§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Baroness Whitaker
rose to call attention to HM Government's commitment to the White Paper Eliminating Global Poverty: Making Globalisation Work for the Poor; and to move for Papers.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this debate was proposed in the debate on the gracious Speech last year by my noble friend Lord Tomlinson and I am grateful for the opportunity to introduce it. The White Paper, Making Globalisation Work for the Poor, is particularly timely. That is not because globalisation is really a new phenomenon. The spur to trade from new means of communication is an ancient human pattern, although vastly accelerated by the liberalisation of more of the world's economies and the rapid growth of information technology. What makes the White Paper timely is the connection of globalisation with its other strapline, eliminating world poverty, and the prospect of a better world order to achieve that.
1156 For the world to turn its back on the good companion of globalization—the reform of international institutions, the spread of good governance and active civil society—risks driving ever more of a wedge between the fifth of the world's population which lives in extreme poverty and the rest. That wedge is not just a prosperity, health, education or digital divide but also a dangerous divide across which can leap organised crime, disease and war—with its attendant consequences of forced migration and unprecedented numbers of refugees—to draw the developed world into conflict.
These are issues which arouse strong feelings, particularly among young people. Oxfam, Christian Aid, ActionAid, Save the Children Fund and CAFOD supporters include many young people—some through family links, like many of those who joined in the voluntary response to the tragic earthquake in Gujerat. Where politics may have turned young people off, international development turns them on, whether it is the struggle for a sustainable environment or humanitarian aid, the rewarding experience of teaching in a gap year or working as a trained VSO nurse. Those young people will take note of the White Paper and recognise the quality of the Government who produced it. The nearly 8,000 hits last month on the White Paper website, which is the medium of the younger generation, added to the sell-out of its first print run of 10,000, suggests that it is being taken note of.
A few young people think that we can turn back globalisation. There is a robust debate about how, or even whether, the liberalisation of the world economy can be achieved fairly and justly. That debate was rather roughly conducted at Seattle, Prague and recently Davos. But it seems to me that the issues of world poverty and globalisation engage young people in politics as it should be—and that means the exercise of choice and decisions about life chances for all, for the many, not the few. In the words of Amartya Sen's recent British Academy lecture on "Other People":The themes of these protests have been consistently more important than their theses".I disagree with the thesis that globalisation undermines the route out from poverty, and I think that the White Paper presents more hopeful alternatives. It confronts squarely the issues of managing globalisation. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development and her colleagues on it. It covers topics ranging from growth, trade, governance and conflict prevention to the need to invest in people's health and education, technology transfer and targeted research. It deals with the role of private finance, the sustainable environment, more effective development assistance and the part to be played by the international institutions. It integrates the role of the Government in enabling economic growth with the need to ensure equitable distribution through the democratic process. It holds out the prospect of realisable achievement of the targets for eliminating poverty in the first White Paper.
1157 The White Paper also promises a development Bill—the first primary legislation on the subject since 1980. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to say something about its contents.
I look forward to the contributions of distinguished noble Lords. I shall therefore confine my remarks to the untying of aid, the influence of corruption, the importance of civil society and trends in research priorities.
Development is impeded when aid is tied to the products and services of the donor country. The receiving country loses the benefits of fair competition, the chance of local procurements and the sense of responsibility for its own budgets. Our Government are to be congratulated on joining others in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development who have agreed to untie financial assistance to the least developed countries. That sends the right signal that British aid will be clearly aimed at the relief of poverty. It increases the pressure on the few remaining countries that confound their aid with their trade through that form of protectionism.
It is notable, but hardly surprising, that the CBI supports untied aid. There is some distance to go. The admirable campaign by the charity ActionAid to challenge tied aid as a breach of European Union competition policy has yet to reach fruition.
When countries with centrally planned economies move towards market economies, their governments have enormous powers of patronage during the privatisation and deregulation process. The ensuing development has often been distorted by corruption. The UK's commitment to implementing the OECD convention on combating the bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions is to be applauded. I declare an interest as a member of the UK advisory council of Transparency International, which, through its 75 international chapters, promotes understanding of the damaging effects of corruption and tights against it. It is excellent that legislation has been promised in the UK. It will be better still when the legislation has been passed. Can my noble friend give any indication of when it will be brought forward?
As well as so-called grand corruption in government contracts, there is also petty corruption. While grand corruption can hold up the development of essential infrastructure or substantially reduce public revenue, corruption on the part of the hospital service, the university admissions board, the village policeman or even the installer of telephones makes the everyday life of individuals a misery. It is costly for those who can afford it and marginalising for those who cannot. Few things can so destroy faith in political processes or the management of society.
It is important for people who live in a country where corruption is viewed as an aberration to understand what it is like for people who live where it is the norm—where no public service can be accessed without bribery and there is no proper redress. The effective counters to petty corruption are in the institutions of civil society—a mix of independent institutions, such as the judiciary and the media, and 1158 citizens' interest groups, which can freely draw attention to abuse and obtain impartial inquiries. Non-governmental organisations, not least women's organisations, have a strong part to play. The Department for International Development is doing good work on civil service reform and the better management of public finance. How can the Government strengthen civil society further, particularly local NGOs?
The interests of the developed world predominate in health research, which massively affects the lives of poor people in the medium term. The White Paper draws attention to the fact that less than 10 per cent of international research goes to 90 per cent of the world's disease burden. What can the Government do to redress that balance? There are also concerns about whether the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights will increase the cost of essential treatment drugs for poor people. The Government's proposal for a commission on intellectual property rights is most timely. When will it be up and running?
Agricultural research is one of the keys to better food production from our finite land mass. I look forward to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, on the potential of crop enhancement—unhelpfully known as genetic modification—for agriculture in marginal lands. When I was last in Kenya, I saw at first hand a drylands project administered by SOS Sahel, in which I declare an interest as a board member. The farmers were trained and enabled to carry out trials and make decisions about the best varieties. That process produced more secure food supplies and, most importantly, it put the power to improve their lives back in the farmers' hands through the development of their own expertise. That is how research can include the voice of the poor.
Many of my observations refer back to the lack of influence that the poor have over the factors that control their lives. That is reflected in the conduct and composition of the international institutions, as other noble Lords will analyse and as the White Paper indicates. There is a need for international rules which allow exploitation of opportunity to flourish without imposing damaging consequences on the people caught up in the slipstream.
Globalisation could work within the framework of universal human rights and shared social objectives, to quote Kofi Annan, and the international institutions could enable the process to work more effectively. We can take heart from the success which has been achieved so far in the debt relief campaign initiated by my right honourable friends the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. By the end of last year, 22 countries had been approved—more than recently forecast. That represented an effective marshalling of world conduct through international institutions.
But, in conclusion, all the targets set out so forcefully in the first White Paper for the elimination of poverty and urged on the World Trade Organisation by my right honourable friend will be 1159 reached only if globalisation can be made to work for the poor. If it can—and I am convinced that with political will it can—the elimination of extreme poverty is within reach, as is greater peace, stability and prosperity for the whole world. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Baroness Seccombe
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on initiating this debate. I welcome the opportunity to discuss the White Paper. It provides an opportunity to examine exactly what we can do for others in less fortunate circumstances in some of the harshest parts of the world.
By definition, it also provides an opportunity for us to examine our own lifestyles. We live in a fertile country; we do not want for food; we live in relative comfort with all modern amenities—electricity and safe drinking water—and our lives are made easier and more bearable thanks to the technological advances which we sometimes take for granted. We must not forget that those benefits are underpinned by a stable democracy and the fair rule of law. We should never take those last two for granted, but I fear that we do. It is right that we should want those who are less fortunate than ourselves to share the benefits.
It is a fact of modern-day life that the first that we hear and see of the Third World is from the television. We sit in the safety of our warm homes and watch pictures beamed in live from around the world. Watching pictures in real time transfixes us all but, at the end of it, we turn off the television and get on with our lives. However, we are still unable to stop thinking about those desperate people.
It is a sad fact that in the media bad news is good news. The cameraman who arrives first at scenes of suffering and destruction gets the scoop. All too often we witness not only the suffering of others but also our own inefficiencies. Never has the expression "Time is of the essence" been more appropriate than when dealing with disaster regions.
We share the horror of those who are suffering. I always feel proud of the way that British people respond with immediate offers of financial and other provision. However, I am saddened by the knowledge that the response to those in trouble is often delayed and is sometimes too late to assist those for whom the help was intended.
Last year, the Government were found wanting in their response to the flooding in Mozambique. It was embarrassing to see the squabbling between government departments over who would pay for helicopters. With that in mind, I consider it strange that this White Paper does not mention disaster relief at all. That is in contrast to the 1997 White Paper, Eliminating World Poverty: A Challenge for the 21st Century, in which the subject was given prominence.
I seek an assurance from the Government that the faults of last year have been remedied and that, when we are next called upon to send heavy life-saving 1160 equipment to a remote part of the world, it will be done swiftly and without bureaucratic hold-ups. We saw a swift response to the tragic events in India. Our teams were able to take high-tech equipment and get to work within a few days of the earthquake striking. Now we must ensure that India is given assistance in rebuilding the infrastructure of the affected region. Again, that must be done without added bureaucracy.
Therefore, I am somewhat bemused that the Government intend to increase the funding to the EU by almost £300 million. Last year, the International Development Select Committee published a report, The Effectiveness of EC Development Assistance. It makes quite shocking reading. Perhaps I may quote from the document, which states:The fundamental mistake has been to allocate excessive funds in the first place for predominantly political reasons".The Communication on the Reform of the Management of External Assistance—an EU body—was frank in its admission of the extent of the problem, stating:The average length of project/programme implementation has continuously increased over the last few years with a corresponding trend in the backlog of outstanding commitments that reached over 20 billion euros by the end of 1999. In the last five years the average delay in disbursement of committed funds has increased from 3 years to 4.5 years. For certain programmes, the backlog of outstanding commitments is equivalent to more than 8.5 years' payments".The committee was also concerned to discover that not a single penny of the 250 million euros allocated for reconstruction in Nicaragua in the wake of Hurricane Mitch had been spent.
The Patten report has made recommendations, including the need for more staff. I should have thought that more staff would be last on the list when trying to eradicate excess bureaucracy. Would it not make more sense to place greater emphasis on bilateral aid programmes? As a method of delivery, they are swifter, and aid can be better targeted. They are also subject to proper scrutiny by Members in another place and by your Lordships. Holding a Brussels-based institution to account from these shores is difficult, to say the least. Better accountability ensures that the job gets done with the minimum fuss.
Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether the Government will consider increasing bilateral aid programmes. If the European Union gets its house in order and if we are satisfied that the reforms have been successful, perhaps we can then reconsider increasing our aid flows through that institution.
§ 3.28 p.m.
§ Lord Taverne
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness on introducing this debate and on the way she did so. We are all most grateful to her. In this otherwise excellent paper, there are two weak areas which I want to address: health and food.
Success in fighting world poverty depends crucially on better health and more efficient farming. With a global decline in government spending, progress in both depends to a considerable extent on global companies. However, such companies largely have 1161 their own agenda: making profits from the rich. For example, only 1 per cent of the 1,200 or so new pharmaceutical compounds marketed in the past 20 years was intended for tropical diseases. In a recent article in Prospect, The Economist journalist, Shereen El Feki, pointed out that in pharmaceutical laboratories much work is done on arthritis and hypertension, but little on schistosomiasis or other parasitic diseases.
Fortunately, the position is improving. Merck has long provided free drugs to cure river blindness; Pfizer is helping to eliminate trachoma in Morocco; and drugs to combat AIDS are at last becoming available in Africa at more reasonable prices. However, the governments of the developed world need to consider incentives to encourage more work to be done on the diseases of the developing world.
I turn to agriculture. The green revolution has run out of steam. As I have previously argued, a major contribution to the need to feed 2 billion extra mouths must come from the use of transgenic crops, although they are, of course, only part of the solution. In many of the poorest parts of the world huge benefits could flow from very simple improvements in farming methods, but they have never been tried. Other good, older practices have in many cases been forgotten. However, in view of the pressure on marginal land and the scarcity of water resources, there is need for plants that are modified to be drought resistant and for more productive cereals.
I am appalled by the fact that some NGOs attack the technology which can produce those crops—crops, for example, which can modify rice to help provide vital nutrients such as iron and vitamin A, and vaccines which can be taken through eating genetically modified bananas instead of being injected by syringe. To oppose those developments is sheer prejudice. Such opposition is not based on any scientific evidence. It would represent a victory of dogma over humanity. It is in fact downright immoral.
However, it is a fact of commercial life that multinational companies—the agro-businesses—look for their profits mainly from products designed for the developed world. The OECD and the DfID should support the application of that new technology to the developing world by incentives and every other possible means. The White Paper makes no mention of that, perhaps because the proposal is controversial.
