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Lord Desai: That is a surprise!
Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, let me give the noble Lord a figure. France remains the leading donor of bilateral aid to the African continent, having provided it with more than more than 4.5 billion euros in 2001. That is a great deal more than we provide. Unless someone can say that I have got the figure wrong, I think that it is about time we recognised that we are not going to be able to improve our joint commitment to delivery in terms of assistance in the new NePAD programme unless we work very closely with the French in NePAD and give a lead in the European Union. After all, it is about time that we and the French gave a lead on something in the European Union and I think that this is it. Britain and France have a great deal in common in this area.
The countries which are the ringleaders in NePADI refer to Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africahave all experienced a long history of deep-rooted conflict inherited from or in association with colonialism and have been at the forefront of liberation struggles. It cannot be said that we do not have that kind of history in common. There is also the need work together to push forward the review process at Evian.
I take up a point made by my noble friend Lord Desai about why Asia has done better than Africa, and I relate it to the success story of Mauritius. Mauritius is the only country in the world which is part of the African Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, will be interested in this point. A group of senior UK economistsnot necessarily from the Treasury, but not a million miles awayvisited Mauritius 30 years ago and stated in their report that the country had no prospects. They said that arrangements should be made for a substantial part of the population to emigrate; that there would be no substantial prospect of raising living standardsindeed, the prospect was one of mass poverty. These were the best of the British economists at the timeand they got it about as wrong as it is possible to get it. I have written such reports myself, but one can get some of them wrong. Today, when we remind ourselves of that anecdote and ask what their secret was, they say that every African leader asks them that question when they go to Mauritius. The answer is not just hard work and adaptabilitythat is apple pie. It is ethnic peace, recognising the contributions of the Indianswhether Hindus, Muslims or Buddhiststhe Creolesthe term used in Mauritius for people with a black African backgroundthe Chinese, the French and the British. They speak both French and English in Mauritius. That rang a bell with me because of the brief period that I spent working in Uganda before Amin. All those ethnic groups were there, they worked well together, and the economy was successful at the time of the transition from the colonial era to independence.
I have one point of disagreement with the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich. We must have conditionality. We will not get right into the African societies on these points unless we recognise that our insistence will not be easy for African leaders. It will get through to African leaders only if it is conditional.
We are used to conditionality in Britain, in Europe and in the Balkans. It is about anti-corruption; it is forced on people initially and then they succeed. That is the case for conditionality. Peer review will work in Africa only if we can press some conditionality on it from the outside. It is a delicate balance, but that is the challenge we have to face.
Baroness Northover: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing this very important debate. Debates such as this return our attention to the most pressing issues in the world today. It is too easy, when there are daily and hourly
The international development targets are important reminders of where we should be heading, reminders of particular significance, especially when all efforts seem to little avail. Surely the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, is right that such targets focus attention. Surely the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford is also right that they are important campaigning tools.
I would like to group the targets in a particular way. The aim to reduce by half the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 underlies all the other targets. It seems that a longer term aim has to be access to education and health services for all. These are surely the tools to achieve the first target. They are the key to increased prosperity. The noble Lord, Lord Chan, certainly made that crystal clear in his example from Kerala, India.
The most immediate aim for us must surely be to secure access to adequate food, reduce infant and maternal mortality and improve access to reproductive health services. Without these, we are simply abandoning whole swathes of men, women and children.
Other speakers have referred to some of the key issues. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, praised the Chancellor's initiative on how best to finance growth and development in the least developed countries. It is encouraging to see the cross-party approach on these issues. We need to ensure that strings are not attached to this in terms of opening markets. It is good to see the UK Government's approach, which contrasts with that of the United States Government in particular.
I have just returned from a parliamentary conference on the World Trade Organisation. Loud and clear came the message about removing European subsidies and opening our market. But a few voices from the least developed countries pointed out that their lack of infrastructure made them very vulnerable to other developing countries, such as those in Asia mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, if they were to open their barriers.
We must actively seek the removal of Europe's protectionism, but we must also ensure that moves towards free trade are moves towards fair trade, lest the least developed countries become poorer still.
Other speakers, especially the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Chan, have focused on the HIV/AIDS problem, and I should like to do so as well. The depths of poverty in southern Africa mean that when something goes wrong, it goes disastrously wrong. The situation was dire enough in southern Africa before HIV/AIDS loomed on the scene. The very nature of deprivation in southern Africamalnourished people, lack of education, lack of healthcare systems, lack of communications, enormous disadvantages among women and girls, in particularhave all made this problem far worse than elsewhere in the world. It has spread like a forest fire,
As we have heard, in some southern African areas, one third of the population is infected by HIV/AIDS. Largely, those people are in what would have been considered to be their most economically productive years. The effects of that will be seen for decades to come, even if intervention were stepped up now. As Oxfam puts it:
The disease obviously adds to the burden on already overstretched health systems. It has had a disastrous effect on education. As the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, pointed out, it often forces families to take their children out of school, whether because of sickness, loss of income or to take care of sick family members. In each case, HIV/AIDS is creating costs that extend beyond children today to the children of tomorrow.
Women account for a large share of the population affected by HIV/AIDS. Over half of those infected with AIDS in Africa are women, as the noble Lord, Lord Chan, has explained. Almost everywhere, the burden of caring is borne disproportionately by women.
