentioned economic development as a key priority, and of course we want to see economic growth in the developing world that sustains development over the longer term. Women’s economic empowerment, bringing women to the centre, will be by far the best investment for the long term to secure sustainable economic development. Alongside that, equal access to health, human rights, and the freedom to enjoy a childhood without being married early or having your body abused are fundamental, as is the need for girls’ education, not just in primary school but right through secondary school and into further and higher education. Education is the great liberator. I think that the Prime Minister understands this and believes it. I implore him to turn it into action and funding, and to deliver more than just the words of the commitment.

The third area, which the Government have had a reasonably good record on over the last decade, is the commitment to conflict-affected and fragile states; I sincerely hope that that will be at the heart of the new strategy. Support for peacebuilding and conflict prevention has been the hallmark of UK development work for two decades. In that debate in 2010, I said that

“development is the mortar of peace.”—[Official Report, 8/7/10; col. 360.]

Development and peace are completely interlinked. Nelson Mandela said that you cannot get peace without development and you cannot get development without peace. We see today in Ethiopia how quickly incredible levels of development can fall apart when conflict re-emerges. We see in Afghanistan that without governance and stability, and without trust in institutions and a functioning democracy, how people’s lives can be turned around in a matter of months.

We must retain our commitment to conflict prevention and peacebuilding. I would like to see the strategy reaffirm the commitment to 50% of the budget going to those states and these projects and development initiatives, putting democracy, human rights, trust in institutions and the rule of law, fighting injustice and protecting security at the heart of our development work. It is long-term, tough work, working with people—not “to” people or “about” people. This work is vital and makes such a difference. We have a ready-made framework for these priorities and for our development work if, as the G7 said in Cornwall back in June, we are serious about launching a drive towards what was then called the “build back better” world—a slightly strange title for a new initiative but welcome in its positivity.

The sustainable development goals agreed in 2015, which the UK played such a role in agreeing, pulling together and then promoting, address the key social needs of the world. They address the economic growth and security that are required to deliver those needs, and they address the foundations of a better-protected planet and of peace and security that will ensure that will ensure that development can be consistent and sustainable. The integrated review said that achieving the SDGs by 2030 remained a UK commitment. In the words of the Prime Minister at the last election, it is a ready-made framework for sustainable development and for building back a better world. I hope that those goals are embraced as part of this strategy.

In conclusion, I refer to the speech made by the new Foreign Secretary earlier this month at Chatham House, where she laid out her priorities. She talked in that speech of a “network of liberty”, of putting freedom, in economic and political terms, at the heart of the UK’s vision in the world. Liberty comes in many forms. You cannot trade if you do not have anything to trade. Freedom from oppression, fear and violence is important, but the freedom which allows people to go to school, to earn money, to have a job, to see opportunities and to take them up—these are the freedoms which will change the world. Just as I said in 2010 that development is the mortar of peace, I believe that development is the enabler of freedom. I hope that the new Foreign Secretary remembers that when she agrees this international development strategy.

We can all do better than we did in 2021 as we go into 2022. We should clearly resolve this Christmas and into the new year that 2022 will be very different from the 12 months that we are leaving behind. I beg to move.

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response and the detailed way in which he has addressed the issues raised in the debate. Even where we disagree with him, I respect and appreciate his engagement. I look forward to that continuing in early 2022 as we move towards the launch of the strategy.

Like him, I am not going to delay everybody by going back over the arguments that have just been made, but I do welcome and am grateful for the contributions that were made around your Lordships’ Chamber in support of the priorities that I outlined in my introduction—of climate and net zero, of girls and women, and of conflict prevention and peacebuilding—which will be at the heart of this new international development strategy. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Hodgson and Lady Sugg, for their eloquent advocacy of the importance of positioning girls and women at the heart of international development and change around the world.

In addition to thanking everybody who has spoken and taken the time to wait to make their contributions on this last day before the Christmas Recess, I will make two brief points before concluding. First, I strongly support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, about the inconsistency in some of the bilateral decision-making. It is inexplicable that countries such as Malawi and Zambia, which have had such democratic transformations over the last two years, were treated so badly when others were not. In Malawi, there is confusion and dismay over that decision. There is a deadly serious drugs crisis in Malawi’s health service at the moment which will cost hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives in the new year. It was not caused by the UK aid decision, but it was not helped by it either. I hope that these decisions will be revisited and that a consistency of principle is applied to future bilateral programming.

Secondly, 37 years ago this month my good friend Jim Diamond, who has sadly passed away, had his first hit single as a solo singer with “I Should Have Known Better”. That should perhaps be a motto for the Government, after some of the decisions that were made this year. Jim went on the radio as the Band Aid single was launched and asked people not to buy his single any more, but to buy the Band Aid one instead. With 37 years of experience, we might now have some question marks over some of the lyrics of the Band Aid single, but at that point it marked a change in the debates in this country about our international relationships. That was happening at the same time as the old international battles of East and West were starting to come to an end, at the end of the 1980s. We were looking more at North and South, sustainable development, extreme poverty around the world and our contribution to tackling it.

