Category: Aid

Commonwealth Future Luncheon

Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at Commonwealth Future’s luncheon for the launch of their ‘2020 Vision’ campaign to promote eye care and the avoidance of preventable eyesight throughout the Commonwealth. 

Lord Sheikh was pleased to speak about the Commonwealth having grown up in East Africa and visited a number of the 54 countries. Lord Sheikh has in fact led a debate and spoken in the House of Lords several times on the subject of the Commonwealth as it is an enduring symbol of unity and perhaps the greatest of all international associations. 

Lord Sheikh made the point that more can be done to bring Commonwealth countries closer and we need to be innovative and establish new initiatives. One such initiative is the ‘2020 Vision’ campaign by Commonwealth Future. 

Commonwealth Future hopes to equalise the standard of Optometry throughout the Commonwealth and help improve vision through the use of optical aids, which are easier in a volume-based population. They wish to emphasise the importance on human prosperity and equality on correcting one’s sight. Lord Sheikh feels that eyesight is of great importance to quality of life and he in fact has his own foundation which supports charities who perform eye surgeries in developing countries.

The luncheon bought together like-minded guests from prestigious backgrounds who are interested in shaping the future of the Commonwealth.

FIRE AID and International Development Conference 2019

The FIRE AID and International Development Conference was held at the London Fire Brigade HQ on 1st November 2019.

The conference was opened by Jim Fitzpatrick MP who is the Chair of FIRE AID. The conference had discussions on the importance of supporting Fire and Rescue Charities, the importance of data and research in post-crash response and working in partnership to improve post-crash response.

FIRE AID is a charity which provides ethical and sustainable donations of fire and rescue equipment and training to over 50 countries across the world.

Lord Sheikh was invited to speak on his experience in Tajikistan when he visited the Republican Fire Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan alongside His Excellency Mr Matthew Lawson, the British Ambassador to Tajikistan to close the latest FIRE AID project.

 

Overseas Aid: Charities and Faith-based Organisations

My Lords, I am pleased to speak briefly in the gap. I begin by saying that I, with my close family and friends, have our own charity, which is entirely funded by us. In addition, I am a patron of two charities. Muslims all over the world believe in helping people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Muslims also believe that we have a moral duty to support charitable organisations through giving our time and resources wherever possible. I am sure everyone agrees there is a great deal of pleasure in giving, as both the donor and the recipient gain satisfaction.

There are many Muslim charities that are based in the United Kingdom. UK Muslims gave over £100 million to charity during the month of Ramadan last year. That is £38 a second. Muslim charities help deserving causes in the United Kingdom and provide support and assistance in overseas countries. Some of these countries have been affected by war; others are affected by famine, climate change or natural disasters. These charities perform splendid work in providing water, shelter and food. They are also involved in helping people to earn a living. I feel that charities should get involved in the education of young people and the training of people generally in order to make them self-sufficient.

I would like to emphasise that Muslim charities help to support and provide aid to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. They support people of all races, colours and religions all over the world. This fact needs to be appreciated, as it sets out the philosophy of the Muslim charities. I have connections to several Muslim charities and know the trustees and senior executives. There are charities that have been doing remarkable work, going back to the early 1980s. It is the faith of the Muslims, and we believe that faith is the fourth emergency service. Individuals have shown a willingness to volunteer time, professionalism and extend friendship. While the giving of charity is part of the Islamic faith, most Muslims will give charity with humility. Muslims believe in discretion, and we feel that the left hand should not know what the right hand gives.

I would also like to state that Muslim charities are the bedrock of their local communities and help whenever there are problems in the UK. For example, after the Grenfell tragedy, Muslim charities played a vital role in helping the people who were affected. I would like to add that at the charities with which I am connected there is proper governance, accountability and transparency in every aspect of their work. These charities have controlled their expenses and put into practice proper safeguards, which are implemented at all times. I was very pleased that a recent event organised with Islamic Relief that I hosted in the House of Lords was attended by the Secretary of State from the Department for International Development and the Minister. DfID has provided support to Islamic Relief under the UK aid match programme. I would like to ask the Minister: is DfID willing to accept applications from suitable Muslim charities for similar support? 

