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15 Dec 2003 : Column 725W—continued


Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what measures the Government can deploy in the case of a breach of the Memorandum of Understanding with Rwanda. [142513]

Hilary Benn: Our engagement with the Government of Rwanda is based upon the joint commitments set down in the UK/Rwanda Memorandum of Understanding. These commitments include:

Progress against these commitments is reviewed each year by a team of independent consultants. That review forms the basis of the annual UK/Rwanda Partnership Talks. Any concerns arising from the independent review or from the UK's routine assessment of Government policy and practice are discussed with the Government of Rwanda.

Should we believe that the Government of Rwanda are not honouring the commitments made in the Memorandum of Understanding, and where the consultation process provided for within the Memorandum of Understanding fails to satisfy our concern, then we reserve the right to amend or entirely suspend our engagement with the Government of Rwanda. Our aim in any re-configuration of our engagement will be to continue to make the greatest possible impact on poverty in Rwanda.

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment of the fairness of elections in Rwanda his Department has undertaken. [142511]

Hilary Benn: The recent national elections—the first since 1994, when genocide claimed the lives of over 800,000 Rwandans—were an important step towards Rwandan democracy. They were well organised and peaceful, they helped establish an electoral process in a country with no democratic tradition, and they demonstrated a genuine public thirst for democracy. But we believe that they were also flawed. The European Union's Election Observation Mission highlighted a

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number of irregularities, although it stopped short of questioning the validity of the process or the result (Observation Missions from the Africa Union and South Africa reported far fewer irregularities). And we assess that in the run-up to the elections, Government moved to control the activities of opposition parties, civil society and the independent media.

We have urged the Government to take confidence from its new popular mandate, to open up space for legitimate political debate and to continue its work to establish a democratic and inclusive state.

Tom Brake: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has undertaken of the time scale over which democracy will be introduced in Rwanda with free elections. [142512]

Hilary Benn: DFID's 2003 Country Assistance Plan, a copy of which was recently placed in the House of Commons Library, presents our analysis of the process of democratisation in Rwanda.

We conclude that the Government of Rwanda is committed to establishing a democratic and inclusive state, at the pace that Rwanda's continuing social fragility dictates. We see evidence of this in the recent national elections, the first since the 1994 genocide and civil war. Although flawed, these elections were also well organised and peaceful, and helped establish a democratic process in Rwanda. The Government aims to build democracy from the bottom, by empowering local communities to engage with local government structures around policy development and resource allocation. It believes that democracy built in this way, with its emphasis on social participation and inclusion, will act as a counter-balance to political extremism including genocidal ideology. Local government structures are being established at a rapid rate, and significant resources are now being channelled to them.

We cannot determine a particular year by which "democracy" should be established. The pace of democratisation will be determined by the country's experience as it moves to establish local government, re-integrate ex-combatants returning from the Democratic Republic of Congo and individuals guilty of genocide and allows greater space for Parliament and the public to scrutinise the executive. But we have identified with Government a number of actions that should be taken over the next 12 months in certain key areas of political governance which are necessary to strengthen and demonstrate the move towards democratisation. These actions will be set out in the 2004 UK/Rwanda Memorandum of Understanding, which we will sign with the Government of Rwanda in January. The annual independent review of the Memorandum of Understanding provides the basis for our Partnership Talks with the Government of Rwanda.

Swazi Maize Farmers

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact which food aid to Swaziland is having on the ability of Swazi maize farmers to sell their produce; and if he will make a statement. [142782]

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Hilary Benn: Food aid always has the potential to disrupt incentives to local farmers. That is why DFID looks carefully at the specific food needs in each humanitarian operation and discusses food aid programmes with the major agencies, including the World Food Programme. We encourage WFP to source grains locally whenever this is possible and cost effective.

The National Agricultural Marketing Board of Swaziland suspended import permits for maize at the beginning of November this year. In the view of the Marketing Board, food aid imports are depressing local market prices, and DFID has therefore been discussing the position with the World Food Programme. WFP has informed us that tenders for food aid in Swaziland have been open to Swazi suppliers.

DFID's own support for WFP programmes in Swaziland has prioritised the use of corn soya blend for the most vulnerable of the food insecure, mostly vulnerable children and expectant mothers. Corn soya blend has no locally-produced substitute and will not disrupt incentives for local maize trade or maize planting.


Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development by what means the Department's policy for purchasing timber and timber products ensures that they are obtained from legal and sustainable sources. [141336]

Hilary Benn: DFID ensures that its contractors and procurement agents purchasing goods on our behalf, are aware of Government policies and requires them to obtain proof from their suppliers that timber and timber products have been procured from legal and sustainable sources.


John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the impact which new laws on NGO registration in Turkmenistan will have on the ability of organisations to carry out humanitarian work; and if he will make a statement. [141373]

Mr. Rammell: I have been asked to reply.

I am very concerned that the new legislation on NGOs will criminalise legitimate NGO activity and give the Ministry of Justice powers to curb the work of NGOs in Turkmenistan.

Our Embassy in Ashgabat has raised these concerns with the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs, urging the Turkmen government not to use the legislation to penalise NGOs. Our concerns have also been raised with the Turkmen Ambassador to London.

With OSCE and other partners we have sent two Note Verbales asking for a meeting with the Turkmen Foreign Minister to discuss our concerns. We await a response and will continue to monitor this issue carefully.

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UN Relief and Works Agency

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what aid was donated by the British Government to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in each of the last 10 years; and how much is pledged for 2004. [143216]

Hilary Benn: The UK's bilateral contributions to UNRWA for each financial year since 1994 are:

£ million


(27) Spend to December 2003—the forecast for the financial year is £19 million.

Contributions since the start of the intifada in 2000 include extra funding allocated to UNRWA's emergency appeals for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Our current bilateral framework for UNRWA for 2004–05 is £15 million.

The UK also contributes to UNRWA through its share of EC funding. EC contributions totalled Euro77 million in 2001, Euro65 million in 2002 and Euro82 million this year. The UK provides approximately 19 per cent. of funds to the EC's budget.

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