JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tomorrow, ministers
from the world's richest countries are meeting in Mexico for another of
those sessions where they talk about the poor. If they'd always delivered
on every promise that's ever been made there'd be no poor people left.
But they haven't. When push comes to shove charity usually begins at
home - and the poorest stay poor. Indeed, by many measurements the gap
between the world's richest and the world's poorest is widening, not getting
narrower. The current big promise is that by 2015 the numbers of the very
poorest will be cut by half and every child will get at least a primary
education. There's much more besides. But it will all cost a lot more
- about thirty five Billion pounds, fifty billion dollars every year more
than they're giving at the moment - and so far there's nothing like that
amount being offered. The International Development Secretary, Clare Short,
will be Britain's representative at the talks. She's also in the news
of course at the moment because she's worried about what Washington has
in mind for Iraq. Just before she left this morning I spoke to her. I
asked her first about aid, and suggested that the rich countries keep
making promises but don't put up the hard cash.
CLARE SHORT: That's not correct, firstly
the Millennium Development Goals aren't about money, they are about the
world committing to intensify its effort to reduce poverty, get children
into school, improve healthcare, therefore children survive and women don't
die in childbirth.
HUMPHRYS: All of which costs money.
SHORT: Yes, but there's also cost
reform, aid without reform gives you Mobutu no progress, so just aid isn't
it, it's reform to run economies, way on in a way that ensures that they
grow, that domestic savings stay at home and are invested back into the
economy and they are the conditions that attract inward investment which
brings you access to modern technology and then aid can give you access
to ideas, policy reform and then speeding up things like getting more children
into school and so on. So you need that combination. We've got fifty billion
dollars of international aid in the current system and it has been declining
because people have become cynical about all of this. They call it compassion
fatigue but I think people starting not believing that aid worked. Actually
in recent years we've improved its effectiveness massively and we need
to turn round that public perception. Certainly, in Britain people care
about levels of poverty, but they feel nothing works. So, we've got international
consensus on how to do the reform, we've got fifty billion and we're going
to a meeting, where if we don't come up with more money, things will turn
sour and nasty and I think partly because of that, this is one of the advantages
of the EU meetings, we have now had the EU come up with, by 2006 an extra
seven billion a year, and commitments to reform and improve the way the
money is spent, and President Bush, in an administration that's been saying
aid is a waste of time and we don't believe in it, suddenly comes up with
another five billion. Now that's not the extra fifty billion that the
World Bank say we need to really meet the Millennium Development Goals,
but it's turnaround.
HUMPHRYS: But it's not a big enough
turnaround is it, that's really the point I'm making. Five billion sounds,
from the United States, sounds a great deal of money but that's five billion
over three years, that works out at about ten per cent of what is already,
bearing in mind the United States is the world's richest country by far,
a tiny, tiny budget compared with their gross national product. I mean
that five billion actually isn't very much, is what I'm saying...
HUMPHRYS: ...very mean..
SHORT: It's not very much but this
is an administration that in all the preparations for the Monterrey meeting,
have been saying aid is a waste of time, we don't believe in aid, we don't
believe in the Millennium Development Goals, we are never going to commit
ourselves to the 0.7 of GDP for aid which is the UN target. Suddenly,
the President makes a speech saying, I support the Millennium Development
Goals and I've come up with five billion dollars so that's a turnaround.
HUMPHRYS: It's a gesture rather
than a really significant...
SHORT: Well I think it's a turn
around and it isn't - throwing money around is not the only point, the
point is to commit to an agenda of reform, to more trade access, to resolving
some of the conflicts that large parts of Africa are stuck in conflict
and therefore can't develop and then deploying aid well. Of the fifty billion
we've got, if we used it more effectively to go where the poor are and
to back reformers, it would be worth fifty per cent more. So my own view
and I think this is what's happening, in this country, is you've got to
show you know what you are doing, you are serious, there's no messing about,
the aid isn't being used for cheap political reasons, or for trade reasons,
it's really going to help poor people get the chance of a better life.
We've got to get the world into that kind of mood and I think things are
turning, that is my judgement and as you've said the money is tiny. I mean,
Britain, we've increased our spend, we are on three billion pounds. We
spend a hundred billion on social security, these are very tiny amounts
of money, but well used can really help really poor countries to really
turn themselves around and start to grow and reduce poverty.
