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Lord Holme of Cheltenham rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to promote the creation of sustainable livelihoods as the spearhead of their anti-poverty strategy in the less developed countries.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am glad that we have the opportunity tonight to discuss this extremely important topic as set down in my Question. I am also pleased that a number of noble Lords have indicated their intention to speak. The House will appreciate their wide range of knowledge and experience along with their different and interesting perspectives.
I believe that the concept of sustainable livelihood creation is a valuable and relatively new organising paradigm for dealing with the scourge of world poverty. And a scourge it certainly is: up to 1.5 billion people inadequately fed and housed; subject to disease and early mortality; low on life chances and high on insecurity. That is a description of life for approaching one-third of the people who share this earth, living on one dollar a day or less. That is life for half the people who live in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, that describes not only relative poverty, as we have come to define the pockets of unacceptable deprivation and exclusion within our own affluent society, but absolute, grinding poverty, hunger and illness. One hundred and sixty million children are malnourished, 110 million children are out of school and hundreds of millions of women are disproportionately poor and at risk.
The challenge for those of us in the industrialised countries is not dissimilar to the challenge faced around 150 years ago by the middle and upper classes in this country. They had to combine rapidly accelerating prosperity, exciting new technologies, new buoyancy and optimism for the future with the devastating knowledge that a substantial minority of their fellow citizens were shut out and condemned to living on the margin.
We now have what Charles Dickens, who in his novels brought so brilliantly to life the cold statistics of Henry Mayhew's depiction of the London poor, what he might have called "A Tale of Two Worlds": one world of choice, of growing freedom, of greater health and longevity with expanding personal horizons; another world of bare survival. We have one world of
In the end, conscience and common sense brought about one nation here--and in other European countries--so that nowadays such exceptional islands of exclusion in Britain disproportionately offend us. But out there today in that other world that I have been describing lie oceans of poverty which are lapping at our good fortune and threatening to engulf us. So even if conscience and common humanity are not spurs to action, I do not believe that any prudent leadership in the developed countries can afford to ignore the potential threat of the dispossessed in terms of migration and refugees, epidemics and disease, environmental degradation, conflict over limited resources and all the insecurity and instability that results from the division of one world into two.
Hence, we have put in place policies for development in the first world, and that is where the concept of sustainable livelihoods comes in. To quote the Department for International Development's own admirable guidance notes:
Perhaps I may give this working definition of sustainable livelihoods developed from the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, substantially modified by Robert Chambers and Gordon Conway in 1992 and again refined in recent years:
I must say that this is what has attracted me personally to the sustainable livelihood approach. Originally my interest was spurred by Gordon Conway, now president of the Rockefeller Foundation, when, as a director and now as an adviser to Rio Tinto, I was helping the company to identify a proper definition of its responsibilities towards the communities around the world where it operates. Subsequently, I have also been engaged, as chairman of the World Business Council's Committee on Social Responsibility and chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce Environment Commission, in trying to promote constructive partnerships on the part of the private sector with government, NGOs and local communities in fostering sustainable development. I should also declare that I am honoured to serve on the council of ODI, which has done considerable work in this area.
On the one hand, third world development is clearly helped and poverty to some extent reduced by the prosperity that comes from trade and investment. Human well-being, human health and human rights have all been shown to benefit from growing prosperity in general. But in the particular many are left behind--the poor whom we are discussing tonight. What is now needed is a conscious effort and global macro-policy changes to discriminate towards the poor and thus in their favour.
Business and the private sector have a part to play, both on the macro and the micro level, and in my view that potential for business to contribute is enhanced by the sustainable livelihood approach. That is because it moves the agenda away from the relief of poverty as a stated objective--something that businessmen tend to feel should be the concern of governments and charities--to the development of capacities and capabilities where they can more readily identify what they as businesses can contribute to local partnerships through training and the transfer of skills and technologies, through sub-contracting, sourcing locally and other specific programmes for socio-economic development.
However, business is only one piece of the jigsaw. What the integrating approach of sustainable livelihoods demands is to empower the poor so that they put themselves at the creative centre of broad-based partnerships for poverty reduction and eradication. Participation is an end and not just a means. This demands profound changes of culture and process on the part of all those involved: change on the part of donors, international agencies, recipient governments, foundations and NGOs. Change is demanded on the part of all the social partners.
Certain UN institutions, with the encouragement of Kofi Annan, notably UNDP whose adviser, Dr Singh, is attending the debate tonight, and certain governments--the British Government through DfID and also the Dutch Government--have been leaders in promulgating this new approach. They have asked the
In conclusion, I have two questions for the Minister. First, knowing of her own commitment to this new way of thinking, what are DfID and Her Majesty's Government doing to promulgate the sustainable livelihood approach within the European Union and more widely to concert such policies with other countries? Secondly, how can the Government make development assistance, whether financial or technical, work better at the local community or sub-national level? Do they agree that the training of local leadership is the key element, particularly informing effective local partnerships for environmentally sustainable socio-economic development?
Lord Desai: My Lords, it is a privilege to pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Holme, for having introduced the subject. As debates go, we have had a good day because all have been concerned with important issues. I agree with the noble Lord about the importance of this issue.
