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The second area that I want to focus on is conflict, which still scars the continent, causing huge human suffering. The long-term challenge is to build Africa’s capacity to address its conflicts through the African Union. That is why the UK has trained 12,000 African peacekeepers since 2004-05, and we continue to support the development of the African peace and security architecture, in particular the African standby force,
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whose eastern brigade the UK supports through a dedicated British peace support training team in Nairobi. The UK is also helping to build AU diplomatic and early warning capacity through support for a new network of AU political offices.

We are also, of course, actively engaged in trying to make our contribution to the resolution of the worst conflicts. Following my visit to the great lakes with French Foreign Minister Kouchner last November, we urged regional leaders, led by President Kikwete, to launch a process whereby African mediators helped to restore peace and stability. Thankfully, under UN auspices former President Obasanjo has helped to promote significant change—remarkable change in many ways. Co-ordination between the DRC and Rwanda has led to significant improvements in the situation in the Kivus. However, although joint military action against the FDLR—Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda—militias is to be welcomed, the risk of reprisals remains. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to live in fear of disease and violence.

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab): I very much welcome what my right hon. Friend is saying about conflict prevention. Does he agree that we cannot solve the problems of countries such as Angola and the DRC, which are very rich in mineral and diamond resources and so on, unless the wealth is properly shared—as we on the Labour Benches would rightly say—not for the few but for the many?

David Miliband: My right hon. Friend has taken a lifelong interest in these issues and speaks of them not only with huge moral force but with practical and political experience. He makes an absolutely fundamental point. The issues of resources cannot be divorced from the issues of conflict and suffering that exist in places such as the eastern DRC. However, he will be the first to say that it is easier said than done to break the link between resources, criminality and corruption and create a different kind of circle in which those resources are used for the benefit of local people. The foundation of doing that must be the sort of security arrangements that he strongly supports. I am about to say something about the work of MONUC—the UN mission in the DRC. He is absolutely right to point to this matter as being an important part of the solution. The terrible tragedy is that some parts of the world with the greatest wealth buried in them are also home to the greatest numbers of poor people.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that part of the problem faced by very poor countries that may have considerable resources is the lack of the technical capacity within ministerial ranks to draft legislation, and to produce contracts as a result of that legislation, that protects that country’s interests?

David Miliband: My hon. Friend raises an important point. It is not the part of development work that gets the most media attention, but that back-office support and building of institutional capacity are vital to any sort of sustainable development in those countries. She is right to raise that point.

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Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): I was pleased that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned Sierra Leone. It is a rather poor nation, unfortunately not as blessed with resources as others. To what extent should we be concerned about the recent conflict between the All People’s Congress and the Sierra Leone People’s Party supporters in Freetown? In such circumstances, to what extent is the responsibility on us as the former colonial power or, as he suggested earlier, on other African nations to provide support for democracy in that country?

David Miliband: All friends of Sierra Leone, in all parts of this House, should be concerned about the situation there. The Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis), will be travelling to Sierra Leone tomorrow, and I know that this question will be high on his agenda. Throughout government and in civil society, there are profound links between Britain and Sierra Leone and we all want to see progress there. I am sure that my hon. Friend will report back to the House after his visit.

Right hon. and hon. Members took a lot of interest in the situation in Kenya, and I shall address that, given the focus on conflict. We remain concerned for the country’s future. There are signs that the reform process begun 15 months ago might be losing momentum. Insufficient efforts have been made to end the climate of impunity, and the failure of the Kenyan Parliament to agree the formation of a special tribunal was a setback for efforts to secure justice for victims of the post-election violence. Corruption and mismanagement are still significant problems; recent allegations underline why Kenyans are calling for their Government to show that they are accountable and transparent, and to uphold the rule of law. Unless the pace of political reform picks up, the outlook is bleak. We want progress on the national accord in order to prevent a repeat of last year’s violence.

Elsewhere, it is clear that a strong international role is needed. In Sudan, the UK is a strong supporter of the Darfur political process and the African Union-United Nations chief mediator, Djibril Bassolé. We will continue to support efforts to reach a lasting political settlement with security established and civil society engaged. We shall work for a lasting political accommodation between Khartoum and Juba that ensures full implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement.

I want to say a little about the International Criminal Court. Sudan’s response to the ICC’s issue of an arrest warrant for President Bashir is no excuse to derail the objectives of securing long-term peace. I urged the Government of Sudan to engage fully with the court, reiterating the UK’s consistent support for the ICC, and calling on all parties to avoid escalation. That raises the question of humanitarian support in that country, given the announcements by President Bashir.

