Though the House of Commons has been in recess for the party conference season, this does not mean that Parliamentary and Constituency work stops. It certainly doesn’t.
As a member elected to the International Development Select Committee I am part of a small cross party body of MPs tasked with holding the Government to account on the work of the Department for International Development.
Earthquakes, Typhoons and the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa are all examples of disasters that need emergency relief. The initial aid is only part of the assistance. Long term recovery plans and sustained development or rebuilding are equally important if not more so. As a committee we are currently taking evidence and holding enquiries into the UK’s response to the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, and the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. Our aim is to focus on the effectiveness of the aid the UK provided; that it was delivered to those that needed it most, and that follow up assistance is also provided. For the Ebola crisis public education as to how a virus is caught and spread is essential.
Another area of the committee’s work is on the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs as they are often referred, which were launched at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September. Members of the Select Committee visited the United Nations last week to learn more and collect evidence for our enquiry. There is only so much that you can learn from typed written reports prepared by others. The attention and focus from world leaders, civil society and people in general was clear. The goals (SDGs) are wide ranging, and include tackling poverty, maternal and child mortality, good governance and accountability, energy policy and the ending of violence against women and girls. The agreed goals are universal though voluntary and have been accepted by our government as well as other members of the UN. It will be interesting to follow over the coming months and years how different governments implement and ultimately achieve these aims.
Yes, there are the humanitarian, justice and social wellbeing elements to the goals but the governance and accountability elements are there and they are vital. With International Development spending set at 0.7% of GDP the role of the Select Committee is ever more important. The scrutiny of our Government, ensuring effective delivery of humanitarian aid and development assistance as we seek to go beyond aid, creating a more sustainable approach. The goals should also help to focus on those countries that receive the aid, particularly development aid, ensuring that it reaches the intended recipients.
Now back in Aldridge-Brownhills, away from the immediate pressures of Parliament, it is good to be out and about in the community again, to visit some of our schools, spend time with the community nursing team and pop in to the Air Cadets in Brownhills. We are very fortunate to have so much to offer locally.