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28 Nov 2005 : Column 58W—continued

Earthquake (Kashmir)

Mark Simmonds: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will make a statement on the outcome of the international donor conference on the earthquake in Kashmir. [32270]

Mr. Thomas: On 19 November, I attended the Pakistan earthquake donor conference in Islamabad and announced that the United Kingdom would contribute £70 million, (approximately $120 million), over three years for the reconstruction effort. This money will be used to support the Government of Pakistan's reconstruction programme, which includes the rebuilding and repair of schools, hospitals, electricity and water supplies, houses, and support for restoring people's livelihoods. In total, over $5.8 billion was pledged by the international community.

For further information, I refer the hon. member for Boston and Skegness to the written statement made on 22 November 2005, Official Report, columns 104–06WS by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for International Development.
 
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Ethiopia

Ms Keeble: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what representations he has made to the Government of Ethiopia on the recent shootings of civilians. [31025]

Hilary Benn: I spoke to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia on Sunday 6 November and expressed my deep concern at the use of live ammunition and the shooting of civilians. I made it clear that the events of the week beginning 31 October were profoundly affecting Ethiopia's international situation and that the international community was very concerned. I also encouraged Prime Minister Meles to give the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or appropriate international representatives, access to detainees and to ensure that medical needs of detainees were being met.

In addition, the UK, as EU presidency and international donors to Ethiopia, have issued public statements expressing serious concern about recent events, calling for restraint and dialogue, and announcing a review of development assistance.

Mr. Hands: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what action he has taken in respect of the United Kingdom's aid to Ethiopia in light of recent events in the country; what plans he has for such aid; and if he will make a statement. [32161]

Hilary Benn: The UK has a planned programme to Ethiopia of £90 million this year and remains committed to reducing poverty in Ethiopia.

Following election-related disturbances in June, Iannounced that I was putting on hold, a £20 million increase in Poverty Reduction Budget Support. No general budget support has been provided to Ethiopia from the UK so far this financial year. Following recent incidents in November, the UK is further reviewing its development assistance programme in close collaboration with other donors.

The international donors in Ethiopia, including the UK, have issued a public statement (and a more detailed follow-up letter to the Government of Ethiopia) expressing serious concern about recent events, calling for restraint and dialogue, and announcing a review of development assistance.

I have also spoken directly to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, expressing concern over the current situation and urging restraint.

EU Aid Commitments

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the UK presidency has taken (a) to follow up and (b) to monitor implementation of EU commitments on aid to developing countries. [30979]

Mr. Thomas: The European Commission has a mandate from the Council of Ministers to report annually on EU commitments related to the Millennium Development Goals. The Commission sends out a questionnaire to each member state covering the aid volume and related commitments that were initially agreed in March 2002 and updated in May 2005. The
 
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Commission issued its questionnaire last month. The results will feed into a Commission Communication that is due to be published by March 2006. Development Ministers will discuss progress and agree conclusions on the communication when they meet in April 2006. This process provides a good opportunity for collective benchmarking and ensures that action taken by the Union is transparent.

The annual monitoring process falls during the first half of each year. But throughout the UK presidency, I and other Ministers have used speeches, information materials and meetings such as the informal meeting of EU Development Ministers in Leeds on 24–25 October, to publicise the commitments and maintain pressure on member states to deliver on them. On 21 November 2005, the conclusions from the General Affairs and External Relations Council re-affirmed the EU's commitment to monitoring the implementation of the aid volume and related commitments.

Europe and Central Asia Programme

Andrew Mackinlay: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how his Department intends to use the £5.7 million savings that will be made from the Europe and Central Asia Programme over the 2005–06 and 2007–08 period. [31638]

Mr. Thomas: DFID's support to Europe and Central Asia is planned to decrease in line with our policy of focusing our resources in countries where we can have the biggest impact on poverty reduction. The consequent reductions in planned budgets for Europe and Central Asia, as set out in DFID's Departmental Report 2005, copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House, increased the resources available for other DFID programmes alongside DFID's increasing budget which is set to rise from £4.5 billion in 2005–06 to £5.3 billion in 2007–08.

DFID operates an annual review of its programme allocations based on the total of available resources.

Africa

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the European Commission's Africa Communication. [30978]

Hilary Benn: The European Commission's Africa Communication Towards a Euro-African Pact to accelerate Africa's Development", is a crucial contribution to the EU Strategy for Africa to be discussed at the December European Council. The communication was discussed by EU Development Ministers at the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on 21–22 November and comprehensive conclusions were agreed in response to the communication. The conclusions are available under the title 2,691st External Relations Council Meeting on the EU Council website at: http://ue.eu.int/cms3_fo/showPage.ASP?lang=en.

Development Ministers welcomed specific elements of the document, notably points on the themes of peace and security, governance, economic growth and trade, investing in people and development assistance.
 
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Ministers also identified specific priorities that they wish to see pursued in the EU Strategy to be discussed in December.

Illegal Drugs

Mr. Iain Wright: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what role his Department is playing in restricting the production of (a) cocaine and(b) heroin in developing countries for sale in the UK. [30537]

Hilary Benn: Afghanistan currently accounts for 90 per cent. of heroin production worldwide. Our primary contribution to counter-narcotics is through promoting alternative livelihoods to drug cultivation, for which we will contribute £45 million in 2005–06. DFID's livelihoods programme addresses a range of issues including the development of alternative crops, access to agricultural services, as well as broader rural development issues such as market access, access to credit, skills development and improving Government planning at the provincial level. DFID is also working to strengthen the capacity of the Government of Afghanistan's counter-narcotics institutions which are essential for sustaining progress with counter-narcotics objectives and for long-term poverty reduction.

Our principal contribution to counter-narcotics in coca-growing countries in Latin America is through European Commission assistance, of which the United Kingdom share is 18 per cent. The Commission provides assistance to tackle drug production to a number of Andean countries, including Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. For example, the Commission is providing €45 million in support to the Government of Bolivia to promote alternatives to coca production, including in economically depressed areas, from where unemployed Bolivians migrate to coca-growing regions. EC work is in addition to major US efforts to tackle drugs production in the region.

Experience has shown that, to tackle illicit drug production effectively, developing countries need to reduce poverty and provide alternative economic opportunities, establish effective and accountable state mechanisms which provide adequate services to the poor, as well as develop the capacity to disrupt drugs production and trafficking networks. DFID's work to reduce poverty and build state capacity in drug-producing countries, even when not explicitly targeted at drug production, helps to provide the environment in which incentives to produce drugs are reduced.

DFID's activities to address illicit drugs production are not dependent on whether the ultimate destination of the drug is the United Kingdom.


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