By and large, the poor are women, children and old people in rural areas. Of course there are the urban poor, but most poor people are in rural areas. After 50 years of development thinking, we are at last stumbling on the right idea. Development should be about people, and unless we start with the people we will get it wrong. A number of development policies in the 30 years after the Second World War were wrong. Whatever their intentions, they were much too top-heavy. They were interested in hardware and they wasted a lot of money. They did not touch the lives of the poor.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, gave a definition of "sustainable livelihoods", but I understand it to mean something that the people can organise for themselves. They will use local resources, but sometimes they are brought in from other villages, regions or countries. However, by and large, it is down to the self-organisation of the poor. The poor people in developing countries are careful with resources. They recycle everything; they waste nothing. The way in which people in urban slums in Bombay, for instance, use space and resources is fantastic. They get value out of everything they have.
Our first duty is to understand how poor people live and organise their lives. Arbitrary poverty lines miss out the fact that those below the line still live--and live with dignity. The responsibility of policy makers and thinkers is, first, to understand and observe how the poor live. They live in an imaginative way. They manage their lives well. And they are good managers of time, transport and resources. Governments should
Secondly, governments should try to build up enabling institutions; not give money for, say, micro-credit, the improvement of sanitation or the provision of clean water. They should make sure that local schools are functioning day after day and that both girls and boys attend. They should encourage girls to go to school. Such simple, small actions are not expensive. The important point is not the amount of money we give, but how it is deployed and where it is targeted. In that, the experts are the people. Consultants are often hired, but they know little about how the poor live. We must have schemes, perhaps with assistance from this Government or others, in which the people are consulted and participate. They must be able to help in constructing their own sustainable livelihoods.
We have little knowledge of the resources to which such people have access and their capacity to create things from what we might consider to be waste. I remember walking along a narrow, crowded pavement in Bombay and seeing a woman sitting perfectly relaxed, cooking. She had dignity as she cooked. She was sitting on the pavement and had a little stove. She was cooking and managing her life and no one was disturbing her. There was a dignity to it because she was managing wonderfully. I do not believe that I could manage living on the pavements of Bombay.
Finally, many governments have succeeded in abandoning bad policies. The point is to make them abandon micro-top-down policies and take up the participatory mechanism in which the poor construct their own lives. We should not get in the way.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, for introducing the debate tonight. One of the aspects which strikes anyone who has been involved with development for a long time is the fact that we must go on learning. That is what the noble Lord, Lord Desai, explained so clearly.
There is a real challenge to the industrialised countries--not only for governments to help but also for businesses to be involved. I have the privilege not only of serving as chairman of Unilever's External Affairs and Corporate Relations Committee, but also of being a member of a number of NGOs linked into a great deal of corporate social responsibility work, such as that done by Rio Tinto and many other large companies which are beginning to forget the big schemes and work with communities.
We in the United Kingdom are particularly blessed with our non-governmental organisations. They are both innovative and imaginative. One of the key things many are now trying to do is to stimulate non-governmental organisations in the developing world. That is the essential of having programmes which will
We also have an important new opportunity as, through the Internet, we open up communications across the world. Although it may seem a far cry to talk of this at the moment, when fewer than 1 per cent of all Internet users are in Africa, it is an area of communication with which we should already be helping, whether it be to create in a community a centre which is not only the primary healthcare point of contact but also a learning centre. Perhaps it has one telephone line, one tap and a source of electricity provided by generator, but at least it gives the opportunity to download from satellite communications (or in some other way) the very learning which the rural communities so often lack. Without that learning they do not have even the first chance of developing a sustainable livelihood. I speak of the world space satellites of my own company, Freeplay, with its wind-up radios. They can bring that kind of education to communities; and, with it, people can then begin to use other skills.
I happen to be president of the British Executive Service Overseas, which sends rather older volunteers than VSO to many communities to stimulate particularly small, medium and micro enterprises. In doing that, BESO is sharing knowledge. The people involved are frequently retired from major companies and, in their active life after the age of 55 or 60, want to give to the developing world. We are well supported by DfID. We have our own new structure to implement. But we can share the knowledge which we have painfully and expensively developed with people who have basic learning, to help them to develop their own businesses and enterprises.
I believe that by partnerships between the public and private sectors, which the Department for International Development continues to try to foster, we can save much of the invention time that the developed world has experienced in the past century. We will not be able to give everything away, but we will be able to share skills. We badly need to pay more attention to that.
I turn briefly to some examples. We know that agriculture needs to be developed in practically every country to feed the growing numbers of people. But agriculture may be simple, as in Bangladesh where, as a result of an irrigation scheme to improve the quantity of rice grown, fish were introduced into the paddyfields, because they did not eat the rice. Those fish bring protein to the village. With the benefits from the sale of the fish, the women of the village bought chickens, sold eggs and gradually began to get into livestock, eventually to raise money to build clinics and schools and to employ trained people to help them to combat the diseases which so often beset mothers and children in rural areas.
Send a Cow is another British NGO much involved in agriculture and nutrition, when the Bishop in Uganda sought help from a West Country farmer. The first 32 Friesians sent to Uganda (and many more to other countries) have given to women-headed households a real chance to have a sustainable livelihood, which they have never had before.
There are many other examples, but whether it be in the work of AMREF fighting AIDS and malaria in Africa or any of the other marvellous NGOs, we know that to work with the village to produce a change in the outcomes of people's lives is the most fruitful way to proceed. It is not something that attracts the newspapers because it is good news. It is not something that often attracts the Chancellor, although I believe he thinks that if there were better sustainable livelihoods, we would have more success. I have seen that to be the truth all over Asia, Africa and the rest of the world. I hope that the department will continue to make the creation of sustainable livelihoods an absolutely key part of its development policy. DfID has excellent people and good ideas. I hope that it will continue to allow the NGOs to join local NGOs to develop such projects to the hilt.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I am full of admiration for the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord Holme, introduced this Unstarred Question. It is quite clear from what he said that it is for him a matter of heart, hands and head brought together effectively. It is also humbling to follow someone like the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, who has played such an important part on the world stage on the subject of development.
