Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)



Chris McCafferty

  200. As Andrew has just said, many of our witnesses have commented on the speed of the UK response, both logistically and financially, and I think we are all very proud of that. Catherine Bertini did say in her evidence that it was very depressing that the UN always had to go cap-in-hand whenever there was an emergency. I know we are the second largest contributor after the US but in terms of gross national product little Denmark and the Scandinavian countries actually do contribute quite heavily, much more heavily than most of the donor countries do, to the UN. I think my question would be, what do you think we can do to get all the donor countries to increase the level of aid that they give and reach their targets? My second question would be, is the provision of sexual and reproductive health services and information considered to be humanitarian aid? What percentage of our aid is given to that?
  (Clare Short) I think there is a series of questions folded together here. Obviously, when there is an emergency anywhere in the world the UN makes an appeal, but I cannot see—in the world we are living in now—any other way of doing it, because if an emergency flares up you need some expertise and we have been working in particular to strengthen the current co-ordinating expertise in the UN system so they can make an informed assessment of numbers of people etc. Then they make an international appeal and all the OECD countries respond, and there is a rough rule of thumb about what a country's share in that kind of effort should be. Some appeals are more proficiently done than others, and some are responded to more fully than others. The appeal for Afghanistan post-September 11, I have to say, not prior to, was over-fulfilled. It was a $600 million appeal and $700 odd million was pledged. Then, and this is a very serious issue, you always get countries pledging, which is all done in the media both internationally and at home, but a lot of countries are very slow to turn their pledge into real money on the ground, liquid, that can be there and help the UN agencies to operate. That needs attention. In this case, however, we think that has gone better than in most usual emergencies; that countries that responded then were quite quick to provide the parts of the UN system with what they needed. You have to remember the UN appeal has to predict the future, so, for example, they predicted 1.5 million refugees, UNHCR was poised to build new camps that were not needed, so you have to have the capacity within that appeal to go where the people are and switch direction. The second thing I would say is that the UN is precious and the world cannot function without it, as we see so clearly here, but lots of UN agencies are not as efficient as they should be. They are very, very slow. They have incredibly cumbersome, inefficient economic management systems—as bad as, if not worse than, the EC, I have to say, which will fill you all with gloom, but it is true. For example, in East Timor there was a trust fund run by both the World Bank and the UN. The people put money into that for East Timor and then for nearly a year you could not get any money out, and it was just a useless administrative system. It is disgraceful. They have systems, also, for appointing people to any country in an emergency and there are procedures for who gets appointments and how long it takes them to go and take up the job, and how many houses and how many vehicles they have to have. All of that is not good enough. Kofi Annan came in as Secretary General determined to bring about some reform, and he has, but there is a lot more to do. I think it was John Battle who asked me, on the floor of the House about this. Our department's position is that with all the UN agencies that we fund we now have these published strategy papers that we put together based on our experience and then negotiate with the organisation about what directions of reform and improvement in their effectiveness is necessary, and then we try to encourage, through our donations and a willingness to contribute more in return for increases in efficiency, improvement. There are improvements taking place, but there is a need for more. So it would not be true to suggest that if everyone just gave the UN the money we would have a perfectly functioning international system; it is a system under improvement but it needs more improvement and it needs the attention of committees such as yourselves to try to make these improvements. I do not know whether your question was also partly linked to the whole overall question of levels of the ODA 0.7 target. On that, as you know, the UK had moved away; it reached nearly 0.5 in 1979, got down to 0.26, is on its way to 0.33 and I would like us to do a lot better. I assume you will be allies in this. The UK is seen now as a leading player in international development and I think our financial resources are a bit behind our reputation, but I am sure that is a value we would all share. I assure you I work on it endlessly. Whether sexual and reproductive health is seen as part of emergency humanitarian provision—the answer is most firmly yes. It was not in the past. Obviously, refugees and people still need these kinds of facilities and there have been improvements. In the case of Afghanistan, I do not have any information. Do you, Matt?
  (Mr Baugh) If we look at our wider package of support to agencies such as UNICEF, which traditionally works in child health but not necessarily sexual and reproductive health, there is support for sexual and reproductive health care.
  (Clare Short) It did not used to be recognised, and there has been a big move, as you probably know, through the international system, to accept and realise that just because people are on the move or in refugee camps it does not mean that they do not need access to contraception or help when they become pregnant or whatever. So, in general, the point is respected, but I will find out in relation to Afghanistan what is being done as part of the humanitarian effort. This is not a country that is famous for taking up contraception, but if we can get more girls to school I am sure that will change.

