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Posts Tagged ‘International development’

I went last night to a Department for International Development (DFID) consultation event.  The event was one of 12 that DFID is organising as part of an engagement exercise to inform a White Paper planned for later in the year.  It was good to see some other local government people there; amongst what was a diverse mix of organisations represented.

 Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State, began proceedings.  He suggested that while the global recession could set back the already slow progress with regard to the Millennium Development Goals, there remained a strong economic as well as humanitarian case to meeting the promises that had been made.  He outlined the four key questions which the White Paper will be exploring:

 –          how do we minimise the impact of the downturn on the poor?

–          how do we build a low carbon and climate resilient world?

–          how can we create a safer world and the right conditions for poverty reduction in conflict-affected countries?

–          How can we work in partnership to deliver development through international institution reform?

 Douglas Alexander emphasised the damaging effects of conflict – 22 of the world’s 34 poorest countries, he said, are in the midst of, or just emerging from conflict.  Building functional states was critical, he suggested, to achieving real progress.

 Joanne Green of CAFOD then spoke.  She made some interesting points about western consumerism.  While the eco-footprint of the wealthiest nations has increased by 68% over the last 40 years, that of the developing world countries has increased by only 7%, she said.  She argued that as a society we have become overly focused on consumption and that this has made people more self-centred and less concerned about their neighbours.  She emphasised the importance of changing values and living more simply and more sustainably.

 The final speaker was Adrian Lovett of Save the Children.  He argued that children should be at the centre of the Government’s approach because the challenge is to stop the ‘inter-generational transmission of poverty’.  It struck me that although the issues may be different, for councils in the UK seeking to reduce persistent inequalities, a similar focus on early years has been recognised as being very important.

 During the discussion, Libby Ferguson of the Local Government Association’s International Bureau emphasised the contribution that local government as a sector could make and suggested DFID could usefully engage more with it.  Douglas Alexander agreed, saying that local government is a repository of skills and expertise which could be of practical support to developing world countries; and also emphasising its community leadership role and ability to develop partnerships which could make significant contributions.

 Some thoughts that the session triggered for me were:

 Could town-twining be overhauled so that instead of being between EU countries, it increasingly becomes about building partnerships with towns in developing world countries?

 

Should there be an exchange programme through which local government officers with relevant skills and experience in civic institutions and processes like elections could share their knowledge with developing world colleagues.

 Is there more that we could be doing through schools to engage with young people on this agenda?

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