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Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support her Department is giving to non-governmental organisations (a) in the UK and (b) elsewhere to enable them to undertake peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution activities. 
Clare Short: My Department provides support to both UK-based and overseas non-governmental organisations through a number of sources, including through the Civil Society Challenge Fund and through our geographical programmes. We also have Partnership Programme Agreements (PPAs) with 11 UK-based
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NGOs and PPAs with a further four NGOs are under discussion. Expenditure under these PPAs in the 200203 financial year is expected to total #56,300,000. A substantial proportion of these agencies are working in localities which are either in conflict or have recently experienced conflict: peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution activities are therefore a key part of the challenge of promoting sustainable development and reducing violent conflict.
Clare Short: Violent conflict remains one of the most important obstacles to reducing poverty. My Department is developing its work in the field of conflict prevention and peacebuilding both directly through our work in developing countries and with two conflict prevention pools jointly managed by DFID, the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
More than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa are currently devastated by or are recovering from violent conflict and 20 per cent. of the continent's population live in countries affected by armed conflicts. Through the Africa Pool, an inter-Departmental strategy has been developed for conflict prevention and peace-keeping in Africa, which focuses on geographic and thematic priorities. The Strategy involves working with international partners to support African Governments and institutions to prevent and resolve conflict at country and regional level.
We have focused particular attention on securing peace and stability in Sierra Leone and contributing to the establishment of durable and lasting solutions to the conflicts in the Great Lakes and Sudan. More broadly, my Department will continue to work on building inclusive and accountable governance structures, including security sector reform, strengthening state institutions and improving people's livelihoods, all of which contribute directly to conflict prevention and peacebuilding in Africa. With regard to Security Sector Reform, working with other donors and with international organisations and institutions, my Department has been active in developing policy as well as in implementing practical reform measures.
We also continue to address the issues raised by the Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, better known as the Brahimi Report, to help improve the ability of the UN to deal with complex peace operations. Activities have to date focussed on developing the resources for information gathering and analysis in and around the United Nations, and we are now discussing further activities with the UN Department of Peace Keeping Operations to further strengthen their operational capabilities.
Under the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, my Department, in close co-operation with FCO and MOD, is implementing a #19.5 million programme that seeks to reduce the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons. We will continue to clarify and address the relationship between the uncontrolled proliferation of small arms and light weapons, insecurity and underdevelopment.
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We have also developed a methodology to help development agencies assess possible development interventions in countries at risk of violent conflict. This methodology has been endorsed and picked up by other donor agencies in their conflict prevention work.
DFID is also active in its support of conflict prevention work at regional and international levels and through contributions to multilateral agencies, including the United Nations and the EU. We provide core support for the strengthening of the key humanitarian agenciesUNHCR, OCHA, WFP and the Red Cross family, as well as UNDP, UNICEF and the OHCHRin addition to contributing to specific appeals during emergencies. We continue to be heavily involved with humanitarian mine action, primarily through the UN Mine Action Service. This includes mine clearance, developing indigenous capacity and the development, testing and trailing of suitable technologies.
My Department will continue to focus on improving and strengthening the disaster response mechanism that exists under the co-ordination of the United Nations at both local and global level to respond to disasters around the world. Following a disaster, most lives are saved in the first few hours by immediate local effort. We are therefore working to build local, national and regional capacities for effective response.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what contribution her Department is making to the training of UN personnel engaged in peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution. 
Clare Short: In the Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations published in August 2000 (better known as the Brahimi Report), emphasis was placed on the importance of equipping UN personnel with the necessary skills in peacebuilding and conflict prevention.
We have been supporting a number of training initiatives for UN personnel (and others), notably, the UN Staff College training course in Early Warning and Preventive Measures, which provides UN field and Headquarters staff with basic skills in conflict analysis, as well as a comprehensive guide to the UN prevention process through the use of case studies. We have been supporting this course since its development in 1998 and over 720 UN staff have been trained to date.
In addition to this, we support the Fellowship Programme in Peacemaking and Preventive Diplomacy at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). This training in conflict analysis, with a particular focus on negotiation and mediation, is designed for mid-level UN officials and National Government Civil Servants.
This supports a range of institutional development activities, from policy development to monitoring and evaluation. It also supports in-house training activities with a particular focus on conflict and other
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humanitarian emergencies. The training programmes not only benefit the staff in these specialised units, but also other Headquarters staff, and of course, field staff.
In conjunction with the Canadian government we have sponsored the development, production and implementation of gender training materials for personnel involved in peace support operations. They emphasise women's role in conflict-reduction and peacebuilding activities.
Clare Short: During the financial year 200102 my Department expects to spend #4,500,000 on activities whose primary purpose was conflict prevention. We are also jointly responsible for expenditure on conflict prevention initiatives under the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool and the Global Conflict Prevention Pool, together with the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Excluding peacekeeping costs, expenditure under the Africa Conflict Prevention Pool this financial year is expected to total #12,220,000 and expenditure for conflict prevention programmes under the Global Conflict Prevention Pool is expected to total #26,100,000.
Mr. Lazarowicz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support her Department is giving to courses furnishing civilians with the necessary skills to participate in peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution. 
Clare Short: My Department supports a number of organisations providing formal and informal training opportunities to civilians in peacemaking, peacebuilding and conflict resolution activities. Civil society in developing countries has a key role to play in preventing and resolving conflicts, and organisations such as religious groups, the media, business and non-governmental organisations are often effective in promoting dialogue and reconciliation, as part of wider efforts to address the sources of tension and grievance which give rise to conflict.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the target time will be in 200203 for (a) Ministers to reply to letters from hon. Members and (b) officials in her Department to reply to letters received directly from members of the public. 
Clare Short: The target time for reply to all correspondence received by DFID from Members of parliament and the public remains unchanged at 15 working days; in line with the target time prescribed by the Cabinet Office. In 2001, DFID replied to 87 per cent. of MPs letters and 90 per cent. of letters/e-mails sent direct to our Public Enquiry Point, within the 15 day target. The correspondence figures for all Government departments are published annually by the Cabinet Office.
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