Speech of the Week: One World Conservatism - A new International Development Approach

By: Information Daily Staff Writer
Published: Monday, July 20, 2009 - 19:00 GMT Jump to Comments

In a recent speech David Cameron expressed his views on how the International Development efforts of the UK should be structured and governed such that British citizens back the efforts.

Today Britain continues to fight a terrible recession. We're facing a debt crisis unprecedented in our peacetime history.

The country understands that public spending will have to be cut.

So I understand why people might say that at a time like this, in economic circumstances like these increasing the amount we spend on foreign aid is the last thing we should do.

But I want to explain today why I think - as I said at the start of the year - that economic difficulties at home should be the time for us to re-affirm our moral responsibilities, not reduce them.

Making big decisions is about doing what's right, not what is convenient.

And it's about ensuring that short-term pressures don't lead you to make long-term mistakes.

So yes - people at home are hurting in this recession.

But they understand that there are still billions who have the tiniest fraction of what we have, even in a recession, and that it's our social responsibility to help them.

And yes - we have a huge debt to pay off thanks to Labour's economic incompetence.

But paying down the debt must not mean pushing down the poor - at home or abroad.

I don't think Britain is a country of fair-weather philanthropy. We're better than that.

That's why this country, this year, raised more for Comic Relief than ever before.

But it's not just about compassion.

Dropping our pledge to increase aid would be a serious long-term mistake.

When you look at some of the major threats to our security today - from terrorism to climate change to war you know they will only get worse unless we help fight poverty and boost the development of struggling nations.

Some people will say, especially today, that the urgent priority is to get the right equipment to our forces on the front line.

Of course we must do that; it is a scandal in particular that they still lack enough helicopters to move around in Afghanistan.

The Government must deal with that issue as a matter of extreme urgency.

But it would not be in our national interest to scale back Britain's commitment to building a better and more stable world which in the long run will help to make it less likely that we will need to send our forces in the future to places like Afghanistan to protect our security here at home.

So for these reasons we are today reaffirming our commitment to meet the internationally agreed goal: 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income spent on aid by 2013.

But today I also want to explain why I think we need a new approach.

If we're asking the country to give more money, it's our responsibility to make sure we get more for that money.

So it's time to bring international development into the post-bureaucratic age.

Transparency over what is spent, where.

Accountability so people know we're paying for real results.

And a much greater focus on helping poor people to help themselves.

Loans to start businesses.

Support for enterprise and trade.

Moving away from the old top-down, patronising dishing out of charity towards a new vision of real people power for the poorest on the planet.


This new approach starts with a reality check.

We're not naïve about the task before us.

We know an enormous amount of aid is misplaced.

We know great sums are lost to corruption.

The world should be appalled when poor countries' budgets are wasted on fleets of flashy cars when white elephants are built instead of wells, schools and clinics when money goes to nations that simply don't need it.

Isn't it ludicrous that we're still giving aid to China, a country that can afford to spend £20 billion staging a spectacular Olympics?

Doing the right thing with British aid means being honest about these realities and hard-nosed about where we stand.

But let's be honest about something else.

The Labour Government has done some very good things on international development.

DfID is respected the world over.

As an independent department with a place at the cabinet table it is a strong symbol of Britain's commitment to development and that's the way it will stay with a Conservative Government.

But if we win the next election there's a lot that we're going to do differently.

We're going to change the way we give money, and change the way that giving is monitored.


First we need to change the way we give, so that the British public is right behind us.

It's more important than ever that we build support for our aid programmes.

That's why we've made a massive commitment to disease prevention, and malaria in particular - £500million a year.

These are things we can point to and say to the British people - 'look how many bed nets your money has bought think of how many children, how many families have been saved from this disease.'

We want to get people involved in the decisions about giving too.

MyAid will allow people to have a say on where a whole chunk of the aid budget goes.

That way the passions of the British people - whether for education, disease prevention, disaster relief, anything - are reflected in the DfID budget.

The other way we're going to get the public behind this giving is to channel more of it through the charities they trust.

NGOs like our hosts today do amazing work on the very frontline of the war against poverty.

Where there are children struck by disease, natural disasters, war, violence and hunger from Tanzania to Bangladesh, Colombia to Kosovo, Save the Children are there.

I'm a big believer in NGOs because I've seen their impact first hand.

You're in a vast refugee camp a sea of dispossessed people in a dry, barren place and the ones that help restore dignity and hope are the NGOs that, working alongside local people, provide water, sanitation, healthcare and food.

So whether it's the big organisations, like Save the Children and Oxfam, or the smaller ones - like War Child and Send A Cow, we will support them with more aid.

And we'll set up a performance-based Poverty Impact Fund so that the smallest NGOs can access government funding.

As well as making British aid more accountable to people in the UK, we will make it more responsive and accountable to people in poor countries.

We'll take their views into account when we decide where and how to give our aid.

We want poor people to be masters and owners of the aid system, not passive recipients of it.


But as well as changing the way we give, it's vital we change the way that spending is monitored.

Right now the whole system is far too opaque.

At home, decisions are made behind closed doors, spending happens with very little scrutiny, accounts are locked away in Whitehall vaults.

And abroad, when that money is spent, there's no way to judge whether it's hitting the spot.

This is simply out of date.

In the post-bureaucratic age no one needs to have a monopoly on information and no distance is beyond communication.

We need a radical change in approach.

At home that means far greater transparency.

We will shine a light on our aid spending by putting it all on the internet for everyone to see - every project and every pound spent.

Abroad we need more accountability.

We're going to get that by focussing on outcomes and not inputs - and rewarding aid where it works.

Because the truth is it's not the numbers on the aid cheque that count, but the number of people that it helps the number of grandparents whose sight is restored, the number of fathers who can feed their families, the number of children whose lives are saved.

So instead of giving away dollops of cash with no questions attached, we'll say to foreign governments, NGOs, and multilateral organisations 'You get these outcomes and we'll pay you for those good results.'

We'll pioneer results-based aid, paying 'cash on delivery' for concrete results, not for vague promises.

And we'll set up an independent aid watchdog to scrutinise the impact and outcomes of our aid.

Everyone we deal with will know this:

If aid is losing its way, we'll no longer pay.


These are the big changes we'll make, to how we give and how we monitor that giving.

But there will be another fundamental difference to the Conservative approach.

It comes from our instinct about how wealth is created.

Aid alone is not enough.

It's a means to an end - not an end in itself.

Countries are pulled out of poverty by a golden thread that starts with the absence of war and the presence of good governance, property rights and the rule of law, effective public services and strong civil institutions, free and fair trade, and open markets.

Our overall aim will always be to strengthen this golden thread so that poor people can rise out of poverty permanently - through their own efforts.
We understand the deep desire people have to make their own money, independent and proud.

This paper is packed with exciting new ways to help them do that, from ideas on microfinance and business growth to a pan-African free trade area and peer to peer lending, where individuals in Britain, through organisations like kiva.org, can lend money directly to individuals in poor countries.

We've got to be ambitious.

Prosperity in Africa and across the developing world will be born from the smallest seeds of private enterprise and it is our passionate mission to sow them.


This is the progressive Conservative approach to international development.

Hard-headed - but not hard-hearted.

Realistic - but optimistic.

The rewards of following these ambitions will be great.

A better life for millions of people and a safer, more prosperous world for Britain.



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