Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Clare Short: Of course I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should transfer not old technology but modern, more environmentally sustainable technology. However, we will not transfer technology on the scale that is needed. Half of humanity has no sanitation, and more than a billion people have no access to clean water, which means that their children constantly get sick because the water has been used for other purposes by other human beings. The need for investment in sanitation, water and energy is massive, and we will get that investment only if we can grow economies so that countries can afford more imports. They would then be able to afford the transfer of technology that occurs through trade and foreign direct investment. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we must make sure that any transferred technology is state of the art, rather than old and polluting—that would be a terrible development.

The achievements of the past year which I have just summarised mean that the world now agrees on the agenda and on the best way to engage in reform. We need

25 Apr 2002 : Column 491

now to drive forward implementation and to improve the measurement of our progress in achieving development goals. The World Bank is calling a meeting in June to improve the collection of statistics and measurements across the world system, so that we can learn from the progress that has been made and find out which countries are not making progress.

At the meeting last weekend, the World Bank issued a report on progress towards the development targets. We are on track to achieve the targets to halve poverty, so we are set by 2015 to reduce by a billion the number of people living in abject poverty. That is partly because progress in China has been remarkable for the past 10 years or so. Progress in India and Bangladesh has been considerable, but it could be better, and we must remember that two thirds of the world's poor live in Asia.

We are not, however, on track in Africa—it is getting poorer. The population is growing faster than the economy. Africa is by far the poorest continent, and 50 per cent. of its people live in abject poverty. I repeat: it is getting poorer. Twenty per cent. of the continent's people are living under conditions of conflict. For example, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is hardly a state. It is an enormously resource-rich part of the world, as big as western Europe, but it lacks the institutions of a modern state and it is in desperate humanitarian need.

We have to do better in Africa, and we have two opportunities to do so. The first is through NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, in which African leaders are coming together to say that they are determined to do better, to end the conflicts, to reform their states and run them better and to provide better services for their people. That gives us an opportunity to respond to Africa's own reform agenda. In the past the agenda has tended to be set in Washington and imposed on reluctant states, so it has been more likely to fail. The importance of NEPAD is that Africa is leading its own drive for development.

There is another major opportunity. We must concentrate on ensuring that Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola all come to peace. According to World Bank estimates, the levels of conflict in Africa are costing 2 per cent. of economic growth to every country on the continent, including those that are not in conflict, simply because of the reputation of Africa, the difficulties of transport systems and so forth. If we can focus on bringing to peace those three massive, resource-rich countries, which straddle the continent and have been engaged in war for two generations, that really would improve Africa's prospects.

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): As usual, I do not find that much to disagree with in what the right hon. Lady is saying, which is always slightly depressing for a Conservative Member. Does she agree, however, that NEPAD has resulted in marvellous words with which we all concur, but we need to see some concrete action from its leaders, particularly the President of Nigeria, who presides over an extremely corrupt state and yet has signed up to NEPAD's statement on the importance of good governance and accountability?

Clare Short: I agree very much with the hon. Gentleman. We must have implementation, but it is important that Africa is calling for reform itself rather

25 Apr 2002 : Column 492

than being hectored by others. I agree that lack of progress on reform in Nigeria is very worrying. In that oil-rich country, 70 per cent. of the population live in abject poverty, and all its systems are riddled with corruption and ineffectiveness. One in five of all Africans cannot go forward without Nigeria going forward, and progress has been very slow.

Nigeria is now in pre-election time. Some of the reforms in which Governments in developing countries must engage to run their economies better and provide better services to their people threaten vested interests and are difficult to implement. A wave of reform tends not to happen in a pre-election period, so I am worried that there will be still more delay before the reform agenda can be driven forward in Nigeria. Nigeria is in bad shape and we must do all we can to ensure that the reform effort moves forward so that the rich oil resources there are used for the benefit of the people and not just for the benefit of a corrupt elite while the rest go poor.

