Members present:

Tony Baldry, in the Chair
Mr John Battle
Hugh Bayley
Ann Clwyd
Mr Tony Colman
Chris McCafferty
Mr Andrew Robathan
Mr Robert Walter
Tony Worthington


Memorandum submitted by The Department for International Development

Examination of Witnesses

RT HON CLARE SHORT, a Member of the House (Secretary of State for International Development), MR BARRIE IRETON, Director General, International and Western Asia, MR MATT BAUGH, Team Manager, Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs Department (CHAD), Department for International Development, examined.


  1. Secretary of State, welcome to you and your officials and thank you very much for the briefing. I think you can assume we have all read it, so we need not have a long opening statement, unless there is anything desperate you would like to say in addition.
  2. (Clare Short) It is not desperate, but I would like to say something, briefly.

  3. Absolutely.
  4. (Clare Short) I think a lot of the public commentary on the conflict as well as the humanitarian situation has not been well-informed. It has been a mixture of partial information, high emotion - for very understandable reasons - and an exaggeration of the UK role. The UK is trying to play a constructive role, and although both militarily and, of course, in the humanitarian effort, which is a UN-led effort with international support, we have been one player with a lot of influence (because I have such an effective department) but sometimes the talk is as though we are half the military campaign and half the humanitarian effort and that causes commentary to be distorted. After September 11 when all the international staff were withdrawn there were something like 13 days when no food moved. That was the biggest worry to me and my department and our complete focus was on getting the food moving again, both into the country and across the country, in very difficult circumstances with a lot of fear and impossible communications from inside the country because of the Taleban order of no use of telephones. That is the thing we have absolutely focussed on. You have seen the daily figures and they went up consistently. That was the purpose of my visit to Pakistan and to Peshawar, to see all the UN agencies. I have to say the World Food Programme has performed magnificently in some of the most difficult circumstances anyone has seen, in terms of humanitarian crises with military dimensions. While I was in Islamabad I met with representatives of the British NGOs that were operating on the ground, and all but one of them, insofar as they knew what was going on inside the country, thought their distribution systems were holding up. The one which was not was Islamic Relief, which is an enormously impressive organisation based in my constituency, as a matter of coincidence, or maybe not (it has nothing to do with me, but it is the quality of the people who live in my constituency) who were operating around Kandahar. So for understandable reasons they were having difficulties. At the same time as that the UK NGOs issued their appeal for the pause in the bombing. I think they made an error, for, again, understandable emotional reasons. Everyone hates the idea of a country that is hungry being bombed. We already understand the complexity of the situation and why that was happening, but it was based on their hearts and not their information as humanitarians. It was not true that a pause in the bombing was necessary to get more food in, because day by day we were getting more food in. In fact, as I tried to say repeatedly, what we want is limited bombing and the earliest possible end to the conflict, not a pause which would just prolong it. I think that was unprofessional but understandable and not based on real information. By coincidence, I met there the people operating on the ground in those organisations just before they made that call. One other thing I would like to say is that since the military situation has improved and with the collapse of the Taleban, we have had humanitarian trouble because the major route into the country is from Peshawar in Pakistan, with the bulk of the food going in that way. Because, of course, there was a lot of uncertainty and movement in that region of the country the Afghan truckers, who have been the heroes of carrying food in, were unwilling to move. They are the people with the best possible information of what is going on inside the country because they are locals and they have their ways of getting information. For a few days we could live with this because there were stockpiles because the targets for the previous month had been over-fulfilled, but that was getting very worrying. I talked to Catherine Bertini last night, who is in New York. The World Food Programme had used its own trucks and employed commercial truckers to take in some food yesterday to try and explore whether the routes could go open, which again I think is brave and looking ahead. Afghan truckers with their own trucks, who had gone right through the Russian war, know how to cope in Afghanistan. That worked well, and I understand today - because, of course, it is earlier there than here - 1,300 tonnes have moved, which is fabulous. I imagine, but do not know, that some Afghan truckers are probably moving too, today, because I do not think the World Food Programme alone could get that much going in a day, but we do not know that for certain. So there we are, we are moving again. The systems are holding. Some parts of the country are becoming more accessible. Kabul seems to be calm, and Mazar is uncertain but people are there (I think some French troops are there now). A prolonged period of instability and uncertainty would create problems for the humanitarian effort, but if things move forward in the way that we would want, most particularly a transitional government being agreed through the UN and troops moving in just to stabilise the situation but then a government that wants to co-operate with the international community, it would become much, much easier to move to humanitarian-plus; get schools reopened, and Food for Work and so on. That is the optimistic scenario but the current situation is very uncertain and troubling, though this reopening of the border with Pakistan is very good news in the last couple of days.

    Chairman: Thank you very much. Together with the briefing that is very helpful. The sort of message we have got from the NGOs on Apause the bombing@ is that they were very concerned about winter setting in and whether they could get sufficient food in before that. I think events have overtaken matters.