  201. They have got the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world and a very high level of child mortality. It seems to me that would be something where we really could help.
  (Clare Short) I think, however, if the Taliban would not let little girls go to school or women to work, the thought of opening clinics for more access to reproductive health care would have been very difficult. So it is not that they have got these problems because no one is willing to provide sexual and reproductive health care, but I absolutely agree with you, it must be part of the emergency assistance, and the provision of such services is part of the reconstruction of Afghanistan. I will find out exactly how these needs are being cared for in the emergency effort.

Hugh Bayley

  202. The way to rebuild women's rights must be to involve women at every level of government, from the Cabinet down to the local administration. Do you agree that one of the real lessons about why these bakeries have been successful is because women are empowered; they control the food? Is that not a lesson which should be learnt in all the post-war reconstruction; that if women control the budgets then the men will want to hear what they have to say? If they do not control budgets and resources then they will be left out in the cold. Is that a lesson?
  (Clare Short) This is the lesson of the whole world. As Kofi Annan said, number one: poverty has a woman's face. The poorest of the world are widows and women alone and their children, all over the world. It is true in our own country but in a desperately poor country the widows, or indeed the orphans, are the poorest. Seventy per cent of the poor in the world are women, and whenever you have programmes that do not think about women in leadership positions you tend to get the poorest left out. That is step number one, and it is really important, all the time, to recognise that. Number two, women because they live so closely to the needs of their families, elders and communities, are very good organisers. That is the lesson of all sorts of interventions; it is the lesson of our Child Benefit, is it not? When you get things into the hands of women who are responsible for the care of others they will use that resource to care for others. All over the world there are lots of lovely men, as we know, but quite a lot of them, given resources, will spend a fair proportion of it not on the needs of the neediest. This is true in Afghanistan and it is more urgent in Afghanistan because of the position of women in Afghanistan, but it is true of development worldwide and emergencies worldwide.

Ann Clwyd

  203. One of the unfortunate instruments of war, as you know, has been the use of rape against women. Obviously, both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance and other warring factions will probably have used rape during this conflict, as they have so many times in the past. From going to other countries, particularly where Muslims are involved, I have been surprised that nobody has actually tried to debrief the women concerned subsequently. I am thinking of the women from East Timor who escaped to Portugal and who asked to speak to me separately in a room about their experiences; about the women in Northern Iraq who, again, years after the conflict have wanted to talk about what has happened to them in similar situations. I wondered if you had anybody in your department who would be particularly sensitive to that situation and will be able to debrief the women they come across when they go into Afghanistan.
  (Clare Short) I think you are absolutely right. There was denial right through the international system, but in conditions of war you get a lot of rape and abuse of women, both from armed forces out of control and as a way of humiliating communities, which we saw to a very deep degree in Bosnia: deliberate, systematic rape as a form of humiliation of battle and a way of driving people out of the places where they had historically lived. It used to be completely ignored because it is so shameful and horrible, and women often do not feel able to speak of it and it is not recognised. I think it is only recently that the acknowledgement of the point you make is growing. Certainly in the preparation for the International Criminal Court, I think, systematic, abusive rape as an instrument of war has been recognised as a war crime. That is a new and very important part of this recognition. My understanding is, in the case of Bosnia, there was an attempt to provide therapy, because of course here we had women suffering multiple, deliberate, systematic rape to drive people out of their lands, and important lessons were learned. A certain amount of therapy should be made available but there was some evidence in an evaluation I think I saw that normalisation is also very important. Therapy for someone in a camp might be less helpful than getting them settled back in their home, or settled somewhere in a proper way. So that I think we must acknowledge it, it must not be ignored and we must provide proper assistance for the women concerned but we should see it through the filter of their needs and not just through the filter of our society. If they are living in terribly difficult conditions therapy might be less important than getting back to some form of normal life, but clearly both provisions should be made. In the case of Afghanistan, I have read reports of the problem of rape. Even more terribly, I have read reports of women who were not allowed to work because of the Taliban's rules then becoming prostitutes. In the name of dignity not allowing women to work and then driving women to that kind of degree. So you are right to bring up the point, and I think the international community has moved on this and there is more acknowledgement, but thank you for raising it and I will try and make sure that we take that inside and remember that appropriate provision should be made into the humanitarian-plus and then the reconstruction effort.

