Despite extensive media coverage this morning, the aid budget is not about to be slashed to fund the Ministry of Defence.
All aid spending from the Department of International Development (DFID) is in line with internationally agreed guidelines. There is a strict definition of what can count as Overseas Development Assistance (ODA), which was established by the OECD. For example, aid cannot be spent on combat operations nor on military equipment.
It can be (and is) used to train another country’s security forces in human rights awareness, including gender-based violence issues – something I’m sure all Liberal Democrats support.
What the Prime Minister actually said was that fragile and conflict-affect states have not met a single Millennium Development Goal between them. He also said “if you can help deliver security and help provide stability, and help with stabilisation, that is the base from which all development can proceed”.
I absolutely agree.
As part of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the Coalition Government publicly pledged to invest 30% of our bilateral aid in fragile and conflict-affected countries by 2014/15 and DFID works closely with the FCO and the MoD to make sure our approach is joined up, including through the Conflict Pool which provides funding for conflict prevention.
So the Prime Minister’s comments simply confirmed our shared commitment to upstream conflict prevention and our shared agenda of joining up the work MoD, FCO and DFID carry out.
And don’t forget – joining up these departments to promote stability and peace is a policy Liberal Democrats have long advocated.
* Lynne Featherstone is a minister at the Department for International Development and blogs at www.lynnefeatherstone.org.