Reshuffles can be an anxious time, and not just for those Ministers whose own positions are in question. As an organisation fighting the causes and consequences of global poverty we of course know that the position of Secretary of State for International Development is a critical one for determining the UK’s response to the issues and challenges facing the world’s poorest. The combination of the global food crisis and the current economic turmoil presents a unique and challenging environment for any incoming Secretary of State.
Today the Prime Minister announced that the new Secretary of State is Justine Greening, who moves from the Department for Transport. I warmly welcome her appointment to the Department for International Development at what is a critical time for the world’s poor.
Domestically one of the first tasks she will face is maintaining the Government’s pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on aid by 2013. This is the culmination of decades of international commitments and we will be asking her to ensure that the Government delivers on its pledge to introduce legislation to enshrine this commitment into law. The new Chief Whip and former International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, is in a good position to help ensure this happens.
On the world stage she will need to maintain the UK’s global leadership role. Countries around the world will be working together to draw up successors to the new set of Millennium Development Goals and the Prime Minister has made clear that women's empowerment must be at the heart of this. This is a defining period for international development and the outcome of these discussions will define the international approach to development for the next twenty years.
As Britain prepares to take on the challenge of chairing the G8, we will encourage Justine Greening to ensure the Government makes sure that there is a proper international focus on the root causes of poverty. This includes issues that ActionAid UK has been campaigning on such as the proper payment of taxes in developing countries by multi-nationals; the stopping of landgrabs and the use of desperately needed arable land to grow biofuels for use as fuel in rich countries.
As a Cabinet Minister who has seen first-hand the crippling effect of poverty on people and communities – she once spent time in Rwanda teaching English – I believe she will bring that experience to bear in her work. I welcome Justine Greening to her new role, and I look forward to working with her!