I very much hope that this short debate will provide the Government with an opportunity to give us some good news. It is two years since the White Paper Eliminating World Poverty encouraged us to believe that government thinking and planning were contained in targets that were both obtainable but also ambitious. Rightly, the White Paper stressed that economic growth was absolutely critical for sustainable development, but that all of that had to be achieved by policies and programmes which integrated the poor themselves in the revitalisation of production.
In this context, I have two questions to put to the Government, each preceded by an example. The first example and question derives from the policies outlined in the White Paper about the establishment of macro-economic stability and assisting with asset redistribution and legislative reform which, for example, gives women farmers equal access to land and markets.
Against that background, I draw the attention of the Government to Phyllis March, a dairy farmer in Jamaica who can no longer sell the milk that her cows produce. In August 1999 her cooler was overflowing and she had to throw away 1,000 litres of fresh milk. She is not the only farmer who has difficulties selling produce in that part of the world. In Jamaica today,
Jamaica is not an isolated case. Many farmers in dozens of developing countries have to compete with subsidised products from the European Union. Other examples include Italian tomato concentrate that undermines local tomato processing in Senegal and the dumping of surplus pig meat in the Czech Republic.
The common agricultural policy of the EU thus disrupts growth and opportunities in the agriculture of the developing countries. In addition, many developing countries have opened their markets and reduced support for their own farmers as part of the conditions attached to IMF and World Bank loans. What part are the Government playing to influence EU export subsidies which damage rather than enhance agricultural enterprises in developing countries? What kind of accountability can be exercised over the IMF and the World Bank?
My second example and question derives from the White Paper's declared intention to provide lines of credit and expertise to establish small businesses in developing countries. The Diocese and County of Durham has a well established link with the Kingdom of Lesotho. One of the ways in which we have provided aid is through a micro-enterprise project in Maseru which aims to help those who are not normally accepted by conventional funding organisations to obtain funding to start their own businesses. Frankly, it is one of the most difficult ventures that we have ever started. We have made lots of mistakes and had many failures. It is difficult to keep track of a highly mobile population when it has a bit of money in its hands. It is also difficult for those people to make the best use of training and to absorb what we can offer when perhaps they lack many of the basic skills.
But we have had sufficient success to make us persevere. Where such small businesses take off, they make a real difference: they create wealth, employment and needed products. Examples include battery-charging businesses, propane gas outlets, poultry enterprises, and one business run by a lady who makes dresses by copying materials and patterns that she finds in magazines. She employs a sales person to go into the countryside. She has more customers than she can handle and sells what are believed to be the latest fashions.
The question that arises from that example is: what economic aid can the Government provide, totally consonant with their White Paper aspirations, to encourage small business enterprises in the developing world? We are all aware that there is no blueprint for poverty eradication--certainly one that is applicable to all countries--but it is clear that policies must include empowerment to overcome powerlessness, redistribution to overcome inequality, and effective global governance to overcome the adverse effects of globalisation.
The poor need to own the development process. Solutions lie in increasing people's participation in decision-making and strengthening the capabilities of the poor to achieve sustainable livelihoods. I look forward to the Government's response to these questions and to the intentions expressed in their White Paper becoming a reality in practice.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Holme, has raised the issue of creating sustainable livelihoods in poorer countries; and I appreciated his eloquence on the subject.
It is a timely Question: the Department for International Development is currently preparing its target strategy papers. I shall refer to the recently published consultation document, Better Health for Poor People, as an example of target setting and strategic planning to help create sustainable livelihoods.
I must declare an interest as I work as a consultant to health and education programmes in less developed countries and countries in transition, mainly in the former Soviet Union. Those programmes are funded by DfID among other donor agencies, such as the EC.
I shall give examples from my own experience, and that of colleagues working in poorer societies, to illustrate some of the barriers and opportunities which exist in the effort to create sustainable livelihoods. Your Lordships will recall that the challenge of development was addressed by the DfID in the 1997 White Paper which made a commitment to the elimination of poverty,
I am not talking about crisis intervention in response to disasters, important thought that is. I am focusing on the need to be strategic and to help people to help themselves. Poverty is not romantic. It is not dignified, although, as my noble friend Lord Desai said, some poor people do maintain dignity. Poverty means misery, degradation, lack of opportunity, ill health and often early and painful death, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said earlier.
Tackling poverty is difficult for many reasons. It cannot be done by what Clare Short has criticised as "dollops of charity". It requires a strategic approach in collaboration with other donor countries and aid organisations. It requires negotiations with countries seeking aid and a commitment from their governments to eliminate poverty. There are poor people in non-poor countries, such as parts of South America, and there are rich people in poor countries. I know of countries where corruption at a national and local
We have to ensure that aid benefits the poor and does not get stuck in hierarchical ladders of bureaucracy. Direct work through non-governmental organisations or community organisations at a local level can sometimes avoid that. And government policies and commitments across ministries both in donor countries and in countries receiving aid must be emphasised. Value for money is important. Those of us who have worked in the field of international development for some years could give many examples of programmes which have not succeeded in their intentions either because they were ill-conceived or poorly implemented.