The multinationals do make a useful contribution. Syngenta and the two inventors of golden rice are assigning all their commercial rights to the International Rice Institute in Manila. That means that subsistence farmers in any developing country will in time be able to cultivate golden rice varieties licence-free. Syngenta and Monsanto have also made freely available their valuable data on the sequence of the complete rice genome. In time, that will benefit wheat, corn and barley crops. Thanks to the Rockerfeller Foundation, increasing numbers of scientists in the developing world can now promote GM technology locally.
1162 It is important for NGOs to accept the new technology, as in time they will. I believe that some of them are already looking at it again. The role of NGOs could be vital.
The green revolution saved much of the world from hunger, but it had its downside. Its approach was uniform and drove many small farmers off the land. GM technology, if misapplied, could also lead to a greater degree of monoculture. The next green revolution must be based on local communities and local practices and cultures, and it must recognise the need for complexity and diversity. The NGOs are dedicated to the improvement of the life of the poor. Once they are reconciled to the new technology they, as much as anyone else, can ensure that it is effectively applied.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Earl of Sandwich
My Lords, I extend my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, whose knowledge of this subject and whose sincerity are well known in the House. I welcomed the White Paper in our debate on the Queen's Speech, and I am delighted to do so again.
This is a White Paper of admirable policy statements rather than an action plan, and it is therefore difficult to criticise. In fact, it is so comprehensive that I cannot find anything missing from it—not even disaster relief.
I shall, however, start by challenging the Government on the amount of development assistance that they promise in chapter 7. Paragraph 286 refers to a "radical shift" from 0.26 per cent of GNP in 1997 up to 0.33 per cent in 2003–04. That is a welcome increase but seen over a longer period it is no increase at all. We have been at 0.33 per cent before and I well remember the Labour Party advocating a much higher figure during the 1980s.
Surely the Government should be planning to make a genuine move towards the UN target—perhaps 0.37 per cent or 0.38 per cent. If they did that, they would have the right to boast about it. With the 2015 targets in mind, we need to make provision now for spending more than 0.33 per cent, which will make a difference in 14 years.
Far from proving that we are meeting the international development targets, the White Paper rather candidly shows that we are already falling behind them. That was pointed out by one of the UN agencies this week. The wavy red lines in the figures on pages 21–22 of the White Paper show that infant mortality, gender disparity and primary school enrolment are not moving fast enough. Even the number of extreme poor, which has declined recently in absolute terms, disguises huge regional imbalances. Meanwhile, as the departmental report last year pointed out and the White Paper again admits, there is a "critical shortfall" in statistical capacity and evaluation.
I would like to see at least one target kept to; that is, universal primary education. In that context there is, potentially, enough political will. We all want children to succeed or to have the opportunity to do so 1163 However, it has become clear since Dakar that the Education for All movement led by UNESCO has failed to make any real progress for a decade. The same thing happened to Alma Ata. That is because of the lack of local participation and of coherent policies on the part of international financial agencies.
It is not too late to pull the situation around. ActionAid estimates that it would need an additional 8 billion dollars a year from all sources over the next 10 years if there is to be any hope of meeting the targets. That is a realistic figure and the Government would do well to aim at it during their coming period in office.
Education deserves a particular focus. Paragraph 352 of the White Paper appears to confirm that the G8 summit in 1999 decided that progress towards the targets would be measured annually. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness clarified that.
I have seen a six-point plan for eliminating child poverty. It was signed by 14 charities, including Christian Aid and Save the Children. I declare an interest in the work of several of those charities, and I know that their conclusions are based on field experience. They say that an unacceptable number of children—at least 600 million world-wide—are living in poverty. Of that number, nearly half are aged between five and 14 and are working full time or part time to help their families to survive. Another 183 million are under five and weigh less than they should for their age.
Education comes high in the six-point plan, but not as high as economic reform, which includes debt relief and reform of the way in which aid is delivered to children. It is significant that aid agencies which are primarily concerned with child welfare should single out improvements in economic policy, the management of public sector expenditure and reforms in the way in which foreign aid is delivered. Failures in the system are not attributable only to conditions in developing countries, as is commonly assumed; they are very often the result of poor planning and mismanagement in donor countries, as we know from the shambles of the EU's development assistance programme.
In that context, I readily acknowledge the commitment demonstrated in the White Paper towards improving the effectiveness of EC aid, including the aim of achieving the 70 per cent figure in relation to low-income countries by 2006.
Again, however, what is the value of that kind of target when we in "developed" Europe have been unable to deliver aid on time or to the right people for more than 13 years? Other improvements in the quality and targeting of aid will undoubtedly benefit the poor. They include the untying of UK assistance, which I welcome, and continuing support for debt relief. Such measures have been widely welcomed by the aid agencies.
I had intended to say a lot about globalisation but, in the short time available, I congratulate the Government on their success with global citizenship. 1164 I suggest linking the DfEE with two international departments—that could even be the subject of the next White Paper.
§ 3.38 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Bradford
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on this important debate.
I also pay tribute to the Secretary of State for the tremendous way in which she tours the country helping people to begin to understand international development issues. She is indefatigable. Two or more weeks ago, I was at a meeting in Shipley that was addressed by Clare Short. It was in a church hall that was packed to the doors and it had attracted people from a wide range of backgrounds who were concerned about and committed to international development. That raised a question: how representative of the general public was that group? The feeling is that they were very unrepresentative. Questions were asked about what profile would be given to international development issues in the manifestos that will be forthcoming (if there is a general election) from any party that aspires to power.
I read in a very interesting book, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, by Thomas Friedman, the following:You need a picture of the world because no policy is sustainable without a public that broadly understands why it is necessary and sees the world the way you do".I join others who commend the White Paper. But nobody for one moment would pretend that the White Paper itself is going to educate, convince and motivate the general public. I should be grateful to hear from those who are to reply to the debate their plans to help to educate the public and to get the public motivated to grasp the nettles of globalisation.
The word "globalisation" has almost become a kind of bogey word. That is a great pity. Certainly in the long term, we all stand to benefit. An appeal to self-interest is quite appropriate here because every single one of us stands to benefit from improvements in the conditions of people throughout the world. But, in the short term, there is a price to pay. It is an extremely painful price for those who lose their jobs and who face despair in their lives.
It is extremely important that a vision is given, not a very learned document, which helps to open the eyes of the public and to motivate them. I hope very much that whoever has the reins of power will continue to work with the Churches, voluntary organisations and NGOs because I believe that they have a key role to play in public motivation and education.
It is often said at public meetings that there are certain problem countries and that those countries are very difficult to help. I take the point. Paragraph 78 of the White Paper states:Violent conflict is one of the biggest barriers to development in many of the world's poorest countries…It is estimated that 10.6 million people in Africa are internally displaced—the majority of them uprooted by war".That is true of Sudan. In two weeks' time, I hope to be in Sudan again. Many who have been to that country have seen the deprivation and poverty, not least of 1165 southerners displaced into refugee camps around Khartoum and Port Sudan—and there has been a war in Sudan for 18 years. But oil is now beginning to flow, and to flow profusely. I understand that one of the companies involved is BP Amoco. People around the village and church halls of the country are asking on what that revenue is spent. I am conscious of the fact that just a few weeks ago, the Anglican cathedral in Lui was bombed, presumably mistaken for a military target, and has now been flattened.
I wonder whether the Government and those who aspire to power have, or will have, conversations with bodies like BP Amoco to discuss the possible use of the revenues that arise from their involvement in such a country.
I wonder also what the Government will do in terms of what we crudely call "joined-up thinking". International development and the concerns of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office must come together, and the search for peace and reconciliation must be pursued with all urgency. My plea is that the so-called "problem countries" will not be put on the back-burner but will be given even more special attention.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Lord Desai
My Lords, from these Benches it is my pleasant duty to congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on introducing this debate and giving us an excellent start.
I shall confine my remarks to the last chapter of the report, which is all about international institutions and I shall speak only about international financial institutions. However, before I do that, perhaps I may say that one particular feature of globalisation is that it affects them and us. In that respect, the poor and the people who may lose out from globalisation are not just out there and the people who gain from globalisation all here. There are costs as well as gains involved in globalisation and it is extremely difficult to say that we want only the costs and do not want the gains. Those things come together. When a plant in Llanwern shuts down, that is as much an effect of globalisation which is happening in Wales as when something happens which, for example, shifts manufacturing from here to China or Malaysia. Therefore, we must understand globalisation as a process which is here and which is not going to go away. It is not possible to drive it; it is not a motor car. We must understand it and try to grapple with it and see what can be done about trying to harness its energies rather more towards gain than loss.
The most important aspect is the institutions of global governance. It is a particular feature of our post-war world that most of the institutions which are currently important—the IMF, the World Bank and the United Nations—were set up in 1945 when the world was a very different place. It was different in two respects. First, there seemed to be at that time a faith that a concert of great powers would run the world in a benevolent way. Therefore, the Security Council was set up with five permanent powers which, 1166 unfortunately, are above any international law. Therefore, the UN itself started in a hierarchical way and continues to be a hierarchical institution.
The IMF and the World Bank also share the characteristic that the majority of their governing bodies are represented by what we now call the G7 powers. They have the money and the quotas, and votes come with the quotas, not one nation one vote. But since globalisation finally came to have an impact on the world, roughly from the 1980s onwards, the legitimacy of that governance and those institutions has increasingly been doubted. Their impact is greater but it is very difficult to appeal to them or to change their ways of thinking. That is particularly true of the International Monetary Fund because both in the structural adjustment problems of the 1980s and the Asian crisis, it was seen that very often its analysis was wrong. It is difficult for victims to appeal to it and to influence its ways.
We need a more accountable, democratic voting structure in the IMF, the World Bank and, one hopes also, the UN. I suggest that a qualified majority voting system, which has been adopted increasingly in EU decision-making procedures, should be urged upon the UN Security Council. Perhaps Her Majesty's Government could take a lead in that respect.
The one institution which I would strengthen and which I should like to champion, an institution which has been demonised, is the WTO. The WTO is the first institution of the globalisation age. There is a symmetry between all nations. No nation sits in judgment on another. Of course, there are large nations and small nations, rich nations and poor nations. But its procedures are such that even the United States must be subject to its decisions; it cannot escape that.
Somehow, we need to harness that sort of model in which countries are treated symmetrically and there is obedience to a framework of rules. A framework of rules built in such a way as to give legitimacy to the international institutions of today would be very welcome.
In that respect, we must find ways to harness the tremendous energy which civil society possesses through NGOs and various other fora. Somehow we must be able to plug that into the global governance process. If we could do that either at UN level or somewhere else, that would be a very welcome change.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Baroness Stern
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating a debate on this significant White Paper. In the short time available I shall concentrate on access to justice, protection from crime and violence and its relationship to poverty.
I declare an interest as a board member of Penal Reform International and an associate of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College, London, where I am involved in work in this area.
1167 Quite rightly, the White Paper points out the importance of justice. It says that the provision of law and order is a priority for the poor. Poverty does not mean being without only food, medicine, clothes and shelter, but also suffering other forms of deprivation. It can mean villagers being without protection from people who steal their cows or their crops. It can also mean being at the mercy of corrupt police who arrest poor people regardless of guilt or innocence, expect money in exchange for release and if no money is forthcoming, the poor are charged and thrown into an overcrowded jail where there is little food and water and where infectious diseases are rife. Poor people can be arrested, charged and left in prison for years waiting for a trial that never happens. In Malawi I met a man in prison charged with murder who had been waiting 10 years for his trial.
Women are particularly likely to find no protection in the justice system and often children are completely powerless. The White Paper quotes the World Bank Voices of the Poor Study, which shows that poor people attach great importance to security, without which it is impossible to improve their lives. The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, pointed out how we take the rule of law for granted, but too often in developing countries the services that provide that security—the police and the criminal justice system—are themselves sources of abuse and violence.
Such unequal power relations are deeply embedded in many societies. Without action to reform the justice area, poverty will not be reduced. In a recent document published by DfID, called Justice and Poverty Reduction, those arguments are set out in greater detail, along with suggestions for policies that address them. The approach in that document is welcome. For too long, assistance to the justice systems of developing countries has consisted of imposing on them a structure based on western systems that they could not afford and which denied the strengths of their own approaches to justice. The emphasis on a British-style judicial process and legal framework has left many poor people in developing countries with no access to justice. The formal courts are too far away from the villages; they are conducted in a language that most poor people do not understand; and the proceedings often require goods that are in short supply such as interpreters, photocopiers and electricity. Sometimes bribes are required.