    Ann Clwyd

  5. During the weekend there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the Bagram airfield. I wondered if you could tell us what role is envisaged for that airfield. Is it going to make it easier to bring humanitarian aid into the country, or what? How essential do you think it is that more of the British military are deployed in Afghanistan?
  6. (Clare Short) I cannot tell you authoritatively. I have not seen any military instructions. I probably could if I asked but I have been at the World Bank meeting in Ottawa as well, although I have tried to brief myself since I returned. My understanding from the special Cabinet meeting was that this is the airport nearest to Kabul, and just returning diplomats to Kabul, including our own (I think the French are there, the Turks and Vendrelle, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General and the UN team have been there) and getting the airport under control, open and operational is part of normalisation, is part of Kabul being able to operate and is part of international efforts being able to come and go. That is all part of creating the conditions in which humanitarian assistance can improve, rather than just the humanitarian operation.

  7. We heard Catherine Bertini talking last week and we were supplied with a UN map which showed various corridors where humanitarian aid could be brought into the country. How were those corridors working at the moment? Are they working? Is this just a map with aspirations?
  8. (Clare Short) I have not seen Catherine Bertini=s map but I have to say she has done an admirable job. They did a very good job in Kosovo but they have excelled themselves. I do think most people in countries like ours have not heard of the World Food Programme and do not know it is a very efficient UN operation that gets food to people who would otherwise go hungry in some of the most difficult situations in the world. I think we should give credit, and people should know that this part of the UN system works enormously well. So I have not seen her particular map, but I presume they are the same corridors that we all talk about. Broadly, they are all working with the newly open one from Tajikistan, which is the one that the UK helped to support the Russian emergency operation to get operating there, and has over-delivered on food targets. The big problem was, as I said in my opening remarks, that the movement from Peshawar in Pakistan, which was the major corridor, was not operational for the last few days and now the very good news is that yesterday and today more food is moving again. So far so good, but, as you will understand, instability and uncertainty creates enormous difficulties for humanitarian operations. We need things to move forward and more stabilisation. If we get that we will be able to do not just as well as we were doing but even better across the parts of the country that are not in Taleban control. I am optimistic but we are not there yet.

  9. During the crisis in the Sudan you repeatedly called for a halt in the bombing but now you seem to have said fairly consistently that you are not calling for a halt in the bombing in order to get humanitarian aid into Afghanistan. What is the difference between the two situations?
  10. (Clare Short) In the crisis in the Sudan I did not call fora halt in the bombing, I called for a end to the war. What I said was that the food is delivered by plane into the Sudan and one of the appalling realities is that 90 per cent of the humanitarian relief going into southern Sudan is spent on planes and a tiny part of the cost is actually on food for real people. We and others have, over the last ten years or so, spent considerable amounts on humanitarian relief for the Sudan, only a tiny proportion of it having got to the people. There was some evidence that military forces were diverting some of that limited supply and what I said was that to focus simply on the humanitarian and calling for more humanitarian was not good enough; that there was some sense in which you could argue that that was propping up this endless war and we needed a much bigger effort to get the peace process in Sudan. That remains my view. That is what I said, which was thought to be very controversial, and I still think that is astonishing, because I think it is complete good sense. Still, the situation in the Sudan is a little bit more hopeful about getting the peace process moving, but I think it still needs more effort and energy. As I said in my earlier remarks, the call for the pause in the bombing to deliver humanitarian aid took no account of the fact that we were increasing the deliveries day-by-day at the time when the call was made. So it was not based on any objective reality. As I have said repeatedly in the House, we should all hate bombing, we should all want it to be minimised and brought to an end as soon as possible, and I am glad I live in a country where that is the general sentiment of the people, but we have also got to be hard-headed about what we have got to accomplish and accomplish it as quickly as possible, otherwise you prolong the suffering of people. It was not based on an objective reality. If there had been a pause claiming that it was necessary and was not based on the facts of increased delivery day-by-day I think it would have been very likely to make humanitarian supplies and obstructing them part of the conflict, because if you could bring about a pause in the bombing by having difficulties with humanitarian supplies then obstructing the humanitarian supplies would be a way of stopping the bombing - so that was a very great danger. Thirdly, we must act on the basis of reality but what we want, surely, is a success for the purposes of our operation in Afghanistan as rapidly as possible, with bombing used carefully targeted and brought to an end as soon as possible, not a pause that actually prolongs it all. For those three sets of reasons I think it was a mistaken call, but it obviously struck a chord with lots of caring people who hate the idea of hungry people being bombed, and they thought that if organisations as prestigious as Oxfam and Christian Aid were calling for it they must know what they are talking about and it ought to be supported. I think it is extremely unfortunate that they put themselves in that position, but there you are.

