Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 580 - 597)



  580. To have some set aside.
  (Clare Short) Indeed. That document—which I think is the document that you are referring to—was prepared for those purposes, to try and say when you can do anti-drugs work in a developmental way. It was not really a treatment of drug users document. I assume we are talking about the same document. On the other hand the Department does do a lot of work, for example, when I was in Russia we were paying for a needle exchange programme in Yekaterinburg where there is a situation of beating up drug users. Within our health prevention and HIV prevention—there is a spread of HIV coming on the back of drug abuse in Russia—we are doing it there. I think that is that document. The tourism document, I hardly remember. Can I say that we will look at it? I do not know who reads it or how important it is, but I will look at it and I will come back to the Committee.[3]

  581. On the issue of disability and HIV, it is well known that in many countries people with special learning difficulties are particularly vulnerable to sex abuse. I am delighted by your disability issues paper, which is a very good start, but I would like to have your assurance that the position of people with disabilities in relation to HIV/AIDS is in your thinking.

  (Clare Short) Thank you for that. I think pressure from you, and others, helped us to get that work done. The problem we have in very poor countries is that life is so mean and hard that there is inadequate provision for anyone, and people with disabilities are just not focused on at all, as you know. We are trying to ensure that that is corrected. I have to say in no discussion that I have ever had has vulnerability of people with disabilities in relation to HIV been discussed. There is no question that a lot of young women are very vulnerable to unwanted sexual activity. There is even this myth of if you can have sexual intercourse with a virgin or a very young person you might get rid of the infection and that kind of abuse. I am sure you are right to flag vulnerability of people with disabilities and we need to think about it. I cannot guarantee to you that we can reach right through, but we should try to incorporate it.

  582. Does DFID have an explicit HIV/AIDS policy for its own staff both in London, Glasgow—East Kilbride I should say—and in overseas offices?

  (Dr Lob-Levyt) In several of our overseas offices they are developing HIV strategies for their staff. Some are implemented and it is one that we recognise that we now need to look at across the whole organisation, and that is under way at the moment.


  583. In the few minutes available to us can we look at the impact of HIV/AIDS. As we have discussed, HIV/AIDS is exacerbating a shortage of teachers in developing countries. In Zambia we found that there were more teachers dying as a result of HIV/AIDS than there were teachers being trained in the teacher training colleges. So clearly the education of children is going to suffer very badly. What is more, it is leading to the withdrawal of children, particularly of girls, to go and look after family rather than be in school. We wondered how DFID is modifying its education programmes and strategies to take account of this terrible effect of HIV/AIDS? Are there proposals to remedy staff shortages and innovate so as to provide education for those children obliged to leave formal schooling, and presumably, what we are thinking of here is, of course, carrying on schooling at home?
  (Clare Short) You are absolutely right. Of course, it is not just in the education sector, it is in all sectors, and in the private sector and so on, but the extra difficulty affecting education is that it is depriving the next generation of opportunities. As you say, with families that have people who have died or who are ill, children being withdrawn from school to help care or to farm or whatever is a second consequences, and we are starting to think about how we can address this. I have somebody here. Are you allowed to talk to somebody sitting there? David Clarke is leading work on this.

  584. If he would come to the table I would be grateful. Your name, please, sir, for the record?
  (Clare Short) David Clarke.
  (Mr Clarke) We are moving quite quickly, though there are clearly constraints. One of the issues is to galvanise an international response, because, as the Secretary of State has said, we are one among many actors in this and primarily we have to ensure that governments respond effectively through developing national strategies, and we are working with governments in our partner countries to do this. Where they have strategies in place we are looking at ways to support. We are also working with the University of Natal in Durban to a develop a tool kit and education manual for managers that can be tried out in SADC regions to develop responses within the Ministries of Education there. We are working at a variety of different levels with other agencies to develop a common approach, with governments in country programmes and with the research community as well so that we find our best practice and new tool kits for development.
  (Clare Short) Could I add, in many countries there is not a commitment to universal primary education already, let alone these extra teachers. The logic is that you train even more teachers and you make special efforts with children and orphans, but you need to have a commitment to universal primary education to then make that special effort and in some countries we do not have that.