For those reasons, many poor people rely on traditional and customary systems that have many advantages. They aim at reconciliation and restitution rather than punishment and they involve the community. Instead of the end product being isolation from society and social exclusion, it is reconciliation and an agreement that satisfies both parties and restores social harmony. The moves by DfID to fund programmes, to make those traditional justice systems more attuned to human rights considerations and fairer towards women are very welcome.
In conclusion, I ask the Minister what plans DfID has to disseminate the message about the new policy on justice and poverty reduction, first, throughout 1168 DfID itself and the offices overseas and, secondly, to other development donors who are not all so far forward and are still spending millions of pounds trying to impose western justice systems wholesale on poor countries with different traditions. Can the Minister also say whether there are any targets or output measures for work in the justice and poverty area and, if so, what they are? If not, does DfID intend to develop some?
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Baroness Massey of Darwen
My Lords, I too am grateful to my noble friend Lady Whitaker for introducing this debate with such dedication. Many issues have already been raised by noble Lords but I shall focus on one or two. I declare an interest as I work as a consultant in health education programmes in developing countries, largely in the former Soviet Union. I shall talk mainly about HIV/AIDS in developing countries. I wish that I had time to speak of wider health issues, such as TB and malaria, and I wish that I had time to address issues of reproductive health. We know that in developing countries and in countries in transition, syphilis and chlamydia pose severe problems and that every year many thousands of women die from unsafe abortions. In poor societies, fertility regulation is complex and difficult.
In parts of the former Soviet Union, I see devastation from poverty and its resultant health problems such as TB, alcoholism and gastro-intestinal diseases as well as sexually transmitted infections. HIV/AIDS is becoming a major threat.
Before discussing HIV/AIDS in more detail I have two questions for the Minister. First, can she assure the House that, if the United States decreases its funding, the British Government will consider extra funding for population and reproductive health programmes? Secondly, is she able to give an indication of continued UK support to the former Soviet Union?
As many noble Lords know, HIV/AIDS constitute a global crisis. AIDS-related illnesses and high death rates, particularly in Africa and Asia, mean that there are shortages of skilled workers, families are left without support, children are orphaned, and children do not attend school because of family crises. All that has a serious impact on social and economic development.
In the White Paper it is encouraging to see recognition of that problem, describing it as,both a human and development tragedy".The statistics are stark. More than 22 million people have already died of AIDS, with 16,000 new infections every day. More than 90 per cent of those infections occur in the developing world. The cost to economies is huge. Average life expectancy has fallen by 20 years in a number of sub-Saharan African countries. African countries where less than 5 per cent of the adult population is infected will experience a modest impact on GDP growth rate. However, as HIV prevalence 1169 rises to 20 per cent or more, as it has in a number of countries in Southern Africa, GDP rates may decline by up to 2 per cent a year.
Human suffering from loss of loved ones or personal affliction is great. UNAIDS points out that many people with HIV or AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa die without even aspirin for pain relief or lotion to soothe skin irritation. Yet another tragedy is that big European and American drug companies do not attempt to ensure that people in, for example, Southern Africa, have easy access to life-saving drugs. I am somewhat more cynical than the noble Lord, Lord Taverne.
The VSO position paper on drug deals points out that in many cases, prices of originator medicines are higher in developing countries than in developed countries. What a dreadful irony! Drug companies are seeking to persuade western governments to impose trade rules that will stop poor countries buying drugs more cheaply or producing them more cheaply themselves. Under World Trade Organisation rules governing standards for intellectual property rights (TRIPS), that could be possible. The DfID has announced a commission on intellectual property rights in order to benefit developing countries. Perhaps the Minister can give the House yet another assurance that such a commission will be open and accountable and will involve all stakeholders, including pharmaceutical companies and developing countries.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Holme of Cheltenham
My Lords, we sometimes overuse hyperbole in Parliament. Any adverse event becomes a crisis. Faced with the crisis with which this debate deals—one in four of the world's population living in grinding, absolute poverty, not the relative poverty that we often discuss in this country—we can hardly find the words to deal with it. We therefore owe the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, our gratitude for giving us an opportunity to convey our sense of urgency to discuss the consequences of the crisis and to consider what can and should be done about it. There is no doubt that we are considering a deadly combination of personal misery and global instability on a vast scale, which I believe is as much a challenge to the conscience and statesmanship of the wealthy developed world as the plight of the Victorian poor was to the comfortable and powerful in this country 150 years ago.
What can be done? In general, we can all set our hands to the plough of sustainable development, striving for a better balance between economic, environmental and social goods and continuing to grow our economies, but having a greater regard for both inter-generational equity, that is, environmental conservation, and intra-generational equity, that is, poverty remediation. That requires a better context of global governance, to which several noble Lords have referred, and more appropriate local action, both in partnership between all the players—government, NGOs, business and local communities. I believe that 1170 business in particular has a constructive role to play in such partnerships. I welcome the emphasis on this in the White Paper.
I have just returned from the United Nations Environmental Programme Agency's governing council in Nairobi, at which I represented the world business community on behalf of the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. We discussed the follow up to Kofi Annan's global compact, which was agreed last year between the UN and a number of major international companies, including several From the UK—Unilever, BP, Shell and Rio Tinto, of which I should declare I was a director and still advise.
As noble Lords will know, the compact covers human rights, labour and the environment. Interestingly, the main concern in Nairobi on all sides was that this admirable agenda be more fully extended to cover the social dimension of poverty by the time of the world summit (Rio + 10), scheduled to be held in Johannesburg next autumn. Perhaps the Minister in her reply will assure us that Her Majesty's Government intend to take next year's world summit as seriously as the United Nations, business and the NGOs plan to. In that context, it is interesting that business finds it easier to deal with the idea of sustainable livelihoods and the creation of sustainable livelihoods than simply with the idea of poverty relief.
Of course, there are global imperatives—debt relief, market access, continuing flow of targeted aid, improved international institutions—but the place where business can particularly be effective is locally. Let us remember that four-fifths of the capital flows into the third world now comprise foreign direct investment. Therefore, the key issue concerns the multiplier that can be applied to that foreign direct investment.
There are many examples of humanitarian aid. Last week Rio Tinto gave 1 million dollars to the disaster fund for Gujarat, the region in which most of its Australian diamonds are cut and polished. It is not so much that kind of one-off humanitarian assistance that matters, but that responsible business should weekly be conducted in the developing world in a way that helps to multiply its effectiveness: transferring technology, which the Kyoto protocol envisaged; outsourcing to local suppliers; subcontracting to small and medium local companies; providing training for employees and the local community; building local infrastructure in an environmentally and socially responsible way; outreach programmes on health, education and enterprise creation. The banks and insurance companies have a special role to play in the provision of micro-credit and micro-insurance, which is relevant to ensuring shock resistance, to which the poor are particularly prone and with which sustainable livelihoods deal so well.
There is growing support in business. Much is being done, but much more needs to be done. The key to that support lies in partnerships with local communities, bringing in all the actors and ensuring that business plays a part. The task, which requires all hands to the 1171 pump, is enormous. Partnership is the key to that. I therefore welcome the lead given by Her Majesty's Government in this direction in the White Paper.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord Judd
My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Oxfam Association and as a trustee and member of other development NGOs, as well as doing professional work with Saferworld, the NGO think-tank on security matters.
I, too, warmly thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for the opportunity to debate this vital matter today. The Secretary of State, her civil servants and political advisers are to be congratulated on a timely and challenging White Paper. We now eagerly await the promised Bill to give it substance.
Despite the White Paper's encouraging optimism, the task remains complex and immense. Only this week the International Fund for Agricultural Development has said that the target to cut world poverty by half by 2015 will not be met. The fund argues that fewer than half the number of people required, if the target is to be met, are in fact escaping from poverty each year; yet still, it points out, 1.2 billion people exist on less than one dollar per day. Aid is being diverted to big cities from rural areas, where 75 per cent of the population live. Land reform, with improved access to markets, remains essential, as does the provision of water in rural areas for irrigation.
There is much in the White Paper on which I should like to comment—not least, the environment, debt and the indispensability of the redistribution of wealth. However, in the very short time available, I shall concentrate on only three points. First, I am reassured by the acknowledgement in the White Paper that the OECD, with its exclusive, wealthy membership, was not the right forum for negotiating a genuinely multilateral agreement on investment. Level playing fields in themselves are not an end. It is important that nations should be enabled to reach a level of fitness to play on those fields. That requires country-by-country tailor-made arrangements, for obviously no two countries are ever exactly the same. That understanding must remain central to any development strategy.
Secondly, I am sorry that DfID does not take a more forward position in the immigration, refugee and asylum policy. The issue is certainly one of globalisation. It is centrally related to the human rights that the White Paper espouses. It is closely related to the global market which DfID dutifully embraces, a market, incidentally, of free movement of goods and capital but not of labour—a gigantic distortion in market principles. And now—and the White Paper is uncharacteristically tentative on this—while DfID stresses the priority of building up human resources, we may be preparing still further to drain the developing countries of the skilled people they most need.
The issue is also intimately bound up with security, to which DfID now pays great attention. We need the voice of DfID in the formulation of asylum policy. Has 1172 DfID had any input at all into what will be considered at the Paris summit this week? Its commitment to humanity should be a sobering voice of reason in an ever more hysterical debate, disturbingly influenced by an apparent competition in playing to prejudice.
Thirdly, it is good that DfID is taking conflict, the arms trade and the reform of the security sector seriously. Too often conflict and opportunist arms trade, together with bad and corrupt armed forces and police, undermine the prospect of progress. Will my noble friend the Minister update us? Is the new policy planning unit in the Council secretariat of the European Union paying enough attention to the provision of resources for non-military preventive policies and programmes in conflict-prone regions outside Europe, notably in the high risk area of sub-Saharan Africa? If not, why not? And can DfID push for change? What specific action is being taken by DfID to persuade the Development Council that security sector reform is an appropriate priority for the European Union development budget? Strategic export control legislation remains essential. Five years have elapsed since the Scott report. When shall we see the draft Bill promised in the Queen's Speech? As for the arms brokers, who are too often the sinister merchants of death, when will the undertaking given by Stephen Byers at last year's Labour Party conference be honoured? When will a licensing system be introduced and will that system cover the activities of arms dealers who are British citizens wherever they reside or operate?
Finally, will the sensible recommendations of the quadripartite Select Committee in the other place be implemented? Will prior parliamentary scrutiny of arms deals be introduced? Retrospective scrutiny is clearly not enough.
The White Paper is impressive. We have a Minister and a department with determination and vision. They deserve all possible support in the battle which has yet to be won. Not least, we should cheer them on in their concern to make the European Union the effective force in that battle, which it has so far lamentably failed to be.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Lord St John of Bletso
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on having introduced this extremely important debate. She has given the House one of its first opportunities extensively to discuss the issue.
There is no doubt that eliminating the scourge of poverty is one of the greatest moral challenges facing the world in the 21st century. I commend the objectives and targets set out in the report. I also welcome the focus on eliminating world poverty and the shift away from aid-for-trade policies.
I want to focus on two issues. The first is the plight and key challenges facing the poor in sub-Saharan Africa. The second is how the Internet could accelerate the process of achieving some of the targets outlined in the report.
1173 The recent World Bank report, headed "Can Africa claim the 21st Century?", makes fairly alarming reading. The average income per capita in many sub-Saharan countries is lower now than at the end of the 1960s, with incomes, assets and access to essential services unevenly distributed. The lagging primary school enrolments, high child mortality and endemic diseases, particularly malaria and HIV/AIDS, have imposed costs on Africa of at least twice that of other developing regions. HIV/AIDS, which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, is one of the biggest plights facing sub-Saharan Africa. It is reversing some of the social gains of the past 40 years, with more than 25 per cent of the adult population in Botswana and Zimbabwe now infected with HIV.
The situation has been made worse by the massive capital flight and the loss of skills. It is estimated that 40 per cent of African private wealth is abroad, not to mention the high proportion of educated Africans living abroad. What a difference it would make if both wealth and people from Africa went home!
On several occasions during the 1990s, international agencies proclaimed a turning point in the economic fortunes of sub-Saharan Africa. I have often alluded to the words of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on the African renaissance. Those hopes of an African recovery have sadly been dashed by the violent events beyond its borders, particularly in Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as by the political and economic crises in Zimbabwe. These conflicts perpetuate poverty, which can be reversed only by long-running peace building and political reforms.
It is remarkable how rapidly countries can recover with a consequential return of capital investment when peace and stability is achieved. A good example of that is Mozambique, despite its recent hiccups. Halving severe poverty by 2015 will require annual growth of more than 7 per cent. Investing in people, particularly women, is essential for accelerating poverty reduction. There is no doubt that gender equality can be a potent force for accelerating poverty reduction.
