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

With the 10 year Millennium Development Goal Review Summit taking 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.

My view is that if the Coalition Government continues to support countries such as Bangladesh then dramatic reductions in key disease such as pneumonia will continue. The Government have made a good start, but they need to ensure that in this climate of cuts, international development remains protected for the full five years to give the best possible chance for the MDGs to be met.

Lord Avebury is Joint Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Global Action Against Childhood Pneumonia and has been involved in the work of the APPG since its inception in 2007 as well as a number of other international development organisations and bodies. This is in addition to his work as a Lib Dem spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and African issues in the Lords for 12 years.

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4 Comments

  • Lord Avebury has highlighted a really important issue here. It is great that the coalition has agreed to continue supporting the MDG pledges.

  • International development is one of the most important issues facing the coalition government and it is to their credit that the budgets for initiatives that save millions of lives worldwide are to be retained.

    Lord Avebury has expressed this extremely well.

    I fundamentally disagree with Bryan. If the Lib Dem party ceases to be the humanitarian face of politics, then it ceases to be.

  • I am glad that we are maintaining the cross party consensus on reaching the 0.7% of GDP target for aid.

    My main worry is that the Conservatives will seek to do this by reclassifying military expenditure in Afghanistan as aid.

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