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Famine (Africa)

Andrew George: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what recent assessment his Department has made of the risk of famine in each country in Africa for which the UN has issued a warning during 2005. [27786]

Hilary Benn [holding answer 11 November 2005]: DFID has a group of humanitarian advisers at regional and country level that routinely monitor the food situation and the potential for food crises across Africa. They draw information from a range UN and other monitoring instruments, including famine early warning systems, and food security and nutritional data produced by governments and non-governmental organisations (NGO)s. They also participate in country and regional assessments of the food security situation on a regular basis. This information, including that contained in UN warnings and appeals, is used to determine our response.

Female Circumcision

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps are being taken by his Department in relation to the practice of female circumcision. [26976]

Mr. Thomas: Female circumcision or 'Female Genital Mutilation' (FGM) is a fundamental violation of the human rights of women and girls and is explicitly denounced in a number of human rights treaties and conventions. It is estimated that the number of women and girls who have undergone genital mutilation is between 100 and 140 million and that 2 million girls undergo FGM each year.

DFID support to reduce the prevalence of this harmful practice forms part of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to improve maternal and child health and to promote gender equality and women's empowerment.
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DFID provides support to help lower FGM through our funding of relevant UN organisations and NGOs. We are providing nearly £500,000 through our Civil Society Challenge Fund to Plan UK for a project in Mali enhancing the capability of local organisations in the fight against FGM at grassroots level. As well as this, in 2004–05 DFID provided annual core funding to support the work of multilateral organisations, including £19 million for UNICEF, £20 million for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), £12.5 million for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and £3 million to the United Nations Women's Fund (UNIFEM), which all advocate and support programmes to combat FGM globally, not only because of its harmful impact on the reproductive and sexual health of women, but also because it is a violation of woman and girls fundamental human rights.

DFID provides indirect funding through social development and health programmes that support rights-based work at country level. DFID is also supporting the forthcoming United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) African conference in Senegal, which will bring together parliamentarians, religious and traditional leaders, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and former practitioners to plan actions to help eradicate the practice of FGM.

Gormo-Lhasa Railway

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development on what occasions in the last 12 months (a) he and (b) officials in his Department have met the Bombadier Company to discuss their involvement in the building of the Gormo-Lhasa railway; and if he will make a statement. [27648]

Hilary Benn: Neither I nor any DFID official has had any contact with the Bombardier Company in the last 12 months to discuss their involvement in the Gormo-Lhasa railway.

Labour Exploitation

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what advice his Department gives to UK companies on avoiding the exploitation of cheap labour in developing countries. [26986]

Mr. Thomas: The Government are committed to and encourage the highest standards of business behaviour. This includes support for ethical sourcing practices that should ensure businesses take account of the labour conditions within their supply chains. The UK, (led by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) gives strong support to international initiatives such as the UN Global Compact and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multi-national Enterprises which encourage the implementation of internationally agreed labour standards.

DFID welcomes dialogue on corporate social responsibility with multi-nationals and supports the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) which offers advice and training to companies wishing to implement ethical trading practices. ETI corporate members adopt a labour code of conduct that includes the core labour
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standards of the International Labour Organisation. They work with their suppliers, in collaboration with trade unions and non-governmental organisations, to improve working conditions in their supply chains and develop and disseminate best practice based on practical experience.

Small Fruit Growers

Mrs. Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what support his Department is giving to small fruit growers in developing countries to (a) meet the demands of producers who will purchase only fruit of a specified shape and size and (b) resist incentives to use pesticides with potentially harmful effects. [27341]

Mr. Thomas: DFID recognises that fruit production and horticulture more generally, is playing an increasingly important role in driving agricultural growth and providing sustainable livelihoods for millions of poor households. In India for example, horticulture already accounts for over half the value of agricultural output.

However, increasingly stringent product standards set by the retail trade can create particular difficulties for small producers seeking access to valuable European markets. To address this DFID has recently begun a three year programme working with retailers, importers, standard-setting bodies (in particular the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group—Good Agricultural Practices (EUREPGAP) and producers aimed at ensuring that standards, such as requirements to produce fruit of a specified shape and size, do not discriminate against small-scale and developing country producers.

DFID is also active in a number of developing countries where we fund projects to support suppliers to meet supermarket standards. For example in Kenya, in the last two years, DFID has given approximately £582,000 in support for export horticultural development. An additional £290,000 will be spent by June 2006. Much of these funds are spent assisting smallholders to cope with the process and cost of compliance with EUREPGAP standards.

Buyers are extremely concerned about the use of pesticides with potentially harmful effects and European regulations and market health and safety requirements are increasingly difficult for developing country exporters to meet. At the request of African, Caribbean and Pacific country suppliers, the European Commission has put in place the Pesticides Initiative Programme; it aims to provide concrete responses to fruit and vegetable producers and exporters adaptation difficulties and assists suppliers to conform to the expectation of European buyers.

DFID supports the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) through a network of 15 International Research Centres and Global Programmes. Research is conducted on all major world crops of relevance to the poor with particular emphasis on crop improvement through genetic enhancement to withstand stresses of various kinds including attack by pests and diseases. New pest and disease resistant crop varieties significantly reduce the need for applications of harmful pesticides.
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DFID's bilateral Crop Protection Programme has developed successful technical solutions known as Integrated Pest Management whereby crop husbandry and natural resource management methods are systematically combined to reduce or eliminate the incidence of pests thereby reducing the need for pesticide applications.


Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what Somalia's outstanding debt is; how much international debt relief was given to Somalia following the G8 summit in July; and if he will make a statement. [27223]

Hilary Benn: The World Bank's latest estimate for Somalia's external debt is just under $3 billion, on which they have not been able to make repayments for many years.

The G8 proposal discussed in July, will cancel 100 per cent. of the debts owed by heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) to the International Monetary Fund and the concessional funds of the World Bank and the African Development Bank. To qualify, countries must first complete the HIPC Initiative.

In order to benefit from the exceptional debt relief given under the HIPC Initiative, Somalia would need to establish a minimum track record of macro-economic stability, demonstrate a commitment to poverty reduction by developing an interim Poverty Reduction
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Strategy Paper, and clear its arrears. The fundamental priority for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia now is to establish political stability, with the support of the international community, and by doing so begin to shore up national and international credibility. Once political reconciliation is under way, donors will clearly need to focus on what support needs to be provided to help Somalia address its unsustainable debt and arrears. The UK will remain actively involved in helping to find solutions to Somalia's problems.

Mrs. James: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how much financial aid the UK has given to Somalia since 1997; and if he will make a statement. [27242]

Hilary Benn: Since 1997 up to the end of financial year 2004–05 (the latest period for which figures are available), the UK provided £137,000 of assistance to Somalia that is categorised as financial aid. This was in relation to a residual obligation to pay the pensions of expatriate officers who saw service in Somalia prior to independence. Details of these amounts are provided in the following table, which also shows the total amount of UK bilateral aid, £19.47 million, to Somalia over this period. The UK also provides contributions to multilateral institutions some of which funding has also been benefiting Somalia.

DFID's programme for Somalia in the financial year 2005–06 is expected to amount to £13.2 million, and is focused on governance programmes, service delivery and humanitarian assistance.
Total UK Bilateral Aid For Somalia 1997–2005

£ thousand
Financial AidTechnical Co-operationGrants and Other Aid in KindHumanitarian AssistanceTotal UK Bilateral Aid

Statistics on International Development

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