    Mr Colman

  11. The media have suddenly gone very silent about the potential for a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan. The evidence you have placed before us shows, if you like, a new area of potential internally displaced persons and internally stranded persons going up from 5 million (which was your original figure) to a possible further 2 million on top of that, so 7.5 million people who are internally displaced. Do you think those sorts of figures have credence? You are saying that food is getting in but do you think people are realising how difficult the situation is now and how it has potentially got worse over the last couple of weeks because of the much higher numbers of people who are internally displaced?
  12. (Clare Short) Firstly, on the silence on the problems of Afghanistan, there was deafening silence before September 11. We had a potential humanitarian catastrophe of very large proportions before September 11 and the media, and most other people, were not in the least bit interested. As Catherine Bertini pointed out, the UN was feeding 5 million people out of a population - I am not sure of the exact number - of about 20 million before September 11. It is very important that everybody remembers that we had a catastrophe brewing in Afghanistan before September 11. September 11 and its consequences complicated that. The UN appeal that was issued shortly thereafter talked about 7.5 million people potentially in need, and that was based on 5 to 6 million in need of food aid inside Afghanistan and the potential for a further 1.5 million people to move as refugees across the borders, on top of course of the 2 million already in Pakistan and approaching that number already in Iran. That was the UN=s best prediction. It did not come about. The 1.5 million did not move over the borders, but that is not just because the borders were technically closed; people were getting across the mountains and vulnerable people were being let through. The latest figure I saw of the numbers that have probably moved across the borders was 100,000 or so. So very considerably less than the 1.5 million that was projected in that appeal. There has been internal movement, as you would expect, of people moving from cities to villages nearby. There has been a bit more of that movement near Kandahar recently, but again not the 1.5 million-type numbers, just people moving about as military activity took place. So there has been further movement of internally displaced people around Kandahar currently, but I do not recognise the description you gave of suddenly, massive millions of internally displaced people inside. It is not as dramatic as that. They were internally displaced before because of the drought and the fighting and other troubles. In the military situation we have got success but if we can stabilise it and keep moving forward we will make it possible for us to massively improve humanitarian provision. Up until recently, remarkably, it has kept up, but if we had a long period of instability then we would be in grave difficulty.

  13. How bleak do you think the potential could be for displaced people, particularly in the rural areas this winter?
  14. (Clare Short) You can imagine all sorts of scenarios. The worst scenario would be what happened to Afghanistan after the Russian withdrawal. I do not think there is any prospect of that happening but if you have got that kind of chaos and factional fighting on top of the potentially enormous humanitarian disaster, it would be a truly appalling situation. That is to be avoided and, I think, will be avoided. I feel in my bones, if you know what I mean, optimistic that the UN will make progress on the transitional government. That will change things remarkably. Then we will have a government that the UN can fully recognise, and UN staff can return in big numbers, with all the legitimacy of that and the legitimacy of some troops from other countries to help stabilise the situation on behalf of the legitimate Afghan government. If that moves fairly rapidly and the continuing collapse of the Taleban goes on, we could be in a very much better situation in a matter of weeks. However, I cannot give you absolute certainty now. As you know, the situation is unfolding as we speak, and I am hopeful that it will improve but if we got more instability then we could get humanitarian troubles. That remains the case.

  15. We did have evidence that people had fled to the cities to avoid the drought and now have fled back to the country to avoid the bombing. Is that your assessment of this sort of movement that has gone on?
  16. (Clare Short) Yes. There was movement of people, not in the sort of numbers you have been using, from cities at the beginning of the bombing, but not far out. Again, our information is limited. There is some satellite information. Because of the ban on the use of telephones, Afghan staff employed by the UN and everyone have performed heroically through this - keeping everything going with limited information. So there seems to be that kind of movement but not the vast distances and not the sort of massive numbers that you were indicating.

    (Mr Baugh) I think what we saw as well were people leaving cities and moving back to villages where they had friends and family as well. That was a process that we saw at the outset.

    (Clare Short) As you would expect, but we do not know the numbers either. It did not seem to be overwhelming numbers. Of course, the World Food Programme was set up before September 11 because we had a big crisis so they had trucks and routes and warehouses, but as the military campaign started they took off more routes and delivered more directly out to rural areas, which they did very quickly. So they were following where the people went, broadly.

    Mr Walter

  17. Secretary of State, you talked about political instability and your concerns about that being prolonged. Is there any evidence so far, either on the question of aid or on the question of the movement of people, that within the vacuum we have got and the various bodies who seem to have moved into that vacuum, as the Taleban has withdrawn, there is any obstruction to aid going in or any obstruction to the movement of people from those people who appear, from the media, to be freelancing, to some extent?
  18. (Clare Short) Although the Taleban have obstructed by saying Ano telephones; women cannot work for the UN; girls cannot go to school@ and made all sorts of difficulties for humanitarian efforts, because they knew the people of the country were dependent on the UN they never 100 per cent obstructed. Even now they do not 100 per cent obstruct because it would be lunacy, would it not? How can you obstruct people, of whom you claim to be the government, being able to eat? Similarly, the Northern Alliance, in other groupings, are not obstructing the food. It is the disorder and mess that makes it too dangerous for humanitarians to operate and the Afghan truckers feeling too unsafe to be able to move that is our biggest enemy. Then you get some freelancing, of course; stealing of equipment and supplies. The Taleban did take over the warehouse in Kandahar and the Red Cross warehouse in Kabul was bombed. There is a dispute about why, what could be seen and why it was bombed, but that was a loss of equipment. So we have had those kind of troubles, but it is disorder that is our biggest enemy.