Mr Battle

  204. Could I move things on because I was encouraged when Catherine Bertini told us that now she did not believe there really would be a great humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan; the resources were there, it was a question of distribution. Perversely, the attention of September 11 has meant that there is not a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan but there could well have been, but to the credit of DFID, paragraph 4 of your memorandum spells out that: "Between 1997 and September 2001, DFID had provided £32 million for emergency food, shelter, healthcare, water supplies as well as support for agriculture, mines clearance, education and monitoring and advocacy in relation to human rights." You were there before. Two years ago I was trying to draw attention to the fact that there was a humanitarian crisis in Mongolia where, because there was such a hard winter, all the cattle froze and some people were starving. Is it possible for us to anticipate the next humanitarian crisis? If we could anticipate it, what can we do to make sure that organisations, the UN, and governments actually address it in advance without waiting for the kind of crisis that we face now? In other words, where does your department think will be the next Afghanistan? Will it be Angola, will it be Burma, will it be Zimbabwe? Can you do any work on that, or are you so cramped by immediate crises and the attention of the world on one great tragedy?
  (Clare Short) I will ask Matt or Barrie to talk about the way in which we and the UN monitor emergencies across the world. We were in Mongolia too. We are in lots of places that the media and even the Select Committee do not take any interest in us being in.


  205. Where have we been failing to take an interest?
  (Clare Short) No, no, I am just saying that the spotlight, as you know, moves around but there are lots of places not in the spotlight but still in need, and we have got to have an international system that does not just scurry after the spotlight, although it does do some of that, as we all know. What we have been working to do is strengthen the UN's capacity. My department, brilliant as it is, cannot be everywhere in the world, we are not that big, but the UN can be everywhere in the world and it can have strong co-ordination mechanisms and the capacity to call down resources so that no one is neglected. It is that kind of international system that we are trying to build. We have, in the Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department of DFID, a capacity to monitor right across the world. We try to make sure that every emergency is being responded to. I will bring in both, Barrie first and then Matt, if I may, because these are very impressive systems. We are only part of it but we are a kind of front edge part of it and we are trying to improve the effectiveness of the UN's capacity to have a reach that is everywhere.
  (Mr Ireton) Just two quick points. On the issue of disaster preparedness, obviously we cannot predict when the next earthquake is going to be but we do know, for example, in Bangladesh they have continual problems with flooding and so forth. We have worked with the Bangladesh Government and within the country to significantly increase their preparedness, so that Bangladesh really does cope rather well with those sorts of episodes.
  (Clare Short) Very well.
  (Mr Ireton) I think that is something which we are thinking about more and more. The other point, in terms of human conflict, is that we are increasingly, as a department, much more aware of the potential for conflict, beginning to analyse it better in the countries in which we are working before there is open conflict, like Sierra Leone, and thinking of how we can help, working with countries, to avoid those conflicts emerging into open conflict. That is a general point, but I think we are becoming better at it.
  (Mr Baugh) A couple of points, one on Mongolia to start with. We have actually been engaged in Mongolia for some time now—certainly over the last two winters—and Mongolia faces, at the moment, a peculiar type of drought coupled with a harsh winter called a "Dzud". We have provided assistance both to UN agencies and, I think, UNDP and FAO, if my memory serves me correctly. We also, from the UK side, tragically lost a member of the UK UNDAC team (UNDAC is the UN Disaster, Assessment and Co-ordination team) which flew into Mongolia last January to undertake the inter-agency assessment. A helicopter tragically crashed, killing all members on board, including a UK member. The other point I would make is on our monitoring unit. We have a dedicated unit within the area in which I work. That is a 24-hour, 365-day a year capability looking at current crises and monitoring the current situation. That is an ongoing function that we have. One final point on disaster preparedness: part of our approach with, for example, agencies such as the Red Cross, particularly the Federation of the Red Cross, looks at building disaster preparedness capacity as part of the IFRC's global programme, so it is something that we are heavily engaged in.
  (Clare Short) Just to add to that, it is one of these strategic partnerships also with the Red Cross to build up Red Cross and Red Crescent capacity in every country, particularly disaster prone countries, because 24 hours after a disaster your chances of survival will depend on local capacity. The international system takes longer to get to you. Especially in disaster prone countries it is more and more for that capacity inside the country to move very rapidly because of a flood or an earthquake. We have been working on that. The Red Cross has been doing some very fine work. In Angola again it is the war—a country that should be a wealthy country and there is terrible humanitarian suffering, land mines and the rest, and there is a continuing internal effort but the people have suffered dreadfully. Burma similarly, though there are some signs of some political movement that could bring us very good news about progress in that country. Zimbabwe, we are in this agriculturally rich country all preparing for food aid. Things are bad and it is going to get worse. It is part of the tragedy of the political situation. We do have this fantastic capacity but we are not trying just to say, "Isn't the DFID wonderful? Here we are. The UK is great." We are trying to use that knowledge to strengthen the capacity of the international system to respond everywhere.