I should like to give an example of the planned approach, which is important, by drawing on the DfID consultation paper on health. The paper has clear development strategies. First, it is made clear that the DfID will not be the only player in setting and implementing strategies. It will communicate and collaborate with such organisations as the WHO and UNICEF. There will be a commitment to strengthening systems in poorer countries through public and private ownership; commitment to targets; involving private sector organisations; and setting priorities.
Health is only one strategy, but an important one. It is obvious that poor health may engender poverty and that poverty may engender ill health. In any society health strategy also highlights issues which are important: gender differences; the need for accurate statistics, effective management, and the setting of targets.
In my experience, there are factors which contribute to successful aid programmes. First, there is the imperative to assess real needs. Then there is the imperative of planning against targets and objectives, checking plans with local stakeholders for feasibility, establishing local steering committees drawn from communities, involving values systems and religious groups, informing and collaborating with other donors, and, most of all perhaps, by reviewing and monitoring what is going on.
Of course, there are barriers such as lack of internal government commitment, interpersonal rivalries, language and cultural issues, and difficult infrastructures and chaotic systems. We need to anticipate these, as well as being realistic about opportunities. We need to work with what is there rather than imposing a pre-conceived package of aid. Importantly, we must learn from failure as well as success.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Holme for introducing the debate and for the manner in which he did so. One of the key questions arising from the debate is the future of agriculture in the developing countries. I want to make two points which may seem somewhat controversial. First, one of the main contributions to solving the problems we are discussing lies with the development of genetically modified crops and their rapid application. Secondly, the contribution that can be made in that way is, however, imperilled by the increasing monopoly powers of a small number of multinational companies.
On my first point, what I shall say is very much based not only on a number of articles in Nature but on the excellent, detailed and meticulous report of the Nuffield Council on Bio-ethics, which contains the most exhaustive examination of the issues involved with genetically modified crops. There may well be risks to biodiversity. They have not been proved despite a large number of field trials, but they are possible. We certainly need more field trials and each case will have to be judged separately. However, in the balance of potential risks against potential benefits, the benefits hugely outweigh the risks, particularly in the developing world.
Let us consider for a moment the scope of the benefits. I shall name only some. The technology can enhance the resistance of plants to pests and disease. It is likely that it will be able to fix nitrogen in the roots of plants, thereby avoiding the use of fertilisers. It can reduce the use of chemicals, thereby reducing the pollution of groundwater. It is likely that it will be possible to engineer crops which are resistant to drought, heat and cold and can grow in arid regions of the world where nothing grows now. It can help with the fight against hunger and disease. Only recently, we had a very notable example of that; namely, the success of a Swiss scientist in transplanting the vitamin A gene into rice plants. It also seems possible that heavy doses of iron could be transplanted into rice plants.
Much has been written about this technology in Nature. It potentially means that the lives of millions of children can be saved and that help that can be provided for the 3.7 billion women who suffer from anaemia as a result of iron deficiency. If in the West or in the developed world there is concern about the risk of damage to biodiversity, which has not yet been proved, that may seem irrelevant to some extent in the developing world where the new technology is needed now.
What, indeed, is the alternative? The green revolution is running out of steam. In the 1970s, cereal production rose by about 3 per cent a year. In the period between 1983 and 1993, it rose by 1.3 per cent
The advantage of the GM technology was cited by Florence Wambugu, who is director of a leading institute in Nairobi concerned with the application of agro-biotechnology. She made the point that it can provide a "packaged technology in the seed" which ensures the technical benefits to farmers without changing local cultural practices. However, there is a snag: much of the technology is controlled by a relatively small number of multinational agro-businesses. Most of their development crops are aimed at the developed world because that is where the profit is to be made, and not all of their activities in the developing world are beneficial.
I am in favour of free trade, but one of the more justified protests in Seattle concerned the destruction of local property rights, laws, customs, communities and activities, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, stated, provide a sustainable livelihood and protect the environment.
The patent laws are being extended. They endanger the benefits enjoyed by local communities because there are patents over plants, genes, particular forms of treatment, and seeds. We have to accept the need for patents because innovation is not possible without them, bearing in mind the vast sums that have to be invested. The extension of patents in the field of knowledge has brought clear dangers. The balance appears to have shifted in favour of monopolies and has often led to a limitation of innovation and dissemination of knowledge, particularly in American universities, which depend on sponsorship. This is highly relevant to the developing world, to the future of agriculture, and to the issue of poverty. For example, the patents over seed have led to protests by half a million Indian farmers.
I conclude with two propositions. We do need the new technology. Anyone who discusses this issue should read the report on bio-ethics by the Nuffield Council, because if they are not prejudiced in their views I defy anyone to read that meticulous report and then avoid the conclusion that a vital contribution to the issues of this debate can be made by genetically modified crops. The benefits of this new technology can be limited, frustrated or even imperilled by the growing monopoly of a few companies.
We should look again at the agreement on the trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights. It is critical that governments provide incentives to multinational companies to direct more of their research and development at the needs of the developing world.
Government commitment has been demonstrated by the fact that the international development portfolio has for the first time been given Cabinet status, and that is making a huge difference to getting these issues on the agenda of the Cabinet and the nation.
I declare an interest as chair of an organisation that is committed to sustainable development, Voluntary Service Overseas. I am fully aware of the practical ways in which the Secretary of State and DfID are avidly pursuing this aim.