    Mr Robathan

  19. Secretary of State, I am rather wary of mutual backslapping, but can I just say it was particularly gratifying last week to hear Catherine Bertini of the World Food Programme and other UN agencies say that the UK and your department had been at the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance. I think we were all pleased to hear that, if I may say so. I would like to ask particularly about the position of the 50 per cent plus of the population of Afghanistan which has had nothing to say about recent political developments and whether it is possible, despite, enormous difficulties, for the delivery of aid to be particularly targeted to women and, indeed, children dependent upon those women in Afghanistan and to give them some greater position within Afghanistan, given the huge cultural difficulties there are there. We hear the Northern Alliance might take a not dissimilar position with regard to the position of women as the Taleban did. Beyond that, I would like to know what you think we could do to encourage development of women and their position within politics in the reconstruction of Afghanistan?
  20. (Clare Short) Thank you. Compliments to the department are deserved. It is an enormously capable department, respected in the international system, and its competence in humanitarian is one of the fastest and the best quality, and the country should be proud of their civil servants. That is their reputation across the world. This emergency has been more complicated than, say, Kosovo in which, to a certain extent, we had a UK operation. We have had to help an international operation operate better by being there ready with money, people and equipment to get the thing to move, which is more difficult than doing it yourself. They are extremely good and they deserve those compliments. On the position of women in Afghanistan, as you all know, the Taleban=s determination to return Afghanistan to medieval conditions gave them these false notions (which are not based on any teachings of Islam, as I think we all understand) that girls should not be able to go to school, women cannot work and women cannot be university lecturers. So there was the closure of girls schools, then the boys schools because the women are the teachers predominantly, and then the universities because there were women lecturers and nearly half the students in Kabul were women. Then women had to wear Burkas even in areas where it was not traditional, women could not go out without a male relative, and even the windows of houses that have women in them have to have black put over them so no one might look in and catch a glimpse of a woman. As I understand it, it is all because men are so incapable of controlling themselves that if they saw a woman they might misbehave - which says something about what they think about men. Remarkable and terrible. We have seen lots of situations where women are misused but this is taking it to an evil logic that is difficult to imagine, except that it is not in the real world we are living in now. This had been going on for some time, and the UN has tried to keep humanitarian supplies moving and not collude in any way with the Taleban doing this to women, which has been a very, very difficult operation, over the years. So, for example, they said they did not really want women internationals in the UN operation and obviously the UN could not agree to that, but did agree to bring in more Muslim women. Then they said Muslim women working for the UN had to bring a male relative with them, and difficulties like this. The World Food Programme, had previously had Work for Food Programmes across the country, and as Catherine Bertini said they were probably the biggest employer in Afghanistan: people doing irrigation systems, building schools, fixing roads, in local communities, always employing women - often as leaders - because they are very good in communities, especially when men are off fighting. There are a lot of widows. Similarly, the World Food Programme provided food for schools and kept children going to school and special additional, at the end of the month, oil for families if girls stayed in school (they do this in different parts of the world just to get girls to school) but they had to stop doing it in the end because the Taleban would not allow girls to go to school, and the World Food Programme decided it would be wrong to carry on providing the food to schools; they would be absolutely colluding in the exclusion of girls from schools. I wanted to emphasise that this battle has been going on for a long time and the UN has really tried to resist and find ways through. For example, it was the World Food Programme that negotiated with the Taleban the bakeries in Kabul. When they made the order that women could not work there were many, many widows of men who died in the fighting and because of the fighting and the landmines all over the country there are many families with disabled heads of households, so the order that women could not work would mean many families would simply starve. The World Food Programme negotiated that the widows could run these bakeries in Kabul, and the World Food Programme took in the wheat, the women cooked the Naan bread and kept vast numbers of households, including households headed by disabled men, going. I just want you to know the UN has been really working in an enormously difficult situation trying not to collude, and resisting the oppression of women. What can be done in the future? The UN is brokering the establishment of the transitional government and the UN protects and holds all the conventions we have on the elimination of discrimination against women, the rights of the child - which includes girls as well as boys - and so on. It will not collude in this kind of misbehaviour. The UN has to uphold the norms to which we have all signed up. Participation of women in politics is a chief part of that. I must actually make an effort to communicate with Ambassador Brahimi on this. I feel confident that the issue of women=s participation in politics is being taken forward, but I must get myself a report and I will do that and let you know. I do know that the World Food Programme is poised, as soon as there are any areas of the country that are safe, to move beyond the immediate humanitarian back to Food for Work and Food for Schools. Then we will be going to local communities, saying AWhat is your priority? We will be looking for women=s leadership in those communities. We can deliver food to your community, you tell us what projects you are all going to work on.@ People are paid for their labour, which will be building schools or irrigation systems, many of which have been smashed. Similarly, the World Food Programme is poised to return with Food for Schools and the incentive of the extra oil for girls who attend schools. So I can assure you, insofar as it is possible in this very difficult situation, the UN, in the way in which we operate, will do all in our power to bolster the position of women and to get girls back to school. Let me say this final thing about girls= education: it is not just that it is desirable - which it is, of course, and a basic human right - and it is oppressive and wrong that girls should not be going to school, but the research evidence now is overwhelming that of any single intervention you can make in a poor country (and, of course, you should never only make one) the most powerful is getting a generation of children through even just primary education, including the girls. As they grow up girls who have been to school will transform their country. If you can get a generation of them through they marry slightly later, have less children, who are massively more likely to survive, the household income increases when girls have been to school, they are better at getting their children into school and they are better at getting health care. So we will focus massively on really getting primary education rolling as well as, of course, opening up all the other institutions.