The UK pledged £330 million for Sudan for 2008 to 2011 at the Sudan consortium of international donors in May 2008. The immediate concern is the human suffering created by the dismissal of international non-governmental organisations. Initial estimates suggest that those non-governmental organisations provided 50 per cent. of the current humanitarian relief effort in Darfur alone. Their expulsion could result in 1 million people losing access to clean water and sanitation, up to
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1.5 million losing access to primary health care and disruption to food distribution for up to 1.1 million people. We will continue to urge the Government of Sudan to reverse their decision and are working closely with the UN and NGOs on contingency measures to get aid to the most vulnerable. That will continue throughout April, when key decisions will have to be taken in Khartoum by the Government of Sudan, and any response by the international community, whether in New York or elsewhere, will have to be forthcoming, including issues to be considered by the African Union, based in Addis Ababa, and the Arab League.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s indulgence. On Kenya, will he say a few words about the role of the Kenyan Government in the trial of pirates who were recently captured on the seas off the east coast of Somalia?

David Miliband: I would be delighted to say something about that. I liaised with the Kenyan authorities and asked them if they were willing to allow their legal processes to be used for the trial of some of these alleged pirates, and they were extremely forthcoming. That is what will happen for the first tranche of those involved. That is an important step forward and a good contribution by the Kenyan authorities to tackling that international problem.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The whole House will support what the Foreign Secretary has said and what the Government are doing in relation to Darfur, but does he not find it somewhat disappointing that the international community as a whole—this is no criticism of the UK Government—has not yet managed to find a single helicopter to support the UN peacekeeping mission there? The General Assembly of the UN will soon consider the Secretary-General’s report on the responsibility to protect. If the international community is not willing to provide any lift capacity, the responsibility to protect will become a pretty hollow concept.

David Miliband: I know that the hon. Gentleman takes a deep interest in these issues, and he raises a very important point. There are too many signs of buyer’s remorse about the responsibility to protect. Some of those who signed up in 2005 are now beginning to realise what they were letting themselves in for and are much less keen on the consequences. That poses a threat to the impetus that was provided by the responsibility to protect. It is important to emphasise that that was not a licence or mandate for “the west” to go marching around the world imposing its own values. It was first a responsibility on Governments not to abuse their own people and secondly a responsibility on the international community to intervene in the most extreme circumstances when countries failed in their responsibilities to their own people. The responsibility to protect lies in the first instance with a sovereign Government. It is only when that responsibility is broken that our responsibilities come into play.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about helicopters, and he will know that we debate helicopter capacity in debates on subjects from Afghanistan onwards. Too often, helicopters for development come at the bottom of the queue. I think that I am right in saying that the UK and France have been active together in trying to push the issue, but he is right that we have a long way to go before we can show people that we have made real progress.

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Mike Gapes (Ilford, South) (Lab/Co-op): My right hon. Friend referred earlier to conflict prevention. Does he share my concern that because of the pressures that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s budget is under, it has had to reallocate resources for paying international subscriptions? That includes reducing the resources available for conflict prevention in Africa, as well as in other parts of the world. I understand the problems that he has, but does he agree that the Government as a whole should pick up the consequences of changes in exchange rates and not put the pressure on the FCO’s budget?

David Miliband: If the House will allow me, I am happy to give my hon. Friend’s question the detailed response that it requires. First, it is not actually just our budget; it is a joint budget of the FCO, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. Secondly, he is right that the budget for stabilisation and conflict prevention is under huge pressure. That is partly because of exchange rates, but more significantly—I think that this will interest the House—because of the big rise in the amount of UN and EU peacekeeping around the world, notably in Africa. Many Members will say that that is a good thing, but the UK ends up having to pay a significant share of the bill. That means that we have less money in the pot for discretionary interventions for conflict prevention.

The rise in our assessed contributions—our compulsory contributions to UN and EU missions—will be greater than the fall in our discretionary contributions to Africa, but my hon. Friend is none the less right that there is significant pressure on that part of the Government budget. He uses the term “international subscriptions”, which makes it sound as though we were subscribing to a set of journals or magazines, but we are paying for troops on the ground. He is nevertheless right that those contributions to international peacekeeping efforts drain money from a limited pot. The rise in our compulsory contributions to Africa, however, will outstrip the unfortunate fall in our discretionary contributions.

Before speaking about trade, I want to say something about Somalia, which has suffered conflict and ineffective government for nearly 20 years. Significant changes have occurred there, even since I attended the UN Security Council in December, where the issue was debated. Since President Sharif’s election, his effort to establish a more inclusive Government offers the best chance for many years to address the country’s problems. In support of the political process, we are underpinning the African Union Mission in Somalia—AMISOM. This year, we have pledged a further £4.9 million directly to the AU and £10 million to the UN trust fund. Political progress is important in Somalia, because although AMISOM, which focuses on three parts of Mogadishu, can do some good, a political process is ultimately needed. President Sharif’s start is therefore significant. Following the departure of Ethiopian troops in January, the country did not descend into chaos. President Sharif has made an impressive start.

