May 25, 1988

SPEECH BY MR. CHRISTOPHER PATTEN, Minister For Overseas Development At The ODA Signing Ceremony

Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Can I say straight-away, what a pleasure and a privilege it is, Sir, to share this platform and this podium with you today.

We all know of your commitment to the cause of development. We all know the professionalism as well as the dedication which you bring to the tasks of the Foundation and the network, and I feel today rather a juvenile in the field when I share this platform with you.

I do have, carefully prepared by my admirable department, a speech which as already been delivered - for this is the way the world works - to the press, and I'd like to make it clear that I stand by every word of my department's remarks.

At the risk , however, of challenging the shorthand of any journalists who might be here, perhaps, this morning, responding, Sir, to what you said, I could speak - for what passes with Minister's remarks - speak to you in response to some of the interesting thoughts which you've just offered us, Sir.

You mentioned on the radio this morning, in an interview which many of us would have heard, that it's important to consider development, to consider the partnership between the recipient and the donor, to consider that relationship through the eyes of the person who is actually receiving assistance, through the eyes of the farmer, the farmer's wife, the child in a poor country or in a disadvantaged community.

And it's a remark, it's a perception, which I know you've offered before. I recall an important speech you made at a conference in Nairobi a couple of years ago, when you said that the genius of Africa is her people and that the real resource of any country is the people who go to make up that community.

I think that perception raises a real agenda for the development and aid in the 1980's and beyond.

It seems to me that there are three issues on which all of us are homing in, like the benevolent heat-seeking missiles.

The first is the recognition of something we should never have forgotten - that aid and development is about helping poor people. Of course, there are other reasons for aid, other reasons for the aid relationship - there are political and commercial and other arguments, all of which have their own legitimacy - but above all, development is about alleviating poverty, about giving children the chance of becoming adults, about giving adults the opportunity of living normally, about improving literacy rates, and so on.

In my view, the role of NGOs in tackling poverty, in alleviating poverty, is an absolutely crucial one, because NGOs can operate at the level of the community, in a way which is much more difficult for governments and governmental programmes.

With your programmes in Northern Pakistan, you really are working at the community level, you're working with people in the remotest parts of the world, and you are working with people who are poor.

So that is one reason why we have been delighted to be associated not only with the outstandingly successful project in Gilgit, but with the development of that project into Chitral.

Secondly, I think all of us in the Aid' world are more and more concerned about quality and effectiveness, as well as quantity. It doesn't mean that there aren't perfectly reasonable arguments about the overall level of official development assistance. But it does mean that we are more concerned to ensure that the money that all of us spend, is well spent. I have no doubt at all that in working with the Foundation and working with your network, Sir, we are backing the very highest quality. And that's why I've been pleased, that in addition to the support we're providing to Chitral, to be able to agree recently to further support your nurse training in Karachi, for the English language training and for the development of a B Sc Nursing degree.

Thirdly, again an item on the agenda is, I think, the growing awareness of the importance of sustainability, of the making of independent people - independent, rather than keeping them in a position of dependence - and again in your projects that we're talking about principally today, in Gilgit and Chitral, you are assisting those communities and those individuals to become economically independent and socially independent, and that is, I believe, crucial.

We think a great deal, and the media, perhaps inevitably, concentrate on the things that go wrong in the aid development sector, but there have been some great success stories as well.

I was in Mauritius recently - itself an overwhelmingly successful story about economic and social development. And it's a delight that one or two of the countries that were heavily dependent on aid from outside, only 20 or 25 years ago are now in a position in which they can help others. I'm particularly pleased, for instance, that we are purchasing more and more of our food-aid from developing countries which have managed, through their own agricultural success in the last few years, to turn their local agricultural economies round to produce a surplus where before there was a deficit - which I guess brings me full circle.

I think that the work which you represent, Sir, the work done by the Foundation and the network, exemplifies the sort of things which all of us should be attempting to do as donors.

I hope that the Accord which we sign in a moment will open a new chapter of cooperation between my department and the Foundation.

I would like to see us working even more extensively with you, in Asia and in Africa where you do so much good work as well.

And we've had the opportunity of talking about one or two of the other countries in which we could work - and I'll look forward to sharing that with my department later on. There are occasionally advantages in ministers having discussions on their own.

As a result of our work, I hope that we'll be able to ensure that in Africa and Asia and other disadvantaged parts of the world, the resources which you spoke about in Nairobi, are used to their full potential, so that in the later years of this century, and in the years of the next, children who grow up in Africa, Asia, in Gilgit and Chitral, and elsewhere, will have the same opportunities in life that my children have.

Source: Ismaili Forum (July 1988)

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