  21. The concern is that whomsoever is winning the war in Afghanistan - be it the various factions of the Northern Alliance or whoever - their attitude towards women is not that much different to the Taleban=s, yet back in 1973 in Kabul women used to be as free as men, one is told.
  22. (Clare Short) Indeed, and in Herat, which is a very, very famous, ancient city, where women were leading academics and all sorts of leaders. Obviously, Afghanistan was very under-developed and there were villages with very little development, but there were very civilised cities and lots of educated women amongst the cities. The Northern Alliance, I think, did not go to quite the mad extremes as the Taleban in terms of closing schools as a matter of absolute policy to prevent girls being at school, but yes, I do not think, they have a record of respect for equality for women. Let us all be clear, they will not be the government of Afghanistan. It is absolutely agreed by the coalition, by all the neighbouring countries, by the UN Security Council, that there has to be a transitional government that is representative of the ethnic groups in proportion to their proportion of the population. That is what the UN is working on. Enormous efforts will go into establishing that government and there will not be a Northern Alliance government. Those parties that are part of the Northern Alliance would have a part in the government, but there will not be a Northern Alliance government. Obviously, at the moment, people try to take Kabul and have ideas of declaring themselves the government, but that will not be recognised by the international community. Getting the transitional government recognised by the UN and then fully co-operating in the international system is the prize to get massive normalisation, and that work is taking place very intensively now and, I hope, will produce results as soon as possible, because it gives us a whole new way of working, as soon as we have got a legitimate government recognised by the UN. It will not be a Northern Alliance government.

    Chris McCafferty

  23. 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?
  24. (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.

  25. 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.
  26. (Clare Short) I think, however, if the Taleban 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

  27. 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 of 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?
  28. (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

  29. One of the unfortunate instruments of war, as you know, has been the use of rape against women. Obviously, both the Taleban 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.
  30. (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 Taleban=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

  31. 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: ABetween 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?
  32. (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.


  33. Where have we been failing to take an interest?
  34. (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 AZud@ (?). 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, AIsn=t the FAD 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.

  35. 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?
  36. (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 fo 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, AThings 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 Kaliban.

    (Clare Short) And he said, AWe 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

  37. 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 Hillier 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.
  38. (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.

  39. 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?
  40. (Clare Short) As you know, it is another thing that was in 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

  41. 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 fo the humanitarian operation?
  42. (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 fo 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 area. 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, ACould 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.

  43. 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?
  44. (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.

  45. 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?
  46. (Clare Short) I will invite Barry 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.

  47. At the end of last week there were press reports of Hazaras marching from the central highlands on Kabul because they were unhappy with a Northern Alliance as their immediate administration in Kabul. How serious an impediment do you believe the Northern Alliance will be to the fair distribution of aid to ensure that it gets through to the people who need it most, and they are obviously going to be there for maybe days, maybe weeks? They are going to be there for some period of time patrolling things on the ground.
  48. (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 Taleban came along saying, AWe 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, AWe 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 Vendrael=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 Murkesh Capillo(?), 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.

  49. 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 mere abroad which you were criticised for in the past.
  50. (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, AThis 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 game 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 Jarkat 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 Talebanised and then you would have a Taleban 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 Abecause we want you to be a political ally@ at all. It is money to protect a reform agenda that is crucial to the future fo the people of Pakistan and indeed the region.

    Mr Worthington

  51. 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 Maddock-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?
  52. (Clare Short) Yes. The capacity of estates - estate 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. Maddock-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 29 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.

  53. 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?
  54. (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.

  55. 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.
  56. (Clare Short) The immediate improvement in the lives fo 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 Awe 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

  57. 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?
  58. (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.

  59. 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.
  60. (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 fo 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.

  61. 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 burkha, etc, etc. From past experience how do we prevent those UN camps becoming permanent camps?
  62. (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 Taleban, 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 Taleban, 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 Taleban, but then the border was porous, the Taleban could move across, the Taleban could dominate the camps, the Taleban could recruit fighters in the camps; all of that was going on. This government is tightening up and is no longer supporting the Taleban 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.


