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26 Feb 2003 : Column 246—continued

Afghanistan

4. Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East): What progress her Department is making towards rebuilding Afghanistan. [98729]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): Rebuilding Afghanistan will require strong Afghan leadership, large amounts of aid and policy support for the long term. Much has been achieved: the election of the Transitional Administration; the establishment of revenue and budget systems; the introduction of a new currency; 2 million refugees have returned; 3 million children are now in school, a third of whom are girls; and millions of children have been vaccinated against polio and measles.

There is much more to be done, however, and achieving security outside Kabul is key to speeding up progress.

Mr. Purchase : I thank the Secretary of State for that encouraging answer and the description of all the work currently being done. Does she agree that education must be at the heart of that work? Opportunities for education—especially tertiary education through the universities—are the greatest encouragement that we can give to young people in Afghanistan to remain to help rebuild that country. Will she do all that she can to encourage European and British universities to link with those in Afghanistan, and particularly those in Kabul, to bring those opportunities to thousands of young people in Afghanistan and help them to rebuild?

Clare Short: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Expansion of rights to education is a human right, but getting girls to school is also profoundly developmental for any country. Girls who have been to school change their country as they grow up. Our focus is therefore on securing universal primary education, and on ensuring that girls are included. A tradition exists of high-quality higher education in Afghanistan, which is being

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redeveloped. I take my hon. Friend's point, however, and I will look into the question of links with our universities, which I have not yet examined.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Despite what the Secretary of State says, she must know that only half the money decided necessary by the World Bank has been pledged to Afghanistan so far. Despite the Prime Minister's promises not to abandon the people of that country, that is precisely what is happening. The USA and her Government have moved on and plan even worse destruction for Iraq. Because she knows that that is true, will she seriously consider joining many of her colleagues and the Liberal Democrats in the Lobby tonight to avert a new disaster?

Clare Short rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Secretary of State will not reply to that. It was out of order.

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries): I very much appreciate the work of my right hon. Friend and her Department, but how much collaborative and co-operative working is being undertaken by her Department with any US Government Departments?

Clare Short: In general, in international development, as in many other things, the US tends to take quite a unilateralist approach. It has a big commitment in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it tends to operate on its own. The UK leads increasingly on rebuilding the institutions of the country, and on building its management of the economy and its capacity to provide services to its people. We collaborate, but we operate in different ways generally across the world, and we try to make sure that that is complementary.

Millennium Development Goals

5. Helen Jones (Warrington, North): If she will make a statement on progress towards the millennium development goals. [98730]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): The world is on track to meet the overarching millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people in poverty by 2015. That will mean 1 billion people having lifted themselves out of extreme poverty between 1990 and 2015. However, progress is not even across the world. Large parts of Africa are not on target, and better progress is possible on many of the goals. In short, the world is making progress, but with a greater effort we could do much better.

Helen Jones : I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply, but she will know better than anyone that achieving those goals will require a substantial increase in resources. What are the Government doing to make progress towards a target of spending 0.7 per cent. of GDP on development

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assistance? What is being done to encourage our European partners to do the same, bearing in mind that they agreed to that back in 2001?

Clare Short: My hon. Friend is right. We have about $52 billion in the international development system. When one reflects on the fact that 1.2 billion people live in abject poverty, half of humanity lives in deep poverty and how much we spend on public services in our countries, one realises that that is a pathetic amount, although it is increasingly effectively deployed. For that reason, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor is working internationally to mobilise commitment to an international financing facility that would double the amount of aid available to $100 billion, which is increasingly getting support across the international system. That was the estimate made at the Monterrey conference of the amount needed to support countries to meet the millennium development goals, and we must all work to support the Chancellor in that effort. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. There is still far too much noise in the Chamber.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): I greatly admire much of what the right hon. Lady is doing to reduce poverty in the world, which was the subject of the question that she has just answered. What more will she and the Government do to remove from office a man who is bringing an increasing percentage of his population into starvation and poverty? I refer to that tyrant, Robert Mugabe.

Clare Short: There is no doubt that the situation in Zimbabwe is serious and brutal. Seven million people need food aid. Projections suggest that the rest of the region will probably recover next year, but that things will get worse in Zimbabwe. There are only 11.2 million people in the country now and 9 million of them will need food aid next year.

As the hon. Gentleman will know, international law says that it is not legal for countries to seek to remove individual rulers. However, it is highly likely that the people of Zimbabwe will shortly bring down the leadership of Robert Mugabe. We will then all work to help the people to take their country forward again.

Mr. Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow): Among the millennium development goals is a significant reduction in HIV infection. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, if we are to achieve that reduction, it is important that the global fund for health is a success? Although it is welcome that the US has committed significant extra money over the next five years, there is a problem in the short term. This year, the fund does not have the money to deal properly with the commitments for round 3, which is due later this year. Will my right hon. Friend consider what can be done to ensure that the fund can go ahead with round 3 distributions this year?

Clare Short: I agree that the global fund for health is important, but I am afraid that it is not being as well led as it might be. Its role is to provide drugs and commodities for the treatment of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria, but health care systems must be in place to

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deliver them. A twin-track approach is therefore required. Unfortunately, the leadership of the fund has over-committed and is operating separately from health reform agendas. The US has just committed the money that it promised originally. However, I am holding back from any further commitments until there is a more clearly targeted effort to collaborate in the strengthening of health systems. Rather than simply giving more money, I am in dialogue with the fund about doing a better job.

Mr. Gary Streeter (South-West Devon): I commend the Secretary of State for the excellent work of her Department. Does she agree that the best way to reach vital targets is to encourage each developing country to move towards its own benign governance, the rule of law and a market-based economy? Ultimately, nothing else is sustainable. Will she say a little more about the capacity building measures of her Department to try to bring about such end results?

Clare Short: I agree with the hon. Gentleman—to achieve a growing economy, effective modern governance is needed, as well as a respect for human rights and democracy; also needed are a treasury that works, procures properly and is not corrupt; a central bank that works; and a macro-economic framework that allows the local private sector and inward investment to work. That is why, in developing countries, we put such stress on the building of effective and modern state institutions with democratic accountability. Progress is being made in many countries but, as the hon. Gentleman knows, some are not on that path. We have to make greater efforts.

Education (Developing Countries)

6. Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy): What steps she is taking to improve girls' access to education in developing countries. [98732]

The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short): Since 1990, the number of primary schoolchildren who are out of school has decreased from 130 million to 115 million, so progress has been made. However, the number of children who are out of school is still unacceptably high. Globally, girls still represent 56 per cent. of children currently out of school, and 66 per cent. in south and west Asia. We are working with a variety of partners to help to accelerate progress on girls' education. We plan to spend £1.3 billion on basic education over the next five years.

Mrs. Betty Williams : I thank my right hon. Friend for that encouraging response. She will be aware of the Global Campaign For Education, which is about to report on girls' education—its main campaign focus for 2003. Is she aware that the campaign will be holding a seminar in Portcullis House on 8 April, where my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Ms King) will be on the panel? Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging the campaign and congratulating the people involved on their excellent work?

Clare Short: I am happy to congratulate anyone who is committed to driving forward the implementation of

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the millennium development goal to get all children in the world, including girls, into basic education. In the poorest countries, girls tend not to be in school. Getting girls to school and a generation of them through primary education brings the biggest development effect in any country. Girls who go to school as they grow up marry later, have fewer children who are more likely to survive, increase household income, get their own children into school and access health care. That is fundamental to progress in development in the poorest countries.


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