HIV is a major threat to livelihoods and inevitably to development in many parts of Africa and, increasingly, Asia. HIV makes more difference to families' ability to look after themselves than any amount of investment or development projects. Ninety-five per cent of all people with HIV are in developing countries and it is spreading fastest in the poorest countries. It means loss of breadwinners and a huge increase in the number of dependants per breadwinner.
I welcome the British Government's commitment to fight HIV, including the recent announcement by the Prime Minister of £23 million additional funding, which--I am pleased to say--includes £1.2 million to VSO. HIV is so pervasive, it is important that it is not treated just as a medical issue. It should be integrated into every business activity and every development project.
In VSO, the approach is to provide a variety of professionals to work specifically with organisations working on HIV. But VSO also trains all of its 350 skilled volunteers in southern Africa--who are involved in all aspects of development--to promote a sensible approach to AIDS in their place of work. I should encourage such an approach being integrated into all development activities funded by DfID or through investment by British companies.
The statistics show us just how crucial that is: there are 1,500 new infections per day in South Africa; life expectancy is falling from 60 towards 40 in many countries in southern Africa; AIDS affects around 25 per cent of Zimbabwean adults, resulting in huge numbers of orphans; and in Zambia, development indicators are worse than 20 years ago.
I turn to my second point: education. Improved education levels are a prerequisite to giving poorer people the opportunity, as others have said, to earn their own living. The nature of all employment is such that those with more education produce and earn more. I welcome the adoption of the DAC targets by DfID, but investment and aid to education are still not
I linked my points about education to debt relief. The debt crisis undermines investment in national infrastructure and production, as well as social services, including education. I welcome the steps that the Government have taken to lead the way on that issue--it seems to be a real alliance of government and people. But what more can Government do to push the international community along more quickly? Many of Britain's closest economic partners are dragging their feet. There is more rhetoric from the USA, for example, than action and not even much rhetoric from Japan or Germany.
We must recognise the potential and risks of globalisation and do all we can to ensure that the poorest are included and not further marginalised. We must ensure, for example, that trade liberalisation really works for the benefit of countries such as Bangladesh, which have benefited so much from a supportive trading environment.
We must shape our vision from international legislative environments down to micro action in individual communities. I welcome the contribution of civil society groups, including the rich and skilled involvement of British-based NGOs, in doing so. I welcome DfID's work on socially responsible business. We need this House and the Government to give a higher profile to those efforts and to encourage consumers and high street stores to do the same.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I too am most grateful to my former noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham for initiating a debate on the Question, which simultaneously hits three nails: sustainability, and poverty of both nations and people within nations, on the head. Sustainable livelihoods are the heart of the matter. Too often steps taken by the World Bank to help the economies of less developed countries have served to throw people out of work, thus following the inexorable path of free trade, which is to make the poorer countries, or people within those countries, poorer, and the rich, richer.
So much of the problem arises from arrogance. We believe that we know best. There are those who will say, not always for the purest of motives but none the less wholeheartedly, that we have no business at all telling less developed countries what to do. But that is a principle taken to idiotic extremes. If I see my neighbour drowning, am I not to come to his rescue? Should the Good Samaritan have defended the right of the traveller to lie bleeding in the ditch, unmolested by do-gooders? The question answers itself.
It is not only that we believe that the Cartesian economics make us arrogantly sure that we know best; it is that we even believe we know what is best biologically. In a major work coming out of the American National Academy of Sciences, The Lost Crops of Africa, we are reminded of the food crops which have fed Africa for ages--sorghum, millet, teff and others--and which are now neglected because they do not fit in with the pattern of international trade. And we would surrender those traditional foodstuffs for genetically-modified crops, chiefly benefiting multi-national corporations and rich farmers. I pay tribute to what the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, said about the drawbacks to the way in which genetically-modified crops are being promoted at the moment.
This is the right time for debate. In the ensuing two weeks we shall be coming up to the summit at Montreal. It is good news that we are sending a Minister. It is even better news that we learn--and I hope that this will be confirmed this evening--that the Government seem likely to take a sensitive line which will separate the hard-nosed monetarist bullies from those sensible enough to try to find a way through the problems and help the poor.
It was Gandhi who told us that in every action we take we should always look at the effect we have on the poorest man we can imagine. But that is not only a matter which affects the poor; it affects all of us. The benefits of globalisation are not confined to making fortunes on the Internet; they also include bringing us to understand that we must "all hang together if we are not to hang separately."
On behalf of the Green Party, I wish the Minister well at Montreal. I hope that he fares well and I hope that he does good. Let us hope that we look back on this first quarter of a year of the 21st century as the moment when an uncertain flame lit at Seattle became a blaze at Montreal so that that unfortunate capital does not go down to history only as the place where:
I hope that nothing that I say this evening may be taken as critical of those who have spoken in the debate. However, I take the view that perhaps of greater importance than aspiration and good wishes is how aspiration is translated into action. There is no shortage of concern or compassion. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if the rhetoric of good intentions could fill empty bellies, the impoverished children of less developed countries would suffer from obesity.
The House will know that for many months there have been negotiations between the European Union and South Africa over a comprehensive trade and development agreement. Agreement was finally reached in March of this year and signed up to in October, but there was still further haggling. It was agreed that the main part of the trade deal would begin on 1st January.
It has not. Why not? Because Italy and Greece refused to ratify unless South Africa stopped using the terms "ouzo" and "grappa", of which it produces minuscule quantities. The situation is that nobody knows what should happen. Although the Greek and Italian representatives signed the agreement in October, the agreement cannot come into being. The European Union is in chaos because it does not know what will happen now.
