22nd November 2012
Baroness Goudie: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, for securing this most important debate at a very important time.
We have to ensure-through the UN, which has to agree to this-that all countries have to sign up to the millennium goals. We know that not all have done so. We also know that countries do not have to accept funds set aside for them through the goals. The World Bank has frightening figures showing that certain countries in Africa and Latin America are not taking up money that is available for education. I look to our Prime Minister and the negotiating team to ensure that this issue is addressed. We cannot force people, because that is not done, but we must make sure that there is a mechanism whereby they feel that they can take up the money, but not in a corrupt way.
I should like to consider the issues of natural disasters and conflict, because it is in those areas that health and education are abandoned. We know about the Security Council’s resolution that all women should have an opportunity and a right to be at the peace table and at the table when natural disasters happen. At present, women are not there and are far from being there. They are given just lip service. If women were there and were part of the millennium goals in the areas of conflict and resolution, things would be far different in terms of health and education. If we are not feeding children in the first 1,000 days of their lives, however much money we throw at or put into these countries, it will not help with education. We have to ensure that children get the correct food to enable their brains to grow. We have all seen the pictures of the brains of children of four or more that are not growing properly.
As regards natural disasters, schools are one of the places used for shelter because they are the best built and have the right facilities. However, the schools are then closed because of their use as shelters, and people cannot be educated. Education comes first after health and it is vital that schools are part of the refugee camps we establish following terrible disasters. At present, the schools come later, if they come at all. We cannot make up education. Also, if a child is out of school for a long period in certain countries, they never go back to school. That country then loses GDP and that child ends up working in forced labour. A girl is sold for marriage or for other activities. It is absolutely important to keep education at the front. If we educate a women and she educates her children, their countries will benefit from their achievement of economic, social and political empowerment. There has to be a clearer vision for reducing inequality in education, and that should be a successor to the framework of the millennium goals. A number of Members have already made the other points that I wanted to make.