HUMPHRYS: In Britain, we are still
nowhere near meeting that point seven per cent. I mean that is the trouble
isn't it, and it is a manifesto commitment from your party, it was in 1997,
it was again the last time around. And the difficulty is that although
as you say, we have been increasing the amount we give, it's still less
than half of that target of point seven per cent.
SHORT: Yeah, I started though,
I mean the last Labour government - you and I can remember that far back,
left it at point five two and it was going up steadily to the point seven...
HUMPHRYS: And then it came down.
SHORT: It came back, I took over
it's point two six, we've increased from two point two billion to three
point six billion and we've got to keep on going up and get ourselves to
the...it would be seven billion in the UK if the UK was meeting the UN
target. So we've got a way to go, but in the meantime we've refocused what
we do, we've focused on the poor areas, we've focused on reformers, we've
untied all our aid from trade contracts. So it's some of the most effective
aid in the world and now we're just having a comprehensive policy review
and the budgets for another three years, so I'm talking to Gordon a lot.
HUMPHRYS: Ah, are you getting anywhere
SHORT: Gordon cares about development
as you know.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, what he said was
that too often we fail to meet our targets, I mean I'm quoting one of his
own documents now "our ambitions outreach our achievements. It's not enough
to make a pledge". So, if you are trying to bend his arm, you are in
a very strong moral position aren't you.?
SHORT: I agree completely. I absolutely
agree. Gordon cares, he's made some very strong statements, the Prime Minister
has said that Africa is a priority, we deploy our money very, very effectively,
you know that's the review of the UK's programme across the world. So I
am expecting a good settlement.
HUMPHRYS: It's going to have to
be good won't it because at the present rate, we did a bit of sums in the
office this morning and at the present rate it will take thirty odd years
to reach our target.
SHORT: That's right, so it's turned
around and increased and it's much more effective, but at the present rate
of progress, it would take to 2040 for Britain to get to 0.7...
HUMPRHYS: That's not good enough
is it, you don't believe that's good enough.
SHORT: No, it isn't. So as I say,
I'm expecting a good settlement this time.
HUMPHRYS: Have you got a target
yourself? I mean, have you got a date by which we should reach our commitment?
SHORT: As soon as possible. And
obviously I can't, I'm negotiating with Gordon, I'm expecting a good settlement.
I'm not going to say anything that blows that up today.
HUMPHRYS: Of course it has to come
SHORT: Well, it has to come from
the growing British economy. We do survey work now to see how our public
education work's going, and this isn't just to sort of get people to like
my department. If we don't, as a country, and other countries like us,
face up to the levels of inequality and poverty in the world, we're going
to hand over a messed up world to the next generation, with growing conflict,
environmental degradation, disease, a non-sustainable climate, so attending
to these gross levels of poverty and giving the poor of the world a chance
to grow their economy in a sustainable way is absolutely key for the survival
of humanity and its future decent life. So we've been looking at British
public opinion, trying to publish more material, get them to see it's not
just a bit of charity for the poor, it's investing in better and safer
conditions in world. And British public opinion comes in very strongly,
saying these levels of poverty and inequality in the world are one of the
biggest moral issues humanity faces, seventy odd per cent.
HUMPHRYS: Given that, shouldn't
we be setting the target? Shouldn't we be committing ourselves? We're committed,
this government is committed ultimately to meeting that point seven per
cent, but as you say, it's a very, very, very long way off. Should we not
be committing ourselves to saying we will reach that target by, I don't
know, three years, four years, five years from now. Oxfam thinks it should
be five years.
SHORT: I think that would be very
desirable and where I would like us to get to, is the British public and
their moving from saying 'oh dear, aid is a waste of money' and when we
formed our government, I did some public opinion surveying and people said
'we care about poverty, but aid's a waste of money - it doesn't work, it
goes for corruption'. And then we asked the public if they liked the ideas
of these targets of getting all children in school, halving poverty, and
they said ' yes, very good - spend money on it.' So it clearly wasn't meanness,
it was not believing in the old order. So, we, I think we've turned a lot
of that round, I think people do believe and think it's important both
for our own self-interest as well as, as a moral issue and now I want the
public knocking on the doors of the government, saying speed up the spend.
