Meeting between UK NGOs and Secretary of State, Hilary Benn

20 September 2004

8 October 2004 | Minutes

Meeting with Secretary of State Hilary Benn, Annual Meetings 2004, 20 September

Attending: Romilly Greenhill (ActionAid), Dragan Nastic (BOND), John Hilary (War on Want), Jules Peck (WWF), Claire Wren (One World Action), Robin Robison (QPSW), Ashok Sinha (JDC), Hannah Ellis (FoE), Jesse Griffiths (RSPB), Anna Thomas (Christian Aid), Arabella Fraser (Oxfam), Jeff Powell (BWP)

Hilary Benn:

  • aid volume and financing: IFF, presentation of DFID conditionality paper
  • debt: pressing for full financing of HIPC and up to full cancellation of multilateral debts
  • voice: no real consensus; COGAM (WB Cmte on Gen Admin Matters) talking to everyone

Key points from discussion:

the UK will push the issue of debt with characteristic vigour

On conditionality Masood Ahmed wanted to clarify if NGOs were opposed to all economic policy conditionality or just key elements such as liberalisation and privatisation. John Hilary responded that there was consensus around liberalisation and privatisation but that individual organisations took different positions around economic policy conditionality more broadly.

On EIR the SoS said he would want to review progress of implementation of the recommendations. He cited the case of the BTC pipeline where he felt there was a need for a mechanism to ensure that things that were supposed to be happening actually were. On FPIC – UK doesn’t allow minority interests a veto.

On IFC safeguard policy review ‘there needs to be adequate time’ ‘we’re taking this up’. The SoS asked for an example where safeguards had been watered down in the IFC proposed ‘performance standards’. FOEI responded that FPIC in the EIR had been watered down in IFC proposals.

On country systems SoS asked for more information to be sent to him.

On debt UK will ‘push with characteristic vigour’. Can’t run down IFIs now. ‘2005 matters- we have an opportunity to put pressure on ourselves and others’.

On parliamentary scrutiny sympathy for this issue as an MP. But should be cautious is this a process condition? The SoS ‘doesn’t need convincing’ on transparency issues. Sympathy for call for board transparency.

On ‘voice’ issues…. the SoS indicated that he ‘shared our frustrations’, but processes haven’t revealed sufficient consensus