14 February 2005 NEW INQUIRY

14 February 2005 NEW INQUIRY

Trade, Development and Environment:
The Role of DFID

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) set up a Sub-committee on 26 January 2006 to conduct an inquiry into trade, development and the environment.

The Sub-committee intends to carry out a  series of short inquiries in this area. In carrying out its work the Committee will be examining the role of the UK Government, international organisations such as the World Bank and the WTO, the private sector -  particularly large multinationals -  and NGOs.

The aim of these inquiries will be to examine whether there is policy coherence to ensure that all the instruments being used for increasing development and trade in poorer countries are sustainable - by minimising environmental damage and impacts on climate, and protecting natural resources for future generations. They will also examine the position, and role, of the environment in poverty reduction, trade and development.

Its first inquiry will focus on the Department for International Development (DFID). DFID's expenditure on development in 2004/05 was £2.14 billion on bilateral aid and £1.5 billion through multilateral development institutions. In light of the recent publication of its Sustainable Development Action Plan the Sub-committee will examine how sustainable development, and environmental issues in particular, are incorporated into how it carries out its work. The Sub-committee will also examine how DFID's own activity is linked with that of other Government departments and it will be looking to agriculture for examples of how development can impact the environment, beneficially or not.

The Sub-committee invites organisations and members of the public to submit memoranda setting out their views on this inquiry.

Some specific issues on which the Sub-committee would welcome comments are set out below, although respondents are free to comment on any issues which they consider relevant:

• How does DFID incorporate sustainability generally and environmental issues in particular into its work.  Does the unique definition of sustainable development in the 2002 International Development Act have implications for the environment?

• As a department that is focused on a long term goal, poverty reduction, is sufficient account taken of environmental limits - and the need for development to respect these - when implementing policy? Is there recognition within DFID of the long term impacts aid spending can have on natural resources, including biodiversity, and climate change? Is spending directed accordingly?

• Is there sufficient level of expertise within DFID and country offices on environmental issues? How extensively and effectively is environmental screening of projects applied?

• How does DFID coordinate with recipient governments, other bilateral donors and NGOs on environmental matters? Is there consistency or extensive variation from one country to another?

• How significant a document is DFID's Sustainable Development Action Plan? It includes plans to pilot 'greener' country assistance strategies by 2007. What should this process entail?

• How effective so far have the existing Sustainable Development Dialogues, such as those established with China and India, been? Is this an approach that could be extended further?

• How should environment, development and equity be integrated in the proposed White Paper? Is a pro-poor, pro-environment development agenda possible and, if so, what should be its focus?

• How effectively does DFID influence the work of Multilateral Development Institutions such as the World Bank to ensure that environmental sustainability is taken into account?

• How is DFID's work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals integrated with the targets on fisheries and biodiversity also agreed at the World Summit for Sustainable Development?

• How effective are funds directed by DFID specifically towards the environment,  for example funding of the Global Environmental Fund and towards achieving Millennium Development Goal 7?

• How effectively does DFID work with other departments such as DTI and DEFRA to ensure policy coherence for development across Government, in relation to WTO and trade in particular?

• Are there any examples of where DFID policy has worked well to integrate the environment into policy and project funding, and conversely are there any areas where this has been unsuccessful?

• The inquiry will focus on agriculture, in its widest sense, and the use of natural resources to examine the implications of development. For example, in view of its recently published policy paper on agriculture should DFID be doing more to promote the role of sustainable agriculture in rural development and address the environmental implications of intensive agriculture? What has been learnt from past experience in agricultural development, particularly in Asia? What role do fisheries have in DFID's development work and how is it ensuring sustainability of what is a widely threatened resource? What work is being done to harness the value of natural resources sustainably for the benefit of the poor?

Written evidence should be sent to the Sub-Committee by Monday 13 March  2006,  preferably by e-mail to eacom@parliament.uk  (it is important we are also sent a hard copy by post). A brief guidance note on the preparation and submission of evidence is available on the Committee's web pages.  For further information on the Sub-committee's inquiry, please telephone Elena Ares on 020-7219-4102.

As it is the Sub-committee's intention to commence taking evidence in mid-March, a prompt response from interested parties would be welcome.

Notes for Editors

1. Details of all the Committee's press releases and inquiries, together with its Reports, oral evidence and other publications, are available on the Committee's Internet homepage.

Sub-Committee Membership

Chairman: Colin Challen MP

Ms Celia Barlow MP
Mr Martin Caton MP
David Howarth MP
Mr Edward Vaizey MP