  63. The events of September 11 and after, as mentioned by the Prime Minister in his speech in the City and by the Chancellor last week, demonstrated that we need a coalition against poverty. How do we ensure that the United States continues to engage in this world? They gave 0.1 per cent of gross national product to development aid. If they were only to come up to the DAC(?) average it would make a substantial difference. Is this not a good opportunity for us to engage with colleagues from Congress to demonstrate to them the benefits of a coalition against poverty?
  64. (Clare Short) This is a profoundly important question. The suicide bombers of 11 September appear not to have come from poor countries. They were predominantly from Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. The conditions that breed the bitterness and division and the hatred, however, are linked to poverty and injustice; there is no doubt about that. It is not that it excuses September 11 but it is partly the breeding ground for the events of September 11. I have just been at this World Bank meeting in Ottawa.. There is recognition that the world is more interdependent than ever and the richest and most powerful are more vulnerable than ever because the nature of modern technology and trade opens your economy, opens the movement of people, and the nature of information technology is vulnerable if people want to attack it and destroy the mechanisms that keep a modern society going. I agree with you that it is a historical opportunity to grasp that insight and take it forward. Whether the US will do that I do not think we can say is guaranteed. There is probably more understanding of the need but this is an extraordinary country, a generous country, as anyone who has visited it knows, made up of people migrating from all parts of the world, the only great power in the world that almost turns its back on the rest of the world. It is a paradox that it is like this and that everyone thinks inwardly. I agree with you that we have to redouble our efforts on poverty. You know the statistics: one in five in abject poverty, 2.4 billion on less than two dollars a day, more communications than we have ever had so the poor of the world can see how the rich of the world live, which I think makes more anger, and we have got two billion new people about to be born in the next 30 years that will all live in the developing countries. We have made great gains in development. We know what to do and we can either take that forward and have a safer world or not, and have more bitter division and trouble for the future. We continue to work with the parts of the US administration to which we relate as we do in the international institutions like the World Bank, but this is not easy and I would encourage your Committee to think of ways that you might try to visit and form relationships with the appropriate Congressional committees. This is a really important issue for the world. It is not that the US is ungenerous. It somehow just is not sharing this insight or the capacity to move it forward that other countries have and it is urgent that we work on trying to get them there.

  65. I read the Chancellor=s speech with care about the international trust fund for 2015 where he says that the international community are going to require 50 billion dollars a year to meet those targets, and phrases like Awe must substantially increase development assistance, priorities@. When it comes to the 0.7 per cent target, what he said was, Aand we are committed to making substantial additional progress@. I do not know if it would cause you any embarrassment if this Committee were collectively to say that the sooner that 0.7 per cent target is met by the UK the better, not least because it will enable us to exert much greater moral authority on the international community.
  66. (Clare Short) It would not embarrass me in the slightest. I have been known to say such things myself, both privately and publicly. The international development targets, now the millennium development goals, because they were re-affirmed in the Millennium Conference of the UN, we have got an unprecedented international agreement right through - World Bank, IMF, all the multilateral development banks except the Intra-American Development Bank. The whole of the UN system, the OECD, DAC and all the bilaterals, the EU, that those targets should be the umbrella under which we all work, we should seek to drive them forward in every country. We should measure progress and we have also got a global objective. This gives us an opportunity to get the international system working together in a way it never has and measuring the success fo economic reform on systematic poverty reduction, which again was separated in past endeavours. The Zedilla Report, the former President of Mexico, the report he prepared for the UN Financing for Development Conference that is coming up in March next year, I think, in Monterey, said that we need this change of conception of what aid and ODA is for from propping people up with charitable handouts to building effective modern states that enable people to be educated and run their economy. There is no doubt that we have got failed states that we have just been discussing and without some kind of inputs and investment from overseas some countries will never get to the point of being able to take off. The Zedilla Report, our and the World Bank=s recent report both said that we need to massively improve the quality with which aid is spent, focusing it on poverty, backing reforms, creating capacity, but we need to double the quantity to get the whole world to meet the targets. Both reports say the same thing. The Chancellor acknowledged that in his speech and then said that the UK must make efforts and he is trying to get the G7 to make efforts. We must make sure that the UK uses its influence internationally, but it has to get itself into a rather stronger leading position to have the moral authority to call on others. I have said this to the Chancellor and I know he is sympathetic but we all have to keep our eye on this ball. The Comprehensive Spending Review has now started.

  67. We understand that only too well. One last question from me: poppies. One of the curses of Afghanistan which we have not mentioned has been poor farmers growing poppies, which have been a curse to us all in terms of massive heroin production. I notice in your briefing that DFID had been giving emergency help to half a million people, former poppy growers and labourers and their families. What is happening to that programme? Do you see it returning now there is some creeping stability in the country? How are we going to ensure that Afghanistan does not revert to growing opium poppies again in large numbers?
  68. (Clare Short) The opium growing was part of the veiled state. As all the irrigation systems were destroyed by war - there used to be enormous fruit growing and so on and exports from Afghanistan historically - and as it ceased to be a legitimate state people took to growing poppies and truckers took to trucking it out as their only way to survive. They were not using it. It was because it was a failed state with no legitimate commerce. The Taleban appear to have used it in big quantities to purchase the things that they wanted, and they had warehouses full of it. They did not approve of anyone using it of course but were happy to trade in it. It was corrupting not just Afghanistan but also neighbouring countries. Iran is terribly troubled by the border traffic and has tried to make enormous efforts to stop it getting into Iran. It was also corrupting Pakistani institutions because you get such mega money in this large scale drug dealing that then you get corruption going into defence intelligence and other institutions in Pakistan, so this was a failed state starting to cause this kind of corruption through the drug trade. It damages our countries but it was damaging neighbouring countries. Just before September 11 the Taleban, under a lot of pressure from the international community and the UN, said that no more could be grown. There were still warehouses full of it. This meant that these very poor people had nothing, no crop, no income, and we were preparing emergency programmes for them. Then September 11 happened and we could not go ahead because with the situation it was impossible. Now that will be part of the reconstruction: a legitimate open state that therefore cannot be a big source of drug growing. Colombia is another one: failed states that are not legitimate states behind which big drug growing goes on by desperate, poor people who do not use the drug and have no other means of making a living. It has to be a core part of the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iran and Pakistan will be mightily relieved because of the damage it was doing to them as well as of course addicts and people who trade in drugs in our own country.

