Select Committee on International Development First Special Report


Thematic Inquiries


46. The Committee's Report on Conflict Prevention and Post Conflict Reconstruction drew, in part, on the Committee's examination of humanitarian crises which were the direct consequence of wars such as Sudan and Kosovo, and from the Committee's visits to Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda in 1998 and to FYR Macedonia and Albania in 1999. Throughout the Committee's existence, it had become clear that issues associated with conflict permeate all areas of development policy. The inquiry was one of the longest conducted by the Committee, lasting over 18 months. A great deal of evidence was gathered by the Committee — both through written and oral evidence and in the course of the Committee's visits.

47. The final Report was extremely wide-ranging covering issues from arms exports and private security firms to the policies of the World Bank and IMF, and the use after conflict of truth and reconciliation commissions.

48. The Government, in a very positive response, welcomed the Report and the Committee's interest in this "difficult and highly complex area". Since the publication of the Government response, a number of further developments should be noted.

49. First, the Government response noted that initial conflict impact assessments were being conducted in Ghana, Sri Lanka and Uganda and that further work was planned in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. Since that time, the assessments of Sierra Leone and Kosovo have been dropped and a new "conflict assessment" project is underway examining four case studies: Moldova, Nepal and Sri Lanka (which have now been completed) and Kyrgyzstan. Secondly, the Government announced in July that funds would be allocated for conflict prevention in Africa, to be managed by a Ministerial Committee headed by the Secretary of State for International Development, and for the Rest of the World, managed by a Ministerial Committee chaired by the Foreign Secretary. The new arrangements will come into effect in April 2001 for a period of three years.

50. In its Report, the Committee expressed disappointment that legislation to ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court had not been introduced in Parliament and recommended that it be included in the legislative programme of the next session. Subsequently, draft legislation to enable ratification was published on 25 August 2000 and, in the Queen's Speech on 6 December 2000, the Government committed itself to introduce a Bill to ratify the statute of the International Criminal Court ensuring that the UK would be among the first sixty states to ratify. The Government, in its memorandum, also provided further information on post-conflict reconstruction in Rwanda which was examined by the Committee in its Report.

51. The Committee also made a number of recommendations with regard to the private sector and conflict prevention.[35] Since the publication of the Government response, DFID has begun to take part in a series of discussions with the FCO and the US State Department to develop a code of conduct for businesses in the oil and mineral extractive industries specifically addressing best practice in risk assessment and risk reduction, the relationship between companies and public security services and guidelines on the use of private security companies. Elsewhere, whilst the Home Office has published proposals for updating the UK law on corruption and the bribery of public officials, no Bill has, as yet, been introduced despite the recommendation of   the Committee. The Committee supported the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee which called for the Government to pursue both unilateral and multilateral measures to bring the activities of non-governmental military companies under some form of legislative control. The Government, in its response, made a commitment to publish a Green Paper on mercenary activity by Autumn 2000.[36] The Department in its memorandum, stated that "The FCO ... has indicated its intention to publish the Green Paper by November 2000". However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has yet to publish a Green Paper on mercenary activity.

52. Since the publication of the Report, the Committee has maintained an interest in the issue of conflict prevention. Committee representatives have attended DFID conferences on Security Sector Reform and Military Expenditure and an open day on DFID's Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department. It should also be noted that the Committee has returned to a number of issues raised in the Report: the policies of the World Bank and the IMF in our inquiry into the Prague 2000 Annual Meetings of the Bank and Fund; the issue of trade in the Committee's inquiry into the WTO; the issue of corruption in the Committee's current inquiry on that subject; and Government policy on strategic export controls in the course of the Committee's joint inquiry with the Defence, Foreign Affairs and Trade and Industry Committees.


53. As with the Committee's Report on Conflict Prevention and Post Conflict Reconstruction, the Committee's Report on Women and Development was necessarily broad and wide-ranging. The Report concluded that the overarching aims of development assistance — the eradication of extreme poverty and the access of all poor people to their human rights — could not be achieved without special attention to the nature and causes of women's poverty. The Report drew on a wide range of written and oral evidence and on the Committee's visit to Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (which, between them, contain more than a third of the world's poor). The Report discussed a number of elements which are central to strategies to eliminate gender imbalances in development: access to basic education, gender-sensitive services and resources for women's health, access to credit, the elimination of discrimination and violence against women, and political will.

54. As with the Conflict Report, the Government very much welcomed the Committee's Report and its interest in the issue. Since the publication of the Report, DFID has published its target strategy paper on "Poverty Elimination and the Empowerment of Women" which reflected many of the concerns raised by the Committee in its Report, but failed to acknowledge the Committee's Report. The Government has informed the Committee that plans are now well advanced for a comprehensive evaluation of its support for gender equality. In Bangladesh, a new gender strategy has been developed which, among other things, points to the need for better data to support women's equality in that country — a recommendation made by the Committee.[37] The Government is also in the process of addressing gender concerns through the media. A new media and conflict guide is about to be published which includes guidance on mainstreaming gender in this work and assessing impact.


55. The Committee's Report on The Future of Sanctions examined issues relating to the humanitarian/developmental impact of sanctions on developing countries and discussed proposals to reduce both unintended consequences and unwarranted harm.

56. The Committee came to a number of conclusions and recommendations about past and present sanctions regimes focussing, in particular, on the comprehensive economic sanctions in place against Iraq and on sanctions imposed on developing countries. The Committee's Report also made suggestions to improve the effectiveness and alleviate the humanitarian impact of sanctions by improving procedures for information gathering, by providing technical assistance to developing countries to improve their implementation of sanctions regimes and by improving and expanding humanitarian exemptions. The Report also made proposals for the targeting sanctions: on financial assets and on other goods and services such as arms and flights.

57. The Report was widely disseminated and, following its publication, the Committee was informed by a witness to the inquiry that its conclusions had been discussed in a special session of the Security Council on Sanctions. The Government response to the Report was, on the whole, positive although it rejected Committee suggestions that insufficient effort was being expended by the Government effectively to implement financial sanctions noting that, in the UK, it is the responsibility of financial institutions to ensure that targeted accounts are frozen and up to them to decide which systems they wish to use to achieve this end. The Committee concluded that elements of the Government response were disappointing and continued to demonstrate a "somewhat casual approach"[38] in the targeting and monitoring of sanctions.

58. One problem encountered by the Committee in this inquiry was that vital UN officials were not allowed to give oral evidence to parliamentary select committees. In this instance, the Committee was able to work around this by taking evidence in private from Hans Von Sponeck, the then UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, and by taking public evidence from Claude Bruderlein, a 'Special Advisor' to the UN and from Ambassador Robert Fowler — Canadian Ambassador to the UN but also Chairman of the Angola Sanctions Committee. The Committee believes that this issue — the accountability of UN agencies — requires further consideration. At present, UN rules prevent their officials from giving evidence to national parliaments. We have, however, previously mentioned the willingness of the heads of certain UN bodies, and other multilateral organisations, to give evidence to the Committee. There is some confusion in this area which the UN could usefully clarify.

35   Sixth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1998-99, Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, HC 55-I, paras 110-138 Back

36   Sixth Special Report from the Committee, Session 1998-99, Government Response to the Sixth Report from the Committee, Session 1998-99: Conflict Prevention and Post-Conflict Reconstruction, HC 840, p. xix Back

37   Seventh Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1998-99, Women and Development, HC 160-I, para. 32 Back

38   Second Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1999-2000, The Future of Sanctions, HC 67, para. 142 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 24 January 2001