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development:

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, talked about the generosity of Muslim charities. I attended the wonderful event in the River Room. In one of those amazing juxtapositions, in the space of one week I went from announcing an aid match for the Lent appeal for Christian Aid to doing to the same for CAFOD. I then went to the launch of Islamic Relief, involving zakat. We were UK aid-matching them all. The first time I heard that £100 million had been given in one month by the Muslim community of Britain, I had to double-check it. I thought, “Surely there’s an extra nought on the end”, but the figure is absolutely correct. I do not know why we do not hear more in the media about our British Muslim community. It is the most generous of the faith communities in the United Kingdom and we are incredibly proud of the contribution that it makes to this great country.

Link to full debate on Hansard

International Development – Question

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to ensure that funds allocated to international development are spent in accordance with their objectives.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the Government are focusing on delivering specific results and better value for money through our programmes. DfID is measuring the results and making them transparent so that the Government can be held to account. The Secretary of State for International Development has also established the Independent Commission for Aid Impact to provide independent assurance that UK aid is being spent properly and is achieving the desired impacts. The commission reports directly to Parliament through the International Development Select Committee.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. The Public Accounts Committee in another place found recently that DfID had no systematic or comprehensive approach to quantifying the extent of foreign corruption and was unable to provide an estimate of the scale of leakage. Does the Minister agree that this is not acceptable, and what action are the Government taking to put this right to ensure that they secure value for money?

Baroness Northover: My Lords, it certainly would be unacceptable if this were the case. The report very much reflects the position of the past and takes little account, it seems to me, of the changes made by the coalition. For example, in 2009-10 about 43 per cent of known losses were recovered, whereas over the past year that has risen to 92 per cent. We have also transformed the way in which the department manages its finances so that spending is attached to tangible results, which are being rigorously scrutinised by the new independent aid watchdog that I referred to just now.

International Development Aid – Question

Lord Sheikh:

 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to focus international development aid on fragile and conflict-affected states.

 

Baroness Verma: My Lords, focusing UK aid on fragile and conflict-affected states is central to our development efforts and makes a significant contribution to our national security. All UK bilateral and multilateral aid is currently being reviewed, ensuring a greater focus on results and maximising the impact of every pound spent.

 

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. What discussions has her department had on improving the interface between different government departments to support fragile and conflict-afflicted states so that they do not become a future security risk? Can she also explain what the Government are doing to assist these states in the achievement of the millennium development goals?

 

Baroness Verma: My Lords, the Government’s strategic defence and security review set out a clear vision of enhanced UK work on upstream conflict prevention. Building on this, DfID, alongside the FCO and MoD, is taking the lead in developing the Government’s new Building Stability Overseas strategy to be published in the spring. This strategy will set out how we will use development, diplomatic and security tools in an integrated approach to tackling conflict and instability overseas. No fragile state has yet achieved a single millennium development goal.

International Aid – Question

Lord Sheikh:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what proportion of the United Kingdom’s international aid budget is currently spent through international bodies; and whether they have any plans to change this proportion.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for asking the Question. I know that he shares a great interest in overseas development. In 2009-10, 62 per cent of DfID’s aid budget was spent through multilateral organisations. This includes funding at headquarters level and support for particular programmes and projects at country level. The Government are currently reviewing their bilateral and multilateral spending in order to maximise effectiveness and value for money. These reviews will determine the future shape of our aid budget in terms of how much funding we provide to different countries and international organisations.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Is she satisfied that these multilateral bodies to which we contribute are assiduous in ensuring that we gain value for money as a result of the contribution made? What more can be done to guarantee that our foreign policy priorities are reflected in the distribution of funds through this mechanism?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, multilateral organisations have strong controls in place on financial accountability and transparency. The UK, as a shareholder, has helped to shape these controls and we work hard to monitor effectiveness of multilateral expenditure. The ongoing multilateral aid review is assessing the overall effectiveness of organisations. Each multilateral organisation has its own mandate designed to address a specific challenge. The review is also looking at the relevance of each organisation to the UK’s objectives.