Highlights of UK NGO meeting with Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn

21 April 2006 | Minutes


DFID/Treasury:Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development; Howard Taylor; Chris Hindley, DfID; Nikki Jens, DfID; John Moye, DfID; Stephen Pickford, Treasury;Anna Nsubuga, Treasury;Miranda Schnitger, Treasury; Joe Thornton, Senior Policy Advisor, Treasury.

NGOs:Lucy Baker, Policy and Networking Officer BWP; Robin Robison, Programme Manager global economic concerns, QPSW; Trisha Rogers, Director, JDC David Woodward, NEF; Romilly Greenhill, Policy Officer, Aid and accountability, ActionAid; Anna Thomas, ChristianAid; Bridget Sleap, Policy Officer, HelpAge International; Jo Trevor, Parliamentary Advisor, World Vision; Pete Hardstaff, Head of Campaigns Policy, WDM; Andrew Scott, Policy and Programmes Director, Practical Action; Kirsty McNeill, government relations manager, DATA;Bronwen Thomas, Campaigns and policy officer, People and Planet; Tom Griffiths, Policy Advisor and IFI Programme Coordinator, Forest Peoples Programme; Catherine Pearce, Friends of the Earth; Stephen Rand, Jubilee Debt Campaign

On the IMF (SP)

Three main issues:

Parliamentarians should "just get stuck in"
  1. Global imbalances and multi-lateral surveillance
  2. Financing of the Fund- repayment by Brazil and Argentina now makes it harder for the Fund to generate income
  3. Quotas and voice: pressure from Asian emerging markets who are under-represented on the board of the fund in terms of voting power.
  4. Expectation for greater practical action at Singapore

On Climate change and clean investment framework

HB: Being considered now at the spring meetings. There will be a final paper at the autumn meetings. Must consider to what extent it is a priority for the Bank’s work.

Key questions:

  • AT: What is UK/DfID looking for from the clean energy framework and where will the committed $20 billion come from? How is clean energy being defined?
  • BT: Is DfID planning to push the Bank to phase out support for fossil fuels along with increasing investment in clean energy?
  • AS: The EIF appears to combine in one policy initiative the tackling of both adaptation and mitigation. Adaptation is not about energy and is more about livelihood strategies- to what extent should adaptation included in the energy investment framework?
  • CP: Where does the investment framework sit alongside other commitments, what does the regulatory framework mean, and what does it refer to? Does DfID think that the existing architecture, Kyoto etc is sufficient?

Key responses (HB):

  • UK looking for means to help finance forms of less polluting energy generation. Demand for energy is large and growing. Question of whether we can raise finance through private banks and the development sector?
  • He gave vague definition of clean energy (not clear if this might include nuclear, large dams, ‘clean coal’ etc). He emphasised ‘less polluting’ forms of energy and meeting energy demands rather than emphasising renewables and energy efficiency.
  • Energy investment framework is about catalysing other investment through existing RDB and donor funding
  • Stern review is to be published in October
  • UK has been pushing to Bank to increase financing for renewables
  • Energy investment framework is about cleaner forms of energy generation
  • doesn’t know a great deal about the regulatory framework. Referred NGOs back to the PM’s letter written to Stop Climate Chaos which acknowledged the need for emission targets.
  • An agreement is needed that includes all emitters, and the World Bank can not sort that out alone

On IFC safeguard policy review

Key points:

  • LB: UK NGOs welcome DfID’s position paper put out in March and the opportunity for NGOs to consult with DfID in November 2005. However, there has been significant backsliding in DfID’s March position paper from previous position statements, for instance on human rights. Question of how this fits within DfID’s rights based approach to development, and the broader question of how DfID is pushing human rights agenda at the Bank.
  • TG: There are many instances of where Bank standards have been lowered in the IFC’s new policies
  • TG: While some improvements in the IFC’s new policies, e.g requirement for social assessments, there are several concrete cases of serious weakenings of existing safeguards that could result in inadequate protections for vulnerable people e.g reversal of the World Bank’s fair treatment of landless people under its resettlement policy.
  • Would DFID support last-minute changes to the IFC policies to remove the most problematic language and insert critical safeguards before the policies come into force?
  • Will DFID promote the involvement of affected communities and civil society in the 18 month and three-year reviews of the implementation of the new IFC social and environmental standards?

