Justine Greening – 2014 Speech in China


Below is the text of the speech made by Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for International Development, in Beijing at the China International Development Research Network on 2nd April 2014.

Thank you for the introduction. I’m absolutely delighted to be hosted by CIDRN and to have the opportunity to address you today about the future of international development.

The UK and China have both been giving assistance to countries in need for more than 50 years. There are differences in our approach to development but there are also important similarities. And there is a lot we can learn from each other.

It was in this spirit that 3 years ago the UK and China established a ground-breaking partnership on international development.

Since then we have established successful collaborations in investment, peacekeeping and building resilience to disasters. Yesterday I had the opportunity to visit the National Disaster Reduction Centre of China to see how China co-ordinates its response to natural disasters.

I have come to Beijing because I think that the UK and China can work together more closely on development.

And by sharing our different experiences of working in the developing world, and our different skills and expertise… collectively we can lift more people out of poverty and help more countries develop, thereby reducing their dependency on aid.

I do not need to tell this audience that the last few decades have seen the most dramatic improvements in living standards the world has ever seen, with the number of people living in absolute poverty falling by half in 20 years.

Much of this was driven by China, where over that same period 680 million people were lifted out of poverty by virtue of your economic success.

There is now a growing conviction across the international community that if we keep at it, we can end absolute poverty within one generation.

I know the UK and China both believe that this must be the simple – but powerful – aim of the next set of development goals when the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015: an end to extreme “dollar a day” poverty for the first time in history.

Yet we know that progress is not inevitable. By 2015 there will still be 900 million people living in absolute poverty and these people will be the most marginalised… the most vulnerable… the most difficult to reach.

It is going to take a global partnership, working together, rallying around a clear and inspiring set of development goals to end poverty for everyone.

And today I would like to set out what the UK sees as some of the key ingredients for a powerful post-2015 framework that leaves no one behind.

Girls and women

As you know the Millennium Development Goals for tackling poverty really served to mobilise and galvanise the international community into action these last 13 years.

And as the deadline for the MDGs approaches, we can cite many real achievements, including visible improvements in all health areas and getting more children into primary education.

We need to finish the job of the MDGs and the next set of development goals must have a clear focus on getting the basics to absolutely everyone: health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation.

And I think that is something we can all rally around and agree on.

But we also need to tackle the issues that the MDGs left out.

Like China, the UK believes that gender equality needs to be a key focus for the next set of development goals. No country can develop properly if they leave half of their population behind and excluded.

In the last few decades significant progress has been made for girls and women. More girls are now going to school, women are living longer, having fewer children and participating in the labour market more.

But there is so much unfinished business. Globally, women do 66% of the world’s work; but women only earn 10% of the world’s income.

And in Africa, whilst 71% of girls attend primary school, only 32% go into secondary education.

One in nine girls in the developing world is forced into marriage before they reach their fifteenth birthday.

Since becoming International Development Secretary I have put girls and women firmly at the heart everything my department does. We are helping women around the world get access to education, financial services and contraception. We are improving women’s land rights and helping them access security and justice.

This July we will host an international summit with our Prime Minister David Cameron to bring together global efforts to help eliminate early and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation. Two really but important, neglected issues.

This agenda needs global action if we are really going to deliver irreversible gains for girls and women. And alongside China we are supporting a dedicated standalone gender goal in the next set of development goals. I hope this can tackle critical issues at the root of gender inequality, such as ending child marriage and securing equal rights for girls and women to open bank accounts and own property.

This will help us go beyond easy wins and really start to overcome the social, cultural and legal barriers that hold girls and women back from playing their full roles in their countries.

Economic Development

I know that the UK and China also agree that a focus on promoting private sector growth and jobs is fundamental to the next set of development goals.

If you ask people in developing countries what they want – and it doesn’t matter at all whether you ask a man or a woman – they’ll often say getting a job and earning an income.

People – no matter where they are – want the opportunity to be financially independent and to have the dignity of being able to provide for themselves and their family.

Since becoming the UK’s International Development Secretary I have ramped up the focus on economic development.

Across the world, we are helping to dismantle barriers to trade, boost investment and improve the business climate.

British development money is modernising ports in Kenya and Uganda, upgrading roads from Uganda to Rwanda and cutting start-up costs for businesses in Nigeria.

