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Baroness Wilkins: In speaking to Amendment No. 5, I should say that I am extremely grateful to the Minister for her helpful letter, which I have just received, discussing the department's approach to human rights.
I believe wholly in the Government's commitment to human rights, but it is a commitment which needs to be stated explicitly to both receiving governments and development agencies so that it cannot be overlooked and forgotten amidst the enormous pressures presented by development issues. The Government's commitment to human rights cannot be taken as read. Like all essential truths, it needs to be written down. We know that we should not murder or steal, but still all of the world's major religions have found it essential to state that moral truth in their fundamental texts. The Bill will provide DfID with its basic text for the years to come.
The Government need to demonstrate their commitment to promoting and protecting human rights in black and white on the face of the Bill, in order, most of all, to provide a permanent reminder to all those who are not already committed to a rights agenda. Such a commitment is all the more important should a future government renege on human rights, a matter to which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, referred.
The amendment seeks to provide an essential lever to those groups which are only too easily left out of the development process. Disabled people provide a glaring example of this. At Second Reading, I quoted Macline Twimukye, head of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda, who spoke at a recent conference on the need for a UN convention on the rights of disabled people. Although Uganda has made outstanding progress in this area, Macline pointed out that most African states are ignorant and dismissive of their disabled population. She said:
Since 1999, the London-based organisation, Disability Awareness and Action, has been compiling a database of human rights violations against disabled people, and so far evidence affecting more than 2 million people has been collected. But these cases are just the tip of the iceberg. As Rachel Hurst, its director, points out, most disabled people will not talk about the abuse and violence that they have received for the same reasons as children were silent about their treatment and women about domestic violence: they know that they will not be believed or treated seriously.
This is one of the reasons why it is so important that the Government should make an explicit commitment to securing human rights in this Bill. It would provide the poorest of the poor--those who are literally discarded--with the leverage to persuade their governments and development agencies that they, too, should be included in the programmes and policies that are committed to the elimination of poverty.
The Government argue that the inclusion of a commitment to human rights in the Bill would limit the Secretary of State's room for manoeuvre in eradicating poverty. The wording of my amendment may, indeed, need alteration in order that it is not too blunt an instrument, but I would argue that a clear statement that the provisions made to eliminate poverty should be based on human rights must be made, otherwise they will turn out to be useless.
The Earl of Sandwich: I rise to speak to Amendment No. 12 in this group, which has something in common with the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Judd.
Amendment No. 12 seeks to add to the Bill the notion of civil society organisations taking part in development. I have been with non-governmental organisations most of my working life--Christian Aid, Save the Children, Care International, and so on--and so I would be likely to support any amendment which mentions those civil society organisations, which, as we all know, are active in development. But I shall try to demonstrate that it is not only a surface amendment designed to include the NGOs, but relates to a more fundamental aspect of the whole purpose of development aid.
Some Members of the Committee may remember that at Second Reading it was shown that the term "civil society" is now a part of the ordinary aid vocabulary. The reason for that is that civil society organisations are involved more than ever in development assistance. This is fundamental to the Government's strategy, and there is no argument about that. I know that the noble Baroness will underline that. There is a link here with good governance and the "add ons" mentioned by other noble Lords which would be desirable in the Bill. But of course, we cannot put everything into it.
I agree with the statement in the Explanatory Notes relating to Clause 1. There is a difficulty of definition in the Bill. The same is true of "sustainable development" and "environment". But "civil society" is not a concept of development; it is a means to a solution. I would argue that it is a clear part of the objective of assistance. Those of us who seek to provide assistance in various ways know that within the definition of "the poorest" is the fact that such people are the most helpless. They have no one to speak for them and no one to remove the practical obstacles that stand in their way. Such people are often the most articulate but are unable to advocate their own concerns and rights let alone meet their own needs.
Therefore, one of the central purposes of development assistance is to support those who enable the poor to sustain themselves and to articulate their needs more clearly. Indeed, to leave out civil society would be a form of hypocrisy. It would indicate that we can reach people directly; but that is the stuff of the promotional leaflets put out by aid agencies. In reality, no outside bodies can or should seek to deliver aid just as milkmen deliver milk on the doorstep.
The development of civil society is almost as important a task as meeting human needs. Surely that means that we must admit civil society organisations to the Bill in some form. I do not argue for precisely the
Lord Redesdale: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 2 to 4 and 9 and 10 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. I enjoy supporting amendments tabled by the noble Lord. He has spoken of "vision". It is always good to read amendments referring to the world as it should be rather than the compromises often imposed by the wording of Bills. I helped to write the Liberal Democrats' paper on poverty reduction, and I realise how many compromises people throw in at every stage.
Perhaps I may refer in detail to some of the amendments. Amendment No. 2 refers to the "elimination" of poverty. The title of the White Paper was Eliminating World Poverty, but the word used in the document itself was "reduction". I can understand the reason. The elimination of world poverty will be very difficult. In this House we often forget the limitations on DfID's budget. It is not endless. Even it were, the elimination of world poverty is unachievable. Once poverty had been "eliminated" to some degree, the boundaries would have to be extended and the level would be set higher.
In relation to Amendment No. 3, the noble Lord gave a very pure description of the removal of the dirty hands of commercialism from the Bill. I support the idea behind the amendment and have therefore added my name to it. However, the vast development potential in private capital flow might make such an amendment unacceptable. Another reason for adding my name to the amendment relates to the very problem exemplified by private capital flows. In some countries vast amounts of capital flow in from overseas. However, as has happened in sub-Saharan Africa, the returns expected and the associated risk mean that the region has attracted the least amount of private capital. In that case, development assistance may be necessary in terms of acting on behalf of private capital.
Amendment No. 4 is extremely thought-provoking. I examined the issue of cultural rights. The area is in one degree indefinable. It can incorporate everything. Let us take, for example, the building of the dam in Turkey. When it is flooded, 1,000 years of history will be destroyed. The project is under review; but if it were to go ahead, should we be destroying the cultural rights of a whole people?
Amendment No. 10 refers to "essential global environmental strategies". While I support the amendment, I find it just as provoking in its suggestion that we there can be a global strategy, given the tatters of the Kyoto agreement as a result of self-interest on the part of some of the big players. The department should examine closely, right down to the micro-level of various schemes, the ecological consequences of any action that is taken.
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