HUMPHRYS: But it's never going
to be a vote winner is it. I mean Prime Ministers are never going to win
elections by saying 'guess what, we increased our, our aid packages to
the poorest world, but I'm sorry to say, some of that money's had to come
from the NHS or Education, or Transport or whatever it happens to be'.
SHORT: I don't agree actually.
I think people in our kind of comfortable type societies now want our own
society to be well run, but they want something fine and decent to believe
in. I don't believe that everyone is just completely selfish and materialistic.
I think they want the world to be safe and they want a fair and decent
world, and they want to be part of a country that contributes to that,
and I think, you know, that Britain lost an empire and never found a role,
Britain using its position on the Security Council, in the IMF, in the
World Bank, in the Commonwealth, in the EU, and so on, to drive the world
to be more intelligent about giving the poorest countries a chance to trade
decently, have environmental agreements that take their interests into
account, enable them to grow their economy and see their people do better,
I think people in the UK would take a pride in that. It won't come up as
the top headline thing in the polling, but I think people want to believe
that politics and their country, is about something finer than their own
immediate selfish self-interest.
HUMPHRYS: To what extent should
aid be linked to good government, to democratic government, I'm thinking
obviously here of Zimbabwe and the American attitude to giving more money
to, or giving money to Zimbabwe?
SHORT: I think the old idea that
you make the aid conditional on good government because for some reason
we believe in good government and going to force it on people is very old-fashioned.
The truth is, you can't reduce poverty, you can't get a growing economy,
you can't get all kids into school, and everyone with health care, which
people need and you need to get a growing and efficient modern economy.
Unless you've got efficient government, you deal with corruption, you spend
the public finances properly, you consult people about what they think,
otherwise governments make mistakes. So effective, competent, consultative,
democratic government is crucial to successful economic performance and
the reduction of poverty, so it all goes together. We increase, we change
what we do, we don't just fund lots of separate projects, where you've
got a weak government that isn't reforming itself. We back governments
that commit themselves to the major reforms that will lead to the economic
growth, the improved public services for their people, and then we help
them tighten up their public financial management systems, lots of corruption
is not just bad people, there's some bad people everywhere, it's lousy
systems where the money isn't properly managed, the civil service is so
underpaid you can't live on the money, and then you get a culture where
people are charging, gross inefficiency, so we now focus on all of that
very strongly, as well as proper law enforcement. You need that for commercial
sector to run, but you also need it for justice when you ask the poor in
the world just not being abused by the forces of law and order is one of
their top priorities.
HUMPHRYS: But thinking about what's
happened in Zimbabwe and South Africa's attitude to Mugabe effectively
stealing the election. We've got the Americans now, Ed Royce the Chairman
of the Africa Sub-Committee in Congress, saying it's harder to aid the
continent if Americans perceive South Africa et cetera, is unwilling to
stand up for democratic principles. The, the Ari Fleischer the President's
spokesman saying much the same sort of thing. Do we go along with that
SHORT: Well Zimbabwe's a complete
tragedy for the people of Zimbabwe firstly who are hungry in an agriculturally
rich country, and it's an educated people, I mean this is, the economy's
shrunk by ten per cent in one year and it's going to shrink by another
ten per cent, so there's brutality, and thuggery and the stealing of an
election, the destruction of an economy. Well this is a disaster for all
those people and for the surrounding neighbourhood. But we mustn't punish
a whole continent because one ageing politician has completely lost his
way, and given up on all the decent standards of human rights, and actually,
although South Africa hasn't spoken out strongly in the past, President
Mbeki hasn't made any comment on the elections yet, so it's not true. And
the SADC report, the South African countries monitors of the election
made a very, very critical report of the elections, so it isn't true that
Africa is saying this is okay, but it's a damage, it's damaging for Africa.
HUMPHRYS: Ultimately, this is about
money right as you said right at the beginning, money and making sure....
SHORT: ...no it's money...
SHORT: ...it's money behind the
HUMPHRYS: ...absolutely accept
that, but you can't do it without the money, clearly and we talked about
the United States earlier and how it's making a relatively small contribution,
some people say, a pathetically small contribution, and now we see they're
spending an extra forty-eight billion dollars a year on defence. Doesn't
that make you say, they've got it the wrong way round?