That is naked self-interest. It seems to me that we must do something about that. I know that Ministers were extremely supportive in trying to bring about an agreement. I ask the Government two questions. First, when will Her Majesty's Government ratify the agreement? What plans do they have and what is the timetable for ratification? Secondly, what are Ministers actively doing to end the impasse and to find a way forward? There is no point in using fine-sounding words, as was done at the Berlin conference after Mandela was released and at the Cardiff summit, if nothing then happens. The whole of the European Union should hang its head in shame at that behaviour.
The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, went down the road of GM crops. I want to go in the opposite direction and deal with organic produce. My attention was drawn to an item on "The Food Programme" on Radio 4 last week about organic crops. I am very grateful to the programme both for transmitting the item and for letting me have a copy of the tape. I must quickly enter the caveat that if there are errors in my summary, that is my fault. The conclusions I draw are mine and not that of the programme. I believe that it did us a tremendous service in drawing attention to the fact that there is an immense interest in organic foods. It is a vastly growing market.
One reason for that is the cost. The Soil Association, which is Britain's leading certification organisation, charges £250 per day for a specialist to visit farms, plus the cost of travel. That may add up over a period of time because, paradoxically, small farmers can farm over large acreages. It may add up to many thousands of pounds and the certification must take place annually. It is prohibitive, except for very large farms which can bear the cost and where the cost of certification does not add up to much when the customer buys the produce in the shop.
One of the representatives from--and it is reasonable to name it since I have no interest--Marks and Spencer said that it would be happy to accept local certification if it were carried out to the same standard as exists in this country. I do not want to use that dreaded word "harmonisation", which I hope has disappeared from our vocabularies, but every single country in the European Union has its own certification system, as indeed does the United States. I certainly do not suggest that we should try to achieve common agreement among the states of the European Union so that there is one simple certification system which everybody would accept. That would simply lead us down the road of prevarication.
I do not expect a definitive answer this evening from the Minister, but I hope that the Government will look at finding a way of helping to train people locally for the certification of organic produce. That is one way in which we can help with development for the poorest of farmers. If we believe what we say, that trade is more important than simply giving money and if we really believe that the prime objective of aid and development is that people should become independent and self-sufficient and able to look after themselves, then it is necessary to take every step possible to help them to develop different markets.
This has been an important debate. I hope the points I raised, especially in relation to organic produce and certification, will be considered. We heard many examples this evening of how the poor and dispossessed need our assistance, and not just in words.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham for introducing this debate. Let me say clearly that if he and the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, are able to persuade business to take a real interest in the plight of the developing world, that will be a major achievement. In the end, if one-third of the world is increasingly poor and desperate for any kind of economic future, the role of business itself will be at risk in the medium and long term and it is in its interest to involve and commit itself to sustainable livelihoods.
The second point I want to make--one made by the noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Hughes, and my noble friend Lord Taverne--is that there now is a symmetry of language and system between the poor one-third of the world and the better-off two-thirds. By that I mean that our systems increasingly reject the ability of the developing countries to deal with their poverty.
The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, mentioned the problem of the certification and approval of goods, which has become increasingly sophisticated because of consumer organisations in the western world. That is a good thing in itself, but difficult for the third world to meet.
Another example follows on directly from what the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey said; that is, that it is vital to identify non-governmental organisations in the developing countries. That is absolutely right. But one of the great problems they face--I should perhaps declare an interest because I have been involved with an Indian organisation called Seva Mandir which tried to develop afforestation in Rajasthan and the development of small improvements among the tribal villages, some of the poorest people in the world--is that they cannot begin to meet the requirements of foundations and charities in the rest of the world for the small sums they need to do their work. We are talking of tens of thousands of pounds at the most. The requirements that are laid upon them to meet the application's criteria are such that they would have to hire somebody to do that job, and they are not in a position to do that. In the central and eastern European region, similarly, the extraordinarily complex requirements laid upon them by PHARE, TACIS and other aid agencies of the European Union are so complex that many local NGOs simply give up before getting to the end of the process.
I want to flag up briefly three issues. One is the environmental issue because, as was said in DfID's excellent work, sustainable livelihoods do not necessarily include the issue of environmental sustainability. In that context, it is important to say that environmental sustainability is part of the battle against poverty. The gradual spread of housing into wholly unsuitable areas--swamps, edges of mountains, desperate, tiny villages clinging on to wholly unsuitable terrain--is beginning to create what are described today as "unnatural disasters" on the sort of scale that we have seen in Venezuela,
A great deal of aid is simply wasted by governments run by elites who do not care about the poor, or who do not actually see their way to actually trying to improve their lives. Of course, one further aspect of bad governance arises in situations where what one ends up with are people fighting for power in some of the most pathetically impoverished parts of the world. Indeed, Angola, Mozambique, Zaire and many other parts spell for Africa a tragic destiny, where most of the money gets spent on arms and not on economic development.
I should like to refer for a few moments to the issue raised by my noble friend Lord Taverne. I have in mind one special aspect regarding what he said in relation to biodiversity. I have with me a magazine or, if you like, a leaflet called Kuarup. Rather amazingly, it is produced by the Xingu tribes of the Matto Grosso, one of the most remote parts of the world. They have a number of plants that are grown in the rainforest that have immense and exciting medical qualities. Those plants are now being licensed and patented by multinational companies, although they could be described as "gifts of God" and not the products of such companies. The battle among such Indian tribes to try to patent plants with which they have worked for centuries against the pressure of huge multinational companies is one of a very small David against a very powerful Goliath. One knows what the outcome will be.
