Lynne Featherstone MP writes…the Aid budget and the Ministry of Defence

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.

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8 Comments

  • John Vincent 21st Feb '13 - 6:24pm

    Clarification much appreciated

  • We don’t yet know the full remit of Cameron’s proposals, but I don’t believe that what he is reported to have said today takes account of the bigger picture:

    Leaving aside the ambiguity around the OECD guidance and peacekeeping, blurring the line between development, diplomacy and defence is dangerous and risks undermining DfID’s reputation. Further, pouring more cash into the ‘Conflict Pool’ is a highly dubious idea owing to its lack of strategic foresight and incapacity to measure results.

    Also, rape is rarely ‘a weapon of war’ and target states don’t need us to ship a British Army Training Team overseas to teach combatants that rape is bad. What we need to do is help address the political and economic factors that give rise to the impunity that permits rape to occur on such a pervasive scale, in some regions of some countries.

    Although I wait with much anticipation to see what the combined DfID/MoD/FCO strategy will be for tackling these issues, I believe that it is a job best led by DfID and where possible their in-country partners.

  • Clarification much appreciated, the elephant cosily tucked in the room seems to be whether the military are sufficiently resourced to conduct operations in fragile states. Envious eyes cast at DFID’s resources can’t distract from the original issue.

    Mark Pack’s example of rape being used as a weapon of war is an incredibly striking example. The issue is also whether the UK can prevent money which is allocated for international aid or could potentially be used for aid to being diverted for military purposes in conflict states.

    Finally, does it also count as aid where you have entities like the British Council providing and offering language support (mainly english) to serving military officers in conflict countries?

  • Surely a prime example of gender-based violence in wartime would be for example when soldiers from a Balkan ethnicity enter a village and take away all the men and boys over 15 to be shot? So presumably the training is going to say they should take away the women too? Or is “gender-based” another of these terms which only works one way?

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