This Christmas, as we talk about good will to all people and peace over these next days, I hope we remember that they are not just concepts and aspirations for Christmas but should apply all year round. Our compassion and determination to tackle these issues needs to go into 2022 and beyond with much more commitment, sensible decision-making, belief and ambition than we displayed in 2021. With that, I wish everybody a merry Christmas, a happy new year and a much better 12 months to come.

Motion agreed.

International Development Strategy

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 25th November 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will publish their international development strategy.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, noting my interests in the Lords register, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait The Minister of State, Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park) (Con)
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My Lords, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is leading work on a new cross-governmental international development strategy. The strategy will establish an ambitious and positive vision for the UK’s approach to development in a new global context. It will set out the UK Government’s strategic development goals and demonstrate how the UK plans to remain a leader on development. It will be published in spring 2022.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the terribly sad events in the English Channel in the past 24 hours will shame this generation in history for our failure internationally to cope with displacement and the millions of people who are running from fear or poverty. They cross dangerous seas because they are either terrified of the lands and people they have left or because they believe there is no other route to a better life. Do the Government agree that the best way to help those people is to ensure that they can have a better life in the countries from which they originate? To do that, we need to support safe and secure societies and sustainable development, so will the sustainable development goals of the United Nations be central to the new international development strategy, and will the Government continue to support the important work on conflict prevention and stability that has been a mark of UK international development over the past 15 years?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con)
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My Lords, the Government strongly agree with the arguments put forward by the noble Lord. The IDS priorities are fairly straightforward: honest, reliable, sustainable infrastructure in developing countries precisely to deliver the progress and stability necessary to avoid the situation that we saw yesterday; delivering Covid-19 vaccines; life-saving humanitarian support to those who need it; getting more girls into school; preventing sexual violence in conflict; and leading the fight against climate change and environmental destruction.

Nutrition for Growth Summit

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 13th October 2021

(3 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important point. I assure her that the issue of KPIs, in terms of our development spend, is consistent across many areas of budget. I used the example of Bangladesh earlier. We have seen infant mortality fall there from the direct support we have provided on various programmes, particularly among those under the age of five. That shows the real benefit of our investment in such parts of the world.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the cruel and short-sighted cuts to official development assistance already implemented will have a significant impact on nutrition and other life-saving programmes. That budget is now further threatened by the suggestion that the Chancellor might include IMF special drawing rights against the ODA budget rather than as additional aid. Can the Government give a cast-iron guarantee that there will not be further cuts to official development assistance programmes as a result of this proposal from the Chancellor and that the rest of the Government will stand up to him and this time say no?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord may have noticed, we have a new Foreign Secretary. One of the areas that I know my right honourable friend has prioritised is to look again at the issue of the aid budget. The noble Lord makes an important point about SDRs and I can assure him that we are engaging in very robust discussions with the Treasury.

UN Peacebuilding Fund: Financial Support

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Thursday 10th June 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Asked by
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what financial support they will provide (1) to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, and (2) to other peacebuilding organisations, in 2021-22.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I draw attention to my entry in the Lords register.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, the United Kingdom has been one of the first and biggest supporters of the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, the PBF, and its work, being among the top five donors. We recently announced our contribution of £10 million to the PBF for this financial year. The cross-government Conflict, Stability and Security Fund will receive £874 million for 2021-22, to focus on the link between stability, resilience and security and to work with Governments and civil society on key peace initiatives.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government’s recent integrated review of foreign and security policy quite rightly stated that it was a major strategic objective

“to reduce the frequency and intensity of conflict and instability”.

It is therefore astonishing that the Government have reduced the contribution to the UN Peacebuilding Fund from more than £20 million in 2018 and 2019 to £10 million this year, and reduced the contribution to the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund by one-third to the sum that the Minister has just declared.

Do the Government not realise that, in peacebuilding and conflict prevention, trust, learning lessons and long-term consistency are absolutely fundamental, and that when projects such as those in Myanmar, which have been cut by the Government by 100%, are decimated at short notice, that breaks trust and causes instability? Will the Government look again at this and consider the creation of a transition fund that would at least allow these conflict prevention and peacebuilding projects to transition to new funders and allow some continuity so that peace can be maintained?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the peacebuilding fund, we have retained our contribution at the same level as in the previous financial year. The noble Lord is well aware of the challenges we have faced on funding. I have been dealing directly with our support for multilateral agencies, particularly with the United Nations, and have engaged directly at the most senior level—indeed, I am looking forward to my meeting with the Secretary-General tomorrow, when he is in London for the G7.

I reiterate that the United Kingdom stands very much at the forefront of peacebuilding initiatives. Of course, it is not just about funding but also about the contributions we make in terms of peacebuilders, peace mediators and peacekeepers, as well as our support for training initiatives, through both FCDO funding and the MoD.

