|Justine Greening MP Talks On Her Role In International Development
Victoria Diamond summarises The Putney Society event on 6th March
Justine gave a very interesting talk, giving us some continuity with the talk in November which she had to cut short, as she was on her way to the Philippines to see for herself the damage Typhoon Haiyan had done. She told us about the number of different forms of transport she had to take to get to Tacloban, and the destruction that she saw on arrival. She was pleased to meet representatives of all the different Aid agencies, and find out where and how aid was being distributed. The utter devastation and the overwhelming smell are things Justine said she won’t forget. Justine’s department is trying to assist with the Disaster Resistance Plan to help make buildings that are being re-built more disaster proof, and has made education a high priority.
From the Philippines, Justine flew to Afghanistan, where she met with President Karzai. She told him that she was deeply concerned at the proposal to reintroduce stoning as a punishment for adultery, and he reassured her that he understood her concerns.
Justine also visited Africa and Syria recently, and gave us a good oversight on the complex realities of her job, and the different kinds of aid that are needed around the world.
Justine is passionate in her belief that we have to cut violence against women, and is focussing on stopping F.G.M. (Female Genital Mutilation) and early enforced marriages in the UK, as well as wherever else in the world she can make a difference. Women’s rights in the UK should all be the same and not different for other cultures or religions. Her approaches in Ethiopia are being met positively towards these two issues.
Questions that were asked covered a wide variety of topics.
Syrian refugees: Justine has been out and met with the NGO’s and refugees. The UK has supplied as much financial aid as the European Union and Germany put together. There is the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme for those who have suffered violence and torture, as well as those in need of urgent serious medical care, and children who are in danger. One of the huge issues is that out of some 3 million refugees, over 40% are 17 and under.
Many of the Syrian refugees are massed on the borders of their country because they want to go home. Not all are desperate to come here!
Uganda – we’ve stopped giving aid which goes directly to the government there because of endemic corruption. None of the aid was getting through to the people who need it. Aid has also been suspended to Malawi (corruption), and Rwanda, where aid was being turned into weapons for the Democratic Republic of Congo. Work is being done with NGO’s who are working there to find ways of getting aid to continue the fight with Malaria, AIDS etc
Bangladesh – after the garment factory fire last year they’re working with the garment industry chains, eg Primark, to make sure that they’re meeting higher standards on the ground. We’ve sent out building surveying experts to help build up a cadre of experts locally. Primark has a leading role ensuring families affected are compensated.
Justine’s department is working with private businesses, such as M&S linking them with Oxfam. Oxfam sits on M&S’s ethical advisory board. John Lewis has apprenticeships in South Africa. They are also helping countries such as Liberia form a better tax system using a joint HMRC unit. Need a better tax system to ensure that hospitals etc get better funding.
UK is one of the very few countries with a Bribery Act.
The Wood Family Trust (http://www.woodfamilytrust.org.uk/) is a Scottish based charity with a Global outlook. In Sub Saharan Africa and in the UK, WFT will invest in economic, community and enterprise initiatives which develop and support individuals to become caring and contributing members of society. The Trust is proactive by nature and will only accept applications through our global citizenship programme. This is a good model that Justine’s department are looking at, with the aim of helping overseas farmers.
Justine is also looking at the concept of a UK Development Bank. Giving grants if often the best way to help things work. There’s the Stock Exchange Initiative, Social impact investment.
Many thanks to Justine for a most informative talk.