Thank you Fatima (Manji) and Tim (Wainwright) for that introduction. And thank you Tim for inviting me here to speak at the opening plenary of Bond’s annual conference.
I look forward to working with BOND and your new Chief Executive Tamsyn Barton – and I’d like to begin by paying tribute to our civil society organisations.
Our civil society organisations are absolutely crucial to the outstanding work that you all do in the battle against extreme poverty and delivering the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Your organisations and your people are the ones who day in day out are working in some of the most challenging places on earth to ensure that no one is left behind.
On top of that, your organisations are robustly defending the rights of civil society that are increasingly under attack in these uncertain times.
Wherever I have been in the world I have seen at first the remarkable work of civil society, groups, organisations and people in some of the most challenging countries standing up for the very rights and values that we cherish.
Bond and civil society organisations like yours are an important part of Britain’s leadership and our global offer.
And it’s never been clearer to me that at times of crisis the world looks to Britain … not just for our support but for our leadership – which is, of course, underpinned by our commitment to UK aid.
A commitment which means the UK is not only meeting people’s basic humanitarian needs but also dealing with the root causes of the global problems we are seeing.
A commitment which shows UK aid along with our world-class defence and diplomacy – acting not only in the interests of the world’s poorest, but in our own national interest.
And global leadership where our influence and ability to save lives in an ever changing world is part of who we are as a nation.
I truly believe that our vibrant and diverse civil society is one of the things that makes Britain great … reflecting the British values of fairness and compassion for others.
So today, I wanted to take this opportunity to set out some of my priorities for UK development, my plans to enhance and strengthen our work with the sector, and how we will partner with the UK’s smaller charities.
When it comes to priorities, we all just need to take a look at the state of the world today.
There is an unprecedented humanitarian challenge: more than 20 million people across these four countries face starvation and famine. And at least 1.4 million children could starve to death this year.
Yemen, North East Nigeria, Somalia and South Sudan all stand on the precipice of disaster.
On top of this we cannot overlook the plight of the Syrian people, following the sixth anniversary of that conflict last week – and still no end in sight to the bloodshed.
But as we speak these people need food and water.
We are acting fast and at scale to get desperately needed food, water and emergency health services to millions of sick and starving people.
We are able to do this because of our strong partnerships with trusted NGO partners who are critical for delivery on the ground.
We have seen the incredible generosity of the British public to the DEC appeal, but we must also remember that the very people who are giving also want to know their support is getting through to those who need it. And you are vital in making that happen.
Britain has lead the response but we know we can’t do it alone. We need to mobilise the world to respond and act now.
I am pressing other governments, the UN and international agencies to do exactly that.
And I urge all of you to make your powerful voices heard – along with those of the groups you represent – to raise the visibility of these crises and call for greater global action.
But as we tackle these emergency humanitarian crises – we cannot forget the ever-present emergency of grinding poverty, misery and disease, that is an untold waste of human potential.
I am personally committed to intensifying DFID’s efforts to reach those left furthest behind.
So we will continue to invest in people, implementing our manifesto commitments on health, education, nutrition, water and sanitation – helping to deliver the Global Goals for the very poorest and excluded people.
We will lead international action to tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases, strengthening our work on TB and the growing threat of drug resistance diseases that pose a danger to everyone on the planet.
DFID’s first ever Economic Development Strategy is fully focused on helping countries create jobs, harness trade, growth and investment to boost the collective aspirations and growth of developing nations. This is helping countries to defeat poverty and stand on their own two feet.
We will also strengthen our work on disability … Disability is shamefully the most under-prioritised, under-resourced area in development.
But with the help of your organisations, we can change this.
And we will continue to put women and girls at the heart of everything we’re doing.
And as our Prime Minister said on International Women’s Day:
Addressing gender equality and supporting women’s rights is not a nice-to-have, it’s essential.
And this summer DFID will host an international summit to secure renewed global commitment to family planning services, with a particular focus on the poorest and most vulnerable girls and women.
New support for small organisations
That overview is only a snapshot of some of my priorities for the coming year.
Across all of this work, I see civil society, in all its forms, as key partners and allies.
And I am determined to robustly defend the rights of civil society, that are increasingly under attack in these uncertain and challenging times.
We will increase our efforts and support, right across government, for the core civic freedoms that create space for democracy, progress and dialogue – which are so essential for the development of the very poorest countries we seek to support.
While enhancing our existing relationships with our trusted civil society partners, I will also create new opportunities more widely across the sector.
I believe smaller organisations are a crucial part of the great British offer on international development,
I know these smaller charities are well represented here today, making up a key part of Bond’s membership.
Your organisations are found across our great country, in our towns and villages, often run by volunteers and highly valued and trusted by your local communities.
And it is often your organisations that make some of the most direct connections with the people we’re trying to help and those wanting to help them,
You are highly effective at building trust with local communities and tailoring your specialist services around people’s actual, day-to-day needs.
Organisations such as Exeter Ethiopia Link who help thousands of children with disabilities to go to school in Ethiopia, by providing access to wheelchairs, through training for teachers and through support for parents.
Organisations like LAMB Health Care Foundation from Reading who are improving access to effective sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents in Bangladesh.
I’m very pleased that DFID has been able to support both of these small organisations through UK Aid Direct.
But, I know that – for the most part – smaller charities have not had the opportunity to work with DFID in the past.
I am changing this and I am delighted to announce today that a new Small Charities Challenge Fund, specifically for small UK-registered charities with an annual income of less than £250,000.
This will be the first time DFID has set up a Fund dedicated purely to charities of this size.
Britain boasts an extraordinary number of small, grassroots charities who do amazing, often highly innovative work in the world’s poorest places and I believe this Fund will help the best of our smaller charities to expand and deliver even more effectively for the world’s poorest.
Announcement on the Charity Commission
Further details about this fund will be announced in the coming months.
But as well as opening up funding opportunities, I also want to support small and medium sized organisations by supporting your drive to raise standards and increase effectiveness when it comes to financial management, governance and due diligence.
This is really fundamental when it comes to delivering better for the world’s poorest. And fundamental to ensuring public trust, confidence and legitimacy in what we do.
We – DFID, civil society, the whole global aid system – need to secure our license to operate. And we will do that by visibly delivering even better results for the world’s poorest and value for taxpayers’ money.
I know just how seriously you take this and I applaud all the efforts that all of you have put into this over the years.
But I believe we can go even further and faster – and I want to help that happen.
I am today announcing plans for a new partnership between DFID, the Charity Commission and the sector that will provide support to strengthen small and medium sized organisations’ skills and capabilities when it comes to managing humanitarian and development projects overseas.
Under this partnership, DFID will fund the Charity Commission and other key partners to provide a range of tailored training on areas including governance, financial management, delivery chain due diligence, cost-effectiveness and transparency.
The Charity Commission will work with your organisations to build your skills and capabilities when it comes to handling public money and managing projects and ultimately reducing the burdens and cost of the due diligence when you do apply for funding.
And I also believe – with your full support – there is potential here to do something really powerful in terms of ensuring public trust and support for development.
In conclusion, the challenges facing the international aid system in the 21st century perhaps go beyond anything witnessed before.
And there is no question that the scope and scale of what we are trying to do is wider and more complex than ever.
But if you look at the world today it’s very clear there is no task more urgent than defeating poverty.
Britain’s fantastic civil society has a really essential role to play and, as I’ve set out, my Department will continue to work closely with you, and to learn from you.
The stakes are high, not just for the poorest people in the world – but for all of us.
Together, I know we can rise to the challenge.