Beyond Aid: the devil is in the detail

The International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell MP, gave a speech yesterday entitled “Beyond Aid”.  He rightly pointed out that while aid is incredibly important, it is just one weapon amongst many for fighting poverty.

He stressed that we are all in it together – government, the private sector, philanthropists, academics and researchers, and charities and other civil society actors.  And that it’s not just DFID but a host of other government departments that have an important role to play. He listed a range of really important areas – from conflict prevention and peace-building, to tackling climate change, fighting corruption, and increasing trade with and between developing countries – which are all vital parts of the international development narrative.

It is very difficult to argue with this, or to question Mitchell’s obvious passion for his job.  However, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed that his emphasis was on highlighting things that the Coalition Government have done so far, and Britain’s “proud, historic legacy” rather than on concrete things that could be done for developing countries going forward.

While he talked at some length about the importance of tackling corruption, and the role of Ken Clarke as Anti-Corruption champion, the passing of the Bribery Act and the role of the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Serious Fraud Office and others, as well as the (voluntary) Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative, he failed to highlight the legislation which is being considered at EU level which will ensure that all oil, gas and mining companies need to publish what they pay to access resources in developing countries.  In response to a question posed by Tearfund he agreed that this was important and that George Osborne had championed this at an EU level and would continue to do so. So I wonder why he did not say this in the first place?

He also highlighted the importance of helping countries to adapt to the effects of climate change  – and the role that the Hadley Centre and the Met Office play in providing data and research in this field – but failed to mention anything that the government was doing going forward to try to ensure that innovative sources of climate finance were found to help poor countries adapt.  And, in response to another question, he confirmed that the UK government would not support the Robin Hood Tax which Bill Gates had promoted just last week at the G20, unless it was adopted everywhere.

Overall, while  I would definitely agree with the sentiments expressed, it will be a case of waiting to see what this actually means in practice.




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