INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE
Memorandum to the Liaison Committee
Work of the previous Committee
1. In the Session 2000-2001 the Committee produced
- · In the First Report the Committee
welcomed the White Paper "Eliminating World Poverty: Making
Globalisation Work for the Poor" and the renewed policy emphasis
on international development. The Committee recommended an annual
debate on international development which the Government, in its
response, said it would consider.
- · The Third Report was on the socio-economic
impact of HIV/AIDS and concluded that while HIV/AIDS had a disproportionate
effect on the poor, the impact of HIV/AIDS was massively exacerbated
by poverty. The Report called for wider availability of condoms,
and greater resources for the development of microbicides and
a vaccine. The Committee was sceptical about the practicality
of using anti-retroviral drugs but concluded that prices of drugs
to treat opportunistic infections could be reduced. The Report
also stressed the importance of national political leadership
and examined countries where effective prevention campaigns had
stabilised and reduced infection rates. In examining the response
of donors, the Committee noted that expenditure had failed to
keep pace with the spread of the disease, noting that support
for HIV/AIDS accounted for less than 1 per cent of total ODA.
- · The Fourth Report dealt with corruption
and its impact on development and developing countries. It found
that corruption undermined development and growth, posing a serious
threat to efforts to eliminate poverty. It found that developed
countries need to limit their contribution to corruption and corrupt
practice and called for appropriate funding and better co-ordination
of the numerous agencies charged with tackling corruption and
- · The Fifth Report arose out of a complaint
the Committee had made to the Parliamentary Ombudsman in an attempt
to resolve a discrepancy between the evidence given in a previous
inquiry by the DTI and ECGD on the one hand and the Foreign Office
on the other. The Ombudsman produced his report on 27 March 2001
and the Committee produced a brief Report to accompany it.
- · The Second and Sixth Reports were
published jointly with the other 'Quadripartite' Committees examining
the 1999 Annual Report on Strategic Export Controls and the Draft
Export Control and Non-Proliferation Bill.
2. Soon after the Committee was re-established,
it met to choose a Chairman and to discuss plans for inquiries.
We decided to begin with a short inquiry into the reform of EC
development assistance. Thirty percent of DFID's spending is channelled
through the EU but there has been concern for some time that the
priority for the EU lies in is its foreign policy objectives for
the "near abroad", rather than in DFID's focus on poverty
reduction. The inquiry began by taking evidence from DFID officials
and after a visit to the European Commission in January and evidence
from Clare Short, we plan to produce a report in March.
3. Before the Committee started its planned workload,
the events of September11 switched our attention to Afghanistan.
We immediately started an inquiry into the humanitarian crisis
in Afghanistan and the surrounding region. It was intended that
the inquiry would track the humanitarian crisis and leave issues
of longer-term development and reconstruction until stability
returns to the region. We completed the inquiry with four evidence
sessions at Westminster and a visit to Pakistan arranged at very
short notice. Our report was published before Christmas and we
are awaiting a response from the Government.
4. Complex emergencies have been and are likely
to remain a feature of the Committee's work. Some require an immediate
response and cannot simply take wait their turn in the Committee's
in-tray. The Afghanistan inquiry was a reminder of the need for
the Committee to have sufficient flexibility in its programme
to cater for the unexpected.
5. The Committee has chosen Global Climate Change
and Sustainable Development as its next thematic inquiry. The
inquiry will focus on:
- · the potential impact of global climate
change on development and developing countries;
- · progress in developing countries with
implementing international development targets on environmental
sustainability and regeneration;
- · the potential offered by donor programmes
and international mechanisms for achieving sustainable development,
mitigating environmental degradation and lowering greenhouse gas
emissions in developing countries;
- · the need for private investment that
is both environmentally sustainable and links with the wider aim
of poverty elimination; and
- · DFID's policies, strategies and programmes
on environmental sustainability and especially global climate
6. We plan to publish the report before the summer
adjournment in time for it to inform the DFID position at the
Rio plus 10 summit which is to be held in Johannesburg in September
7. In March we plan to visit West Africa to look
at issues connected to our climate change inquiry. But as with
all the Committee's major visits to developing countries we plan
to use the opportunity to see DFID projects on the ground and
to talk to local agencies about the impact of DFID's activities.
Scrutinising the work of a government department where most of
the activity is carried out abroad will always be a challenge.
Overseas visits were an important part of the previous Committee's
programme and we expect that will continue. Visits are always
highly informative, focussing on a specific topic but also taking
the opportunity to examine the whole range of DFID's activities.
They contribute not only to current inquiries but also provide
information that assists with or results in future inquiries;
over a number of visits the previous Committee noted that corruption
was a major barrier to development, leading them eventually to
conduct a detailed inquiry into the subject. The use of overseas
visits to scrutinize DFID's progress in tackling poverty will
remain an important part of our programme.
8. In-keeping with our scrutiny role, we plan
to continue holding an inquiry each session on the DFID annual
report. The pattern for this inquiry has been the submission to
DFID of a detailed series of written questions followed by an
oral evidence session with the Permanent Secretary. At the end
of the process a report is produced which, while picking up on
areas of concern in the Annual Report, will focus on one or two
specific areas of DFID's administration. Around half of DFID's
budget is spent by the multilateral development agencies to which
DFID contributes. If the Committee is to perform its scrutiny
functions it must also look at the performance of agencies which
do not see themselves as accountable to national parliaments.
We have already commented on our plans to examine the EU's aid
programme. The other task for the Committee is to keep a watching
brief on a range of UN bodies and international financial institutions.
9. Scrutiny is not our only function;
we share DFID's objective of increasing the awareness of development
issues both generally and within Parliament and Government, in
particular. Development needs to be seen as part of the political
mainstream. The previous Committee took evidence from the Chancellor
of the Exchequer along with the Clare Short on debt relief; we
intend to do the same with a short inquiry on financing for development
to follow the Monterrey conference in March 2002. This inquiry
will be part of a pattern of interspersing our lengthy thematic
inquiries with either evidence sessions or short inquiries designed
to feed the policy processes which are linked to major global
development initiatives. In addition, and as part of the scrutiny
function, we will continue to take evidence from Ministers on
the positions they have taken at such international meetings as
those of the World Bank and IMF.
10. The previous Committee was successful in
securing a number of debates in Westminster Hall. There are few
opportunities to debate international development in the House
and we will continue to press for an annual debate on international
development while continuing to make use of the opportunities
offered by Westminster Hall debates.
11. The United States, despite being the world's
only super-power, plays only a small role in international development.
We intend to forge links with our counterparts in Congress and
encourage them to help the United States play a fuller role in
development. We also intend to strengthen our links with the European
Parliament's Development Committee.
12. The Chairman of the Committee intends to
take an active part in the regular meetings of Development Chairs
from European Union member states and the Committee will continue
to engage with the World Bank's conference for parliamentarians.
|Dec 2001||Publication of First Report 'The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and the surrounding region'.
|Dec 2001 to March 2002||Inquiry into 'The effectiveness of the reforms of European Development Assistance'
|Jan 2002||Visit to Brussels in connection with inquiry into 'The effectiveness of the reforms of European Development Assistance'
|Dec 2001 to June 2002||Inquiry into 'Global Climate Change and Sustainable Development'
|March 2002||Visit to West Africa in connection with inquiry into 'Global Climate Change and Sustainable Development'
|March/April 2002||Inquiry into 'Financing for Development'
|May 2002||Inquiry into DFID's Annual Report