  585. Without that you cannot make any progress, I quite agree.
  (Mr Clarke) One way that we are trying to use this as a window is to focus attention on impact studies. We are providing support for an impact study on HIV/AIDS in the education sector in Botswana and working with other agencies to ensure a sufficient quantum of impact studies are available so that we can assist governments in interpreting what is happening and mobilising effective response.

  586. Can you give us an example of an effective response which you would actually want to support and see implemented?
  (Mr Clarke) It is very early days and we are looking at elements of that. It is fair to say that Uganda has perhaps been the best example, but even there, within the education system, improvements could be made.
  (Clare Short) It is this catching up. People have all thought health and now education people need to think about the consequences for teachers and for children, and for the curriculum as well, children need to be taught about protecting themselves and changing sexual behaviour.

  587. This is human behaviour change that we are dealing with and, therefore, you have to have that resource, for example, your educational programme in the boys high school in Cassunda were very dramatic and did indeed have an effect on those young men and women who were taking part in that. One of the responses that I wondered whether you were thinking about was actually increasing the number of programmes that you are doing in schools to help them protect themselves?
  (Clare Short) I met the Botswana Minister at some meeting and I know they were looking at the primary education curriculum, which is what you need to do. Peter Piot always says it is younger people who are more capable of changing their behaviour. It is very difficult to get older people to change. It cannot be just us again, it has to be learning the best lessons and then trying to get that into the thinking of government and education ministries and backing that shift in thinking—which the work David is heading up is trying to do—to encapsulate the best thinking we can get and spread it about and get educators to start thinking like this.

  588. I think what you are saying to us is that in fact Mr Clarke is leading a team who are thinking about the effects and this is early days and you have to develop programmes, and you recognise that you do have to do that and you are doing that, but everybody has to join in if you are to have an effect?
  (Clare Short) Absolutely, and it is not just us developing programmes, it is getting it into the mainstream thinking and the whole international system and national government system, and looking at the particular effects on the education sector, which are very serious.

  Chairman: I know that the Secretary of State has to go to a Cabinet meeting in 10 minutes.

Mr Rowe

  589. My work with CSV, among other things, has given me some idea that there is scope in some of those countries for organising young people into teams, in a sense. An inappropriate example might be the Boy Scouts, but this sort of thing. It seems to me, particularly where you have enormous numbers of orphans, the possibility of actually encouraging countries to mobilise some of their young in a disciplined organised way, rather than leaving them to struggle and be victimised by oppressive employers, is worth at least putting on the table.
  (Dr Lob-Levyt) We have a number of programmes that we are supporting already with orphans through NGOs to tackle exactly this increasing problem of increasing number of HIV orphans. It is whole generations that are going to miss out.


  590. Which leads me into this question that I wanted to put to you. Does the effect of HIV/AIDS on households, in particular the large and increasing number of orphans, have any implications for child labour policies? How is DFID supporting communities to assist children, the elderly and others in distress as a result of the impact of HIV/AIDS on households?
  (Clare Short) We have always been clear that to think you could have a blanket opposition to child labour was unrealistic. People do not talk much about child labour in Africa, but in fact there is masses of it and lot of children work in agriculture and help out their families and some of that is fine.

  591. From age four.

  (Clare Short) Are not our school years supposed to be explained by the fact that a lot of us used to help our families in the summer and that is why we have our long holiday? Probably managed in a loving family there is nothing wrong with that, but when it becomes an obstacle to children being educated it is this double burden that they lose their childhood and their life prospects and their children's life prospects are damaged. We have always taken the view that you have to try and improve the household income and get the children to school rather than oppose them working at all. I think the consequences of HIV, and more orphans and more poor households risk children working more and more and children not being in school. That means that effort needs to be strengthened. We are trying to work more and more with the International Labour Organisation, which has been a good norm setting organisation, but needs to strengthen implementation efforts. I do not think our strategies are wrong, but there are going to be more instances and more children in danger of working long hours and being excluded from education.