    Chris McCafferty

  69. I noticed in your objectives for the first hundred days that voluntary disarmament is high on the list and also de-mobbing soldiers and so on. Given that I do not think we have ever seen an Afghan soldier without a Kalashnikov or something over his shoulder, that seems very optimistic to me - desirable but very optimistic. I wondered how you saw that happening. Who would take responsibility for this initiation? Secondly, child soldiers. Many of the boys have been fighting from a very young age. A lot of them have lost one parent, many have lost two. They must be very traumatised, very brutalised. Returning those children to school I would suggest would not be enough. Is there any thinking about how those children can be counselled and supported given that they are the future of the country and we do not want history to repeat itself?
  70. (Clare Short) This is now where we start to unfold the complexity of this welcome task we are going to have. Clearly it will be essential, as rapidly as possible, as we were saying, to build Afghan police and Afghan disciplined military forces, properly accountable to the transitional government, properly managed. DDR will clearly be part of that and this has happened in many other countries, where you ask fighters to come in to potentially join a new national armed forces but then to hand in their weapons and be trained, as we have done in Sierra Leone. I am getting ahead of myself. I am not aware of detailed plans of this kind but we have done it in other countries and something like this is going to have to happen. As you say, something like that is going to have to happen in a country where people take great pride, and always have, in having a weapon, though of course not in the quantities, not the tanks and anti-aircraft weaponry that now is littering the country. It will be difficult but it must be done and it will be done because there will have to be some disciplined Afghan security forces. It will not be easy but it will have to be done and it will no doubt be approved by the transitional government who will want their own armed forces, I am sure, and then with help from the UN and the World Bank and others like us who have tried to do it in other countries. Child soldiers: when you look at the 2015 targets for getting all children in the world into primary education, countries like Afghanistan stand out as nowhere near. Of course there are lots of child soldiers because fo the disorder. We have in Sierra Leone and other places the DRC, UNICEF in the lead, child soldiers who have been de-mobilised, programmes of counselling in care to try and get them ready to go back into normal life. It is not easy. Some of these very young children, especially in the case of Sierra Leone, have killed members of their own family, raped and pillaged. They are very damaged children but we have to do what we can. There are a lot of damaged people in Afghanistan. I had an asylum seeker in my advice bureau on Saturday morning with a note from one of my local hospitals saying he had got post traumatic syndrome. I wonder how many people in Afghanistan have not got it. He was having dreams and was anxious to get back because his family was there, and that is a grown man, father of eight sons, he told me. Yes, that will all have to be done. We are doing it in other parts of the world but this just starts to elaborate and describe the scale of the task we are going to have.

    Hugh Bayley

  71. We have not talked about the EU. What has their role been and are you satisfied with them?
  72. (Clare Short) I have had a meeting with Chris Patten about this and we had a meeting of the Development Council. They have done quite well to get resources released and find extra resources from ECHO for the humanitarian effort. Part of the EU=s complete failure to distribute its resources in proportion to the poor of the world is so little for Asia. In the Asia pot in their budgets they have got little. They are looking to be part of helping the reconstruction of Afghanistan and understanding quite well that the EU, which is a major source of development systems, ought to be there and ought to be helping. They have difficulties. Chris Patten is really anxious because he is responsible for Asia in the way the arrangements work and Paul Nelson is responsible for the ACP countries. He is looking to help but has not got much of a budget to deploy which reflects the other problem we have got with the EC, but it is also, it seems to me, an opportunity to get the EU to take the proportion of the poor of the world that are in Asia more seriously and that is what we really must try and do.

    Mr Robathan

  73. Could I return to the question close to my heart? I have read what you say about giving money to the UN for mine action services and a map of those in Afghanistan and I appreciate entirely your desire to do that. Could I just request that in your department CHAD in the form of Mr Baugh watch very closely on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation because I think there is a concern which you brought out earlier about high overheads and so on and I would be very interested to hear about this.
  74. (Clare Short) I give that assurance and have already given it, but we will not have an international system that works unless the UN can look all across the world at where the land mines are, how to deploy the money, how to systematically clear them. If we all say that UN systems are not perfect, therefore we will not change, we will never get such a system. Our whole purpose in moving that is to beef up and strengthen that UN capacity which we think made improvements in Kosovo. We will be watching like hawks, I can promise you, because it is effectiveness we need.

