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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development (Mr. Gareth Thomas): At the London conference on Afghanistan at the end of January, the Prime Minister signed a 10-year development partnership agreement with President Karzai, reaffirming the United Kingdom's long-term commitment to Afghanistan. That includes £330 million of development assistance over the next three years, as part of the overall UK pledge of £500 million to help reduce poverty, improve security and governance, and tackle the opium industry.
Dr. Blackman-Woods: Following the London conference on Afghanistan, what action is the Department taking to focus attention on achieving the millennium development goals not only in Afghanistan but throughout Asia?
Mr. Thomas: One of the most encouraging aspects of the London conference on Afghanistan was the scale of the continuing international commitment to that country. Some $10.5 billion was pledged for Afghanistan for the coming years. That will help the Afghan Government to continue their programme of investing in basic resources, improving the number of functioning health clinics, rebuilding more schools and getting more teachers for them and more children back in them.
My hon. Friend and other hon. Members may know that we are hosting a conference on the millennium development goals in Asia next week, with several senior Ministers from Asian countries coming to discuss progress and the nature of the remaining challenges.
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Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con):Will the Minister explain in more detail how the alternative livelihoods programme is to be delivered in Helmand? How many UK-based staff are going to be involved? Will it be delivered through United Nations agencies, international non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam and Save the Children, or local non-governmental organisations? What are the benchmarks for success? What is the time scale involved? May we have more information about the alternative livelihoods programme in Helmand?
Mr. Thomas: The hon. Gentleman will know that the progress that we make on alternative livelihoods will inevitably depend on the security situation in Helmand and more generally, and on the ability of our development partners to work safely on the ground. He will also be aware, from his previous visits to the region and his former role as the Chairman of the International Development Committee, of the work that we have done on alternative livelihoods in other areas, encouraging access to micro-finance and the establishment of elected community development councils, and giving grants to those councils to spend on projects that people at the grass roots think are important, such as irrigation projects, roads and bridges. The progress that we make on the alternative livelihoods programme in Helmand will inevitably depend on the security situation there.
The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Corruption is a serious problem in much of Africa, and it is the poor who suffer from it most. DFID and other donors regularly discuss action to reduce corruption with east African governments. In Tanzania and Uganda, the UK is supporting improvements in public financial management and greater accountability to Parliament and civil society. I had a frank discussion with President Kibaki of Kenya about corruption during my visit in January. Since then, following the publication of the Githongo dossier, three senior Ministers have stepped down due to unprecedented public pressure.
Tony Lloyd: My right hon. Friend has been suitably forthright this morning about the need to take action against corruption, and he has identified the problems that exist in Kenya and Uganda in his responses to other questions. The Museveni regime has become progressively more corrupt, and the Kibaki regime in Kenya has, sadly, not lived up to the promises of corruption eradication on which it campaigned before the last presidential election. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how he intends to bring proper pressure to bear on those Governments while protecting the interests of the poorest people in those countries who still need British assistance?
First, by ensuring that the funds that we give are used in an appropriate way. We take great care to do that, which is why we do not provide direct budget
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support to Kenya. Secondly, it is right that we continue to support a process of change in those countries to create the institutions that could be used to fight corruption, if there is the political will to do so. The institutions on their own will not work, if there is no political will to make them work. What has happened in Kenya over the past month is significant because domestic Kenyan politics are leading the change, precisely because people feel disappointed. My hon. Friend is right to say that we must continue to find ways to support the poor people in those countries. Those who say that British aid to Kenya should be withdrawn completely because of the problems there are fundamentally mistaken, because that would result in punishing the poor people for failures that are not of their own making.
Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): I agree that funds should continue to go to Kenya, but does the Secretary of State accept that the welcome arrest of three senior Ministers is only a small step in the right direction? Is he quite happy that the Government have struck the right balance between putting real pressure on the Kenyan Government to end corruption and avoiding adversely affecting the livelihoods of ordinary people there?
Hilary Benn: In the end, it is for the House to judge whether the Government have struck the right balance, but I hope that we have. We have been resolute in making clear our concern about corruption. As I said a moment ago, I did so very directly in my recent discussions with President Kibaki. However, the most important voice that should be heard loud and clear is that of the Kenyan people, and the unprecedented events surrounding the resignation of the three Ministers is a direct result of such pressure. We need to keep that up. As I said in answer to the first question today, good governance and fighting corruption are down to the countries themselves, and the more pressure there is from within, the greater the chance of resolving the problems.
Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, a great deal of the money that we give to Kenya goes in through organisations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. I am worried about the disbursement of the fund's money to support HIV/AIDS orphans in Kenya. What is my right hon. Friend doing, in addition to arranging our own bilateral aid, to ensure that those multilateral organisations also deal with the problems of governance, and that they arrange for effective disbursement so that the money gets through to the people who need it?
Hilary Benn: We work very hard with the Global Fund to ensure that the money and the increasing support that the Government have put in are used to good effect. Kenya is one of the countries where there have been difficulties in making the money work. Therefore, we have been supporting a programme with the Global Fund and UNAIDS to find out what the obstacles are and to ensure that that resourcethat moneyis delivered to change people's lives.
While we are talking about Kenya, an immediate concern is the drought, because that will affect a lot of people, including those who have been orphaned, not
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least because in many cases they have lost means of support. I can tell the House today that I have decided to allocate a further £15 million in response to the latest assessment of the drought in Kenya, because there is an urgent need to get more help to people who are at risk of not having enough to eat, and therefore of dying.
Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness) (Con): Corruption has not only robbed east Africa of resources, but exacerbated and perpetuated poverty. It hinders economic development, erodes faith in Governments and dissuades people from paying taxes. Significant progress in strengthening African nations' auditor-general capacities is urgently required. The Prime Minister has stated that aid will be linked to the elimination of corruption. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of a specific amount of British taxpayers' money allocated as aid funding that has been lost as leakagenot only to corruption, but to expenditure outside the social portfolios for which it was intended?
Hilary Benn: We have a series of procedures in place to ensure that that does not happen. I will happily give the hon. Gentleman, in the small number of cases where there have been problems, the details of what we have found and what we have done to deal with it. The way we approach the problem is, first, to make a proper assessment of the fiduciary risk; secondly, to choose how we will give our aid, in response to an assessment of the risk; and, thirdly, having made that decision, to ensure that the way the money is given is tracked carefully so that it can be accounted for.
I take with complete seriousness my responsibility in this office to ensure that every single penny in our aid programme, for which many people have campaigned and which many people support, goes for the purpose for which it is intended.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): As with east Africa, my right hon. Friend will be aware of the absolute corruption in Nigeria and the difficulties in that country with foreign oil workers being held captive and oil production being stopped. Can I ask him about the money that is being stolen from the people of Nigeria
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