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21 Jan 2004 : Column 1305Wcontinued
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what input his Department has made into the (a) design and (b) implementation of the initiative by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help developing countries to overcome problems in adjusting to a more liberal trading environment. 
Hilary Benn: One of the more positive outcomes of the WTO ministerial in Cancun was the joint announcement by the World Bank and the IMF of a new trade-related initiative. Its overall aim is to assist poor countries with the adjustment costs of transition to trade liberalisation and help them capitalise on the potential benefits. DFID, in collaboration with others, has for some time been actively encouraging the World Bank and IMF to address more systematically the
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adjustment costs of trade liberalisation and the need for trade-related technical assistance. The collapse of negotiations in Cancun allows more time for the initiative to be developed and to encourage the Bank and Fund to work together more closely in designing mechanisms.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development which countries receive (a) bilateral and (b) multilateral aid from the UK Government; and how much each received from his Department in (i) 200203 and (ii) 200304. 
Hilary Benn: Information on expenditure by the UK Government on development assistance is given in our annual publication "Statistics on International Development', a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
Tables 7.17.5 (pages 115152) contain the information requested for bilateral assistance in 200203. The column headed "Total DFID Programme" hows how much each country received from DFID while that headed "Total Gross Public Expenditure" gives total Government spend. Figures for 200304 are not yet available.
Table 8 shows contributions to multilateral organisations from both DFID and the Government as a whole for 200203. By definition, this expenditure cannot be broken down by country as the UK contribution is pooled with those of other donors. Figures for 200304 are not yet available.
Hilary Benn: DFID strongly supports the underlying principles of the UN's Year of Microcredit 2005, which seeks to increase international efforts to spread microfinance to more low income clients worldwide. Donors, including DFID, have supported policies and institutions to extend the outreach of sustainable microcredit and other financial services to the poor for many years. DFID has held several discussions with the UN organisers and has been instrumental in linking them with The Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), which promotes best practice in the microfinance industry. We intend to support specific events in the UK and will announce these this autumn.
The UN General Assembly, through resolution 53/197 in December 1998, proclaimed 2005 as the International Year of Microcredit. Following consultations with Member States in the second half of 2003, a Programme of Action for the Year has been agreed. The UN Capital Development Fund and the UN Secretariat's Department of Economic and Social Affairs will jointly coordinate the preparation activities of the UN system for the Year.
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The UK and others supported wording in the Programme of Action resolution that emphasised the wider contribution of microfinance, and financial sector development, beyond a concentration on microcredit itself. Hence the Programme of Action often refers to microfinance, in addition to microcredit, and refers to savings, asset creation, and economic security.
The UN Programme proposes that the Year will be launched in November 2004, that Member States will establish National Committees, and that 2004 should be a year of preparation. DFID officials have met initially with UNCDF Secretariat staff, and also with Citigroup, one of the private sector sponsors. UNCDF have noted that donor funding will not be needed at the international level.
The key to the success of the Year will be UN countries adopting the General Assembly Resolution, and signing up to active steps to enable expansion of access to microfinance at local level. Whilst UN "Years" are vulnerable to a charge of more talk and less action, the Year of Microcredit is already attracting attention from private and public sectors including Citigroup, Bank of International Settlements and others.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Microfinance is very likely to take an interest in the International Year of Microcredit. The Secretary of State met with them on 21 October. DFID officials are also checking whether other Departments will have an interest in the Year (Treasury, DTI). Following further meetings, DFID will recommend a programme of action for the Year to the Secretary of State.
The £18 million Financial Deepening Challenge Fund, using innovative mechanisms to encourage banks and other financial service providers to extend financial services for the poor (www.challengefunds.org).
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what discussions he has had with his counterparts in the United States since the breakdown of the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in Cancun about the likely impact of the United States Farm Bill on the (a) economies of and (b) living standards in, developing countries. 
Hilary Benn: The Government conducted intensive discussion with the United States officials and ministers when the US Farm Bill was first introduced in 2002. Since Cancun there has been continuing contact between UK and US officials about all aspects of the WTO Round, including on the question of US domestic subsidies and their potential impact on the livelihoods of producers in developing countries.
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Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many people made up the delegations of the developing countries at the World Trade Organisation ministerial conference in Cancun. 
Hilary Benn: According to the official list of delegates provided by the WTO Secretariat, there were over 1700 accredited delegates from Developing countries at the WTO ministerial conference in Cancun.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment he has made of (a) the level and (b) the geographical distribution of food shortages in Zimbabwe. 
Hilary Benn: The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee's survey in April last year estimated that approximately 4.4 million people in rural areas and 1.1 million people in urban areas would require food aid during the pre-harvest months of January, February and March 2004. However, it is now clear that this figure is an underestimate and is being revised upwards to 5.1 million people in rural areas. Results of a comprehensive urban vulnerability assessment are yet to be released, but are also expected to show a significant increase in people requiring humanitarian assistance.
DFID works in close collaboration with UN agencies and other development partners to monitor the levels and geographical distribution of food shortages throughout Zimbabwe. Relevant factors include employment levels, commodity prices, income levels, agricultural activity and rainfall levels, HIV prevalence rates and alternative coping mechanisms.
Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the extent of political abuse by the Zimbabwe Government of food aid provided by his Department. 
Hilary Benn: The World Food Programme and others distributing international food aid all have clear procedures and monitoring systems in place to ensure that humanitarian aid is distributed according to need. These systems are working well and there have been no significant cases of political interference with international aid, including that provided by the UK, in recent months. Along with the UN, EU and other donors, we continue to make it clear to the Zimbabwe Government that we will not tolerate political interference in the distribution of food aid.
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Hilary Benn: In December 2003, the WFP and other agencies distributed general rations to 3.5 million beneficiaries, while many other vulnerable people received food through targeted programmes. As well as being a major contributor to WFP, DFID's separate NGO programme is reaching over a million beneficiaries a month through home-based care, school and therapeutic feeding schemes.
The level of food aid reaching the people of Zimbabwe is a credit to the logistical capabilities of the WFP and the dedication of the implementing NGOs. Incidents of political interference remain few and isolated. DFID continues to work in close collaboration with the WFP and other partners to ensure that food aid is distributed in an apolitical manner and that those in most need receive assistance.
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