Andrew Mitchell took to the stage this afternoon at the Conservative Party Conference, to lay out the key planks of his approach to British Aid. For those of us who have been following his other public engagements, there was unfortunately not a lot of new information in his speech. It made a strong case for the power and effectiveness of aid – especially under new leadership – which we trust was well received by the audience.
He highlighted the importance of education:
…this year British aid will pay for five million children in developing countries to go to primary school. That’s roughly the same number as go to primary school in Britain, yet at only 2.5 per cent of the cost.
Giving those children a good start in life is an investment in their future, and in ours: it will bring benefits throughout their lifetimes, and for our children as well.
He also highlighted a new division within DFID which will focus on the private sector.
I am setting up within the Department for International Development a new private-sector division. It will help to unleash the creative, wealth-generating energies of people everywhere and make enterprise and commerce a crucial part of British development policy.
While it is early days, we will be watching closely to see how this division will approach microfinance and the challenge of deepening access to financial services to the poorest, and how this relates to existing DFID efforts in this area.
Lastly, Mitchell also emphasised the coalition government’s commitment to reaching 0.7% of GDP to be spent on aid by 2013, which we of course welcome. With broad cross-party support for this, we look forward to when words become action.