    Mr Colman

  75. Could I ask about the UN Donor Alert and the way it is made up? We need to learn about things that have gone well and from things that have not gone well. The NGOs who spoke to us explained how they were distributing the aid that the World Food Programme was trucking in and they explained that aid covered a whole range of things, not just food. We then asked them what were they doing in addition to that and I think it was Islamic Relief who pointed out to us that the range of product that was within the UN Donor Alert was very limited and they were giving examples that the range of food available that was available was extremely limited. Perhaps we could have a separate paper on how in fact this was constructed, the Donor Alert. They said that they had been taken account of in terms views but still felt a number of things had been left out over which they had to have UK appeals in order to obtain the money so that they could supply this over and above what was in the Donor Alert. For lessons to learn in the future it would be interesting to know what was left out and what was left in and what were the things left out which left the NGOs to shake the money boxes rather than, as I have referred to, come through the UK taxpayer.
  76. (Clare Short) I am going to bring Matt in because I can hear him muttering, but I want to say that everyone must remember that NGOs are a part of the operation but were not the leading part. They do need a public profile. The minute the emergency started - I have told you what I think of Islamic Relief: it is a fabulous organisation operating across the world, not only in Islamic countries, let me add, founded because of the famine in Ethiopia. Adverts appeared in all the papers. The problem we had then was getting anything into the country. People need to be able to give but they also need to be having a public profile and saying that they are delivering even when sometimes it takes them a bit longer to deliver. This is what I would appeal to the Select Committee about. We are trying to do more public education on that to get the UK to be a country with a public that really understands all this work and the need for them to recognise the interdependence of the world. We see public opinion terribly concerned, young people=s opinion terribly concerned, and then all they think they can do about development is give some to a charity. People do need to know that the UK public gives ,200 million a year to charitable giving for development. The UK taxpayer gives currently just over ,3 billion rising to ,3.6 billion by 2003/4 and if we reached our 0.7 target it would be just over ,7 billion. Charitable giving is good but if people think that is the only route, it is distorting what our country owes into the international system. One other point and then I will bring in Matt. There were distortions in food aid because a lot of countries are offloading their surplus foods. The UK gives money to buy in the region, which also helps the region and means you buy more appropriate food, the food that people are used to. Other countries send ship loads of food and often it is not the food that people want. When I visited the refugees from Sierra Leone in Guinea they had bulgar wheat or something and they are rice eaters. You have lost everything and then someone gives you some food you have never known, you do not know how to cook. That goes on in the international system and that is a problem. We need to untie international food aid, which is one of our objectives for better quality aid. Matt, can you comment on these particular points?

    (Mr Baugh) I think it is important that we realise the UN donor alert is exactly that, a donor alert for UN agencies. Those UN agencies will have implementing partners which will be international NGOs and local NGOs. It is important that that NGO base also puts out its own base and has it owns programmes as part of the wider effort. In a way it is where the line between UN donor alert and NGO programmes is drawn. It is a standard approach essentially, all NGOs operate in that manner. We are working with NGOs, both international and local, that are also UN implementing partners but we determined that their programmes were not essentially double-funding in our contributions for the UN agencies as well.

    (Clare Short) The other thing is the public like to be able to give, although I think we should remind the public they are giving through their taxes, so they believe more in the contributions they are making through our 0.7 aspiration. There is nothing wrong with NGOs making a public appeal to add something.

  77. My point, Secretary of State, is whether rather significant areas of aid have, in fact, been left out of the World Food Programme which the NGOs have had to scrabble around to get in.
  78. (Clare Short) Not for the emergency.

    (Mr Baugh) The NGOs will pick up the important sector of supplementary feeding which a number of the NGOs engaged in food provision are doing, which is very important.

    (Mr Ireton) The 700 million headline figure which was pledged included both the UN alert and help for NGOs as well directly.

    (Clare Short) The NGOs are part of the implementation mechanism of the UN. They are basically organisational parts. You have got this massive World Food Programme and they have got to get smaller organisations on the ground. Oxfam and Christian Aid are organisers of employing Afghans to do it and they bring in an organisational capacity at the end of the delivery mechanism, so they are part of the UN system in that sense, it cannot deliver at the end of its tentacles without that. Remember, NGOs also include Afghan community groups, because we use the phrase and then do not think of all the locals who are doing it.


  79. Secretary of State, thank you to you and your officials for your time this morning. I think the questions and answers have demonstrated there are many complex issues inter-related in all of this. I think we probably share your view that these are issues that cannot simply be described in a single headline or a single sound bite, and I am sure you will agree with that. Because of their complexity I am sure that during the life of this Parliament they are issues, either collectively or individually, that we are going to be returning to and working on with you and your officials and we look forward to that.

(Clare Short) I fear maybe even in the next Parliament but, as I say, it is a welcome job. Thank you very much.

Chairman: Thank you very much, Secretary of State.