Mr Battle

  206. Could I follow through on that? You mentioned the strong co-ordination mechanisms of the UN to draw down resources. We got a strong impression from Catherine Bertini that for example there is food in the warehouses even within Afghanistan, even throughout the whole of the conflict, which was not the common impression in the media at all. We have got a brief in the papers this morning, an update from the International Red Cross, and there are some discrepancies. It does not quite tie in with what the World Food Programme is saying. Is there a gap sometimes between the World Food Programme's top-down approach and then the ability to deliver on the ground, and can you help bridge that gap by going directly to the agencies, whether they are NGOs or the International Red Cross, the Red Crescent? What can be done to strengthen the co-ordination or is it strong enough already?
  (Clare Short) I know some of the NGOs, when there was the disparity in the story of what was going on, tried to suggest that the World Food Programme did not know what was going on. Hardly anyone knew the whole picture of what was going on because communications inside Afghanistan were so difficult. That of course was the general situation, but the World Food Programme was employing Afghan truckers who knew their country better than anyone, who were taking in food and bringing back reports of what was happening in those warehouses. In the early days that was one of the major and most accurate sources of information about whether onward distribution was working or not. Similarly, truckers would not go the next day on that route until they got the report back from the other trucker, so it was a very good informal communication system that was reaching across the country. Some NGOs were getting partial information from some of the people inside from one part of the country. I am not saying there were not parts of the country that were in more stress than others but I believe that the World Food Programme was getting a more comprehensive feedback. The World Food Programme worked then with NGOs and that includes a lot of Afghan NGOs. We say NGOs and we think Oxfam, Christian Aid and so on, but they include within that community groups in Afghanistan because once you had got it into a warehouse or a stopping point, who is going to do the distribution to the people in need rather than just spreading it across the local community where some need and some do not? I do not think that criticism of the World Food Programme was informed. I think it was a kind of camouflage for some of the rather exaggerated claims. That said, in some parts of the country it remains the case that there were particular difficulties in reaching people and people who were under great stress, so of course, if there was an NGO that had information about one such community, they could reasonably say, "Things are very bad in this place", and then of course the danger is always to generalise it. The Red Cross has been providing—what is his name?
  (Mr Baugh) Dr Kellenberger.
  (Clare Short) And he said, "We are really the Health Service of Afghanistan", and of course this is partly because of their enormous operation across the world in providing health care and false limbs and so on to people who have lost their limbs because of land mines. They have been operating in Afghanistan for some time. This is on top of everything else that Afghanistan has got. It has lots of disability because of land mines and will, I fear, have more, as has Angola. They are preparing, he told me, medical stocks around the country ready to move in and strengthen the medical systems. That would be my response. There are areas under strain but it is not true that the World Food Programme is top-down and it is these other people who are really close to the ground. The final point is that all these international agencies, including British NGOs, employ local NGOs and local Afghans to do the operation when it gets right to the bottom. I think we should remember that and absolutely remember it in the reconstruction of the country. There is always a danger that when it becomes safe to go you get this flood of internationals coming in, all with their Land Rovers and expensive equipment and so on. It happened in East Timor to a considerable extent and caused some resentment. We must remember how, despite low levels of education and the rest, Afghans kept this going, and in the reconstruction effort their talents and skills must be used and we must not have lots of expensive internationals coming in above them except in a way that empowers them, and taking over and marginalising the people who are going to have to rebuild their country.

Mr Robathan

  207. On the question of NGOs and employing local staff I would particularly like to lead you into the question of mine clearance. You know I am a trustee of the HALO Trust which has 1,200 local staff still in Afghanistan. In the Security Council draft resolution, and I am not sure whether it was passed, it refers to de-mining as humanitarian assistance.
  (Clare Short) I think it was passed. Let us make sure we get you a copy of the one that was passed. It is probably the same.

  208. It refers to de-mining as humanitarian assistance rather than development assistance. This of course is quite critical at the moment with, amongst other things, a certain number of cluster bombs having been used in Afghanistan and therefore unexploded ordnance on the roads and in some villages. Do you see in this context de-mining as humanitarian assistance and will you be supporting NGOs in de-mining in Afghanistan now?
  (Clare Short) As you know, it is another thing that was an issue before September 11. Massive de-mining efforts have been going on and HALO has been doing a lot on de-mining, and we have been supporting de-mining. Now there is probably even more de-mining to be done and the cluster bombs that have been used will add to that. I am sure there will be other unexploded ordnance just in the nature of any military conflict. I read a couple of days ago that there is another £12 million we have dispersed and I think two million of that was for de-mining which we will distribute through the UN Mines Clearance Agency, is it called?
  (Mr Baugh) Mine Action Service.
  (Clare Short) We have done that in a way that HALO objects to but we agreed and is part of trying to build an international system that operates everywhere. I am sure they will be keen to have the help of HALO in doing the even greater de-mining that needs doing. Hopefully, if we are going to get peace, then we really can get on with the de-mining and clear more areas in the country in a way that we have been de-mining but then you get mines re-laid as in Angola, which is kind of heartbreaking.