Chapter 3 of the report covers the use of the Internet. Many commentators believe that the information revolution could widen the already horrendous divide between the very rich and the very poor. In Africa, less than half the population has ever made a telephone call and one in 1,000 Africans currently have access to the Internet. I must declare an interest as managing director of a large global Internet service provider. I am convinced that the Internet will play an ever-increasing role in both giving access to greater education and opening new economic markets for under-developed countries. The challenge will not be in the delivery of content, but more in the delivery of affordable access to the Internet. As most of Africa lacks a fibre optic infrastructure, the cost of satellite access will need to be reduced dramatically.
My time is up. I entirely agree with the Secretary of State that,the future is a matter of political will and change—.1174 There are no short-term solutions, but I believe that the report provides a clear light at the end of the tunnel.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord Parekh
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating the debate. I also thank the Secretary of State for International Development and her colleagues for producing an impressive and fascinating document.
Some of us who grew up in India lived in the midst of poverty, although perhaps not in it. We know that the poverty we are talking about is not the kind that is to be seen in the West. It is a poverty which often results in a painful, premature and lingering death; sometimes life is no better than death itself. Life is wretched and devoid of dignity and it is morally obscene that 1.2 billion people in the world should be living that kind of existence. It addresses the conscience of all of us and it is in that context that I want enormously to welcome the report.
Several noble Lords spoke of the type of changes they want to see made. My noble friend Lord Desai spoke of democratising international institutions. I want to highlight four points which the report fails to notice or to which it does not give adequate importance. First, part of the responsibility lies with the governments and the well-off people within the developing countries, a point which needs to be made. It is striking that often in developing countries one sees only limited protest against poverty and that the middle classes and the affluent sections of society should be unwilling to pay taxes or to make the required sacrifices. Their consciences need to be pricked and their sense of social responsibility awakened. Therefore, there is much to be said for mounting international pressure and for supporting radical and progressive growth in those societies.
Secondly, although trade is important—I am all in favour of globalization—it is important to recognise that it has its limits. It leads to a complicated international circuit. The raw material originates in one part of the world; it travels thousands of miles to be manufactured in some other; it goes back a few thousand miles to where it will be transported in the ships of another country; and finally the product arrives where the raw material began its initial journey.
Let us look at the consequences of that process. Transport costs rise; currency exchanges and speculation distort the international circuit; and the local markets (where the material originated and the products were expected to be consumed) are subjected to the fragility of the international economy.
Therefore, although there is much to be said for global trade, there is also a good deal to be said for localised production and the establishment of industries where the raw materials and the people to do the work are located. The report uncritically assumes, as its very title suggests, that globalisation is the only way to eliminate poverty. I do not share that fashionable fad.
1175 Thirdly, as the report rightly recognises, poverty is tied to acute armed conflict and the absence of any kind of stable political and legal institutions. Twenty-four of the 40 poorest countries suffer poverty precisely because of such conflicts. The problem is particularly acute in Africa where every fifth person is a victim of such conflicts. If we are serious about tackling poverty, we should also be able to tackle conflicts, which means anticipating them and working out political solutions to control and, it is hoped, eliminate them. There is much to be said for specialised agencies of the European Union and the United Nations liaising with academic institutions to work on conflict solution, to spot conflicts before they appear on the horizon and to find ways to mobilise the concerned citizens in those countries.
Finally, the report relies rather heavily on governments. I entirely agree that governments in the West and elsewhere have a great role to play in tackling poverty. However, we should not forget that ordinary citizens in the West also have an important role to play. After all, governments can give only what they are able to obtain from citizens. Therefore, unless ordinary citizens are actively engaged in the problems of the poor, governments will be handicapped in a variety of ways. I suggest that, rather than rely on the compassion of ordinary citizens, we should mobilise a sense of international solidarity and partnership.
Various ideas have been floated, only two of which I mention. First, I have heard it argued that an international lottery similar to the UK's National Lottery may be a good idea. Secondly, hypothecated tax, involving no more than, say, one extra penny, could generate far more money than the development aid that is currently available. That hypothecated tax, which might be based on income or luxury goods, could be compulsory or binding only on those who volunteered for it. In short, the problem that faces us is acute and heart-breaking, and it is about time that we broke away from traditional thinking and explored new and imaginative ideas.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of Guildford
My Lords, we are hugely grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating this debate. We are also grateful to Her Majesty's Government, and the Secretary of State in particular, for a second White Paper on development issues, raising their profile so effectively in the community. We need to continue that conversation in the coming months. I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not rehearse the many points in the White Paper on which I am in agreement but instead focus on a matter which I believe requires further debate. I am not wholly convinced that the White Paper has grasped the downside of the liberalisation of world trade. Globalisation and liberalisation have gone hand in hand in recent years. Those of us who speak for the civil society agencies—I speak for Christian Aid—see far too much evidence of the mixed impact of globalisation today. This is a complex matter which I believe requires prolonged effort and fresh thought.
1176 Whatever our point of view, all of us have a duty to work together on these issues for the benefit of the poor.
I begin by referring to the World Trade Organisation. Neither its present structure nor policy wins a huge level of support in the agencies or large sectors of the emerging economies of the south. Over half of the least developed nations do not have representatives at the WTO in Geneva, and 30 countries did not send representatives to Seattle. The manner in which the WTO conducts its business is heavily biased towards the economies of the north. Many believe that the policy of liberalisation has done little to decrease the growing gap between rich and poor. While it is true that there are some gains to liberalising trade, manifest problems need to be addressed at a fundamental level. For example, the involvement of large companies by the WTO in the process of drafting and negotiating deals does not create confidence among the peoples whom they seek to serve.
The danger of the present structure and policy is that the power of the corporate and financial sectors rooted in the north drives growth in international trade in ways that benefit the north but do not focus on the needs of the south. Instead of communities producing food and goods to meet local needs and enable local development, economies are pressed to restructure and serve the trading interests of the powerful in the north. That could hasten the process of urbanisation in the south through the impoverishment of rural farming. Those with small subsistence holdings will be driven out of the market and there will be a hastening drift into the cities. Unemployment, squalor and disease attached to burgeoning African cities, already happening in South Africa, are not a recipe for reducing poverty by 2015; rather, those developments will feed social, moral and political disorder. Globalisation cannot be harnessed to the needs of the poor through a simple commitment to trade liberalisation. In an unequal world, justice for the poor requires protection within the systems of trade with some agreed and enforceable rules.
When one visits, as I have done, the poorest communities in some of the poorest countries of the world one realises how dependent are large numbers of people on basic farming. They need security of tenure, targeted help to develop good food production, training and support in education and healthcare. Those matters are basic to their survival and development. Interestingly, a similar issue arises in the United Kingdom where farmers struggle to engage in an unequal relationship with major retailers. They are beginning to believe that they need to develop more immediate local trade structures with their local communities. How the local and the global live together in harmony is at the heart of this issue.
Development needs three things: the removal of the burden of debt; fair structures of trade; and strong locally rooted systems of investment and development. The White Paper has made an excellent start on which the Government are to be congratulated, but it needs 1177 a deeper and longer journey to deal with the structures of trade if we are to effect the kind of change that will truly liberate the world's poor.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws
My Lords, I too join in thanking my noble friend Lady Whitaker for initiating this debate. Poverty may be flashed across our television screens every day. Images of the outbreak of internecine conflict, the heart-wrenching consequences of famine and drought and the impacts of natural disasters, as we saw just last week in India, remind us of the horrors of poverty and the toll that it takes on people's lives. But those disasters which grab the headlines tell only a tiny part of the story of poverty. Often they occur in places where poverty is already acute and widespread. Sometimes poverty itself fuels the flames of ethnic conflict or compounds the consequences of natural disasters. However, away from the glare of the television camera there is another set of images: grinding poverty around the world which makes inroads into people's lives and is oppressive, harsh and desperately unfair.
The Government's White Paper is a tribute to the understanding and sensitivity of colleagues in the Department for International Development who are to be commended, as is the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his global initiatives on debt relief. The enormity of the problems is overwhelming. The agenda set out by the White Paper for an assault on poverty is one in which the organisation which I chair, the British Council, has an important role to play. In my job I am fortunate to be able to travel to many different parts of the world. I have the opportunity to meet the citizens of very poor countries. Those I speak to urge the British Council to focus its work on young people. They say we must seek to protect their human rights, their opportunities for the future, and their right to an education, to democracy, to employment, and, more than anything, to self-respect and dignity. The British Council may not be able to help the orphans of Ahmadabad. Mozambique, El Salvador or Sierra Leone, but it has a role to play in making their worlds better places for tomorrow.
The White Paper ranges widely over issues of poverty and is a great insight into the problem. The British Council suggests a number of areas of priority, but focuses on three in particular. The first is working to establish more democratic and accountable systems. Poor countries deserve that. The issue of governance must be a priority. It is one where Britain can make a contribution and a great impact. The second is to ensure that all people have access to education throughout their lives. The third is the establishment of a communications infrastructure that will support these priorities. These are areas where the UK can really add value and make a difference.
It is not only our long history of democracy but also our constant evolution that gives Britain really valuable experience. Devolution, the way in which we compromise with the EU, changing the role of this House and the way in which we have established new human rights legislation are all experiences which 1178 show how British democratic institutions can evolve in tune with contemporary needs. It means that we can join debates with representatives of the developing world as partners, share experiences and learn but not impose solutions from outside. That is what makes Britain such a valuable partner in this kind of work.
It has become clear in our connections with the developing world that free and responsible media are central to any new access to information, power and rights. New communications technologies have given rise to a whole new generation of young journalists who have a vital role to play in safeguarding democratic systems. It is important that their work is supported and that links are made between journalists. The British Council is playing its part in that.
Our experience in Britain of dynamic government and the role of the media in an accountable democracy is invaluable. In its work in poor countries the council's programmes in governance and human rights seek to exploit the benefit of our experience as Britons working in partnership with people to help them to realise their basic rights.
There are other areas I should like to mention. One hugely important area is education. Getting all children around the world, particularly girls, into school is a top priority. The UK has an important role to play in that. Decentralisation in Britain has brought schools and the communities they serve much closer together. There is an invaluable role for the council in assisting that kind of thinking in the developing world.
Finally, there are great concerns about the digital divide marginalising poor countries and communities and threatening to isolate those countries from the global economy. Again, the British Council has a way of working in developing countries. It has received some additional funding and hopes to establish a network of knowledge and learning centres in order to make those technological facilities available to the poor of the world.
Therefore, I gratefully welcome the White Paper. I commend it to the House. It will make a great contribution to the debate on poverty in the 21st century and a great contribution to changing the reality of many people's lives.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ Lord Brennan
My Lords, I want to give special emphasis in the debate to the effects of globalisation on the poor children of the developing world.
I declare an interest as an honorary member of the Consortium for Street Children. I have visited many children's projects in Latin America and Asia. What saw very well reflects what Charles Dickens wrote in Bleak House when he said that in the little world in which children live nothing is more finely perceived and nothing more keenly felt than injustice.
There are 250 million children who work. Millions live as internal refugees because of armed or civil conflict. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, pointed out, of the 1.3 billion on this planet living in extreme poverty, 600 million to 700 million are young children. They escape sometimes from their hunger and misery, 1179 not to a better life but to a worse life on the streets, to drug addiction, to sex tourism or violence. What injustice.
Fortunately, there are those who seek to overcome it. I identify three groups. The first are governments, local communities and NGOs in the countries of the developing world. Many of them do their best. But they have not the money, the resources or the experience to achieve what they should. Secondly, NGOs and charitable organisations in this country and around the world—the consortium that I have mentioned and well known organisations such as Save the Children—do an enormous amount for children. But it is vital to remember that they are not an alternative to government or community action. They are supplementary to it, although in many countries I fear their role is regarded as a substitute for action rather than a supplement.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, action needs to be taken by our government and other governments. There are three aspects to that. The first is debt relief. It is a waste of time expecting a poor debt-ridden country to produce the framework that will solve poverty. It cannot be done. The Government, the Chancellor in Cologne and our unilateral action last autumn emphasised the need for effective debt relief.
Secondly, there is the Department for International Development. It has taken three steps which I commend. First, it has stimulated other countries to act as we are acting. Secondly, it has required of the donee countries that they, too, seek to develop and solve their own problems. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, it has targeted poverty. It has done that through a most effective Secretary of State. She says what she thinks; and she fights for what is right. What a happy coincidence to find these qualities in a Secretary of State for International Development.
