International Development Bill [Lords]

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Mr. Leigh: My hon. Friend has made an important point, and it would be interesting to hear the Minister's early response. If the Bill's whole emphasis is on reducing poverty, it might be illegal if the Department for International Development had a programme to strengthen customs and excise. We must bring out that important point in today's proceedings.

Hilary Benn indicated dissent—

Mrs. Spelman: The Minister's shake of the head will be confirmed in the record and no doubt he will return to the matter, but I thank my hon. Friend for underlining its importance.

I am sure that the Minister is well aware of the work of Saferworld, which is a foreign affairs think tank that works to identify, develop and publicise more effectively ways of tackling and preventing armed conflict. Its key programmes include those to reduce proliferation and illicit trafficking of arms and to tackle conflict prevention. That organisation beat a path to my door, because it was concerned about the issue. It feels that conflict prevention work should not be relegated as part of an over-focus on poverty reduction. In its view, there is no doubt that poverty and inequality are inextricably linked with conflict, as a consultation document entitled ``Department for International Development: The Causes of Conflict in Africa'', which was published in March this year, said.

Prioritising poverty reduction and the reduction of group inequalities within development assistance programmes is a primary concern for reducing conflict and addressing potential conflict. However, development assistance can be targeted at a number of other spheres to address the root causes of conflict. That would not necessarily be classified as poverty reduction.

For example, the security sector's role is an essential element to consider when addressing the root causes of violent conflict, which the Government openly recognise. Part IV of the DFID paper to which I referred states a commitment to

    ``continue to identify countries where British involvement in security sector reform and increased accountability of the security forces to democratic authority will enhance peace and security and help to reduce conflict.''

We in no way wish to see that work undermined.

Tony Cunningham: I cannot stress enough the importance of conflict prevention. I remember being in Ethiopia and Eritrea three or four years ago. It was fairly clear that there was about to be a war, but very little was done. In one battle, 80,000 people were killed. Those are two of the poorest countries in the world—they are in the bottom six—and that conflict has probably put back their development by 20 years.

When we talk about good Governments and conflict prevention, we are often talking about what the UK and the north can do as regards the south. Would not the hon. Lady agree that it is just as important to enable good Governments in African countries to help to support good Governments in another African country? We could enable the Organisation of African Unity or another body to help in preventing conflict on the African continent, as opposed to considering only how the UK can deal with such issues.

Mrs. Spelman: The hon. Gentleman makes a wise point. When asked, many poor nations say that they always feel that we try to ``do to'' them rather than to ``do with'' them. We must pay more attention to that fundamental point. The hon. Gentleman made the point about Africa, which leads conveniently to some examples from DFID's work that I wanted to highlight. I am referring to the support that the Department has given to the reform of the army in Sierra Leone and the police in Malawi. I particularly wish to commend the Department on its initiatives in those countries.

I am conscious that we are approaching 11.25 am, when hon. Members will wish to repair to the Chamber to pose their questions, and that we are only halfway through our examination of a series of amendments that are about ensuring, and reassuring ourselves about, the Bill's focus. We are seeking throughout to ensure that the focus on poverty reduction does not indirectly exclude other good work. I have come to the end of my speech on amendment No. 3, which is about conflict reduction. Given the time, it may be better if I do not deal with the amendments on a different subject in this group.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Mr. Stringer.]

Adjourned accordingly at twenty-four minutes past Eleven o'clock till this day at half-past Two o'clock. {**vert_rule**}

The following Members attended the Committee:
Griffiths, Mr. Win (Chairman)
Benn, Hilary
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs.
Khabra, Mr.
Knight, Mr. Jim
Lamb, Norman
Leigh, Mr.
Lewis, Dr. Julian
McKechin, Ann
Rosindell, Mr.
Ruane, Chris
Spelman, Mrs.
Stringer, Mr.
Tonge, Dr.
Turner, Mr. Dennis

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