And this morning I was pleased to launch a new UK-China partnership with the Ministry of Commerce, focused on strengthening Africa’s trade performance.

Over the next few months we will carry out joint research to assess how trade, investment and aid-for-trade from China and the UK can most effectively support growth and poverty reduction in Nigeria, Ethiopia, South Africa and Kenya.

This partnership has the potential to lead to multiple wins, for the African nations themselves as we build up the evidence base on their specific needs and priorities in those countries, and for the UK and China as well. I look forward to seeing the results and to collaborating more on this in the future.

Stability and security

Gender and economic development are both key ingredients for post-2015 and I know that there is broad consensus on this.

The UK, together with many other countries, also believes that peace and stability for all nations is an intrinsic part of the fight against poverty.

When we come to agreeing the post-2015 framework, we must recognise that strong, effective, accountable institutions are intrinsically valuable outcomes in themselves – in addition to being essential for managing the risks of conflict and providing a stable environment for business.

I think the UK and China can find common ground here as well, and China is already making significant contributions to African countries in this way through its support to peacekeeping missions and efforts at mediation.

This is a really important agenda. We know that conflict-affected states have fared much worse in achieving MDGs and by 2025 around 80% of the world’s extreme poor are expected to live in these same countries.

And just as conflict destroys infrastructure, enterprise, schools, the very things a country needs if it is going to break out of poverty, I believe development can contribute to peace by addressing the root causes of conflict.

This is important to all of us. We all want our own personal security to be respected. And security and stability are vital for girls and women above all.

One in three of all women will be beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime; over half a million die a violent death every single year.

My department – the Department for International Development, or DFID – has a growing portfolio of programmes focusing on these issues.

Britain is assisting Paralegal Committees to help more than 1,200 villages and communities in Nepal to prevent and respond to violence against women and children. This programme has been so successful that the Government of Nepal has asked if it can be integrated into their own Women’s Development Programme.

When we come to agreeing the post-2015 framework, we must recognise that strong, effective, accountable institutions are intrinsically valuable outcomes in themselves…in addition to being essential for managing the risks of conflict and providing a stable environment for all.

We also know that integral to economic growth and development are the institutions and governance that support it. It means a pro-business environment, governments that bear down on corruption, and the rule of law so that contracts can be enforced and so that property rights allow people to invest in their property and keep the hard-earned gains.

On property rights for example, 90% of Africa’s land is estimated to have insecure tenure or contested land rights and this puts a major constraint on growth. The G8 land partnerships, launched during the UK presidency of the G8 last year, are helping to attract responsible investment through better assessment of the land related risks and how to mitigate them.

The Golden Thread, as Prime Minister David Cameron calls it, is not a Western agenda. We recognise the need for countries to craft their own policies and strategies to deliver governance and peace. It is about countries having effective organisations; about governments and judiciaries themselves following rules and inspiring confidence and stability.

But it isn’t only the UK that wants to see these issues included in the post-2015 framework: the Common African Position, adopted recently by African states, includes pillars on peace and security, and economic growth, as well.

This is a powerful message from Africa to the rest of the world and I hope China will join us in listening and partnering with Africa on the post-2015 agenda.

Conclusion: Why development?

When I make the case for international development in the UK I say: it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do.

The right thing to do because we are giving people, wherever they are in the world, the chance to stand on their own feet, to be healthy, and to be able to pursue their lives in their own way, to make the most of their talents.

The UK public consistently shows immense generosity when it comes to helping those in need. And the UK government reflects that with our development work, particularly when it comes to giving life-saving humanitarian assistance.

And development is the smart thing to do as well, because by driving growth and reducing the risks of investment in the world’s emerging and frontier markets, we have an opportunity to do even more business with them.

The UK has been one of the many beneficiaries of China’s own development. Back in 1992, the value of UK exports was just £600 million. In 2011, our two-way trade was £13.7 billion and growing.

International development means international trade and international trade means jobs and prosperity both overseas and at home. So working together is in all our interests.

Today the world is at a crossroad for deciding the future of international development. We have a historic opportunity to agree a compelling set of post-2015 development goals.

During my visit here this week I have been very pleased to discover how much common ground there exists between our two countries on the post-2015 agenda.

And I truly believe that if we hold the course and work together to address the issues I have outlined today, we can ensure ours is the generation that eradicates extreme poverty once and for all.