Mr Bayley

  209. What is the intended humanitarian role for British troops now on standby to go into Afghanistan and what conditions would need to be met before further troops go in? Is there not a danger that British troops will create problems for the impartiality of the humanitarian operation?
  (Clare Short) The fundamental humanitarian role of troops in the humanitarian role is to give order, which is key, as we were saying at the beginning, to being able to operate in a more effective way and bring in humanitarian relief and move to humanitarian plus. I have already answered the question to Ann Clwyd about the actual role of the troops that are already there and the planned role. I will ask the Ministry of Defence to amplify this and I will let the Select Committee have that. We really need security to do the humanitarian job. We do not need the military to do the humanitarian job; we need the military to do what they do well, which is bring us security so that the humanitarian system can operate. I did say this on the floor of the House but I would like the Select Committee to note it and to take it further. The civil/military liaison that we have had in this problem has not worked particularly well at all, nothing like as well as in Kosovo. We are working hard to try and improve it but it is an issue I would like the Select Committee to be aware of because we are going to need in the reconstruction some security. Some parts of the country are not orderly and some are. As soon as there is order you need to be able to say that the humanitarians can move. If military action is getting in the way of the humanitarian operation you need to be able to communicate and say, "Could you get out of the way please? We want to get some convoys through here". You need that kind of communication. Some of it is there but it is not operating as well as it could and it would help us a lot if it improved. The United Kingdom's part of the military action is small. You would not believe it by reading our newspapers but it is small, although it is not without influence. We are really working on it and the UK military do understand the significance of this. We could do with some improvements and anything that the Select Committee could do would be gratefully received. I should add one other thing. NATO was planning as NATO to maybe try and come in and help with the humanitarian efforts. Shades of the memories of Kosovo, you know, when all the people were trapped in no-man's-land coming out, the refugees, and people were dying in that and indeed babies were being born there. The British troops—other troops too; the French did it—in the camps I visited did a phenomenal job in throwing up refugee camps with a speed and capacity that humanitarian aid could not have done and then later handed them over. I think NATO and Brigadier Cross (now General Cross) just did a fantastic job. They worked all night, they cooked meals and sent them up to the people in no-man's-land, they put up the tents, they created washing areas, kitchens. That was a fantastic contribution. NATO was looking at whether that kind of effort was needed in Afghanistan and making plans, but I think that is overtaken up to now by the fact that the World Food Programme and those who work with it held up so well. There was some NATO thinking about whether it should come in and help but it has now been stood down as I understand it. But, who knows? If we get a bit of disorder it might need to be stood up again. At the moment it is thought not to be needed.

  210. So who would be the key actors on the humanitarian side and on the military side? If you need better liaison who should lead the humanitarian side of the liaison and who should lead the military?
  (Clare Short) There are in the US military headquarters in Tampa and also in Islamabad units where there is civil/military liaison arrangements and there are representatives of the UN. We have two people in Tampa. We have people in Islamabad as well. The UK and the UN have people. This is meant to be the point where at a high level the communications take place. In Tampa there are plenty of humanitarians there and the communication is taking place but it is not being taken seriously enough at a high enough level. It is not a disaster, please understand me, but if it improved we could do better. It is a thing that is fixable so we ought to get on and do it.

  211. It seems that there are a lot of people involved. Is that the problem, that it is not clear who leads from the humanitarian side?
  (Clare Short) I will invite Barrie to come in, but I think the problem is, because this is the new post-Cold War disorderly world we live in, that you often get the humanitarian and the military operations taking place in the same place: East Timor, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and so on. Certainly the relationship between my department and our military is that we have got to know each other much better, we have got to understand the need to work these things together, not to get the military doing the humanitarian job but appreciating and respecting the importance of it. We have grown a lot in that relationship and I do not think it is quite as informed, the US military, and has not had the same experience.

  212. At the end of last week there were press reports of Hazaras marching from the central highlands to Kabul because they were unhappy with the Northern Alliance forming an administration in Kabul. How serious an impediment do you believe the Northern Alliance will be to the fair distribution of aid, to ensuring that it gets through to the people who need it, since they are obviously going to be there for maybe days, maybe weeks? They are going to be there for some period of time controlling things on the ground.
  (Clare Short) This is again the spectre of what happened when the Russians withdrew, when the Northern Alliance took Kabul, all the factions broke apart, everyone wanted to take over the government. They all fought each other, destroyed the city, it was a disaster. It caused enormous suffering across the country. Then when the Taliban came along saying, "We will bring order", that is partly why the country fell to them, because the people so desperately wanted order. That is the tragedy of this recent period in Afghanistan and must not be repeated. Of course, there are elements in the Northern Alliance now who have attempted to say, "We have won and we are the government". That is not acceptable but there is tension in the current situation, as everybody who reads the newspapers knows. The urgency, as I have said before, is the success of Ambassador Brahimi and Vendrell's efforts to get agreement on the transitional government. There is a meeting about to take place. It is urgent, urgent. I think it will succeed because the Northern Alliance or anyone else is dependent on support and supplies from others. They could cause difficulty but they could not operate alone is my own judgement of the situation, so we could get mess but in the end we will get our transitional government, I feel confident. The sooner the better. In the meantime Kabul, I understand, is quite orderly. We have someone there now and the British are back in, we have got Mukesh Kapila, who has been before this Committee, who is the head of the Conflict and Humanitarian Department, there now. The French are back in representation, the Turks, and Kabul is pretty orderly. I think the French troops are there. Mazar is not quite as orderly but holding up. That is the picture but we need the transitional government rapidly. I think we are going to get there, soonest the better.

