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Engineers should play key role in tackling poverty, MPs told

The engineering profession has a crucial role to play in helping achieve the United Nations’s aims to cut poverty and disease set out in its millennium development goals, a senior ICE official told the House of Commons International Development Select Committee last week.

ICE head of management, procurement and law John Hawkins, told MPs on the committee that the Department for International Development (DFID), should engage the UK engineering and construction community to better leverage the expertise it can provide.

He was speaking at the first evidence session for the committee’s inquiry into infrastructure and development.
Hawkins also said that the government, should also concentrate efforts on training the local sectors in developing countries to encourage locally driven infrastructure growth.

Investment barrier

One of the biggest barriers to improving infrastructure in developing countries is securing private investment from international companies into the developing world. These companies perceive such investment to be too high risk, largely due to the threat of corruption and the lack of local skills and industry to support such projects.

Hawkins said that it was “very appropriate” that international effort was being made to reduce these risks.

He referred the committee to the ICE’s work on the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) - an international scheme supported by DFID and the World Bank that aims to tackle corruption by promoting transparency and accountability.

As well as work at policy level, he stressed there is a real need for improved and increased levels of engineering and construction training in local communities.

This will ensure assets can be locally owned and maintained, driving economic growth and development.

The invitation to give evidence came after the ICE, Engineers Against Poverty and the Royal Academy of Engineers made a joint submission to the Select Committee highlighting the crucial role infrastructure plays in reducing poverty and contributing to growth and development.

The committee noted that infrastructure underpins no less than six out of eight of the Millennium Development Goals but is not specifically mentioned in any.

It recommended that DFID develop a comprehensive infrastructure strategy, reflected in its funding allocation and the work of sector teams and country offices.

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