Nia Griffith MP has said that the UK should take the lead in the two important world summits to be held in 2015, the one on sustainable development goals and the other on climate change. Speaking up in a parliamentary debate called by Labour to focus on the Government’s overseas development strategy, Nia Griffith said
“It is important when dealing with overseas aid that everything should be done to ensure that the taxpayer’s money is spent transparently and wisely and we secure the best possible value for money in the outcomes that it produces.
I was pleased to support the Bill enshrining in law the commitment to give 0.7% of GNI to overseas development but it was a shame that it only happened because it was brought forward as a private member’s bill rather than being brought forward by the two Government parties, Tories and LibDems, both of whom had promised such a Bill in their manifestos.
Clearly, 2015 is a historic year for international development. It is a time when we will be talking about both the sustainable development goals and climate change, at the two very important world summits in September and December of this year, and I want to see the UK really taking a lead, as we have done in the past. I certainly do not want us to be backtracking on anything to do with climate change, which I see as one of the most important issues. It is directly linked to international development. It is blatantly clear to us that while we have enjoyed economic development and have created many of the climate change issues, it is people in developing countries who are suffering the consequences;, and it will be they who suffer drought and flooding if the temperature rises and they who will have the least resilience. It is very important therefore that we help those countries to build the necessary resilience and that we recognise the importance of tackling climate change and raise it at every possible opportunity. We know perfectly well that our tackling it here is not enough; it needs to be done on an international scale.
It is important that we get value for money, so will the Secretary of State tell us exactly what she is going to do to tackle the issues raised in the National Audit Office report on the funding of the Private Infrastructure Development Group? The report said the Department “lacks sufficiently robust information to demonstrate that investment in PIDG is the best option”, and its financial control has been lacking. Likewise, please will she tell us what she is going to do about the concern that was raised about TradeMark Southern Africa—about petty cash and so forth—as that is important?
The Ebola crisis is ongoing, and it is too early for us to say what might not have been done as well as it could have been. I want to praise the efforts of all who have been involved and pay tribute to the sacrifice that many of them have made to help people, but concerns were raised in the evidence given to the Public Accounts Committee, and in what we saw on our TV screens, with Save the Children suggesting that perhaps there was not sufficient experience there. What can be done in future to identify people who would be able to help in such circumstances—not just the health workers, but people who would be able to go and help build the infrastructure, because it was a case of starting from zero? Can we make sure that if such people are identified they can be released to help, perhaps in the way that happens with reservist forces?
It also appears that not having direct flights has hindered some of the aid organisations and has increased costs. I would have thought it would be easier to identify planes coming in from Sierra Leone, for example, than
having people change planes somewhere else and it being less easy to identify who is coming back from Sierra Leone.
The issue of human rights is fundamental to the SDGs. We know that rights and empowerment are often hard-won and easily eroded, so we can never be complacent. While there have been strides forward in getting more girls into school and raising the issue of violence against girls and women, there are still huge challenges.
Likewise, we need to do more to safeguard the rights of people in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and of people who have disabilities. It is also important that we should promote the right to join a trade union, just as we talk about self-sufficiency and sustainability in terms of economic development and good governance. With these rights too, empowerment and training are vital, and it is regrettable that the Government has withdrawn funding for the International Labour Organisation, which I would like restored as soon as possible.