  213. Back in October you announced £15 million of aid to Pakistan for economic assistance. This was in addition to the £11 million for work in the refugee receiving areas amongst the poorest people. How can the use of aid for a political purpose by DFID be seen as different from the use of EU aid for near-abroad which you have criticised in the past.
  (Clare Short) No. This £15 million for Pakistan is not at all for political purposes. Since the military coup in Pakistan, and of course the nuclear tests in Pakistan and India, many countries have withdrawn all aid and we paused everything that went that had anything to do with government. We did not stop things like the Aga Khan Foundation which is in very poor rural communities. Different countries took a different view. Let me say that before the military coup poor Pakistan has had such gross mis-government, such corruption, so-called democratic government plundering the country, not managing the economy well and not delivering to the people. We get the military coup that is welcomed by the people and then we, the west, say, "This is not acceptable". Here we are, this is a complex situation. Nonetheless, we cannot welcome the military coup. We were still in with some of the efforts on the ground and we had paused others. We were watching very closely. A lot of very competent technocrats, Pakistanis who came back from overseas: bankers, people who had worked for the UN, prestigious and honourable people, were appointed to the government. I have taken a view for quite a long time that this is a real chance for Pakistan. If the military government could succeed in being a transition to better government, better economic management and dealing with corruption, it would be a great gain for Pakistan. We helped with technical assistance for the local elections and local elections have been held throughout the country. The requirement that a third of those elected must be women, which is a revolution for Pakistan, has been done. The Finance Minister is a former city banker of great seniority. He is doing a remarkable job. He is called Shaukat Aziz. Pakistan has just for the first time ever in the history of the country completed an IMF/World Bank programme because they have had many programmes but never ever completed one. It is about to have a poverty reduction and growth facility grant. Of course the nightmare of anything going wrong in Afghanistan would be Pakistan being destabilised and being Talibanised and then you would have a Taliban government with a nuclear weapon. That is not going to happen now but pre-September 11, without anyone noticing, that could have happened. Then God help the world as well as this region. That is not alarmist. That is the sort of thing that had to be attended to, which was partly why I was focusing so much on, given goodwill in the military government, the need to help them to succeed in being a transition to a decent democratic government unlike what Pakistan had had before. We were engaged and we were giving £15 million of technical assistance on getting the finance ministry organised and the local elections, and we are starting to prepare for the parliamentary elections that were promised, but also improved management, poverty reduction strategies that Pakistan is preparing. We have got a lot of expertise in the department on that. Pakistan has taken a big economic hit because of the crisis. The costs of insurance for its cargo coming out and shipping insurance has gone up. There has been enormous economic loss to Pakistan on top of the fact that it had been badly governed for so long. It needs some help to keep its reform agenda in place. We were planning budgetary aid, if their reform agenda worked, for the subsequent years, but in the light of the threat to their reform effort of the economic consequences of the crisis in Afghanistan I brought forward this £15 million. It is not money for a bad government "because we want you to be a political ally" at all. It is money to protect a reform agenda that is crucial to the future of the people of Pakistan and indeed the region.

