This week TOP joined the All Party Groups on International Development for the latest event in the series “Parliamentarians Ending Poverty”. We were joined by the Secretary of State for International Development, Rt Hon Justine Greening MP, as well as H.E. Wesley Johnson, Liberian Ambassador to the UK, and Sir Richard Jolly, former Assistant Secretary General of the UN, to discuss: “The Future of International Development: 2015 and Beyond.”
The world’s poorest have seen huge amounts of progress under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The number of people living in extreme poverty halved between 1990 and 2010, five years ahead of the deadline set by the international community. But, with almost 1 billion people predicted to still be living on less than $1.25 a day in 2015, there remains much to be done.
As the 2015 deadline for the MDGs approaches, the world is asking “what happens next?”. The UK is taking a leading role in these discussions – the Prime Minister Rt Hon. David Cameron is one of three co-chairs of the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda, which is due to present its recommendations to the UN in May this year.
Sir Richard began the session by giving us his perspective on lessons learnt during the original process. He said that the creation of goals has been vital in galvanising support for action and has had a far more substantive effect that anyone originally thought or hoped for – the new framework must continue to be goal-focussed into to re-energise countries into action. There is a need, however, for countries to be assessed on their own achievements to avoid disheartening those who have in fact come a long way from their own individual starting point.
Mr Wesley Johnson emphasised the importance of technical assistance in reaching any goals set for the poorest countries. He spoke of his frustration at the inability of poor countries to negotiate satisfactory contracts with global corporations, which is exacerbating the disparity between natural resource production in Africa and the benefits and income received.
Justine Greening outlined the UK’s vision for the future of international development and the framework required to support it. She emphasised that, “the global economy must be rebalanced alongside domestic economies” and that the poorest countries must be given the opportunities to reach their potential. We must create a framework that is “economically smart and morally right”.
Ms Greening said that job creation would be a top priority, with responsible economic development at the heart of the new development agenda. She said that we must create a truly global partnership in which all stakeholders work together. We must incorporate the important role of the private sector and get our own house in order so that we can have a “win-win” approach to development strategies (as already seen in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative). UK companies have a vital role to play, providing skills and knowledge transfer as well as maintaining best practice in their supply chains and corporate governance.
In a positive nod to TOP’s aims, Ms Greening said that the new framework should aim to “reduce aid dependency and create economies that stand on their own two feet”. However, she failed to use this opportunity to stress the fundamental importance of opening up our markets to the least developed in order to achieve this. As the deadline for the UN’s report draws closer, it is vital that the ability of trade act as a catalyst for helping countries achieve economic development as well as facilitating the achievement of the other goals they are set is remembered. Opening up our markets to the poorest countries is the only sustainable way to eliminate aid dependency and create long lasting economic development.