Hasan Suroor

LONDON: The British government on Tuesday held consultations with representatives of the country’s Hindu and Muslim communities on how they can help in delivering its development goals in Third World countries, including India.

Their recommendations would form the basis of a White Paper being prepared by the Department of International Development (Dfid) on how best its overseas aid can be used to help the most vulnerable people in developing countries.

The day-long consultations held at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, were attended by representatives from the National Council of Hindu Temples, the Hindu Council UK, the Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief.

“Critical role”

Addressing them, International Development Minister Ivan Lewis stressed the role of faith groups in tackling global poverty and urged them to work with the government to help it achieve its development policies.

“Your role as members of the faith community is critical to that. You provide schools, clinics and orphanages. You push for better governance and help people hold their governments to account. And so often faith groups are leaders in the humanitarian response to natural and man-made disasters. We also benefit from your advocacy, campaigning and experience. Faith groups broaden our knowledge. By working together we can come up with better solutions and have a far greater impact at the international level,” he said.

Mr. Lewis said Britain’s development assistance to developing countries was set to exceed £9 billion a year.

This included providing clean water for seven and half million people in Bangladesh and almost two million in India.

He said his department spent over £21 million through faith-based organisations last year, and was keen to continue to work with them in tackling poverty.