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Millennium Development Goals

Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to the answer of 9 November 2005, Official Report, column 473W, on the Millennium Development Goals, by how much each of the targets are likely to be achieved or missed. [34734]

Mr. Thomas: Globally, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets for reducing extreme poverty by half, for equal enrolment of girls and boys in primary school, and for halving the proportion of people without access to improved drinking water are on track to be met by 2015.

The target to halt and reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS is off track.

Progress towards the other targets is reported as 'lagging' by the United Nations Statistics Division. Progress is being made, but not fast enough to reach the targets by 2015.

For all the goals, progress is varied across the globe. Sub-Saharan Africa is not on track to meet any of the goals. The number of people living on less than $1 a day in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from 227 million in 1990, to 313 million in 2001, while numbers decreased from 936 million to 703 million in Asia, due to sustained growth in China and acceleration of the economy in India.


Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government have taken to hasten the release of aid containers for the areas affected by earthquake from retention by Pakistani customs. [34542]

Mr. Thomas: DFID is not aware of any widespread concerns about aid being held up, although we are aware that a consignment from an Irish non-governmental organisation has been held up during the
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customs clearance process. The United Nations are supporting the organisation concerned in approaching the Pakistan authorities to have the supplies cleared.

Race Equality Impact Assessments

Keith Vaz: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many Race Equality Impact Assessments his Department completed between (a) April 2004 and March 2005 and (b) April 2005 and November 2005; and how many assessments in each period resulted in a change of policy. [32823]

Mr. Thomas: The information requested is provided in the following table:
Number of race equality impact assessmentsHow many resulted in a change of policy
April 2004 to March 200500
April 2005 to November 20051(2)0

(2) Impact assessment currently underway—outcome still uncertain.

Sick Leave

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State forInternational Development how many of his Department's employees who are within one year of the official retirement age are on extended sick leave. [32593]

Mr. Thomas: None of DFID's employees who are within one year of the official retirement age are on extended sick leave. The official retirement age within DFID is 60, although staff may choose to serve on until age 65, subject to continued capability and satisfactory service. My Department is committed to managing sickness absence effectively and to putting in place the recommendations of the 2004 Managing Sickness Absence in the Public Sector" report to reduce long-term sickness absence.

St. Helena

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the expenditure by the UK Government on conservation of St. Helena's biodiversity has been in each year since 1997. [34082]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not keep statistics that separate out conservation of biodiversity from other conservation work on St. Helena.

DFID provides St. Helena with funding through both direct budget support (to fund the budget deficit) and through development aid projects. St. Helena Government's expenditure in each financial year on conservation is shown in the following table, and this includes DFID funding in the form of direct budget support.

St. Helena Government conservation budget

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In addition, the joint DFID/FCO Overseas Territories Environment Programme (total budget £1.5 million over three years), a development aid project that covers all the UK Overseas Territories, spent £67,311 in 2004–05 and £41,000 in the current financial year on projects in St. Helena.

A number of development aid infrastructure projects funded by DFID on the island also contribute directly and indirectly to the conservation of the island's biodiversity: the Drip Irrigation Project (£198,000 over three years) and Water Development Phase II Project (£1.25 million over five years) being good examples. The development aid programme has also included projects on forestry, water catchment, fishing, flora conservation and rodent control during the period.

St. Helena has also received modest amounts of financial support for conservation from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Environmental Fund, the Worldwide Fund for Nature and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Many activities under a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Tourism Project also involve aspects of conservation.

Trade Barriers

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps he is taking to encourage the EU to reform its agricultural policies to remove the trade barriers affecting developing countries. [34441]

Mr. Thomas: The Government acknowledges the damaging impact that dumping and trade-distorting subsidies have on developing countries, particularly on their agriculture sectors. We fully support the commitment made at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Doha ministerial meeting in 2001, which agreed that agriculture negotiations would aim to achieve: substantial improvements in market access; reductions of, with a view to phasing out, all forms of export subsidies; and substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support.

The package of reforms to the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP) agreed in June 2003 and May 2004 mark a significant shift in the EU's agricultural policy. The de-coupling of subsidies from production should connect European farmers much more closely to the market and have real impacts on reducing excessive production, which harms developing countries. The Government will continue to be at the forefront of those pushing for further reform of the EU's agricultural policy and I welcome the fact that the EU Commission
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has reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring that the EU plays a full and constructive role in the WTO agriculture negotiations. I also welcome the commitment in the WTO to agree to set an end date for all export supports.

The Doha Development Agenda and specifically the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong represent an important opportunity to make a significant contribution to reducing global poverty. The UK Government are working to achieve an outcome that delivers real gains for developing countries, including the poorest. These gains should include improved participation by developing countries in the world trading system, through substantially increased market access for developing countries and the dismantling of trade-distorting agricultural subsidies by industrialised countries.

UN Population Fund

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many (a) males and (b) females are employed by the United Nations Population Fund in India; and what their core duties are. [34747]

Mr. Thomas: DFID does not provide funding in country to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and as such does not have any influence on or knowledge of the numbers of staff it has. This question should therefore more appropriately be addressed to the UNFPA in India directly.

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development whether the United Nations Population Fund is involved in sex selection abortions in India; and if he will make a statement. [34748]

Mr. Thomas: Sex selection abortions are illegal in India. The Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act and Rules 1994 (amended 2002) prohibit sex selection by any means, before or after conception.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in India has a mandate to promote gender equality and to address practices that harm women. As such the UNFPA is working closely with the Government of India to support them in implementing the Prohibition of Sex Selection Act.

The UNFPA's support takes the form of public advocacy campaigns targeted at policy-makers and the public in order to raise awareness of gender imbalance across India as a result of illegal sex selection practices. The UNFPA has been intensifying its awareness-raising efforts recently to include the media and entertainment industries.

Further information on UNFPA's work on this issue in India can be obtained by contacting them directly:

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