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George Osborne: We can win the war against malaria in our lifetime

"Thank you for inviting me to speak to you.

It's an honour to be taking part in this discussion, alongside such eminent and well-respected experts.

The British Conservative Party is under new leadership. We are in listening mode.

We're taking on new ideas and fresh approaches as we prepare to form the next British government.

This means questioning the status quo, looking for innovative solutions to old problems, and reaching out and learning from different people and different visions.

And that's what I've doing here in Uganda: I've been learning.

I have been learning from your efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals - and learning what we in Britain can do to support those efforts.

I have been learning from the work undertaken by your civic leaders and your NGOs - like the inspirational work of the Entebbe Women's Association, who with the assistance of the UNDP, are helping the poor fishing communities on lake Victoria protect the environment upon which their livelihoods depend.

Above all, I have been learning from the extraordinary work taking place in Ruhiira Millennium Project where I spent the whole of yesterday.

Last November I met with Professor Jeffrey Sachs in London. I wanted to talk to the man who has done more than almost anyone else to confront the peoples of Europe and the United States with the challenge of extreme poverty.

In our meeting Professor Sachs told me about the 12 Millennium Villages he and the Millennium Project had established across Africa, and I asked if I could come with him to see the work in action in Uganda.

I am honoured, Professor, that and your wife Sonia allowed me to join you on your first visit to Ruhiira and see for myself what can be accomplished in the space of half a year when you take aid and local government support, and you use it to make practical interventions to improve the agriculture, sanitation, health care, disease control and education of those in extreme poverty. It has been inspiring to see.

This is not my first time in Uganda. I first came here twelve years ago. I'd just finished university and I travelled your beautiful country, climbing to the top of the Rwenzori mountains, seeing the gorillas in the forests of the south west, visiting the islands of Lake Victoria and spending time in Kampala.

Many things have changed in the twelve years since I was last here. Much progress has been made and I congratulate you on it.

The same is true across much of Africa.

Many governments have become more accountable to the people they serve.

Elections are becoming the norm in many countries.

Huge governance issues remain, of course, and corruption is still a challenge, but the public are demanding action.

Strong new pan-African institutions have emerged.

The Africa Union, established in 2001, has enabled Africans to shoulder for themselves more responsibility for security and peace on the continent.

NEPAD - the New Partnership for Africa's Development - is setting and policing standards of good governance across the continent, encouraging respect for human rights and working for peace and poverty reduction.

Of course many serious challenges remain for both of these initiatives, but they hold out the promise of a brighter future for this troubled continent.

Change too has come in the form of new technologies.

Who could have imagined two decades ago that you could stand in the remote highlands of western Uganda, in a village like Ruhiira, and call London direct from the small mobile phone in your pocket?

Alongside affordable computers, mobile phones are making it easier than ever for Africans to communicate and trade with the rest of the world.

So it's clear that much has changed in Africa over the past two decades.

The international aid community has changed too.

There is less emphasis on ideology and a greater emphasis on good governance and sustainable development.

In many countries of the west there has been a slow increase in spending on international development.

Britain has written off 100 per cent of the debt owed to us by some of the world's poorest nations, freeing them from the shackles of unsustainable debt payments, and making it possible for them to invest more in their institutions and their people.

And it was in Britain, at the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, that the assembled world leaders promised to double aid to Africa by 2010.

Although sadly, 18 months on, it's clear that not enough progress has been made.

While aid from G8 countries is increasing, it's happening at half the rate needed to meet the Gleneagles target.

That is unacceptable - and for this simple reason.

In the year 2000 the nations of our planet - rich and poor - came together to make a promise to the people of the world.

That promise took the form of the Millennium Development Goals.

These are not vague aspirations. These are promises to the people's of the world that by 2015 we can halve the number of people living in extreme poverty, reverse the spread of killer diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, promote gender equality and give all children access to primary education.

We are now half way to 2015.

The good news is that the Millennium Development Goals have not been forgotten - indeed recognition of their importance has grown, not least here in Africa.

The bad news is that we are still a long way from meeting those Goals.

The proportion of Africans who live on less than $1 a day has remained broadly constant since 1990.