Mr Worthington

  214. Can I turn to the longer term reconstruction. Last week when we were talking to UNHCR, WFP, UNICEF and OCHA, they were very concerned that it was not clear how the development work was going to be co-ordinated and I was very pleased to see that Mark Malloch Brown has been appointed by Kofi Annan to lead that recovery plan. Could you talk a little bit about the dimensions of that because he will be answerable to Brahimi? Do you for example see it as going into areas such as we have done in Sierra Leone of creating a police force because there is no national or even local system of organisation? Could you say a little bit about how you see that work developing?
  (Clare Short) Yes. The capacity of a state at all, let alone an effective modern state—hardly exists in Afghanistan, so we are going to go from better humanitarian to the sort of humanitarian plus food for work, schools, more bakers, little enterprises, to the reconstruction of not just infrastructure but the institutions of the state. Indeed, on the military there are three options to get stability, to be able to get the new government functioning and start to reconstruct the state. This is going to take decades but we need to get started on driving it forward with a coalition of the willing, which is what appears to be happening, but a UN blue-hatted peace-keeping operation is unlikely partly because it tends to be too slow and rather ponderous as the experience of Sierra Leone shows. I do think it is really important, as an aside, Chair. Obviously we need the UN peace-keeping capacity but we need to make it more effective. We did succeed in Sierra Leone but it does show lessons of some of the problems of using that instrument. They are moving to an Afghan force and Afghans are famous for not liking foreign forces on their soil, and indeed have rarely had them and have resisted them whenever they have come forward. It is wise to think of any coalition of the willing to bring security being short term. There will be a need to create Afghan forces out of all these disparate but disciplined Afghan forces. You need policing. To get development you must have some order and some security. When we have got schools and using food aid and bits of reconstruction, we will need a ministry of education, we will need to plan to move beyond the Red Cross, providing medical care to Afghan health provision. This is going to be a phenomenal job. We will have an Afghan transitional government and I am sure that there will be a UN Security Council resolution recognising its authority. I am sure it will say something about elections later and the job that has got to be done. Brahimi's prime role is to bring that government into existence. Then the UN will have to come in and operate in the humanitarian plus to get the country moving again. One of the problems of the UN system is that you have got UNICEF, World Health Organisation, UNFPA, UNDP, and so on, and co-ordination in the past has been weak with deep jealousy between the different organisations and a lot of wastefulness. We have been trying to work to strengthen the co-ordination and one of the UNDP's roles is to hold the system together to get all the UN family into one house and to share out the work, not duplicate each other's work, which we really must try and do. There is room for further improvement. Malloch Brown is very appropriate given that that is UNDP's job, not in an emergency but in a reconstruction phase. Obviously there will have to be a relationship between the UN agencies and the new transitional government but handing over wherever possible to Afghan-labour work and learning the lessons of often doing that too slowly. This is a new Cambodia, a country that had to be rebuilt from scratch. East Timor after so much oppression has been building the institutions of the state from scratch. Kosovo is another. I am looking forward to us having this problem in the Democratic Republic of Congo, another country that was brutally colonised, massively mis-governed ever since, a country as big as western Europe, where we have got a peace process that needs taking to fruition, and then again a state will have to be created from scratch. This is a new demand on the international development system. In the modern day and age the institutions of an effective modern state are not just good governance in the sense of democracy and respect for human rights but a finance ministry that works, that can create the kind of economic climate where the economy can grow and a health and education ministry that can provide a service to their people. We are going to have to build the institutions of a modern state almost from scratch. It will take time. We have got plans. The Hundred Days paper I think is with you and that is much more about this learning the lessons of some of the bad practice that has occurred in other places. There is a UK paper being shared with others—I do not know if it is published; probably not—on the reconstruction effort. Obviously Ambassador Brahimi, looking a bit beyond Hundred Days, is preparing similar work and the World Bank, with the Asian Development Bank, is also preparing and there is a World Bank paper. I do not know if that is published.
  (Mr Ireton) I do not think it has been published yet. It is going to be discussed in the board later this week and the Bank will be having brainstorming discussions with various people in Islamabad at the end of the month.
  (Clare Short) That is right; there is a meeting coming up on the 27 November, an Asian Development Bank/World Bank meeting. The components are all moving and getting ready to go but getting that to function well (and it has got to be complementary with the transitional government) we need to get right because if you get these things wrong it wastes enormous amounts of energy. Instead of building the country you get clashing of bureaucracies and different international institutions.

  215. The country it reminds me of is Somalia in terms of another failed state where the clans of Somalia regarded anything that came into their country as their possession, which is rather difficult for Oxfam and the Red Cross and everybody else. It is how you manage this transition between Afghanistan's ownership of what is going to develop but at the same time not seizure of resources that are coming from UN organisations. Is that a concern of yours?
  (Clare Short) I think it is going to be a horrendous task but a very welcome one. There will be lots of bumps on the way and I am sure the Select Committee will want to return to it, but to have peace in Afghanistan after all these years of suffering and warfare and just be able to work with the country to build a better future for itself is going to be an enormously complicated and difficult job but a very welcome one.