I conclude by thanking DfID because I believe that it has already had a very great impact in terms of the new attitudes of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other organisations which are beginning to put poverty at the centre of their considerations. I very much hope that it will continue with its work. Above all, I hope that it will get the great organisations of the world to listen to what we now call "the stakeholders", those whom the noble Lord, Lord Desai, called, more attractively to my mind, "the people" who live in these countries.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, for the characteristically capable and dedicated way in which he introduced his Unstarred Question tonight. I trust that the Government will pay due attention to all the important points that the noble Lord made, as he has a deep understanding of this extremely complex and sensitive subject.
In the short time available to me this evening, I should like to make a few observations and ask the Minister some questions. As I said, the subject is a sensitive one because, as the noble Lords, Lord Holme and Lord Desai said, it involves people--a growing number of people living on the very edge of survival.
Anyone reading DfID's last departmental report could easily be lulled into a false sense of security. The report is magnificently produced; indeed, it is bulging with good intentions and apparent British successes in support of international development. However, I am not sure that it either reflects reality or that it focuses on some of the principal issues underlying the Question put so ably by the noble Lord. Nor am I sure that it even describes what is happening with a major part of the tax revenues raised in this country that should be dedicated to development assistance. I refer, of course, to the fact that more and more of our assistance is ceded to Brussels, with the results that we heard about from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and which were so rightly described by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. Unfortunately, we have less and less say today over the direction of an ever larger part of the assistance that we provide.
Furthermore, a greater proportion of the budget over which the Government do have control is being allocated to causes which are more often extolled on the soap boxes of Hyde Park than in the fora attended by those whose professional life has been dedicated to the issues fundamental to attaining the sustainable livelihoods of the disadvantaged. I refer, of course, to the portion of the assistance budget that goes on matters relating to good governance and civil society.
I would urge the Government to pay particular attention to the long-term implications of the Question raised by the noble Lord. There are some tremendously exciting and new initiatives taking place in the development field that will no doubt lead towards long-term sustainable solutions to the issue raised in the Question. At this late hour I shall take only one example, and ask what the Government are doing to assist in the development of the recently announced breakthrough in rice breeding, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne. As your Lordships will know, rice is the staple crop of approximately two thirds of the world's population, especially those living at the edge of subsistence.
Vitamin A deficiency causes possibly 2 million deaths each year among children under five years old whose family livelihoods are clearly unsustainable. The rice breeding discovery is a result of a sustained effort, led on the funding side by such institutions as the Rockefeller Foundation, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme, mentioned, following the great developments of the so-called green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. This breakthrough introduces into traditional rice varieties genes that are converted into vitamin A in the body.
I would like to ask the noble Baroness whether there is a proper balance in the allocation of funds, and sufficient attention to such initiatives, as in the support given by DfID to the soap box policies. I specifically draw her attention to this matter, as, despite the
These are very serious issues relating to the GM question, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. They could put at risk unnecessarily the effectiveness of the new "golden rice" to which I have just referred to.
Our distinguished former Minister, my noble friend Lady Chalker rightly stressed the importance of innovation. The innovation and thinking the unthinkable, which is the hallmark of the NGO sector, are essential, but, sadly, they are being curtailed at a time when we should be searching for ever more new solutions as an alternative to old, tried answers which have yet to crack the problem.
Why is so much attention being given to the headline-grabbing issue of debt forgiveness? As we have heard this evening from most noble Lords, no amount of debt forgiveness in itself will improve the chances of a sustainable livelihood for those at the bottom of the pile.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I pay tribute to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, in the whole area of sustainable livelihoods and thank him for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House this evening.
This is not the first time the noble Lord and I have participated in a discussion on sustainable livelihoods. We both attended the meeting organised by the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy, last September on the theme "From Extreme Poverty to Sustainable Livelihoods." It seems to me that we are now developing a very good partnership.
I shall endeavour to cover the points which have been raised but I undertake to write to any noble Lords whose points I have not been able to address in detail. I know that all noble Lords who have participated in the debate are aware of the Government's commitment to the international development targets, including a reduction by one-half in the proportion of people living in absolute poverty by 2015.
In 1990 some 1.3 billion people, or almost a quarter of the world's population, were living on less than a dollar a day. Some 70 per cent of these were women. I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai that poverty has a female face. Achieving the target will require that some 1 billion people are lifted over the poverty line by
My noble friend Lady Massey spoke of some of the target strategy papers which DfID has recently produced. I assure my noble friend that DfID is also developing a performance reporting and monitoring system which will allow us to track progress against each target strategy paper. A recently produced strategy paper concerned economic well-being. It sets out how the target for poverty reduction might be achieved by the international community as a whole and also sets out the role that DfID can play. The document makes clear that the challenge will be met only through economic growth, improved income distribution and a reduction in the vulnerability of national economies and poor people to physical and economic shocks. In addition, countries need to develop strong foundations of governance and institutions with transparency and low levels of corruption. That point was powerfully made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams. However, the core message of the paper is that the livelihoods of poor people must be at the centre of any strategy for poverty reduction.
We see the creation of sustainable livelihoods as a key element in helping to reduce poverty. Over the past two years we have worked with development agencies in the UK and overseas to develop and apply the livelihoods approach to development. We are working with partners to create sustainable livelihoods in almost 20 countries and we have committed £193 million to livelihoods programmes over the past nine months.