I was asked earlier about trade and I am happy to continue to reassert the Government’s commitment to open trade as a basis for sustained progress for some of the poorest countries. Those seeking the dignity of making their own way through selling their produce should get our support. The UK is working to ensure that the economic partnership agreements reflect the development needs of African states and provide new
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trading opportunities, with Europe and regionally. Through infrastructure and policy development, aid for trade allows countries to build capacity and integrate regionally and globally. The UK is on track to exceed our pledge to increase aid for trade by 50 per cent. to $750 million by 2010. The recent pre-London summit Africa outreach meeting, which the Prime Minister hosted, agreed on the need for improved access to resources and markets for African nations, argued that protectionism should be resisted, and encouraged countries to sign up to the Doha round.

John Bercow: I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for giving way and I welcome his comments. Given that Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad depend for somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent. of their export earnings on cotton, but that the United States spends somewhere between $3 billion and $4 billion a year on subsidising 25,000 high cost, inefficient but politically influential cotton producers, is not it about time we tried to persuade President Obama to take a more progressive view of the matter than his predecessor, in the interests of west and central African development?

David Miliband: I, in turn, am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s question. However, to say, “It’s about time” in respect of President Obama on day 70 or 71 of his tenure suggests an impatience that I do not associate with the hon. Gentleman’s approach. He knows as well as I do why the Doha talks broke down. It is important at a time of economic crisis to reassert the fundamental importance of open trade. I know that that will be discussed with President Obama.

Africa’s prosperity, security and development are all threatened by climate change, which will exacerbate existing tensions over scarce resources and create mass migration. The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that climate change could produce a 50 per cent. drop in food production in sub-Saharan Africa. An ambitious deal at Copenhagen this year is therefore critical to Africa’s future. As part of that, we need to improve access to carbon finance to enable African countries to move directly to low-carbon development, and we need to support adaptation to the climate change that is already in train.

In addition to our enhanced bilateral effort in Africa, on which I have concentrated so far, we are also increasingly working through the EU to provide assistance to Africa. The EU now provides significant support for African action on conflict. For example, the Africa Peace Facility, which was created in 2004, remains the only African-owned, predictable source of donor funding for AU peacekeeping. For 2008-2010, €300 million is available to be released at the request of the AU.

Dr. Andrew Murrison (Westbury) (Con): My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (John Bercow), perhaps slightly unfairly, attacked President Obama. Could we put our own house in order by reforming the common agricultural policy, thereby lowering some of the restrictionist barriers that exist?

David Miliband: Of course. The continuing reforms of the CAP are important. The hon. Gentleman knows that, as a result of the CAP health check that has been taking place, some relatively minor moves on, for example, milk quotas, will happen. However, there is far further to go.

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The hon. Gentleman will also know that the next reforming round for the EU’s common agricultural policy will be critical, as we look to the period between 2013 and 2020. In my view, the vision for CAP reform that the Government set out in 2005 remains the only way forward. It essentially means that the first pillar of the CAP—the direct support pillar—will be massively reduced by 2020. Where there is to be support for agricultural areas, it should be given with a much broader view, to support land management and other factors, rather than distorting the trade basis for agriculture. I am glad to hear that the hon. Gentleman supports that.

The EU also provides direct assistance, through civilian and military ESDP—European security and defence policy—missions in Africa. Currently, Operation Atalanta is providing a counter-piracy mission in the gulf of Aden to protect World Food Programme shipping and, on a case-by-case basis, other vulnerable shipping. The EU also has three civilian missions in Africa. When it comes to development assistance and humanitarian aid, the EU is Africa’s biggest donor. In 2005, the EU pledged to channel 50 per cent. of collective aid increased to Africa. If all member states manage to keep their commitments, the EU may provide more than 90 per cent. of the G8’s $25 billion pledge for Africa over the period 2004 to 2010, increasing aid in real terms by more than €18 billion a year. That would, on any measure, be a significant achievement.

Britain has a long history in Africa. Today we are partners, not masters, of Governments, businesses and trade unions, seeking to build a decent future there. We cannot change everything, but we do make a difference, every day, to people who need our help. I look forward to this debate and to listening to the voice of experience and expertise that exists across the House.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Mr. Speaker had imposed a time limit of 12 minutes on Back-Bench contributions. Since that time three hon. Members have withdrawn their requests to make a contribution to the debate, so I am in the rather happy position of being able to say that the time limit on Back-Bench speeches will be 14 minutes.

4.52 pm

Mr. Keith Simpson (Mid-Norfolk) (Con): You have brought joy to many colleagues, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should begin by saying that my right hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) sends his apologies. He is in Paris for meetings with the French Foreign Minister and members of President Sarkozy’s team.

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