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19 Sept 2002 : Column 433Wcontinued
Clare Short: We published a revised strategy for improving the poor performance of the European Community development programme in August 2001, a copy of which is available in the Library of the House. We welcome the positive steps that have recently been taken, including establishment for the first time of an EC Development Policy with poverty reduction as the central objective. The Commission are also delegating significant new responsibilities to their offices overseas in order to improve communication with developing country partners and cut delays. The Government is working with other member states, the Commission and the European Parliament to try to ensure that these measures begin to have an impact on the ground and allow the European Community to make a much more significant contribution to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. We are also working to try to reach agreement that a much greater share of EC aid should be allocated to low income countries where it will have the greatest impact on poverty reduction. In 2000, only 38 per cent. of EC aid was spent in low-income countries compared to 70 per cent. in 1990.
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The Government will continue to push for allocations based on developmental needs to countries committed to reducing poverty through all the channels available to us including the 2003 budget negotiations and the revision of the Asia and Latin America Regulation.
Clare Short: The Cabinet Office, on an annual basis, publishes a report to Parliament on the volume of Members' correspondence received by departments. The Report for 2001 was published on Friday 24 May. Copies of previous reports are available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many staff from her Department will travel to Bali to participate in the mini-summit for discussion of environmental issues. 
Clare Short: Three officials from my department will be attending the Fourth Preparatory Committee meeting for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD). In addition, two DFID officials who specialise in water and private sector issues will be accompanying the delegation in the first week to assist in specific meetings.
Finalised figures for 200102 are not yet available.
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Pete Wishart: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many press releases were issued by her Department (a) in each month between May and December 1997 and (b) in each year from 1998 to 2001 inclusive. 
Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on what date her Department received reports and representations from the International Committee of the Red Cross regarding the conditions of fighters held in Shibergan prison in Afghanistan; and what action her Department has taken. 
Clare Short: My Department has not received reports or representations from the International Committee of the Red Cross regarding Shibergan prison in Afghanistan. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is pursuing this issue.
Clare Short: In Afghanistan women have begun to return to work and girls are going back to school. Two women hold office in the Afghan Interim Administration (AIA) and 11 per cent. of seats in the Loya Jirga are guaranteed for women. The UK is working closely with the AIA and the rest of the international community, to ensuring women's full and effective participation in civil, cultural, economic, political and social life throughout Afghanistan. To date this includes an allocation of $1 million to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) for a programme to support Afghan women's leadership through awareness raising, capacity building and gender mainstreaming; as well as local level, quick impact recovery projects supporting women. We are also providing support directly to the Ministry for Women.
Ann Clwyd: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment her Department has made of food shortages in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; and what aid is being provided by the UK Government. 
Clare Short: We have recently provided £500,000 to the World Food Programme, and our contributions to UNRWA's Emergency Appeals£5 million this yearhelp meet the food needs of the refugee population. We are closely monitoring the situation and stand ready to do more.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the impact of changes in commodity prices on debt sustainability and the HIPC Initiative. 
Clare Short: At the Annual Meetings of the World Bank and IMF in Ottawa last November, we raised this concern and asked Bank and Fund staff to revisit the debt sustainability analyses of all commodity dependent low-income countries, including the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC). The IMF and World Bank analysis, published last month, shows that, although the situation varies from country to country, the external debt indicators for most HIPC countries have deteriorated, and a result several HIPC countries now face unsustainable debt burdens. Following UK pressure, the World Bank and IMF Boards have agreed to provide additional relief countries in this situation. This was reconfirmed at the Spring Meetings last month.
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Bank work with governments in the countries themselves to produce detailed forecasts of export growth, GDP growth and new borrowing. These forecasts take account of all the various factors affecting the countries' economic situation, including the impact of HIV/AIDS, and the need for concessional borrowing to finance their poverty reduction strategies.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent discussions she has had with the Governments of (a) India and (b) Pakistan regarding developments in Kashmir. 
Clare Short: My Department does not routinely issue advice on conditions in countries where UK based NGOs are operating. Advice or guidance on such issues is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
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