Those three actions by the Government make up an effective programme. I want to add four more. First, international companies are at the base of globalisation. It is a tragedy that in 1998 the OECD programme for ethical development collapsed. It must be revived. International companies must invest and develop in an ethical and reasonable way. Secondly, following the point raised by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford, we should educate the young. I suspect that many of those in that audience that night were young people. Why does not the DfID, through the Department for Education and Employment, bring this problem to our young people? I suspect that the response would be immense.
Thirdly, there is sex tourism. It is an unpleasant topic, but it is a blight on South-East Asia, the Caribbean and Latin American countries. We should work internationally for the same kind of programme of registration of sex offenders that we believe is fit to protect our children. Why should it not apply to the children of the developing world?
1180 Last of all, when countries receive help, at the end of each year is it not reasonable that they tell their population and the world what they have done that year for children, health, welfare and education? Surely, that is not too much to ask them to do.
This debate does not give time for reasoned argument, but it is an opportunity for a clear message. Globalisation is, if anything, an economic concept. It has no moral content. It needs to be invested with one. Kofi Annan has said so and the White Paper says so. Children deserve nothing less than a reasonable minimum of food, schooling, jobs and a future of hope rather than despair. I commend the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, on moving the Motion. I applaud the Government for their programme and I invite the House to be continually watchful about what is happening to the poor children of the developing world.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ Baroness Greengross
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for choosing this subject for debate. I have listened with great interest to the well informed and interesting contributions from all sides of the House. Although my work in this field has been largely in the UK and in Europe, I am a board member of the International Federation on Ageing and was formerly its secretary-general.
I am delighted at Her Majesty's Government commitment to international development and for the aims expressed both in this White Paper on global poverty and in the first one published in 1997. However, I have one quite serious criticism of the White Paper. It is that it does not get across the vital importance of tackling global poverty among older and indeed chronically disabled people.
I, together with Help Age International, an organisation of which I am a trustee, firmly believe that older people should be specifically targeted for poverty reduction. The White Paper is largely silent about them. Yet the inclusion of older people in development policy and practice across the board—from poverty to AIDS and from gender to human rights—is one of the critical issues for the 21st century, not least because we live in a rapidly ageing world.
In Africa, the proportion of older people is projected to increase by over 90 per cent within 20 years. In China, nearly one-third of the population of Beijing will be over 60 by 2025. In Asia, the numbers of people aged 65 and over will more than double in 25 years. Longevity is projected to increase across the world, especially for women and for those people reaching 75 and over. This shift is occurring much more rapidly than here in the developed world. Ageing in this part of the universe took place very slowly. It was a long process. We were rich by the time our population started to become old. For example, it took 100 years for the proportion of French older people to double. In the developing world a similar shift is likely to occur in 20 years.
Furthermore, demographic change is happening in most developing countries but without an infrastructure of social security or pensions. Where 1181 they do exist, only 10 per cent of older people have access to them. So we need to ask ourselves: if we are concerned to end global poverty, how will we reach this goal in an ageing world? That question is all the more pertinent when we consider that older people also tend to be the poorest, wherever they live. The future that currently beckons for those growing old in the developing world is one of chronic and debilitating poverty.
It is also important to recognise older people as contributors to family and community. They need to be valued in old age as participants in society. The age of retirement is not an issue in almost all developing countries. As Senator Julia Alverez, an excellent campaigner for older people and ambassador to the United Nations from the Dominican Republic, said:It is not an issue because it doesn't happen. You work until you die".That is why we must include an older person's angle in research, from which older people are often excluded, and in programmes that impact on older people directly, including poverty. In short, we should uphold the UN principles of older persons: care, dignity, participation, self-fulfilment and independence.
Another group I wish to single out is widows. In many parts of the world, widows lose all their possessions and their rights to them, including their home, their children and any social standing they once had. They are not necessarily old people. In fact, very often they tend to be very young. They are punished for committing a heinous crime. The crime is to have married a man who has subsequently died. In many places, the status of widowhood confers on them a life sentence of dire poverty.
As we speak, a conference bringing together organisations and representatives of widows in many parts of Africa and the Indian sub-continent is taking place in London. There are 40 million widows in India. In Africa, 60 per cent of adult women are widows. They are in poverty due to the tragic consequences of widowhood together with conflict and AIDS. The organisation running the conference—Empowering Widows in Development—is a small and new NGO. I was a founding trustee of it and I respect its aim, which is to give these women the ability to change the negative attitudes and lack of rights which they face and which often condemn them to a life of acute poverty and to be outcasts in their own societies.
In conclusion, I seek reassurance that the enormous implications of our ageing world and the situation of widows of all ages will become issues for development work by international development policy-makers. Poverty is the main threat to older people and to widows world-wide. They are consistently and disproportionately among the poorest of the poor. It is a matter of basic human rights that we address this issue. I hope that we in this country can begin to do so. I hope that the Minister can add to the work that the Government have already done in the White Paper and much else besides when, a year or so from now, Her Majesty's Government attend the United Nations Assembly on Ageing in Madrid. Let us make sure that poverty is on that agenda and that more is done to 1182 eliminate it. Inaction will surely undermine any current targets of the UK Government and of the UN agencies, targets which are so important to all of us.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Lord Faulkner of Worcester
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Whitaker on the way she introduced this excellent debate. I shall speak briefly about the issue of land reform, the importance of which is described in paragraph 92 of the White Paper. It states:Land reform, providing secure access to land and other productive assets for poor people, whether through ownership, tenure or customary use rights, is essential in building a market economy which will work for the poor".I agree. But more needs to be done to give effect to that expression of good intentions.
I have an interest as patron of the Terre Initiative in ensuring that the interests of the poor in central and eastern Europe are looked after. This endeavour is strongly supported by the Real Estate Advisory Group of the United. Nations, the Economic Commission for Europe, and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors through its foundation. Economic progress in central and eastern Europe is uneven and often concentrated in the urban areas, with the result that rural communities are falling behind. Page 21 of the White Paper shows that over the period 1990 to 1998 the number of people in eastern Europe and central Asia living on less than one dollar a day has increased from seven million to 24 million. It is very much in the interests of all sections of Europe that the central and eastern European region should be economically successful and that those countries which are applicant members for the EU should be able to take full advantage of their membership. In that way it will be possible for the continent as a whole to devote its limited resources to the areas of even greater need elsewhere in the world.
The challenge for mature economies now is to harness land in developing countries in a way that will help in a country's social and economic development. The creation of a viable market in real estate can increase a country's GDP by between 25 per cent and 30 per cent. In enabling land rights, we must not forget the increasingly serious issue of the environmental impact of different land uses. As we know only too well in our own country, facilitating the use of land must be linked with environmental controls.
Land as an asset does not need to be made. It already exists. What is required is the creation of the legal and administrative framework and supporting systems such as banking, valuation services and insurance. It is only through the exchange mechanism of a market that the value of land can be realised.
At present, the EU considers land reform to be a country-specific matter. Accordingly, with respect to the EU accession candidate countries, it concerns itself with the issue only to the extent that a country's policies in land restrict capital flows, such as on ownership of land by foreigners. This may be fine for existing EU countries because, by and large, they all 1183 have mature land markets. But for accession countries, the situation is very different. They are faced with what appears to be indifference on the part of the EU as to what needs to be done, but at the same time they are told that nothing must be done to prevent foreigners from owning full rights in their land. They find it difficult to obtain co-ordinated help because the EU and other international bodies have not organised their funding support on a cross-sector basis.
The United Nations, through its Real Estate Advisory Group in Geneva, is beginning to get this right. In December, it accepted a paper from the RIGS Foundation, produced with the support of the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which will now be going to the UN General Assembly for policy acceptance.
However, it is the EU which must change its approach. If more is not done now to help central and eastern Europe, the reform process could stumble and be delayed for perhaps a generation. The Know-How Fund used to facilitate the transfer of information and expertise so that people were enabled to help themselves. That is what is needed here. With help, the transition economies can defeat one of the last barriers to achieving the degree of market capacity required so that their people can truly benefit from globalisation.
The Government's White Paper represents an excellent opportunity for the UK to take a strong initiative in Europe and to lead a co-ordinated drive to get the EU to change its policy in this important area of land reform. I hope that, when my noble friend comes to reply to the debate, she will be able to give the House some comfort on this issue.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Baroness Howells of St Davids
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating my noble friend Lady Whitaker on raising this debate. To learn that Her Majesty's Government will work to manage globalisation in the interests of poor people, that they are setting themselves development targets, that the connected world is to work for everyone and that the international rules by which countries play will be fair, is music to the ear. In my few minutes, I should like to draw the attention of noble Lords to the small islands of the Caribbean.
Over the years, the islands have seen their agricultural base slaughtered in the struggle for trade. Cocoa, sugar, nutmeg and bananas are the most important crops. I realise that the White Paper urges that we should not try to prevent change, but rather look towards reform in order to improve life in the countryside and provide support for those who are losing out, so that they can adapt and move forward. Those are fine sentiments. But the CARICOM countries comprise small and heavily populated landmasses. Grenada, for example, is 21 miles long by 12 miles wide. Others are even smaller. No matter how successful such an island may become through advanced technology, I fear that to neglect the agricultural base could be seen by some as folly indeed. 1184 The islands may not be able to produce the volume, shape or size of produce needed by world markets, but they can trade successfully within the basin, if only they receive help.
I have recently returned from Grenada where I met traders who complained that they were unable to find small trading ships to transport their produce. The large ones have disappeared because they are no longer competitive in world markets. A market exists between the islands. However, producers have been losing heart because their produce has been allowed to rot. Airfreight is far too expensive, while there are too few small vessels.
Another area of concern which I should like to raise is that Her Majesty's Government have refused to pay proper pensions to the over-60s who have returned to the Caribbean after a lifetime of work in the UK. In the 1950s, they were the people who worked on the railways and in factories, as well as being the mainstay of the National Health Service. They paid their contributions towards their pensions. I cannot understand why they are being treated less favourably than those who remain in Britain. Furthermore, Britain encounters a downside by not paying proper pensions. When illness strikes these people, they return to Britain for treatment, thus placing a heavy burden on health services and causing unnecessary stress for the individuals concerned.
Does the Minister agree that, for reasons of history, Her Majesty's Government should be at the forefront of international development assistance to the increasingly beleaguered Caribbean region? Does she further agree that, in the light of uncertain times ahead for Caribbean economies and increasing threats to social stability from drugs and crime, as well as vulnerability to natural disasters, the Caribbean should be treated as a special case and that assistance for development in the region should be increased?
Perhaps I may also ask the Minister what measures Her Majesty's Government are taking to assist the small, heavily burdened governments of the region to identify and nurture alternative forms of economic development. Should UK development assistance be increased to target this important area?
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Viscount Brookeborough
My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for introducing this important debate. I should declare an interest as a patron of RAPID UK—Rescue and Preparedness in Disaster—an NGO charitable organisation. Noble Lords may have heard a RAPID volunteer, John Miller, describing the rescue of a child in India when he returned to Manchester early last weekend.
It is well recognised and self-evident that in many poverty-stricken areas of the world, natural disasters restrict and destroy well funded attempts at eliminating world poverty. I should like to discuss two areas in which this country is among the world's leaders. The first relates to immediate response to such disasters—as in the Indian earthquake; that is, response between the time of occurrence and five to six 1185 days afterwards. Secondly, I should like to mention preparedness for disasters in areas particularly prone to them.
I should like to emphasise, first, that I am full of admiration for the work of the Minister's department through the UN and through its own emergency response unit. We should also be very proud of our NGOs in this field, such as the International Rescue Corps, RAPID UK and Care International, to mention only a few. Co-operation between such groups is still in its infancy, but better co-ordination and support result in better outcomes. That means the saving of more lives quickly.
The UK response to the San Salvador and Indian disasters was absolutely correct, but at opposite ends of the scale. In the first, a decision was taken by an official in the Minister's department not to send search-and-rescue units due to the localised nature of the mudslides, when the need was for people and shovels rather than for high-tech search-and-rescue units. In the case of India, the decision from her department, almost immediately, was to put search-and-rescue units on standby and to organise transport for them. However, in between the two extremes there are grey areas where we should strive to improve the assessment, deployment and command structure on site.
We are dealing with part-time volunteers and a full-time department. However, there is no commonly agreed line of communication between either each of the different search-and-rescue groups or between them and the department. For example, on frequent occasions, these NGOs independently contact our embassies in the disaster countries directly; independently they ring different departments at various airlines to try to find seats. I must pay tribute to the airlines—especially British Airways—for, over the years, giving up free seats to them.
At the same time, the Government's emergency response unit is doing the same thing. Independent assessments are being made with sometimes conflicting outcomes: "Do we go or not"? There have even been questions over who booked what seat, and of some people cancelling other seats when they decide not to go. Therefore, there are sometimes different reaction times and confusion as to who has gone where, with the appropriate equipment or otherwise.