UNICEF estimates that in 2000, 27% of African children under five were underweight, a figure that's barely changed since 1990.

What's more, even with the advent of new technology like mobile phones, too much of Africa remains marginalised from the global economy.

Africa continues to receive a relatively small share of global foreign investment, with Sub-Saharan Africa receiving just 1.6% of global FDI in 2001.

Coupled with the highest proportion of capital flight anywhere in the world - up to 40% of capital in private hands is estimated to leave Africa - economic growth has remained extremely weak, and dependence on foreign aid remains stubbornly high.

It does not have to be this way.

In the two decades we have seen many hundreds of millions of people lifted out of extreme poverty in countries like China and India.

In the 1960s, incomes in Asia were on average half those in Africa. Today, they are over three times higher.

This divergence is both evidence of missed opportunities, but also of the vast opportunities that remain unfulfilled here in Africa.

What more can we in Britain do to help?

There are three specific things I believe we should do.

First, we can live up to our promise made many years ago to contribute 0.7% of our GNP to international aid.

The commitment of the Conservative Party to increased spending on international development could not be clearer.

We have only one concrete spending pledge across all the departments of government.

And it is this: we will increase Britain's spending on international development from 0.47% of GDP today to 0.7% of GDP by 2013.

This will not be an easy commitment to achieve.

The coming years will feature tough spending environments in Britain as we seek to tackle our growing debt and reduce the burdens on the state.

But as overall public spending grows by around 2% a year, our spending on international aid will increase by over 10% a year.

To put it in context, on current economic growth trends, it means a doubling of Britain's aid spending within just six years.

From £6.5bn of aid spending today, a future Conservative government will be spending at least £13bn a year on development - year on year on year.

We have made this commitment because we believe that aid works.

But, of course, that aid must be well spent.

So as well as doubling spending on aid, Andrew Mitchell, our Shadow Minister for International Development, has proposed the creation of an independent International Aid Watchdog in Britain to ensure the money is well spent.

After all, wasted aid doesn't just mean wasted money. It means wasted lives.

This Aid Watchdog will help us ensure that we minimise waste and maximise outputs, enabling us to make better progress against our international development goals.

It will mean that British aid - like that of the World Bank, IMF and the Danish Aid Agency - is scrutinised and evaluated by an independent body.

That's the best way to insure that our increased spending really does lead to improved outcomes.

The powerful lesson I learnt yesterday in Ruhiira is that more money is not by itself enough.

That money needs to be directed at concrete, practical measures that come together to help lift people out of extreme poverty and enable them to start climbing the first rungs of the ladder of opportunity: practical like providing fertiliser to raise crop yields so that farmers can not just feed their family but sell their produce for income; primary schooling so that children have the basic learning to be part of the global economy; bed nets to combat the death caused by malaria and drag it puts on the whole community.

I have been very impressed by the extraordinary results I saw in Ruhiira when aid is targeted in this very practical way - and impressed at co-operation that I saw with local government and, most importantly, the local community. The objective is to show how the Millennium Development Goals can be met in one cluster of villages.

Of course, the big question is whether this approach can be scaled up and applied across a larger area. I would like to see whether DfID could work with the Millennium Project team and the Ugandan government to apply the approach to the much larger district around Ruhiira. I am told that it would cost around $20 million to help some 300,000 people in this way. Surely, out of an aid budget of many billions of pounds, that is money well spent? I will try to persuade the current British government to provide this assistance - if not, you may have to wait for the next British government.

That brings me on to the second thing that Britain can and should do more of: fighting disease.

As is so clear from what I have seen here, it is no good telling people to be part of the market economy if they spend weeks of the year sick in bed and their children are dying.

One of our public health priorities is of course tackling HIV/AIDS, which is responsible for two million deaths each year in Africa alone.

It is a human tragedy, robbing people of their lives and children of their parents.

And it is an economic disaster. By destroying human capital and stretching health systems to breaking point, it's estimated that the virus could stunt Africa's economic growth by up to 3% in the years ahead.

I congratulate you in Uganda for the progress you have made in reducing the infection rate in this country, but there is still so much to do.

To take just one statistic, the region is home to just over 10% of the world's population, but more than 60% of all people infected with HIV.