This is an important time of opportunity. There is more and more agreement across the world about what needs to be done and about the urgency of doing it, and more and more knowledge about what works in development. We now need to progress more sharply and rapidly with implementing what we have agreed. Extra aid is needed, but we need to use the existing aid better. Only half of the $55 billion that is already in the international system is spent in low-income countries. Much of it is used for foreign policy purposes or gestures or to procure trade for the giving country. If it were directed to the poor and put behind reformers, its poverty-reducing effectiveness could be increased by 50 per cent.

We have redirected the whole of the UK effort and untied our aid, but we need to drive that process forward across the world. As the House knows, the EC is a major sinner in this regard and is getting worse. We have worked for a reform agenda that is being put in place and that will improve the performance of the staff and the capacity of the organisation to spend money, but the way in which it is allocated has moved even further away from poor people, which is a disgrace. We are working hard, and we need parliamentarians across Europe to join in exposing this scandal and to establish a determination to do better.

That problem is the result of gesture spending and old alliances. Lots of resources go to Latin America, for example, where most of the countries are middle-income. They are the most unequal countries in the world, however, and they have lots of poor and excluded people. Those countries do not need aid resources; they need to use their own resources better to include all of their people, educate all of their children and provide work and opportunities to all of their people to improve their lives. We must therefore work to redirect the money available to where it would be most effective.

We also need to implement the commitments made at Doha. The European Union is about to negotiate regional trade agreements with all the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries under the Cotonou agreement. We need to keep an eye on that to make sure that the offers are generous and that they improve the trading opportunities of developing countries.

We must do better in terms of dealing with conflict. The Government have two mechanisms—a global conflict prevention pooled arrangement bringing together the

25 Apr 2002 : Column 493

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my Department and the Ministry of Defence, and one for Africa that I chair. The bringing together of those three Departments and their expertise has really improved UK thinking about conflict resolution and conflict prevention. I am trying to focus sharply on bringing the three big conflicts to an end, which would transform the prospects of the continent. I hope that the House will watch that and try to give support. If the kind of international energy and quality of attention that went into the Bonn agreement for Afghanistan were put into the three conflicts in Africa, they could be brought to an end.

Mr. Hilton Dawson (Lancaster and Wyre): Having recently visited Sudan, I agree absolutely with my right hon. Friend on the prospect for peace and the imperative for peace in that country. We commend the efforts that are being made to step up the diplomatic process and influence.

With regard to Angola, which I know my right hon. Friend has visited recently, will she explain further the role that this country could take to try to eliminate some of the desperate circumstances that some of us have seen there, particularly in internally displaced person camps? There seems at last to be an opportunity to get to grips with those appalling circumstances.

Clare Short: Angola has been at war since the early 1960s. It fought the Portuguese for its independence, and the Russians allied with the country, so it declared a one-party state and adopted a Soviet model of development. That led to support from then apartheid South Africa and the United States for UNITA, a rebel movement. A civil war has therefore been going on there ever since independence. Again, although it is a very rich country in terms of natural resources—it has masses of oil, diamonds and other rich resources—it suffers from desperate poverty.

The country has now come to peace, which is a very important opportunity, and it is sincere about wanting that peace to succeed. The UNITA fighters must be disarmed, demobilised and resettled, which is a considerable task. A third of the population of the country has been displaced in the course of the war—4 million people have been removed from their land, and the country is littered with land mines. The resettlement effort will therefore be enormous, but it should be an engine of economic development, given its richness in natural resources.

The UK does not have a big programme in Angola. We do not speak Portuguese and do not understand Portuguese bureaucratic systems—I am not sure how many people do; it is an intensely bureaucratic tradition. I am working to release resources from the Department to help to bring in the best advice on how to demobilise and resettle people, however, and I have offered to enable a team representing the Government and UNITA to come to Sierra Leone to talk to all the people engaged in disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation there, to learn the lessons. I had discussions at the World Bank meeting, and a mission is about to go to Angola to help with DDR.

Angola also has terrible problems of corruption, and the IMF programme there has gone off-track. I had discussions with Hans Kohler about looking again at

25 Apr 2002 : Column 494

Angola, as it is no longer a country in conflict but a post-conflict country. That does not mean that we should lower our standards on reform, but the effort is worth while. I shall probably contribute some expertise from the UK, too. Angola should be able to access international expertise to help to move its peace process forward.

Next Section

IndexHome Page