On site, the co-ordinating role is not always clear—or, indeed, sufficiently knowledgeable—as to the capability and expertise contained in the different units. This hinders efficiency and can cost lives. There are no commonly agreed practices—such as the hours to be worked, whether to work overnight and so on—and it is embarrassing for people to be resting when survivors are digging out their relatives.
My second area concerns preparedness for disasters. I shall give two examples, but noble Lords should bear in mind that I am talking about volunteers, on a shoestring budget with little or no government funding. What they do costs only several thousands of pounds, not the millions spent in support of post-disaster efforts.
1186 Over the past four years, RAPID has, on its own initiative, been involved in providing advice to, and training of, emergency services in the disaster-prone, shanty-town area of Lima in Peru. This work is recognised by both governments.
In 1998 it took up the same role in the Quindio region of Columbia. A preliminary report was submitted with the intention of a full report and a development plan to follow. Prior to the latter taking place, there was a devastating earthquake, which killed many thousands. However, even the advice contained in the preliminary report saved many lives. The Government of Columbia recognised this and presented a representative of RAPID with their distinguished service medal for pre-disaster help and quick response to the earthquake.
Some of the advice was elementary—or would seem to be—but it was effective. I refer, for example, to clearing a road from the airport so that search and rescue and other aid could get to the site. RAPID was also shown a brand-new fire station with its control centre on the roof. However, the authorities were advised, luckily, that after an earthquake neither would exist.
Finally, perhaps the Minister will consider appointing an independent person or group, acceptable to her department and the NGOs, to see whether the administration of the UK's response could be improved. Funding must play an important part. I fear that disaster reduction preparedness lies between emergency response and development programmes. However, it is relevant to both.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Lord Hunt of Chesterton
My Lords, I welcome the debate introduced by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. It is a good opportunity to discuss a most important and credible White Paper from a Government whose policies on relief of global poverty are not only more generous than those of previous governments and many other developed countries, but also contain many highly intelligent and original aspects, especially in stopping futile debt repayments and in connecting different initiatives. Nevertheless, there are gaps in the policies that could be remedied.
It is essential that there should be more emphasis on helping countries to reduce the impact of natural disasters, a point made earlier, and other adverse environmental factors. Paragraph 260 of the White Paper points out that natural disasters are as devastating as conflicts—as the Red Cross has also emphasised—but the rest of this section of the White Paper is devoted to the longer-term problem over the next 50 years of climate change, which will certainly have a devastating effect. As sea levels rise, it will cause flooding on low-lying coastal areas and islands; as temperatures rise, it will lead to many thousands of deaths in urban areas, especially of poorer people, as we have seen already in countries such as the USA and China.
However, in the short term, there are so many natural disasters every year, which cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and enormous financial damage, 1187 that one might have expected to see more emphasis on this in the White Paper. There have been mudslides in Venezuela, earthquakes in Gujarat, hurricanes in the Caribbean, and Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of the economy of one or two countries.
The media focus on the human tragedies but do not emphasise that in some countries the impact of such disasters is now much less through the use of science and technology and social and economic actions, as one sees in Hong Kong, Japan and India. At a major conference held at the Royal Society in 1999, at the end of the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction, we learnt that disasters are now much better forecast and the risks are much better mapped. For example, tropical cyclone and mudslide damage in Hong Kong is now quite small in comparison with the effects we regrettably saw in Venezuela.
Similarly, there has been a reduction of the impact of disasters through better engineering, which has greatly reduced the loss of life in more advanced countries. The social organisation in some countries is also very effective in post-disaster situations. Drought and seasonal variations which cause disaster in some countries are now fairly well predicted in other countries and special agricultural steps are taken.
The question for the department is how these developments can be spread to more countries. The United Nations agencies—which perhaps have not had a very good day here today—can play a great role, especially in the exchange of information. The present situation is fairly chronic in terms of the lack of information, as Mr George McGovern, the United States delegate to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, pointed out. Only when data are freely available will the kind of Internet revolution referred to earlier be possible.
Such co-ordination between UN agencies requires, in the first instance, co-ordination between the government departments and agencies which send their representatives to these UN agencies. Such coordination in the UK and in most countries of the world is still quite weak, as I saw when I was the chief executive of a UK government agency, the Met Office, and represented the UK at the United Nations agency for weather and hydrology—namely, the World Meteorological Office.
I was very pleased to learn recently of the setting-up of the new environmental planning department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. One of its objectives—which is slightly sotto voce in the document—is co-ordination. There is a problem between co-ordination and leadership by a department, an aspect of Whitehall mystique which we need not go into today. I hope it will be able to involve the 10 to 20 government agencies and institutes and, it is to be hoped, the private sector more effectively in future. I include in that the Hazards Forum Committee on Natural Disaster Reduction, in which I declare an interest as a member.
The United States Government are rather more effective at involving all their agencies and organisations with the UN than we are in the UK and 1188 most other European countries. There is a danger that the United States may take more of a lead in this whole area.
Finally, I should like to encourage the early work of the department to involve the London insurance markets and the poorest 42 Commonwealth countries in insuring each other against the effects of natural disasters through the newly-formed Disaster Management Agency, whose chairman, Sir Humphrey Maud, had a letter published recently in the Economist. As we heard, unlike the European Union, this organisation aims to pay out after five days. That is a good example of the commercialisation and globalisation that I hope we shall see in the future. I hope that the UK will involve all its strengths in this area. The DfID will have a vital role in facilitating this UK strength.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Baroness Cohen of Pimlico
My Lords, I, too, welcome the debate introduced by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak. As one might expect of a banker—I am an advisory director of HSBC Investment Bank—I want to talk about money—or, rather, about money laundering.
I welcome the sentiments of the White Paper. The first thing to be said about money laundering is that this slangy terminology is a pity. It is a seriously corrosive offence, and one that is worthy of all our attention and co-operation in confronting it.
Money laundering is the process of inserting the proceeds of drug dealing, extortion, bribery and corruption into the global banking system, so that it sits on a par with the savings of ordinary people or the profits of legitimate businesses. The point is that money laundering enables the perpetrators of widespread unpleasant crimes to benefit from them financially. While we fail to counter the efforts of money launderers, the drug dealing and corruption which make life totally miserable for ordinary people in developing countries, and which make economic growth so difficult to achieve, will continue.
Efforts to counter money laundering tend to be directed in two directions. The first—the one that we hear about—is the effort that is made to encourage banks and financial institutions in the developing countries to behave in a responsible way: to make sure that they know their customers and inquire assiduously into the origins of any funds that flow into their accounts. That is very important for the long term; however, in the short term it is very difficult to achieve—because the one thing that money launderers have at their disposal is lots of money, and it is easy to bribe people in developing countries because they have very little. In this case, the action lies not with exhortation to the developing countries, but right here, in the developed countries.
The goal sought by a money launderer is an account with a licensed bank in one of the developed countries. An account with the "Cosa Nostra Bank of Domenica"—or for that matter, with the real life 1189 Overseas Development Bank and Trust of Domenica—is a very limited utility. The goal is an account with the Chase Manhattan, with the Credit Agricole, or with my own bank, HSBC. It is primarily, therefore, for us in the developed countries to enforce and strengthen our defences against this offence.
In some ways this has been a good week for law enforcement. The Basle Committee on Banking Supervision has produced guidance to banks and supervisors on customer due diligence. It could not sound more boring, but it is extremely important. There is also an FATF progress report on the non-co-operative countries—the many countries that are making no serious attempt whatever to control this offence. All this increases the pressure on financial institutions to get their procedures right and to pay attention to all the detail that helps to repel the criminal customer.
However, per contra, the recent report published in America by the Senate Government Affairs Committee on correspondent banking sinks the heart. A correspondent bank is one in another country with which one has a trading arrangement. It was originally conceived as a service for customers—and so it has proved to be; except that, squarely in the eye of the committee, although not in the dock, are a dozen US-based banks, including very respectable names such as the Bank of America and Chase Manhattan, which have formed alliances with offshore banks. They have taken no trouble whatsoever to find out with whom they are allied, and have washed a great deal of money through their accounts. To quote Senator Levin:Some of these foreign banks operate without the most basic controls or oversight that Americans expect at a regulated financial institution, and they have highly questionable owners, employees, and customers. Yet all of them managed to open U.S. bank accounts and run millions of dollars through them. The U.S. banks that gave them accounts were, at best, asleep at the switch and, at worst, didn't care what these foreign banks or their clients were doing".Frankly, I should be amazed if any report on English-based banks produced such a damning indictment. I do not believe that we are either as negligent or as delinquent. But, to paraphrase the well known statement, it is not enough for respectable bankers to refrain from doing evil; they must actively confront those who would do evil.
In that context, I welcome the undertaking in the White Paper, which repeats the commitment in the Queen's Speech, to introduce legislation to strengthen our capacity to deal with money laundering. I look forward to helping to discuss the matter in this House.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Viscount Craigavon
My Lords, perhaps I may begin by commenting on the White Paper in general terms and then focus on a narrow but important area; namely, reproductive health. It is an interest that I share with the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. I am grateful to her for giving me the chance to address the subject. I want also to pay an oblique tribute to the Secretary of State, and also to George Foulkes, who was until recently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary 1190 of State at the Department for International Development. He has done an extremely good job and has been extremely helpful and effective in the area that I have mentioned. We wish him well in his promotion. I would have liked to say more about work in this area if there had been time.
To turn to the White Paper, there is no doubt about the Government's commitment—to use the word in the Motion. For the moment, I still accept as beneficial the use and purpose of targets—some fairly distant—as, among other uses, a way of providing some focus and ambition. What I feel less sure about is the somewhat idealistic view of human nature and the implication that we should all be ready to resort to sweet reason and that this will help us to cure the awkward failings that human beings are heir to. In fact, I support that language in the White Paper. I think it useful to have ideals described and to keep them in mind as a kind of optimists' map of future progress. However, as someone who is almost an "old hand", I am only too aware of the failings of human beings, not only individually but also as collectives, tribes or nations, not least in political groups.
With this White Paper we are partly addressing the shortcomings of systems in other countries. However, the Secretary of State reminded us, in her refreshingly robust and colourful language, of the serious shortcomings in the management of our EU management budget contributions. The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, attempted to flesh that out with statistics. However, her colourful language came nowhere near that of the Secretary of State.
Similarly, the White Paper acknowledges the grossly distorting nature of the EU common agricultural policy and the need for its reform: and we are here exhorting other, less privileged countries to standards of good housekeeping, order and rationality. Perhaps I am saying that we are long on giving advice, but short on taking our own advice. Nevertheless, that advice may generally be good.
I now focus on the narrow but integral area of reproductive health. The international development target, confirmed on page 13 of the White Paper, is:Access through the primary healthcare system to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible, and no later than the year 2015".I remind the House that the essence of that is enabling choice; there is no longer the idea of compulsion or of playing the numbers game.
This philosophy is not, and should not be regarded as, an optional add-on to development. It is coming to be regarded as an essential right for people, especially women, to be able to make the choice that they deem appropriate.
In the wider context of the White Paper, focusing on the poor, it is also accepted that the infrastructure of a fragile developing country can be overwhelmed by population increasing at a greater rate than its environment can sustain.
1191 Turning to a more specific matter in this field, following on the US election, we understand that we are faced, as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, said, with a significant possible cut in supporting American funds to international NGOs which have any connection with abortion. If that is so—as seems to be happening, judging by newspaper reports this week—the EU development section can begin to redeem its lamentable record by trying to make up some of the difference. This is likely to affect the vital on-going and future programmes of such respected organisations as the UN Population Fund and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
I very much hope that the Secretary of State can give the Government's firm and speedy support to what seems to be an initiative led by the Danish EU Commissioner. Poul Nielson. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, may be able to give us some assurance on the Government's views and their willingness to make up some of what is apparently called the "decency gap". Such a contribution by us would seem to be a splendid example of globalisation at work.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Lord Rea
My Lords, this very comprehensive and challenging White Paper sees globalisation as a potential means of lifting people out of poverty, but admits that, as it is, it may increase rather than decrease poverty. But to me the generally upbeat style lends it a rather unreal flavour. It gives little indication that international trade and investment is, and always has been, based on maximising profit. The multinational companies that now undertake two-thirds of the world's trade invest where they can get the best return for their money; the basic principles are much the same now as they were 200 years ago. The private sector does not usually ask "What is needed, how can I help?" but rather "How much can I get for my money?". Perhaps we have moved on from the time when the following passage was written:Surplus capital will never he used for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses … instead it will be used to increase profits by exporting the capital abroad, to backward countries [where] profits are usually high, for capital is scarce, the price of land is relatively low, wages are low, [and] raw materials are cheap".That was written in 1916 on the subject of imperialism. I shall leave it to noble Lords to guess the name of the author but one clue is that when it was written Karl Marx was already 30 years dead. Though we do not refer to imperialism much now, it is still alive and well though it wears kid gloves. Alhough the international financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation and the multinational corporations deal with nominally independent states, their economic power, compounded as it is by international debt, is today's equivalent of yesterday's gunboat or Maxim gun, and the net flow of wealth is from the south to the north, especially in Africa.
