Opinion: International Development and the Coalition – so far, so good

With the 10 year Millennium Development Goal Review Summit having taken place this week, now is a good time to take stock of the Coalition Government’s International Development policy so far.

The Coalition Government promised, in their “Programme for Government”, to commit to the internationally agreed goal of 0.7% of Gross National Income spent on aid by 2013 as well as supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and prioritising “aid spending on programmes to ensure that everyone has access to clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education; to reduce maternal and infant mortality.”

As Joint Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia, I have been watching eagerly the Coalition’s statements and actions on international development.

So far, so good.

They have reaffirmed their commitment to the 0.7% GNI funding.

They have also so far given commitments to meeting the MDGs. Especially on MDG 4 which is designed to cut child mortality by two thirds by 2015.

I recently asked the Government what action they would take to promote the recent World Health Assembly Resolution on Pneumonia and they confirmed that they were committed to continuing to fund key pneumonia projects.

As pneumonia is the leading global killer of young children, accounting for 1.5 million deaths a year, this is a significant commitment which will have far-reaching results in the developing world and will save many lives.

I know what this funding and support by the UK means for the developing world. It is easy to forget the devastating impact the death of a small child has on a family, when it’s a comparatively rare event in our society. Now we have the technology, and the resources, to make it as unusual even in the poorest countries.

A country like Bangladesh, for instance, which has creditably managed to reduce infant mortality from 149 per 1,000 in 1960 to 54 per 1,000 in 2005, should be able to cut the figure by another two thirds if they adopt universal infant vaccination against pneumococcal disease.

The Bangladesh Parliament has debated the issue and there is good reason to hope they will sign up to the Advance Market Commitment, a promising international financing mechanism to which the UK is making a significant contribution.

Myself and the APPG are working with Bangladesh to ensure that this commitment to tackling pneumonia continues and with World Pneumonia Day 2010 coming up hopefully the country can show as much commitment as last year where they spearheaded efforts in Asia holding a rally, roundtable and press conferences on the subject of pneumonia.

I am buoyed by the comments of Nick Clegg at the New York Review Summit on Wednesday, reaffirming the UK’s financial commitments to meeting the MDGs. This summit appears to have built consensus amongst international nations and there has been a renewed commitment to meet the MDGs by 2015. This is an extremely positive outcome and could make all the difference in helping to meet these crucial targets.

Eric Lubbock, Lord Avebury, is the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Spokesperson for the Home Office and blogs at Eric Avebury.

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One Comment

  • Patrick Smith 25th Sep '10 - 8:00pm

    Lord Avebury has been a great liberal orator on international human rights for many decades.His timely reminder of the importance of the eradication of childhood pneumonia that claims the lives of 1.5 million children each year ,in developing countries, should be widely endorsed across all party divides, on World Pneumonia Day.

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