|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. George Foulkes): We have recently reviewed our work in Kosovo, Albania and Macedonia. Our contribution last year totalled £110 million. As well as assisting refugees returning to Kosovo, we have supported the United Nations mission, mine action, human rights, health care and restoring basic services. We believe that our work has made a significant contribution to the process of getting life in the province back to normal after the conflict.
Mr. Casale: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I visited Kosovo last year with Mr. Geoffrey Morris, on behalf of London and South East Direct Aid to Kosovo, and saw at first hand the excellent work of the Department. I am a patron of LASEDAK and we work alongside the Scottish Charities Kosovo Appeal on humanitarian relief and development projects in Kosovo. Is my hon. Friend aware of the concerns of such organisations about the relative scaling back of the work of his Department within the overall framework of the EU stability pact? Non-governmental and voluntary organisations working in Kosovo depend very much for their effectiveness on the work of the Department and, with 10,000 refugees returning to the region, in which LASEDAK and SCKA are involved, there is a real danger that next winter will be worse than last.
Mr. Foulkes: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for the kind things that he said about my Department's work. The main burden of reconstruction should now rightly be taken on by the European Union and the new agency for reconstruction, which started its work at the end of February. As I said earlier, 360 million euros has been provided through the European Union and our contribution is £35.5 million. However, we are anxious to make sure that the operation is not hampered by Brussels bureaucracy. We want resident advisers and devolved
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): Has the hon. Gentleman had a chance to study the United Nations Economic Commission report that was published today? It slams the aid efforts in the Balkans, saying that the big gap between funding pledges and disbursements delayed action and created disillusionment. The report also highlights poor co-ordination, the lack of coherent vision and the failure to place individual projects within a broader programme of development at national and regional level.
Can the hon. Gentleman assure us that all the promised UK funds have been disbursed and that he is making every effort to ensure that the civil administration posts in Kosovo, some 55 per cent. of which remain empty, are filled by local people? Does he agree that, while more than half those posts are vacant, the region will continue to be run by western non-governmental organisations? Despite their best efforts, they could repeat the mistakes made in eastern Europe and remain open to the criticisms made in the report.
Mr. Foulkes: The picture described by the hon. Lady is a travesty of reality. The Kosovo crisis saw the largest and fastest movement of population in Europe since world war two. The international community managed to get people under shelter in the winter, with heat, light and water, in spite of the dire predictions. The £110 million that we have provided is the largest humanitarian programme that DFID has ever undertaken, and 90 per cent. of operational targets were achieved on schedule and within budgeted costs. That is a great achievement, and the hon. Lady should recognise that.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): My Department commissioned a review by Dr. Valpy Fitzgerald of Queen Elizabeth house, which found that export credit guarantees could promote sustainable development in poor countries, but expressed reservations about the appropriateness of ECGD support for arms exports to developing countries. The position paper of my Department to the ECGD review argues that we should be willing to support arms expenditure when it is part of a responsible and properly accountable security sector that is needed to create the stability necessary for development--but only then. Copies of the review and the position paper have been deposited in the Library. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to them.
Dr. Cable: Is the right hon. Lady aware of the work of the Select Committee on Defence, which suggested that up to £250 million a year of taxpayers' money is provided in the form of subsidy for arms exports to developing countries through the ECGD? Does she regard that as a
Clare Short: I agree that excessive arms expenditure undermines development, but countries need stability. When there is an over-bloated security sector or no order and peace, one cannot achieve development. Therefore, a properly sized and democratically accountable security sector is what developing countries need. There have been no ECGD-backed arms exports to HIPC countries or to countries eligible under the International Development Agency, the most concessional arm of the World Bank, in recent years and 80 per cent. of the ECGD cover for arms expenditure in developing countries goes to Saudi Arabia and Oman. We have improved the record, but the hon. Gentleman raises an important point. I hope that more hon. Members will take an interest in the review of ECGD, because we could tighten up and improve it.
Mr. Desmond Browne (Kilmarnock and Loudoun): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the conflict in many developing countries is exacerbated by the activities of arms brokers, who ply their trade from the United Kingdom, largely in an unregulated fashion? Indeed, there is evidence to suggest that, dealing through Uganda, arms brokers from this country are providing arms to both sides of the conflict in the Congo. In the context of the Government's review, will my right hon. Friend ensure that the voice of those who wish to see such activity licensed in this country is heard loud and clear?
Clare Short: My hon. Friend raises an extremely important point. There have been worrying examples of arms brokers based in the United Kingdom brokering deals with disreputable sources for countries that do not need more arms. As I think my hon. Friend knows, the issue is under review. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to make an announcement this afternoon.
Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): Do the Government take pride in their banning of ECGD credits for arms acquisitions by 63 of the poorest countries in the world? Of those countries, only Kenya has been a recipient of such credits over the past 13 years. Would it not be a much more ethical foreign policy for the Government forthwith to ban all exports of British armaments to Zimbabwe, which is using them in a civil war in the Congo?
Clare Short: As the hon. Gentleman knows, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary will make a statement on Zimbabwe later this afternoon. He will probably have something to say of interest to the hon. Gentleman.
I take considerable pride in the fact that the Government have tightened up considerably on the previous Government's record. None of the 63 poorest countries is in receipt of ECGD cover, including Kenya. It did not get any such cover for arms purchases. We have declared that there will not be such cover in future. We are trying to get international agreements so that others will take up our position. I think that that is right, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support the campaign.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): The Dakar forum resulted in a strong political commitment by national governments and the international community for education for all and the development of national action plans, and agreement on the need for significantly enhanced investment by governments and donors for primary education. United Nations conferences cannot require sovereign Governments to prioritise primary education, but can encourage and monitor progress. I am confident that developing country Governments are now aware that educating a generation of children even to primary level, including girls, is the most effective development intervention that a country can make. I hope that we will be able to drive this commitment forward.
Mr. Michie: I thank my right hon. Friend for that full and frank reply. In terms of her Department, what are the implications of the Dakar forum for the future? What steps does she think may be necessary to ensure that Governments of developing countries and donors fulfil the commitments that they made at Dakar, so that all children have the right to primary education?
Clare Short: My hon. Friend will probably know that the bulk of the spending on education by most developing countries is directed to higher education. The reason is that elites are powerful in very poor countries. They live in the cities and they can usually pre-empt expenditure. It is a difficult political task to get a commitment to spending on the poorest children in rural areas.
We are working hard on this task through the international system and by contributing more funds. We have committed £300 million over the past three years. The call at Dakar for a special international fund will not do the job--we must persuade Governments and their civil societies to prioritise the education of poor children. We are making progress and there must be sustained interest in doing so through to 2015.
Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent): Does the Secretary of State share my anxiety that in certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa primary education has become susceptible to charging for various elements of it, whether it be books, uniforms or whatever? This is proving a disincentive to families. Did the Dakar forum address that issue?
Clare Short: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Kenya, for example, is a big spender on education, but 98 per cent. of its expenditure goes on teachers, and there is nothing for books, chalk or anything else, so parents are charged and poor children do not go to school. That distortion applies throughout the system, which is why a special top-up fund will not do. It is important to get Governments committed to educating all children, including poor children--and particularly girls, who tend to be excluded. As the hon. Gentleman knows, countries
The World Bank's evidence is clear: educating a generation of children, including the girls, even only to primary level, is the strongest development intervention that any country can make. If countries want development, they must educate all their children.