Our approach to the creation of sustainable livelihoods comprises a set of principles based on our knowledge of what works. It represents a different way of thinking about the priorities for development and it puts people at the centre of development. People, rather than the resources they use or the governments that serve them, are the priority concern. Poor people themselves must participate in identifying and addressing their livelihood priorities.
As well as being people-centred, the approach is holistic. The livelihoods concept is also dynamic. It recognises that poor people simultaneously undertake a range of different activities and seek to achieve a range of livelihood outcomes. These will evolve over time and the approach seeks to reflect this dynamism. I agree with my noble friend Lord Desai on the need to recognise the ways in which the poor live and organise themselves.
The livelihoods approach also links policy level and community level activities. We seek to draw lessons from the local level and bring these to the forefront of development policy. The creation of sustainable livelihoods also requires that the public and private sectors work together--a point made powerfully by a number of noble Lords.
Finally, if poverty is to be eliminated, livelihoods must be sustainable. There are four key dimensions to sustainable development and to sustainability: economic, institutional, social and environmental. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that we cannot ignore the environmental element.
In support of these principles, DfID, in consultation with a range of partners, has developed an analytical framework to help us to understand the livelihoods of the poor. However, we do not see livelihoods as a fixed concept. It is an evolving approach that offers a practical way forward. We are continually building on experience and bringing together good practice.
One of the strengths of the livelihoods approach is the way in which it helps to achieve practical outcomes. In India and Bangladesh, for example, DfID-supported programmes have achieved direct and significant improvements to the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor people. Incomes have increased, household food security improved, vulnerability to shocks reduced, primary school enrolment increased and environmental degradation reversed. We have also seen in some instances the status of women enhanced.
These programmes are being expanded to work with many more poor people. However, many challenges remain. Perhaps the most important of these is ensuring that the voices of the poor are able to influence policy change, nationally and internationally.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, raised the questions of training and of local leadership. Participation is one of the core principles underlying the sustainable livelihoods approach. The DfID has developed programmes with the full participation of local stakeholders. One of the principles of the approach is that it builds on people's strengths; in particular it assists in the development of human and social capital. Training and development of local communities are important elements in forming effective local partnerships.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, spoke of the importance of working with NGOs. I entirely agree with her. One of the key and core strategies in terms of the DfID approach is a need to work in partnership. We are working with international agencies, including the World Bank and United Nations agencies. We feel that we need a co-ordinated approach which considers the impact of all global policies on poor people, particularly in the areas of trade, investment, financial regulation, the environment and debt.
The noble Lord, Lord Holme, also asked specifically about what the Government are doing to promulgate a sustainable livelihoods approach within the European Union. We have been working with the European Commission on sustainable rural livelihoods. The latest draft of its rural development strategy places livelihood improvements for the rural poor as its principal objective. We are helping the Commission to convert the strategy into actual programmes for several developing countries.
I can assure the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that we are seeking to influence European Union policy and practice in other areas. We have developed an institutional strategy paper which sets out the reforms that we see as being required at European Union level. I shall happily send the right reverend Prelate a copy of that paper.
In addition to working with our international partners, the private sector also has a vital role to play, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Holme, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. We recognise the important role that companies are playing as they take their corporate responsibilities more seriously. We are already working in a number of ways with the private sector to create sustainable livelihoods. Our country programme seeks to promote the growth of small, medium and micro-enterprises, another point raised by the right reverend Prelate. In addition, we are about to launch a number of competitive challenge funds. Again, I shall write to the right reverend Prelate with more information on that area.
I turn to other points that have been raised. My noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside mentioned the EU-South Africa trade deal. The United Kingdom strongly supports the EU's trade development and co-operation agreement with South Africa. This fulfils the EU's post-apartheid commitment to help build a stable and prosperous South Africa. We are urging Italy and Greece to work with the European Commission and South Africa to find a sensible way forward instead of trying to reverse the application of the agreement.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, raised the matter of the biosafety protocol negotiations at the Montreal conference. The Government are strongly committed to securing a successful outcome to those negotiations. We see one of the main benefits of the protocol for developing countries as being the provision of channels for financial and technical assistance to help them build capacities for the safe use and development of GMOs. DfID is ready to help developing countries ensure that GMOs are used appropriately and effectively to bring real benefits to poor people and to provide sustainable livelihoods. We feel that it is important to assist developing countries themselves to ensure that they have the capacity to do so. That was one of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne.
As regards organic foods, a matter raised by my noble friend Lord Hughes of Woodside, perhaps I may say that, on his point of certification, it may be that the certification process itself proves to be an excessive barrier to developing country producers when trying to access organic markets. If that is the case, DfID would be willing to consider funding the initial transaction costs of establishing local capacities for certification through training and accreditation schemes. Again, should my noble friend like more detail, I shall be happy to have a meeting or to write to him.
I should like to make a few further points. As regards HIV and Aids, an issue raised by my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, I agree that special endeavour is needed in recognition of the magnitude of HIV and Aids. We are already integrating elements of HIV/Aids in our projects in Africa, for example, a project in Mozambique. I do not have time to go into the questions raised on education, but again, in Jamaica, we have linked debt relief to education through the Commonwealth debt initiative.
In conclusion, the sustainable livelihoods approach puts people at the centre of development. It focuses on the priorities of the poor and builds on their strengths and opportunities. It seeks to achieve practical outcomes for poor people. That is why DfID is at the forefront of applying the sustainable livelihoods approach. It represents a real means of achieving international development targets.
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