1192 The White Paper recommends that the influence of developing countries on the decisions of the international financial institutions and the World Trade Organisation be increased. But there are many difficulties. Paragraph 239, for instance, states:23 least-developed country members of the WTO have no representation in Geneva, where there can be more than 40 meetings a week across a diverse range of subjects".And the multinationals are probably in the wings, skilfully lobbying country members. Like my noble friend Lord Desai I should be most interested to hear from my noble friend how we intend to correct this kind of gross imbalance.
When Britain was at its economic peak in the late Victorian era we pressed vigorously for free trade while the USA and Germany built their economic strength behind tariff walls, as Japan did after 1945, and the Asian tigers a few years later. It is surely unfair to expect poorer countries to abolish their tariff protection when their economies are still weak. To flood them with cheap industrial goods or subsidised agricultural products is to stifle indigenous enterprise and agriculture and condemn them to continued poverty. But tariffs are no bar to foreign direct investment which can still be quite profitable. I would love to be able to refer to other noble Lords' points as I go along but time presses.
Rural people in the developing world are having to leave the land and move to slums in the cities, as our ancestors did in the 19th century. But we achieved our "affluent society"—though 20 per cent of us are still relatively poor—through political and industrial struggle over the past two centuries. Should we not encourage the people of developing countries to do likewise, preferably with the help of the International Labour Organisation?
The White Paper speaks of,strengthening the voices of civil society—a fine sentiment—but will we defend the human rights of trade unionists who organise and strike for a living wage? Will we protest vigorously enough if they are arrested or extra judicially murdered, as they frequently are in developing countries with whom we trade? Or will we acquiesce with governments who label them as hooligans, communists or terrorists?
Finally, I have one question to my noble friend about health. Globalisation has contributed greatly to the spread of the HIV pandemic. I am very pleased that DfID is funding research into the much hoped for vaccine. However, if the pharmaceutical industry could be persuaded to reduce the price of its combination therapy to its marginal cost, which it could do without losing money—it might accept that it would forgo some profits and yet, as it is not selling to Africa, it is not making any profits there anyhow—it might become affordable to treat people with HIV/ AIDS in the developing world and prolong their lives, with enormous economic benefit. A better health infrastructure would also be needed, of course, to administer the treatment, but if this were also achieved, it would remain as a permanent gain for the countries concerned, helping to achieve the 1193 international development targets in health which are now slipping well behind schedule. This would be a sound and very popular investment in any case. Has my noble friend any news on that front?
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Lord Redesdale
My Lords, I, like many noble Lords, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for allowing us finally to debate the White Paper. The Minister will have a difficult job in replying to such a wide-ranging debate.
The White Paper deals with the Government's approach to globalisation. As documents go, it is readable; it is well put together and shows a sensible approach. Many noble Lords have discussed the dangers that globalisation poses. Many have mentioned that the rich will become richer, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, pointed out. Indeed, some of the institutions that are part of the make-up of globalisation, such as the WTO, show the dangers that are inherent in it. A particular example is America, a country which does not grow or sell any bananas itself but has taken it upon itself, through the WTO, almost to destroy the ACP countries' banana production. That lobbying in Washington on behalf of the banana industry—and the money spent—has threatened such diverse industries as the cashmere industry in Scotland.
However, the danger areas should not be over expressed; there are a number of benefits. The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, discussed the benefits that industry brings. Although there is a danger that industry will look to making profits, it is only through inward investment and private capital flows that many of the developing countries will break the cycle of poverty and aid dependency.
Agriculture and genetics were mentioned by my noble friend Lord Taverne. Although I thoroughly agreed with the point he made that in the future genetic manipulation of core crops will yield benefits, there was always the danger that seed companies developed the science of genetics and terminator genes to gain a monopoly of seed grain. Happily, however, that threat has been averted.
The noble Lord, Lord St John, mentioned the Internet. I agree that the Internet is a closed book to many in Africa. However, I echo the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, who said that the British Council, through its offices in many countries, is giving people access to the Internet. I have visited many British Council offices and have seen evidence of that in their libraries.
It is dangerous to suggest that the DfID is the only player in the fields of aid and development. That is obviously not the case. However, I believe that it is one of the best. A good example is DfID's response to the recent earthquakes. The earthquake in India was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe. The question is not what should be done, but why, as the DfID is already on the ground, as it were, we are not spending more.
1194 Development issues have been at the centre of government policy. Many people associate themselves with the issue in the fields of education and health, and with regard to the real threat of the pandemic of AIDS which afflicts the poorest countries. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford referred to the meeting in a village hall; I have been to many such village hall meetings. It is an issue which affects people from all strata of life.
I applaud the DfID, in particular for the lead it is taking in ending the policy of tied aid. However, we need to consider the area of scrutiny at home. One of the Government's key policy commitments is that they will,work with others to reduce violent conflict, including through tighter control over the arms trade".An issue has raised its head recently which must cause concern if that is one of the Government' aims. In an open session of the Joint Select Committee considering strategic export controls on 30th January 2001—unusually, the official report has not yet appeared on the Internet; a transcript was taken from the video of the session—the Foreign Secretary said:Since the UN mission there, MINURSO is actually overseeing the refurbishment of the guns … This was a licence which was originally refused and there was then an appeal submitted. In between our refusal and the hearing of the appeal the UN, in both the Western Sahara and New York, confirmed the refurbishment was within the terms of the ceasefire agreement, and that they were willing to supervise the refurbishment. They assessed the project as 'force neutral'. On that basis—with the full agreement of the UN—we then proceeded to grant the appeal".For those who are not aware, at stake is the refurbishment of 105 millimetre Royal Ordnance guns—they are capable of hurling high explosive shells 17 kilometres—positioned on the berm, a sand wall which has divided the Western Sahara for over 15 years and is armed against the Polisario. Refurbishment of those guns has to indicate a change in government policy. Under a ceasefire, the area is being monitored by the UN. To state that the UN is overseeing that refurbishment is no justification.
I refer to a change in government policy because in a letter of 7th September 1998, Derek Fatchett stated:When considering Export Licence Applications for Morocco, the situation in the Western Sahara is an overriding concern. As you know we support the United Nations in their efforts to achieve a resolution of the dispute through a free and fair Referendum. We would not be able to reconcile this objective with supporting one side or the other be it via the export of arms or through some other channel".I do not understand how the Foreign Secretary can state that refurbishment of light artillery—it is very effective, portable artillery—can be force neutral. I also fail to understand how a licence was given on appeal considering that it breaks the criteria used when considering conventional arms export licence applications. In paragraph 8 under "international aggression", a Select Committee report states:The Government will not issue an export licence if there is a clearly identifiable risk that the intended recipient would use the proposed export aggressively against another country, or to assert by force a territorial claim".1195 Even if the Government can reconcile their position within the criteria on applications for licence, the question is raised whether that position drives a coach and horses through the EU code of conduct on arms exports. The Council of the European Union is,DETERMINED to prevent the export of equipment which might be used for internal repression or international aggression, or contribute to regional instability".It is an area that faces an internationally adjudicated referendum. The fortification divides the Western Sahara, occupied by Moroccan forces, from the Polisario group which may be on the point of re-initiating hostilities. I hope that that will not occur. How can refurbishment of artillery pieces be regarded as force neutral? Will the DfID make representations to the Foreign Office to review the matter? The decision should be reviewed within government departments. Consideration of a judicial review is under way.
Perhaps this issue will prompt the introduction of a system which was promised in chapter 2 on page 33 of the White Paper. It states that the Government will,Introduce a licensing system to control UK arms brokers and traffickers, and work for tighter controls internationally at next year's UN conference on small arms".From the speeches today, we know that such a Bill would be welcomed.
§ 5.37 p.m.
§ Lord Howell of Guildford
My Lords, all noble Lords are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, for initiating a high quality debate. It has been more an occasion for messages, as the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, said in a telling speech, than elaborate discussion. There is no doubt that the White Paper has been well received by commentators and those concerned with development. The general view is that it is long and strong on analysis and discussion—perhaps a "White Essay" rather than a White Paper—and somewhat weaker on developing policy initiatives to meet the entirely new global conditions that the development process now faces. When we consider the detailed actions there is a tendency for the White Paper to have caught that fatal infection described in the The Times as "targetitis". I shall return to that issue.
I start on a more positive note. The analysis of globalisation and its effects is excellent. The emphasis placed by the Secretary of State on the need to use globalisation to harness accelerated development and the uplifting of those in poverty is right. The point made in the White Paper is correct: that globalisation is not the danger. It is not the risks that flow from globalisation; the dangers were there already. The process of globalization—the gigantic transparency and competitive forces which it generates—are powerful potential instruments for meeting those dangers. So globalisation itself is not the evil; it is the means of meeting the evil.
Much has been said about the globalising process applying only to a prosperous minority of the world, excluding 70 per cent or the 1.2 billion to 1.3 billion 1196 people who live in extreme poverty. I am not sure that that is right. The globalisation process, with its gigantic accompanying revolution in communication and information spread, reaches every society whether we talk about the poorest in drought-ridden sub-Saharan Africa or those squatting in the suburbs of swollen mega-cities. All those people are entwined in the revolutionary processes of information technology, as the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, remarked. Nor am I happy about the phrase "digital divide". It is very fashionable; it is used in the White Paper. It was much used at the Davos world economic forum, and has been used in many speeches. It implies that somehow the digital revolution has caused the divide. That is not so. The inequalities were possibly greater 20 years ago, before anyone had heard of the Internet. Those inequalities have been accelerated by years of anti-market, illiberal, anti-globalisation policies. Anyone in India, for example, knows that those policies have made poverty worse in some quarters. The one hope is that globalisation can be mobilised and harnessed to reverse those trends.
It used to be said that free trade helped the strongest. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and others mentioned that. That is no longer the case. In today's world, trade liberalisation is the instrument that helps the poorest. However bad its organisation, the WTO is the one hope for trade liberalisation. Trade restriction is used by the richer and more advanced countries to protect their monopolies and labour standards. That was the problem at Seattle. To his shame, President Clinton said that he was going to support the lobbies of the American labour unions. That was a signal to the world's poorest countries that the game was over before it had begun. They were not going to get a fair deal at Seattle, which ended in chaos.
There is a good deal of confusion about the effects of trade liberalisation. I had the privilege of attending the Davos conference, which was solely about ways in which globalisation could be mobilised to help the world's poorest people. There were many brilliant ideas about how that could be done, some of which are being put into practice. I was surprised and saddened—or perhaps I was not surprised—that when I left Davos my way was blocked by screaming protesters who appeared to be against the causes that would help them most. It is a crazy world of contradiction that we live in. Those who protest most are trying to destroy the goals they claim to support.
One lesson that we have learned about the problem of "targetitis", identified by The Times, is that aid and development effectiveness cannot be measured by aid volume. I hope that the Government have learned that. There is a machismo about percentages. That is a hangover from the days of aid donor giving, with each country saying how good it was because it was giving more. That language is out of date. We should concentrate on quality rather than quantity of aid.
It has been argued that simply setting big and ambitious targets does some good in itself. That is not so. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned, has told us frankly that the 2015 target for 1197 halving the number of those living in poverty is doomed. We still have the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GNP hanging round our necks, but it looks more remote than ever and it is unrealistic in terms of aid effect and development.
Giving more to the UN agencies will not necessarily help development, because they are very inefficient. They need checking before we pour more funds into them. The European Union has rightly received a pasting today, not least from my noble friend Lady Seccombe in her well focused speech early in the debate. However, nothing that has been said in the debate can equal the robust words of the Secretary of State, who has described the EU as the worst agency in the world. We cannot go further than that. We should long since have applied new methods to the co-ordination of aid in Europe. That should not include creating vast bureaucracies in Brussels.
The problem is that grand theories stumble on crippling detail. The new reality in development is beginning to emerge. There is no better recent book for analysing that new reality than Hernando de Soto's Mystery of Capital. He argues that development cannot succeed, however much aid is poured in, without property rights and local capital. Those are the key to poorer societies becoming less poor. I give the Government credit for mentioning that in paragraphs 53 and 92 of the White Paper, but those comments are in the wings of the general thrust of the document when they should be centre stage.