Health Partnership Schemes: Funding

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Monday 7th June 2021

(7 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the Minister responsible for south Asia, I assure the noble Earl that I have prioritised support to Nepal, particularly on its requirements and prioritisations. We are working very closely with the Nepalese Government in identifying needs. Because of the situation on the ground, it is important to identify the safety of health workers who may be deployed, but we have teams on the ground who are providing first-hand information.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the G7 summit taking place in Cornwall this weekend must be the first summit of global leaders in history where the host country is reducing its international commitments at the same time as every other country attending is increasing its international commitments. This is bringing shame and ridicule on our country. It is not too late for the Prime Minister to change tack and say that additional resources for climate, education, global health and the global economic recovery could be delivered with a return to 0.7% of GNI spent on international development. Will the Government change tack this week at the last minute and make this summit a success?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I believe that the summit will be a success, because a lot of work has been put into the planning for that. On the specific commitment, the noble Lord will be aware that I cannot make the kind of commitment that he is seeking. However, I will say to him, through my own engagement both in-country and with multilateral organisations, that the United Kingdom, through the over £10 billion we will be spending this year, is still regarded as among the premier countries when it comes to development support.

Commonwealth Heads of Government

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Thursday 27th May 2021

(7 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the commitments on education are welcome, even if they have been undermined by the Government’s spending cuts on global education. The last year has shown how important it is to make advances in digital education provision. The Government of Rwanda have prioritised digitisation in public services for their time as chair-in-office. Will the UK Government and the Government of Rwanda work together to ensure that across the Commonwealth we can see an escalation of advance in digitising education provision, so that, should there be a future pandemic, so many millions will not lose out quite so much?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Lord makes a very practical suggestion and I can assure him that we are talking with the Government of Rwanda, with Foreign Minister Biruta and with the Secretary-General—we had a meeting only yesterday. While there has been a postponement on CHOGM, we will continue to work very much in association with the Government of Rwanda. The noble Lord makes a very practical suggestion, which has application not just in the context of what Rwanda may do but in delivering girls’ education and prioritising education in the UK’s overall ODA programme.

Overseas Development Assistance

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Excerpts
Wednesday 26th May 2021

(7 months, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, even with the reduction in funding, the UK remains a major donor to the UN. The UK is currently the fifth biggest contributor towards the UN’s regular and peacekeeping budgets. We will be maintaining all our assessed contributions to Vienna, including upholding our share of the UN regular budget. It may be the case that noble Lords did not foresee such a situation, but I suggest that, equally, most did not foresee the economic fallout that we have seen over the last 18 months as a consequence of the completely unexpected pandemic.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, please note my entry in the Lords register and the interests noted there. The speed and scale of these cutbacks is having a catastrophic impact on the reputation of the United Kingdom. The cutbacks and closure of programmes in health, education and other areas are dangerous and costing lives. We learned just yesterday that a programme initiated by War Child—an organisation that helps children in war—to which the United Kingdom Government promised £0.5 million of match funding, has now been delayed for a further year in Afghanistan. That leaves older children there with probably no option but to head in this direction, over the English Channel, and to try and migrate to the United Kingdom and western Europe. Will the Government reconsider this decision and ensure that these programmes, which have been cut with such speed, are allowed to continue for the next year or two until 0.7% returns?

Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Portrait Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we are continuing to support Afghanistan, with £145 million of investment next year. Since 2001, we have provided £3 billion in development and government assistance to Afghanistan. Our aid has helped significant improvements in that country. Life expectancy has increased from 50 in 1990 to 64 just two years ago. Some 8.2 million more children have been to school; 39% of them are girls. We have insulated our programmes in Afghanistan as much as we possibly can, in most part, from the effect of the reduction to 0.5%. Covid has obviously changed the balance of calculations and forced us to focus on tackling this additional threat to Afghans’ health and livelihoods, but the programmes have, by and large, been protected.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

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Monday 17th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we are doing just as the noble Baroness suggested. We are engaging directly with different regions of the Commonwealth on the important priorities in the lead-up to COP 26.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister is absolutely correct that the Prime Minister regularly expresses a firm commitment to girls’ education; he did so again last week. Given that that is the case, why on earth are the Government cutting the budget by hundreds of millions of pounds?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, we have committed £400 million to girls’ education this year, and we will continue to bring added focus during the Global Education Summit later this year.

Integrated Review: Development Aid

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Wednesday 28th April 2021

(8 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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I begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for securing this debate and leading it in such an outstanding and comprehensive manner. He deserves, and we deserve, answers to the questions that we have been posing and will pose again this afternoon.

This is a political decision to reduce funds that were already going to be reduced. It will damage our country’s interests, threaten our security and cost lives around the globe. It shames our country at a time when other countries nearby are stepping up to the mark and going in the opposite direction.

We know that conflict and violence sets back development; we know that development is essential for conflict prevention and conflict resolution, and we know that there is already tension in countries around the world as a result of vaccine inequity and of the other pressures resulting from the pandemic over the past 12 months. Surely the Government must know that a sudden withdrawal of funding from vital, life-saving projects and development work around the world will increase tension, division and hopelessness and create further instability.

Will the Minister tell us whether the Government evaluated the impact on conflict and violence of the cuts that have been agreed and are about to be implemented, even this early in the financial year? Will the Government commit to continuing their funding for the UN Peacebuilding Fund and the many other peacebuilding projects around the world that are trying to guarantee stability, protect our interests, save lives and prevent violent conflict in some of the most difficult and dangerous parts of our world today?