Tories 'risk worsening situation of world's poor'

By staff writers
14 Jul 2009

Aid agencies have attacked a 'Green Paper' on International Development issued by the Conservative Party yesterday, with some saying it could increase the dependency on aid of the world's poor.

Entitled 'One World Conservatism' it was branded a "disappointment" by one agency, said to have "glaring omissions" and "blind spots" by others while one even said it risked worsening the impact of the financial crisis on the world's poor.

"This green paper is a disappointment for anyone looking for fresh thinking in response to the financial crisis. Instead of questioning the policies that have led to the crisis, the Conservatives risk worsening its impact for the world's poor" said Nick Dearden, Director of Jubilee Debt Campaign.

"More liberalised trade, more privatisation, more multinational corporations and more exposure to volatile capital markets - the very steps that have caused the worst economic crisis in a generation. The millions of people reeling from the effects of this crisis do not want more of the same."

"The paper speaks of capitalism as Britain's 'gift to the world'. Given the problems which the unregulated global economy has recently subjected the world to, many countries might prefer to be removed from the Christmas list."

The aid agency Tearfund pointed to the report's failure to address the role of faith groups.

It comes after the Government promised to double development funding for those working from a faith basis in international development.

Tearfund Advocacy Director Paul Cook said: "It is astonishing to see a debate on international development without any recognition of the role of faith communities in the field.

"In Tearfund’s experience of working for more than 40 years through local churches in the poorest parts of the world, it is facile to consider that it is possible to address need at a local level without engaging local faith-based organisations."

The agency also said it wanted more policy detail in the paper’s reference to climate change. "This is not just an add-on to international development; environmental sustainability is fundamental to addressing issues of food security, agriculture, land and water resource management and disaster risk reduction" Cook said.

Christian Aid also pointed to what it called a number of "blind spots" in the paper.

Melanie Ward, Christian Aid’s Senior UK Political Adviser said: "While the Conservatives now officially share our vision of a world free from the scourge of poverty, we believe that the party’s plan for realising it currently lacks some vital steps. To build a better world, we must tackle the fundamental causes of poverty, including huge existing inequalities of wealth and power. The Conservatives need to address their blind spots and explain how they would do this."

Christian Aid issued a statement saying that the Conservatives had "not yet fully articulated their understanding of what causes and sustains poverty." They warned of "a risk that short-term, micro projects get undue support because they are easier to evaluate than large-scale, long-term work for social change."

It also called on the party to expand its ideas for mitigation - what needs to be done to prevent further climate change - and to set out a vision of how poor countries can continue to develop in a low-carbon future.

The agency also said it was concerned about the proposal to issue aid vouchers to individuals in poor countries. "This may exacerbate aid dependency and undermine the development of basic services such as health and education" it said. "Vouchers would break the link between citizens and the state and effectively remove governments’ responsibility to provide services for their citizens. Vouchers will, in the long term, jeopardise development."

It descibed as "deeply worrying" the idea that the budget of the Department for International Development (DFID) could be diverted to support the priorities of other departments, such as the Ministry of Defence.

Most agencies welcomed the report's call for accountability and transparency in the delivery of aid. But they also warned that using aid money to support private schools and healthcare throughout Africa would not make developing country governments more accountable to their people but instead could weaken them even further.

Christian Aid said that the Tories should now accept that ideas of transparency should apply to tax revenue as well as to aid.

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