Another year, another set of attacks on development aid in the right-wing press. Prompted by a spectacularly ill-informed paper from Civitas, the Telegraph, Mail and Spectator tried once again to argue, without evidence, that high proportions of British aid are wasted.
The truth is that, under the Coalition, far more attention has been paid to value for money in aid spending than ever before. What is more, there’s little need to speculate about where Department for International Development (DFID) money goes, as it ranked as the most transparent aid agency in the world in the 2012 index produced by my colleagues at Publish What You Fund.
Although the decision to stick to the UK’s promise to give 0.7% of Gross National Income in aid was made before Lynne Featherstone became the first Lib Dem DFID minister in the summer re-shuffle, Liberal Democrats should unite in congratulating the government for doing the right thing. Who can doubt Nick Clegg’s influence on the refusal to “balance the books on the backs of the poorest”? By becoming the first G8 nation to fulfil forty-year-old 0.7% commitment, the UK will once again lead the way as an aid donor.
But that isn’t enough. For developing countries to be given the opportunity to develop themselves, the world’s richest nations need to go beyond aid and look at other areas of policy. Aid can only do so much to plug the gap when poor nations are losing precious resources because of tax evasion and avoidance and unfair trade barriers. Liberal Democrats have long argued for a whole of government approach to International Development, for example in the policy paper adopted by conference in 2010, Accountability to the Poor.
It is therefore good news that when the G8 comes to the UK in June, David Cameron has asked it to focus on three things: Tax, Trade and Transparency. Unlike the last UK G8 conference, at Gleneagles in 2005, the Lough Erne meeting will not primarily be about Development. But the Prime Minister’s three Ts are of self-evident and vital importance to all low- and middle-income countries — as well as to rich ones.
So the meeting will present a great opportunity for the G8 to bring all countries together. If it only acts in its own self-interest, it will very soon be irrelevant – the G20 is already more important. But by putting its own house in order for the benefit of all, the G8 can play a critical role.
Liberal Democrats must play their role in this, too. A group of us are therefore putting forward a motion to Spring Conference (full text below) calling for:
• The impact of tax evasion and avoidance on developing countries to be addressed in the G8 summit recommendations
• A whole of government approach to development to be adopted
• Liberal Democrats to continue to promote this approach in government and in the 2015 manifesto.
If you are a conference representative and would like to support this motion, please email your name, local party and membership number to: [email protected] and [email protected] The deadline is next Wednesday.
MOTION ON INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT submitted by ten conference representatives
– Conference welcomes the Government’s continuing commitment to meet the aid target of 0.7% of Gross National income, in spite of challenging economic circumstances, and applauds the fact that in 2013 the UK will become the first G8 country to meet this commitment;
– Conference notes that the UK Presidency of the G8 in 2013 presents a particular opportunity to demonstrate continuing leadership, and welcomes the Prime Minister’s intention to focus on issues of trade, tax and transparency;
– Conference recognises that in an increasingly globalised world these are issues of common interest for developed and developing countries alike, and that the challenges of economic growth, equity, transparency and sustainability require a coordinated approach;
– Conference therefore calls:
(a) on the Government to use the opportunity of the G8 Presidency, as well as meetings of other global bodies, to ensure that the impact on developing countries of issues like tax avoidance and evasion are fully recognised and reflected in the G8 Summit recommendations;
(b) on the Government to play a vigorous and positive role in the debate around the successor to the Millennium Development Goals and to develop a whole of Government approach to international development, including policies on issues such as tax, trade, transparency, climate change, agricultural subsidies and arms sales; and
(c) on Liberal Democrats in Government to pursue those objectives and on the Party to reflect this approach in its 2015 Election Manifesto.
Mover: Daisy Cooper
Summator: Myles Wickstead
* David Hall-Matthews is Chair of the Social Liberal Forum