Key responses (HB)

  • Feels that progress has been made, even though not perfect. Does not feel that there have been so many weakenings
  • Questioned the relevance of human rights impact assessments
  • They share concerns on several issues raised by UK NGOs that were not addressed in the final policies, such as the need to release draft Action Plans to communities, “.but progress has been made and policies cannot be perfect”.

On Corruption (HB)

  • Pressure on all of us to demonstrate clearly how to give development assistance
  • He welcomes Wolfowitz being outspoken, on this issue, and the actions he is taking to reduce corruption and raise accountability
  • UK is promoting EITI (extractive industry transparency initiative), hopes to take these principles into other areas
  • Nigeria- efforts made to fight corruption, made the Paris debt club deal possible.
  • Have to support developing countries themselves in tackling corruption-UK has ratified UN convention on corruption- a positive step.

On conditionality

Key points:

  • RG: Would like more than a simple report back. Would like to know where UK is working with other governments
  • AT: UK has a progressive position on conditionality, is it considering stronger measures at the Bank/Fund e.g abstaining from votes?

Key response (HB)::conditionality v. corruption. Have to consider where conditionality is/isn’t appropriate

On debt

Key points:

  • JDC: would like the UK gov to make sure that economic policy conditions are not hidden in the PRGF.
  • Sunset clause should be on a needs basis rather than economic ratios
  • Concern at the disparity in relationship between the Bank and Fund, and that the IMF should have looked at both. Need to focus on poverty
  • On IMF, with new aid and MDGs, is the UK pushing to ensure that the IMF will allow countries to absorb aid money?
  • DW: from a longer term perspective, looking at the 30th anniversary of Sub-Saharan Africa’s debt rescheduling. This was too little, too late. Need for a fundamental review of this, and to establish mechanisms to ensure that it never happens again.
  • JT: Greater parliamentary scrutiny of PRSPs is needed.
  • SR: Expressed concern that the IMF strategy paper indicated that the Fund would withdraw from the Joint Staff Assessment Notes, which could undermine the whole focus on poverty currently expressed through the PRS. Stephen Pickford (Treasury) indicated that they were aware of this issue and concerned to ensure the right poverty focus from Bank and Fund in the future. (Subsequent correspondence has indicated that the UK have pressed for JASN to continue.)

Key responses:

  • SP: On the strategic review, there needs to be more clarity on the mandate of the Bank and Fund. Need also to make coordination between the two institutions work better. They have asked a panel of external people to look at the issues and report back.
  • HB: We have a good idea of what has happened, and don’t need anymore reviews. On the multilateral debt cancellation agreement, this only took place last July so can’t expect too much too soon, and much progress has been made since then. Need to get the G8 agreements in motion first, and then get on with helping other countries through the HIPC process
  • HB: The Bank/Fund shouldn’t need to press for parliamentary scrutiny. He doesn’t see an obstacle. Parliamentarians should “just get stuck in”.

On Social transfers

  • BS: Call from 13 African governments for nationally lead state protection schemes. They would like to see DfID’s commitment to support this, and go beyond the Bank’s Africa Action Plan. DfID could support this with reliable, long-term and predictable funding
  • HB: Agreed that we must talk about social protection more and acknowledge it as an issue that is coming up since we are now having to deal with the consequences of not having had SP schemes in place.
  • DFID is trying to enter into longer term commitments with national governments through DBS and is trying to get more donors to make longer term commitments as well.
  • DFID is very interested in social transfer and in extending their support for the Ethiopia pilot to other countries.