  592. We have to do more of it, because of the HIV/AIDS infection.
  (Clare Short) Absolutely.

  593. On the private sector, how is DFID engaging with the private sector in responding to HIV/AIDS? We took evidence in South Africa to suggest that the private sector ought to do a great deal more. Is there any potential in using the private sector as a means of prevention education, not only to work forces, but to whole communities and as a provider of condoms, testing and care facilities?
  (Clare Short) Some firms have been very progressive and I think some of those were covered in the evidence.

  594. Yes, they were.
  (Clare Short) And obviously others were not. I think the private sector is now included in the UN led co-ordinated effort for AIDS in Africa. Some parts of the private sector have done well. They should be included in the whole sense of responsibility and partnership. We, like everyone else, can do more, but again we need to get them into the international systems that they are engaged everywhere by all governments and all players, rather than us just go out and find a couple of firms to work with.
  (Dr Lob-Levyt) There is a huge number of levels of intervention. Those working with large companies and those working with informal structures of transport, truck drivers and the companies responsible for that.
  (Clare Short) We have done that in India, particularly. The truck routes have spread.

  (Dr Lob-Levyt) There is also working with the private sector using private sector mechanisms to get commodities like condoms and treatment further out.

  595. It seems to me though, Secretary of State, that in fact we have to get the private sector more sensitive to these problems. If they can redesign their operations we could reduce the incidence of transmission of HIV/AIDS. For example, if you use less people—men particularly—who are living away from their families for prolonged periods, ie, truck drivers, hence the spread of the AIDS, if you have a mind that the new mind should not separate families, and those sorts of things should be implemented by the private sector and we should try and promote this to, certainly, British investors in Africa or elsewhere.
  (Clare Short) Absolutely, and I think the responsible private sector knows, because just like teaching they are losing their trained people and it is an enormous cost and they have to train two for one or three or whatever it is, and that is desperately wasteful, especially in places where skilled and trained staff are hard to come by. I am sure more effort can be made. There are some companies that have done very good work and some of these are covered in the evidence we gave to you. The inclusion of the private sector in the co-ordinated effort is part of it.

  596. I tell you one thing, you took us to the 600 strong brothel in Bogra in Bangladesh and the private sector owned that brothel and you have a programme in there to educate the sex workers and to teach them how to have safe sex. When I asked the owners of that brothel whether they thought this was helpful to their business they said, yes, it was very helpful and it brought in more clients and they were very grateful for your effort. When I asked them whether they would like to take over and pay for these efforts they said, no, it would be far too expensive. It seems to me that we have a lot of work to do with the private sector if that instance is typical.
  (Clare Short) The worst employment conditions in general tend to be the local private sector. People always think of international companies being exploitative, but you tend to get the worst conditions in the local private sector. Jenny Tonge, when she was a Member of this Committee, was critical of some of the reproductive health care work we had done in garment factories in Bangladesh, but our starting point is the people and their lives. If we can get in and get something moving we are always looking to move to sustainability, which means not us, if you can possibly get there, but I am sure it is right that we are opportunistic and getting—I have visited what they call floating sex workers in Bangladesh, young girls who do not even have brothels to work from, and we are doing a programme with them, and teaching them how to protect themselves. I am sure our approach is right. If we can get the opportunity to get in and try to change attitudes and get the thing moving, and then if we can get that to be sustainable by other agencies taking over their responsibilities, we will always do that.

  597. It should have the catalytic effect that you are looking for. I know you have to go to your Committee. I hope we have not made you late. We would like to thank you very much indeed for coming and talking to us about this very serious subject. I am very glad of the optimism as well.
  (Clare Short) Well, if something is disastrous you can either tear your hair out or look for the best possible things that can be done and galvanise the effort, and that is what we have to do.

  Chairman: Thank you very much. Thank you Dr Lob-Levyt, Mr Grose and Mr Clarke.

3   See Evidence p 265. Back

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