  216. It seems to me very important if this is going to be a success that the ordinary people of Afghanistan see that they are moving to better living standards, better education, better health, as quickly as possible, so we have to move quickly, but before Brahimi can possibly have done his job. You are right: it is going to be fascinating as to how that can be effectively led by outsiders but at the same time you do the transition to a totally Afghanistan regime.
  (Clare Short) The immediate improvement in the lives of the people will be peace and then, just allowing the humanitarian operation to operate more effectively because nothing is getting in the way and getting to humanitarian-plus, so you can get schools re-opening across the country, the Red Cross could be opening up health facilities, employing Afghan nurses and doctors, Afghan teachers and women teachers being able to work again, food for work and so on. I am pretty confident of an immediate release, first from conflict but then some improvements in food and so on. It is then what happens because that is fairly deliverable providing we have got security, but then building the institutions of the state, having elections: that is hard grind, building the institutions of a state from scratch. Afghanistan has not got a lot of educated people but its educated people are by and large asylum seekers across the world. We have some in Ladywood. This country more than any needs educated people to return. I did ask some of the women I met in Downing Street yesterday, and they said that every Afghan wants to return, but "we need to know we will be safe", especially educated women, to know that it has gone to them being able to operate with dignity. I think we can deliver improvements quite well if we have got security. After that it is going to get very difficult.

Ann Clwyd

  217. Do we have any idea at all, and I am sure this is an impossible question to answer, how many civilian casualties there are likely to be as a result of the bombing and fighting?
  (Clare Short) I have seen some estimates from security sources. I do not think anyone honestly has an informed view. I think they are likely to be less bad than the figures that have been expressed but every loss of life is a tragedy. There are also people losing their lives because of hunger and poverty and that is a tragedy too. There have been people losing their lives because of the land mines and the rest. However, I am sure as we get back in and as the rudimentary health facilities get going we will get better information and we will keep you informed. The estimates I have seen, as well informed as we could make them, are hundreds. I do not think this is well informed but I do not think it is going to be the vast numbers that some of the people who feared blanket bombing across the country, which of course there never was, I am happy to say.

  218. Then the invisible refugees inside Pakistan itself, those who have not registered, either from choice or because they are not allowed to, as refugees so they do not get the support that refugees would get in camps. Is there any way that we can assist them because I think the estimates are about 140,000 in South Pakistan, which is quite a lot of people.
  (Clare Short) Part of the two million is spread across Pakistan. If you talk to Pakistanis some of them feel very burdened, let me put it like that, by the very large numbers of Afghans from the previous crises who have spread across the country, not just in the camps. There are more people living in Afghanistan than are in camps from the previous crises. When I was in Peshawar or Islamabad the UNHCR had just negotiated with the Pakistan Government that people who were coming across the mountains and going to live with families could be provided with humanitarian supplies, so some help was given. It is always better when people can live normally, but then you need to support the families who are supporting them. That was the purpose of the other 11 million commitment. We all hope that as Afghanistan moves forward a lot of the refugees will return home. There is no doubt that both in the case of Iran and of Pakistan the world turned its back on the nearly four million people that those two countries have been hosting. We continue to provide some support but I do not think either country got enough support to carry the burden that they have been carrying and we really must try and make sure that does not happen again.

  219. Two years ago this Committee visited some of the camps in the North West frontier, camps which had been there 20 years. Looking at the situation of women within those camps, it did not seem to be much different from their situation had they stayed in Afghanistan because they were still segregated, they were still expected to wear the burka, etc, etc. From past experience how do we prevent those UN camps becoming permanent camps?
  (Clare Short) It is the view of some informed observers that the conditions in the camps helped to breed a lot of the fighters for the Taliban, these young men who grew up as refugees, completely segregated from women even the women members of their own family, who had never known any women, who could believe in all these crazy ideas about the way women should be treated. Grave errors have been made there. There has been movement across the border. Prior to this government in Pakistan, as you will know, Pakistan was a major supporter of the Taliban, I think for tactical reasons, because they were terrified of being squeezed on two fronts: the conflict with India over Kashmir unresolved, and then if you got a hostile government in Afghanistan, Pakistan felt terribly threatened, which I think led the previous Benazir Bhutto government into supporting the Taliban, but then the border was porous, the Taliban could move across, the Taliban could dominate the camps, the Taliban could recruit fighters in the camps; all of that was going on. This government is tightening up and is no longer supporting the Taliban so I think there have been enormous errors. This is just like in Rwanda: you get massive movement of refugees and then you can get fighters dominating the refugees and actually being strengthened by the international community's provision of food, as has happened in Rwanda, so that their forces in the genocide were strengthened by the UN giving them the food to distribute to the people that had withdrawn from the country. There has been a lot of mess, there is no question. Some effort has gone on, I believe, to improve conditions in the camps. I am sure they are still far from perfect. If we come out of this well, which I am increasingly optimistic about, and we can keep the Pakistani reform effort going, then I am sure we will be able to address bit by bit and as fast as possible the conditions in the camps and the possibilities of people returning home. As you say, the camps are not good, so I am sure with a bit of support people will want to return home. However, we are talking about millions of people.

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