The developed world must make much greater steps to meet the promise of giving all who need it free access to anti-retroviral drugs by 2010.

But other diseases must also be confronted - forgotten killers which, for whatever reason, do not always attract the same attention as HIV/AIDS.

In 2004, the Copenhagen Consensus project assembled a group of leading economists to recommend which global challenges we should focus on.

Tackling malaria was one of their top priorities.

Whilst it doesn't receive the level of media attention in the West that AIDS does, the World Health Organisation estimates that malaria is responsible for the deaths of up to 3,000 people a day in Sub-Saharan Africa, most of them children.

And as with other serious diseases, the impact goes beyond the immense human tragedy. There's also the economic cost, estimated with malaria estimated to have reduced productivity in afflicted countries by upwards of $12bn.

This doesn't have to be the case. Every malaria death is avoidable.

Malaria experts agree that more money is needed. The World Bank, the WHO and the Global Fund all estimate that for $3 billion a year we could control malaria effectively. Yet today the world spends in total just $1 billion.

Well spent that money could within three years get a treated bed net to every bed in Africa, get drugs to all who suffer from the disease and bring in proper public health campaigns.

With Professor Sachs, I have just seen how it can be done in the Ruhiira Millennium Village. The doctor in the local clinic told us how the number of cases of malaria has more than halved in just five months - and all thanks to $5 bed nets.

We can win the war against malaria in our generation.

And I want Britain to help win that war.

In recognition of both the terrible impact of the disease and the immense economic and social benefits of its eradication, I can today announce for the first time that a future Conservative government will spend a minimum of £500 million - or $1bn - a year tackling malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa.

That is one third of the total amount that the WHO believes is required to win the war against malaria.

And we will continue to spend this money every year until the Millennium Development Goals on malaria have been met.

This is an unprecedented commitment by a single country. It will be met from our expanding aid budget.

And I hope that other nations follow our lead, and join us as we fight to make malaria deaths a thing of the past. Let our generation stand up and say: we won the war against malaria.

Tackling disease, like providing education and clean water, gives people a chance to stop simply surviving and start thinking of a brighter future for them and their family. It enables them to engage in our global economy - provided, of course, the rest of the world lets them.

That leads me to the final thing I want to talk about: how Britain can promote freer and fairer trade.

We know that increased trade and the market economy the most sustainable path to economic development.

It's also clear that while North America and Europe have been getting richer through trade, Africa has been left standing at the touchline.

Unfair tariffs and subsidies in Europe, the US and elsewhere are certainly part of the problem, and we are determined to ensure a fairer trade settlement for the developing world.

We want to see the Doha round restated.

However, an often overlooked issue is the low level of intra-African trade.

In 1997, the World Bank found that only 10% of African trade takes place between African nations.

This compares extremely poorly with other regions. 40% of North American trade is with other North American countries, while 63% of trade by countries in Western Europe is with other countries in Western Europe.

This is a missed opportunity.

The key problem is the persistence of high African trade barriers. While OECD countries cut tariffs from an average of 24% to just 4% between 1983 and 2003, tariffs in sub-Saharan Africa fell by less than 5%, from 22.1% to 17.7%.

These barriers mean it's actually harder for most Africans to trade across African borders than with Europeans and Americans.

This is preventing specialisation between African nations, hindering productivity growth, and clogging up Africa's wealth creation engine.

That's why last year the British Conservatives proposed the creation of a pan-African free trade area to stimulate trade and investment between African states - a potentially crucial step towards sustainable economic development.

With your help, our efforts in international organisations like the WTO and the G8, I believe we can make that bold proposal a reality.

So those are the three strands of our approach: more aid that is better targeted, a major effort to fight disease and win the war against malarial; and freer trade across the world and within Africa.

The challenges ahead are immense.

But so too is the prize at stake.

I began this speech by saying that it is possible for us to make a lasting difference.

For the first time, we have a genuine opportunity to consign poverty to the history books: for our children's children to grow up in a world that is free from hunger and eradicable disease.

This is the tantalising opportunity available to us today.

Together we can make that vision a reality.

Together we can make poverty history."

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