08 October 2012
Five Takeaways from the Conservative Party Conference
1. The new DFID Secretary of State, Justine Greening, makes a good first impression. And this in spite of being ambushed by me in the midst of a busy conference hotel lobby. My conclusion is based on a meeting of about 4 minutes but, hey, most of the time first impressions are right. Further highly scientific research confirms that people at Conference have lots of good things to say about her—namely that she has been a very effective Minister, has made a good start at DFID and has an inclusive style.
2. A Major NGO Food Campaign. A new large multi-NGO campaign will be unveiled in the New Year. It is great that the UK NGOs have managed to work together to develop such a broad, big and potentially engaging campaign. But will it be too late? The June 2013 London G8 agenda will be set in the next few months and it looks like the food and nutrition agenda may be delinked from the main G8 agenda. How can hunger and malnutrition be set aside by the G8? More amazingly, how can such UK electoral gold be misplaced? Campaigners, we need you to spring into action.
3. Nutrition advocates need to up their ambition. This moment in the SUN will not last for long. IDS hosted an invite-only breakfast meeting on this topic and the 10 high level participants agreed that now is the time to make major inroads on stunting: economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is holding up, tax revenues are up, global commitment is high, national commitment is beginning to grow, and public resources are beginning to flow, despite peaking ODA levels. But is the current energy too statist? As one participant put it: “the mood music has changed but the instruments remain the same”. There was a sense among some of the participants that the private sector interest in nutrition (and not just from the food companies) is not being sufficiently exploited—that the private sector train has left the station, but needs direction. There was also a call for new forms of financing for nutrition (see this just released ACF-IDS report by IDS Fellow Stephen Spratt on the topic). But I’m not so sure that SUN merely represents old wine in new bottles—a more enabling environment can be the spark to unlock business action.
4. The Conservative Friends of International Development is a masterstroke. CFID is a voluntary organisation, with the aim of informing party members about the difference that aid can make, co-chaired by Baroness Anne Jenkin and Stephen O’Brien. It also seems to be a very effective commitment and communication mechanism for building support within the party. (Post-blog addition: The Labour Party have the much more established Labour Campaign for International Development which I seem to have missed--apologies to David Taylor in particular.)
5. Development Initiatives is kind of cool. DI monitors and analyses resource flows for development. Their Director, Tony German, and I have been co-presenters on many panels, but we have never really had a discussion beyond “can you pass that bottle of water” or “is this mike on?” I am already a consumer of many of their excellent reports (see this one on DRR), so it was good to catch up over lunch. Being a bit of a nerd, I find DI’s work (based on the premise that the right to information is a good thing) to be really interesting—unearthing accurate resource flows, analysing the fairness and effectiveness of allocations, and trying to make sense of even the most unloved official databases. As 2015 nears, the kind of work they do will become even more important. What might different MDG configurations mean for resource allocation? And how has ODA changed as a result of the Coalition Government.
The theme of the Conservative Party Conference was “Britain Can Deliver”. The last I saw of Justine Greening she was talking with journalists from the Mail on Sunday--no doubt making the case that “Aid Can Deliver”.
It’s a case that will have to be made over and over again in the next few years--without compromising our ability to be honest about when it does not work.
Posted by Lawrence Haddad at 18:55