De Soto argues that the poor have assets, but they cannot turn them into wealth. To do that, they need the rule of law and political stability, as the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, reminded us. They also need good governance, as emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy. Those are tasks that the British Council is superbly equipped for. That is where our priorities in aid promotion and using our resources should be.
The basis of the new reality that we have to face is that non-governmental organisations, private corporations and new and novel coalitions between public and private bodies will be the driving forces of development. That means that private corporations have an increasing social responsibility for the corporate governance standards that the noble Lord, Lord Holme, mentioned. We should not rail against multinationals and tell them to keep away from development. Far from suffering from wicked multinationals, the poorest societies need much more attention than the feeble flow of foreign direct investment that they currently receive. They need more globalisation, not less.
That is the message of the debate and the White Paper. We can have plenty of good ideas and express all our concerns vividly about the fact that billions of people still live in poverty and billions of children suffer appallingly, but we must not be distracted by yesterday's stale aid debate. We need to focus on the new way in which development can be promoted and the ways in which globalisation, the informational paradigm and the Internet system that now links the 1198 world in an entirely new relationship can carry development forward more vigorously and more hopefully than ever before.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Baroness Amos
I thank my noble friend Lady Whitaker for giving us the opportunity to discuss this important subject. I cannot begin to do justice to the breadth of the issues raised. The debate has been well-informed and wide-ranging. Noble Lords have given me a Herculean task in trying to respond to all the issues that have been raised. I shall write to anyone whose specific questions I am unable to answer because of lack of time. I also thank noble Lords for their positive comments about the work of the department and its officials and the leadership provided by the Secretary of State.
A number of noble Lords have already reminded us of the reasons for having the debate. In an era of growing wealth, 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty, without adequate food, water, healthcare or education for their children. It is within our grasp to remove extreme poverty from the world. That is the greatest moral challenge facing our generation. However, it is not just a moral duty; it is also in our interests. Many of the world's biggest challenges—growing conflict, refugee movements, disease, environmental degradation and rapid population growth—are caused and exacerbated by poverty and inequality. That will bring instability and danger to future generations wherever they live.
The White Paper on globalisation is the continuation of the process begun in 1997, when our first White Paper committed the Government to reducing the proportion of people living in poverty by half by 2015, working to establish a safer and more secure world and promoting greater global social justice. Therefore, the White Papers must be read together.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, said that significant mention was made of disaster preparedness in the first White Paper. In terms of a continuation of the debate, the second White Paper puts disaster preparedness into the context of environmental degradation. That is why more specific comments are found in the first White Paper and more general comments in the second one.
We recognised that achieving the international development targets required a new approach—one which saw development as an investment in the building of a more equitable and sustainable world. It meant putting poverty reduction at the centre of our discussions with developing countries and working with them to develop their own poverty reduction strategies. It meant supporting developing countries in a number of ways; for example, through debt relief. Many noble Lords touched on the UK's key role in delivering deeper and faster debt relief.
Achievement of the targets also meant providing support through aid untying, working for a more open international trading system, helping developing countries to build their own capacity in order that they 1199 might play an effective part in trade negotiations, and working for reform of the international institutions. It has also meant taking a more coherent and integrated approach across government.
My noble friend Lady Whitaker made reference to the international development Bill. The Bill will establish in legislation the Government's over-arching aim of reducing world poverty. We have made a lot of progress but much remains to be done. This White Paper examines the opportunities and risks created by the process of globalization—the growing inter-connectedness and interdependence of the modern world.
I say to noble Lords, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Howell, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, that the action plan is contained within the White Paper. At the beginning and end of each chapter we say what we will do. Underpinned by the two White Papers are target strategy papers, which look specifically at each of the international development targets.
The central message of the White Paper is clear. We can help to shape globalisation so that it works for the world's poor. Access to knowledge, technology, goods, services, capital and markets can create the conditions for faster reduction in poverty, enabling developing countries to benefit from global economic integration rather than being excluded from it.
However—here I agree with noble Lords—there are also risks. If the poorest countries are not drawn into the global economy, they will become more marginalised. For example, we know that growth rates in Africa—I believe that this point was made by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso—remain well below the level required to halve the incidence of poverty in the continent by the year 2015. Therefore, either outcome is possible. The future is a matter of political will and choice.
I believe that four key themes have underpinned today's debate. First, in order to capture the benefits of globalisation, we need a combination of efficient markets and effective governments. In response to my noble friend Lord Parekh, it is our view that strong private sectors and efficient markets are indispensable at global, regional, national and, indeed, local levels. But they are not everything. Effective governments are equally important. They must be equipped competently to carry out basic functions, including the provision of law and order. In addition, they must be accountable, responsive and democratic, with poor people being given a bigger voice.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stern, talked in particular about the issue of security and justice. We are supporting programmes of reform in order to make the justice system as a whole more responsive to the needs of the poor in such countries as Bangladesh, Jamaica, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda. I can assure the noble Baroness that it is our intention to work with those countries on solutions which are appropriate for them.
1200 To my noble friend Lord Rea I say that rights at work are an important component of our human rights strategy. We have a commitment to the ILO core labour standards and to the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. We recognise that business must also play a part. The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, plays an important role through his work on corporate social responsibility, bringing business and government together, and also through his work on the global social contact.
With regard to reproductive health, the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and my noble friend Lady Massey raised the question of our reaction to the decision of the US Government to bar abortion-related NGO work. The US decision will make no difference to the commitment of this Government to help poor people to access good quality family planning and sexual reproductive health services.
The second theme to have come out of the debate is the need to establish a much more integrated and joined-up approach to development. We need to tackle, for example, conflict and corruption. Those areas were raised by my noble friends Lord Judd and Lady Cohen. Of the 40 poorest countries in the world, 24 either are in the midst of armed conflict or have just emerged from it. In Africa, 20 per cent of the population live in countries affected by armed conflict. We have started a process of integrating conflict reduction programmes into our own programmes so that they promote the right environment in which to foster peace.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bradford made a plea for joined-up thinking. At present we are establishing two pooled budgets which will finance the conflict prevention activities currently resourced by the FCO, the MoD and the Department for International Development. One covers sub-Saharan Africa; the other covers the rest of the world.
While talking about issues of conflict and conflict prevention, perhaps I should address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. This Government have made our arms exports more accountable and transparent than has almost any other country. For the first time, we have established new national criteria on export licences and have followed that up by obtaining agreement for the EU code of conduct. For the first time, we have published annual reports which detail the export licences that we have agreed, deliberately inviting scrutiny. We have made clear our intentions to update our legislation on arms export controls in order to bring it into line at the earliest possible opportunity with the EU code of conduct.
My noble friend Lady Cohen gave a clear exposition of the process of money laundering. The Government have produced an anti-corruption strategy supported by commitment to legislation. A new proceeds of crime Bill will tighten the law on money laundering. We have also made a commitment through legislation to give the UK courts jurisdiction over UK nationals who commit offences of corruption abroad. At the international level, our priority is to generate stronger commitment to a co-ordinated approach among governments and development agencies.
1201 We also need to boost investment in education and health. Investment in people, skills and knowledge is essential for countries that wish to be part of the globalising economy. That, of course, includes children. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, that the Government, through the leadership of the Chancellor, have decided to spearhead an initiative to address child poverty through improved progress to reach the international development targets by the year 2015. The UN and the World Bank will produce an annual report on the achievement of those targets for the G8.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, my noble friend Lady Kennedy and other noble Lords mentioned education. The achievement of universal primary education is an absolute priority for us. Of our total education commitment of resources of £800 million, almost 80 per cent is allocated to basic and primary education. I shall not go into further detail on what we are doing with regard to education, but I shall be happy to write to noble Lords on the matter.
My noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen and other noble Lords raised the problem of AIDS/HIV. We are committed to a strategic response to AIDS/HIV by raising the profile of the epidemic, creating enabling environments for HIV prevention and control, caring for people who live with HIV/AIDS, and improving knowledge and technology. We have committed more than £100 million to HIV/AIDS work since the start of 1999, and we have recently committed a further £25 million to the International Partnership against AIDS in Africa and to other initiatives, and £14 million to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
On the subject of drugs, which was raised by my noble friends Lord Rea and Lady Massey, we are working in collaboration with many partners, including drug companies and national governments, to make existing drugs affordable and accessible through several strategies while at the same time retaining incentives for future drugs development.
We also need to spread the benefits of technology and research. That matter was picked up by my noble friend Lady Whitaker. The Government commissioned work to develop proposals to tackle the lack of incentives for and perceived risks of increased investment in research into vaccines and treatments to tackle HIV/AIDS, malaria and TB.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, who spoke in particular about health and food, that our approach to GMOs and to developing countries is based on the general principle that the health of people and the environment is of primary concern. We believe that GM technologies could have the potential, when managed responsibly, to produce considerable benefits for poor people and the environment. We are working to promote efforts to help to build bio-safety capacity in developing countries.
Underpinning all of those efforts is our commitment to policies that promote human rights, including the rights of women and girls, and those that support effective governance and democracy. Those are areas 1202 in which the British Council has been particularly effective. I agree with my noble friend Lady Kennedy that work on governance needs to be given priority.
A third strand of the debate involves the need to improve the effectiveness of development assistance; that is a vital priority. Too many resources are not targeted at the poor. A significant proportion of resources remains tied to the purchase of goods and services from donor countries.
As my noble friend Lady Whitaker said, we will untie all UK development assistance from 1st April 2001 and we will urge others to follow our lead. We will also increase development assistance to 0.33 per cent of GNP by 2003–04. I inform the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, who questioned that amount, that the aid budget will have increased by 45 per cent in real terms between 1997–98 and 2003–04. Our ultimate goal is the 0.7 per cent figure, but we recognise that we have to take steps along the way to achieve that.
The fourth theme of the debate was the need for a stronger international system that focuses on the systematic reduction of poverty to enhance the efforts of governments and to take collective action when required. We need the IMF, the World Bank. regional development banks, the UN and all development agencies to collaborate to support governments that are committed to meeting the international development targets.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai that we must have fair international rules and strong international institutions to harness private capital and trading opportunities in order to improve the life of the poor. We need representative institutions, in which all can pursue their interests equally. That is what the World Trade Organisation is for.
I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford—we need fair structures of trade. I agree that developing countries must be able to participate effectively in the WTO. We are doubling our effort in that regard and looking at ways in which to do more with other donors to boost capacity in Geneva and in the capital.
Before I turn to specific matters raised in this debate, I want to make one final general point. The partnership approach—working with governments, business, trade unions and NGOs—is an absolute priority. I inform the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the right reverend Prelate that our relationships with NGOs are particularly important to our work.
The noble Viscount, Lord Brookeborough, raised the question of co-ordination during disasters. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Chesterton also raised the issue of disasters. Our strategic partnership with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is strengthening the capacity of the UN system as a whole to co-ordinate the international response to humanitarian emergencies and national disasters. We want a system that is efficient and effective. While our ultimate aim is to build a better international humanitarian system, there is a role fm donor governments such as the UK to fill a gap with regard to rapid direct response.
1203 I inform the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, who thought that we were found wanting in our response to the floods in Mozambique, that we were the first on the ground there, that it was our money that paid for some of the fuel and some of the helicopters that we saw being flown by South African pilots to rescue people in Mozambique. Our aim is always to source regionally because that is faster and more effective than always trying to send resources from the UK to places where disasters have happened.
I do not have time to discuss the EU, but part of our strategy involves levering those aspects of the international system that have the capacity to be effective. In 1998, the EC was the fifth largest provider of aid and the largest provider of humanitarian assistance. We have to reform the EC and make it effective.
I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, for raising the issue of older people. As life expectancy has risen from 46 to 64 since the 1960s, it is becoming increasingly important to address that matter.
I inform my noble friend Lord Faulkner that land reform is essential in building a market economy that will work for the poor. I agree with my noble friend Baroness Howells that Caribbean countries remain particularly vulnerable to changes in the global trading system. We are taking several initiatives in that area. I would be happy to write to the noble Baroness on that.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, that achieving the targets in Africa will depend primarily on action being taken by African governments. I shall write to the noble Lord on those issues.
Development awareness, which was raised by several noble Lords, is important. We have several regional policy fora and development awareness schemes in schools to take forward the debate. I shall write to my noble friends on the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights.
I conclude by repeating the words of the Secretary of State for International Development. She said:Cynicism and negativism are the enemies of progress".It is when people see that progress is possible that the demand for reform and advances is energised. This debate has demonstrated that the ideas and policy commitments in the White Paper can play a central role in helping us to shape a more decent and sustainable future.
§ The Deputy Speaker (Lord Geddes)
My Lords, the time allotted for this debate has now elapsed. Does the noble Baroness wish to withdraw the Motion?
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.