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Sustainable Agriculture

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am today announcing an allocation of £37.5 million for the research into use programme, as part of DFID's new strategy for research on sustainable agriculture. The programme will identify up to 30 research programmes and their findings from DFID's previous renewable natural resources research strategy, based on their potential to contribute to sustained growth and reducing poverty, and will seek to promote their widespread use in Africa and South Asia.

The new strategy is made up of four parts: (i) a new programme to promote the widespread use of research findings from previous work funded by DFID; (ii) four new regional research programmes in Africa and Asia; (iii) new joint programmes with UK Research Councils; (iv) existing support to international research institutions.

DFID is allocating a total of £100 million over five years to fund the three new initiatives as part of the strategy, starting in the financial year 2006–07. Funding for the first two financial years, £40 million, is part of the total £255 million DFID announced for all research in these two financial years.

UN Central Emergency Response Fund

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): I am pleased to announce that the United Nations (UN) Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) is being launched officially today, 9 March, in New York. I know that many hon. Members have shown interest in this initiative.

The CERF is a main element of the reforms to the international humanitarian system that I set out in December 2004, and which the UN has since taken forward. The CERF was approved formally by the UN General Assembly in December 2005, as a fund with a medium term target of $500 million, consisting of a pre-
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existing $50 million loan facility, with a grant facility of up to $450 million to be built up by donor contributions over five years. The CERF will enable UN humanitarian agencies to provide a more predictable and timely response to emergencies by ensuring initial funding from the grant facility is available immediately to support a rapid response to, for example, natural disasters or sharply deteriorating conflicts, and to address critical humanitarian needs in under-funded chronic or slower-onset emergencies, so-called "forgotten crises".

The UK has been at the forefront of efforts to lobby donors for political support for, and contributions to, the CERF. As at 6 March 2006 a total of over $192.7 million has been pledged by 22 countries and one private sector organisation. The UK is the single largest donor, with a contribution of £40 million (about $70 million at current exchange rates) that is in the process of being paid. This will add to the $76.5 million that has already been paid into the CERF by other donors.

The CERF will be administered by the UN's Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), under the management of the UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will be responsible for approving all grant disbursements from the fund. The CERF will report annually to the General Assembly, which will provide overall policy guidance on use of the fund, and an Advisory Group of 12 humanitarian experts will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General as an independent body to advise on operational aspects and performance. Eight of the Group will be drawn from donors, with the other four members being independent experts. The Emergency Relief Coordinator will convene an annual donor consultation, and also liaise regularly with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, regarding use of the CERF.

The CERF will be subject to an annual financial audit by the UN's external auditors, with reports made available to the Advisory Group, and public reporting on donations, expenditures, and CERF-funded programme results will be posted on to a dedicated CERF internet website. The CERF itself will be critically and independently evaluated after the first two years of operation, to review its relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, and impact.

I believe strongly that the CERF will make a critical difference in saving more lives and alleviating suffering earlier in future humanitarian crises, by enabling the humanitarian agencies to respond more quickly and effectively. Combined with the other reforms under way, it will significantly improve the international humanitarian system.

Commission for Africa /G8 Gleneagles Commitments

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): Last year the international community agreed a comprehensive development plan to help tackle the huge challenges faced by poor countries and poor people across the globe. Political leaders from the G8, EU, Africa and elsewhere made a number of
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commitments, including pledges to increase aid by $50 billion a year by 2010 and to implement 100 per cent. debt cancellation for up to 38 of the world's poorest countries. Progress is being made, although there is much further still to go, particularly on trade. The Government's priority is to ensure that commitments made last year are delivered, so that poor people see real improvements in their lives.

This weekend is the first anniversary of the launch of the Commission for Africa's report. One year on, and eight months after the Gleneagles summit, I am depositing in the Libraries of both Houses today a detailed report on what the UK has been doing to take forward the Commission's recommendations and to make sure that the G8's commitments are implemented.

The report highlights particular achievements. These include: the debt relief already being delivered by the International Monetary Fund; the launch of the International Finance Facility for Immunisation (IFFIm) by the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Norway, alongside a grant from The Gates Foundation, which will provide $4 billion to fund vaccinations, saving 5 million lives by 2015 and another 5 million after that; the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission to help countries emerging from conflict; and the entry into force of the UN convention against corruption to help developing countries recover plundered assets. In Africa, there has been good progress by the African Union towards establishing an African Standby Force, able to intervene to prevent conflicts at an early stage. Progress is being made in developing a plan to deliver last year's commitment to provide HIV and AIDS treatment to everyone who needs it by 2010.

To help maintain momentum, we are supporting the development of an effective monitoring process, as described in the report. As the UK, the Government has already published a Gleneagles implementation plan setting out the milestones we need to meet to deliver the commitments agreed last year. This has been placed in the Library of both Houses, and will be updated regularly.

Asia 2015 (Promoting Growth, Ending Poverty)

The Secretary of State for International Development (Hilary Benn): On 6–7 March, the Department for International Development co-hosted, with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, an international conference on the development successes in Asia and challenges facing the continent in the coming decade. It followed on from the development commitments made in 2005 at the G8 Gleneagles Summit and UN Millennium Review.

The conference "Asia 2015: Promoting Growth, Ending Poverty" was attended by ministers of finance, planning and development, senior government officials, the private sector, NGOs, academics and other members of civil society from South, East and South-east Asia. Delegates were welcomed by the Prime Minister and the keynote speech was given by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Shaukat Aziz.
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Asia is changing. In the past few years, it has achieved notable development success, with more people having been lifted out of extreme poverty than at any other time in history. Yet there remain immense challenges. Over 650 million Asians, two thirds of the world's poor people, still live on less than $1 a day.

The conference discussed the practical steps required to eliminate extreme poverty in Asia within a generation—to make poverty history—and how to achieve all of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Participants discussed sustaining and spreading high rates of economic growth, overcoming environmental and infrastructure constraints, harnessing the dynamism of the private sector, connecting poor people to economic opportunities, overcoming discrimination and social exclusion, access to basic services such as health, education, clean water and sanitation, and the need for effective governance.

The conference also discussed how to make partnerships more effective, in which aid is only part of the solution.

DFID and the other co-hosts will be considering the results of the conference for their future development relations in Asia.

A copy of the co-chair's conclusions will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Further information on the conference and background documents are available on

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