SHORT: Well I think the US saying,
we got it, you know, a mission, to make the world safe, we've got to deal
with international terrorism, is reasonable given what happened on September
11th. But you cannot make the world safe from military action alone, as
everyone I think now sees in Afghanistan, it's a failed state, all its
institutions have collapsed, that's why bin Laden could hide himself there,
that's why the Taliban took over, see how happy the people were when they
fell and their kids could go back to school. But if we don't help Afghanistan
build up the institutions of the modern state and be able to manage itself,
it will remain in squalor and poverty, and that's where you get criminality
and drug-dealing, and it's those conditions, not that create terrorists
because the poor of the world are not terrorists, and the figures in September
11th were, but the bitterness and division in which such things flourish,
so it's completely foolish to say we can make the world safe by military
action alone, we need effective development to make the world just and
evenly developed, to make the world safe.
HUMPHRYS: And that applies to Iraq
as well, if America does intend to use some of that forty-eight billion
pounds to attack Iraq, your view on that is don't do it?
SHORT: Our view is that we mustn't
ignore the fact that Saddam Hussein is determined to develop weapons of
mass destruction. There's no doubt about that from him throwing out the
UN inspectors and all the rest of it, but simply blind military action
against Iraq doesn't deal with the problem, so we've got to address the
problem, I absolutely believe that, and it's wrong to ignore it and it's
wrong to say that we shouldn't. The best thing is to get the UN inspectors
back here, but there isn't crude military action that can deal with the
problem of Saddam Hussein, and with the state of the Middle East and the
terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people, but the
anger there is in the Arab world, to open up a military flank on Iraq would
be very unwise.
HUMPHRYS: Our European partners
seem to think we shouldn't support the United States unless there is a
UN resolution saying so.
SHORT: My view is very strongly
that we should face up to how serious this is. I mean, chemical and biological
weapons are almost more frightening than nuclear in that you don't need
complicated machinery to deliver them. A little bottle of Anthrax in a
river in any country could kill lots and lots of people, so we can't ignore
this, that is just - we can't put our heads in the sand, but people's fear
that there's going to instant mass bombing or something. That won't do
either. There aren't any detailed plans. We need a much more sophisticated
debate about what's the best way to deal with it.
HUMPHRYS: And if there were to
be an invasion there'd have to be a UN resolution would there?
SHORT: Yes, absolutely. And we're
nowhere near that. I mean we really aren't. The media, not you, that
tries to hype it, but no-one has proposed any specific or detailed military
action, but everyone who's serious should say Saddam Hussein in his determination
to have weapons of mass destruction is a real threat to his region of the
world and we've got to get tighter about how to deal with it.
HUMPHRYS: Clearly the United States
or lots of people who work closely with the White House are talking this
up, talking about the possibility of an invasion. If it were to happen,
I know this is hypothetical, if it were to happen and Tony Blair were to
say we're with you all the way, could you see it yourself, Clare Short,
as a resigning issue. You've resigned on a matter of principle once before.
SHORT: Twice actually, I'm that
kind of person. I think it's because I was brought up as a Catholic.
I mean I think like that about everything and I think everybody should,
and it's not that I think my government is going to do the wrong thing,
but we've all got to have our bottom lines, that's you know, about being
a member of a government
HUMPHRYS: Is that the bottom line
on this one.?
SHORT: Well, of course there were
conditions in which I wouldn't be able to support action, but I don't expect
them to be proposed.
HUMPHRYS: But there are conditions.
SHORT: Of course, but about all
sorts of things. I mean, I'm made like that.
HUMPHRYS: I mean some people.....
SHORT: I'm proud to be a member
HUMPHRYS: ... you know, you become
a team player and all that, and it's not the same old Clare Short. What
you're saying is, it is the same old Clare Short.
SHORT: Yes, I am the same old Clare
Short, and I'm proud to be a member of the government, but I've got lots
of bottom lines, but I don't expect the government to breach them, but
if they did I would, you know, that's what you should be like in politics
HUMPHRYS: Clare Short, thanks very
SHORT: Thank you.