My feed

to access all these features

WEBCHAT GUIDELINES: 1. One question per member plus one follow-up. 2. Keep your question brief. 3. Don't moan if your question doesn't get answered. 4. Do be civil/polite. 5. If one topic or question threatens to overwhelm the webchat, MNHQ will usually ask for people to stop repeating the same question or point.

MNHQ have commented on this thread

Mumsnet webchats

Live webchat with Douglas Alexander, secretary of state for international development, Tues 2 March, 1.15-2pm

86 replies

GeraldineMumsnet · 25/02/2010 13:23

We're very pleased that Douglas Alexander is joining us for a webchat on 2 March at 1.15pm.As it's Fairtrade Fortnight, he would like to discuss the importance of Fairtrade and how UK shoppers can help farmers in developing countries with their purchases. On Mon 22 Feb, the Dept for International Development launched the first-ever Fairtrade raisins from Afghanistan and coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the value of Fairtrade goods sold globally is set to triple to £9 billion a year by 2013.If you've got any questions you'd like to put to Douglas about Fairtrade or any other topics, please join us. Please note the chat will last for 45 mins, not an hour. Thanks, MNHQ.

OP posts:
oricella · 02/03/2010 14:30

Many thanks - I'll keep an eye out for your other answers

HelenMumsnet · 02/03/2010 15:51

Hello. Just popping on to post a link to the volunteering scheme Douglas talked about in his reply to nearlyfifty.

It gives young people a chance to work in developing countries for 10 weeks.

Maiakins · 02/03/2010 16:11

Thanks Douglas ... still chuckling about the image of you wandering around Nairobi airport at 2am trying to find a last-minute toy for your children! Keep up the good work at DFID.

jkklpu · 02/03/2010 21:19

Good session - sorry not to have been part of it.

A quick point of order, however: As Mr Alexander would know fine well, despite the John Major article to which he referred, the much more recent Tory policy states that they'd ring-fence and actually increase development spending (not sure if this is real terms, but at least maintain current levels) moving to the target of 0.7% of GDP by 2013, which Labour have never achieved. They've also published intentions to make DFID's spending more transparent and efficient (again, good aspirations though not entirely clear how successful they'll be).

So it's a pity DA decided not to be transparent about the Opposition's policy. I've nothing to do with either party, by the way, just not too impressed with the wilful distortion.

DouglasAlexander · 04/03/2010 13:02

Jenniferturkington - We're still working out the exact details on who will be providing what to the $100bn global climate fund, but we do expect a significant amount to be new and additional.

The £1.5 billion will come from our rising aid budget as it climbs to 0.7% of UK GDP over the next three years. This means that, importantly, we do not have to alter our existing budgets to pay for climate change - in fact our health and education budgets, as well as several others, will increase over the next three years.

It's also worth mentioning that the £1.5 billion fund will pay for projects that both tackle climate change AND help to alleviate poverty. For instance providing drought-resistant crops to poor farmers, as we do in Malawi, both protects them against warming temperatures and feeds families. Our support for community forestry in Nepal both helps to protect one of the world's most important carbon sinks and offers a livelihood to millions. I hope this alleviates some of your concerns.

DouglasAlexander · 04/03/2010 13:04

Maiakins, I can assure you, that wasn?t the only time - in this job I?ve done a lot of frantic wandering around airports at unearthly hours in search of children?s presents?

On your question about the future of international development, yes, it?s clear the world is changing ? we?ve already seen the G8 expand to the G20 for instance.

We are now seeing countries that have direct, relatively recent, experience of extreme poverty boasting some of the largest economies in the world ? it is vital that we use the knowledge they will bring to the table and put it into practice in the world?s poorest countries.

And we?re pooling our own knowledge with them too ? to give just one example, in the DRC we?re working with Chinese donors to ensure there are environmental and social safeguards for their projects on new roads in rural areas.

And yes, we?re aware of the Bank of the South but as yet it?s still in the early stages.

DouglasAlexander · 04/03/2010 13:05

AgEngineer - our partner governments must commit to poverty reduction, human rights and sound financial management as part of any aid we give them. However, we don?t use aid to influence general policy in countries we give money to ? and evidence shows that donor-imposed conditions on policy are actually counterproductive.

More specifically on opium, we are tackling the opium trade in Afghanistan, in conjunction with the Afghan people. In Helmand Province, where most of Afghanistan?s opium comes from, the anti-opium initiative is being led by the Afghan District Governor himself, with support from the UK government. Governor Mangal?s ?wheat not poppy? programme provides 70, 000 farmers with subsidised wheat seed, fertiliser and advice on the best farming techniques. It?s backed by £8m of UK support. And it is working - this programme helped to contribute to a 33% reduction in opium in Helmand, according to the UN.

DouglasAlexander · 04/03/2010 13:06

Oricella, I do understand why you?re concerned and we do have measures in place to ensure people in developing countries get a fair deal.
The UK and other governments have agreed a rigorous set of minimum standards called the OECD (the Office for Economic Co-operation and Development ? even more acronyms than on mumsnet in development!) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises for responsible behaviour. The UK Government investigates complaints against any UK-based firm that is accused of breaching these guidelines.

We name and shame companies that are in breach of the Guidelines and this can have real financial consequences. For instance last year a complaint against Vedanta mining company's operations in India was upheld, and subsequent to that a major investor, the Church of England, has disinvested in the company.

Where agencies like the World Bank are involved in major investment projects, they follow strict procedures that ensure the interests of local people are properly included.

We also encourage and help fund and promote various voluntary efforts that are more aspirational and go further than the OECD Guidelines, such as the Ethical Trading Initiative (which drives improvements in working conditions in global supply chains) and, of course, Fairtrade.

DouglasAlexander · 04/03/2010 14:55

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

policywonk · 04/03/2010 16:45

From what I've seen, the broad story of the Tory about-turn on international development - while welcome, given their truly appalling record pre-97 - masks some deeper political differences between Labour's approach and the Tories'. Andrew Mitchell has spoken quite a lot about diverting DFID funds towards peacekeeping activities, for example, whereas currently such costs are met by other departments. And the Conservatives seem to be much more interested in by-passing developing country governments and giving funds directly to private enterprises operating within states, whereas Labour's emphasis (as far as I understand it) is still on working with governments.

Maiakins · 04/03/2010 17:46

Thanks for your answer Douglas. It is an interesting situation with the new changing world order, but glad to hear that DFID is working with these emerging economies and learning from their experiences, rather than resisting change.

And next trip - make sure your people in DFID schedule in some time for (fairtrade) shopping for gifts for your children! Tell them that the women at mumsnet have ordered it!

Oh goodness, policywonk - I do not like the sound of that plan at all, it sounds rather sneaky.

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.