Justine ‘I didn’t come into politics to distribute money to people in the Third World’ Greening, the UK Development Minister, spoke at Sussex yesterday. I wanted to ask her if the above quote was true, but she over-ran the allotted 20 minutes, leaving time for only 3 questions before she was whisked off by her advisors. I also wanted to ask, given she was apparently so proud of her focus on emergencies and the UK response to Syria, why the UK has only taken in 143 Syrian refugees out of 380,000 people in need of resettlement, and whether, given her pride in cross-government collaboration, she agrees with the actual real not-taking-the-piss Foreign Office policy that it is better to let Syrian refugees drown in the Mediterranean, because rescuing them would create a "pull factor", or whether on the contrary she agrees with the churches, that this is an "abdication of moral responsibility."
She also seems to think that she invented the idea of economic development and that investing in ports and infrastructure might be an original idea. Did someone forget to brief the Minister about what the "WORLD BANK" has been doing for the last 50 years? Also whilst it may be important to make the case for aid to many audiences, this was not one of them. Seriously, she told us about the importance of aid for our own (UK) self interest about 3 different times (note probably at least half of IDS and I imagine the audience were not even British, and those that were are presumably firmly committed development people).
Snark aside, DFID gives us a lot to be proud of, we give a lot of money, and on the whole I think we give it well. It's just a bit depressing when our dear development leader looks so bored by the whole thing (or perhaps I'm just reading her as uninterested because of the alleged quote above?). Amusingly, the former accountant's eyes only really lit up when talking about a project sending folks from the Institute of Chartered Accountants to Zambia (though that is probably honestly a brilliant idea). She also clearly looked most pleased talking about the projects which involved some kind of new gadget or had some benefits for Brits - be it the aid match to double your donations to NGOs, the International Citizen Service, or school twinning. All fine ideas, but perhaps not the most transformative.
I should add that I didn’t think Mary Creagh’s vision was all that much more inspiring, despite Charlie’s reminder that the universal health care focus is a good one. Which is all quite odd in the context of the recent 0.7 bill.