HIV/AIDS is the biggest single threat to the attainment of the millennium development goals. It is on a bigger scale, in terms of its effect, than anything else. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is absolutely right to say that the Government and the European Parliament must now fully recognise this. I know that the UK Government have greatly increased their budget in this respect.
Huge public health campaigns are clearly needed, and that needs political will, both in African countries and on the part of western countries. The United States has just stated that it will put an extra 15 billion dollars into AIDS prevention, but with a strand focusing on abstinence. Whatever we may think, this paternalistic approach simply does not help matters. It does not help when the United States cuts its contribution to the United Nations family planning association because of unacceptable pressure on the president from some of his own fundamentalists in the United States.
When an NGO tells me with pride just how many free condoms it provides in one southern African country, and we work out that that means one condom per male per year, we can see that preaching a message of safe sex is likely to fall on deaf ears.
I was delighted to read last week that a vaccine for one strain of HIV/AIDS was being trialled in Uganda. If it proves to be of value, it will be a major breakthrough. I trust that the Government will play their part in promoting such research.
Then there is the issue of TRIPS and agreement on the provision of drugs for the poorest countries. The World Trade Organisation's Doha declaration that the least developed countries could override patents and authorise the manufacture of cheap generic versions was a step forward. Again, the United States'
There has to be enormous concern at the delays and that the next round of WTO talks in Mexico in September will be bogged down with too many items on the agenda that remain unresolved from earlier discussions. It is a slow and frustrating process, while all the time people die in Africa.
I therefore welcome the Chancellor's statements reported in the Guardian yesterday. He said that,
James Morris, the UN special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, stated on 29th January in Johannesburg that,
As many speakers have explained this afternoon, the problems of southern Africa are dire and urgent. There is a temptation to focus elsewhere at the moment, with all that is happening in the Middle East. We owe it to those in the region not to lose sight of those wider problems, but the future stability of the world also depends on using the targets that we are debating today as something more than merely symbolic.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I join others in thanking the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for initiating the debate and giving us an opportunity to look at the serious and worrying scene in southern Africa. I shall concentrate my early remarks on the looming emergency across the region and then make a few remarks about longer-term development goals, in the context of the sobering figures that my noble friend Lord Griffiths mentioned of shrinking GDP per head in the region. There has been a long series of deteriorating figures over the years. The noble Lord, Lord Lea, also gave some chilling and precise figures of falling and diminishing incomes in those countries. Those comments alone should lead us all to wonder whether those who are advocating more of the same in aid policy have got it right and whether we should not think again, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, rightly reminded us, about the whole development equation. I shall come to that in a moment.
The emergency is colossal. In December, our lively and robust International Development Secretary, Clare Short, wrote:
All sides have correctly stated that the situation in southern Africa is deteriorating rapidly because of failing harvests and a reduction in crop yields, which have led to an immense food shortage. That has been heightened by the appalling drought and by the terrifying spread of many varieties of HIV/AIDS, mutating in a drug-resistant way, which is very hard to keep up with, as the noble Lord, Lord Chan, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, have reminded us. Problems are also caused by wicked policies by governments, which I shall come to later. All these factors have led to failed states and the pattern of child gangsterismreferred to by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and otherswhich fills our newspapers with appalling pictures of atrocities and horrors.
One can be too gloomy about that pattern. We must not forget that, while there are similarities in the crises affecting the countries of the region, there are also fundamental differences in their circumstances, which lead to complex problems in formulating effective aid packages. Amid the disasters and grimness there are real areas of success and hope here and there, but not nearly enough of them.
For example, most agricultural activity in Malawi is based around rural smallholdings producing a single harvest. It was never a prosperous country, but it was a happy one. I visited it many years ago. In recent years, adverse weather has produced much lower than expected crop yields, leading to the current food crisis. Along came the IMF, telling the Malawi Government to balance their budget by selling their grain stores, which they did. The result today is no grain, none being grown and growing starvation.
In Swaziland, the majority of food is imported while a quarter of the population require food aid. Zimbabwe used to be the great grain exporter of the area, but is now sucking in such grain resources as are available from around. We shall come to more of that in a moment. The situation is different in Zambia, in South Africa, in Angola and in many other countries. Each presents a tangle of problems and a tremendous challenge to our excellent aid administrators to respond effectively and in a targeted way.
We all agree that the unilateral assistance packages and the emergency aid provided by the British Government in recent years have been very diligently applied and have worked well. They have not solved the problems, but they have worked well within the inevitable limits. The relationship with non-governmental organisations in the recipient countries has often been slightly uneasy, but effective, providing real support to some of the poorest people in southern Africa.
On top of that, this country has a huge role in influencing what aid is given by the international community as a whole and how it works. We have had some powerful and useful contributions on that this evening. I am advised that the appeal of the United Nations World Food Programme, which has been
Meanwhile, other programmes, such as those for essential drugs or the means to access water, are funded at even lower levels. I have already mentioned the difficulty that the nature of the drugs needed changes with the mutating nature of HIV. We need to hear what action the Government are proposing over and above all the excellent things they are doing to encourage other nations to participate in funding these international programmes.
Many of your Lordships, including the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, have wisely mentioned politics and the emphasis on good governance. Much of the current crisis, which involves 14 million people starving in the region, is due to the drought and the spread of AIDS, as we have all said. However, it has to be accepted that government policy in several of the affected countries is making the situation much worse, delivering a lethal brew of corruption, restriction and disincentive to prevent the process of prosperity and wealth creation going forward and raising living standards.
My attention was drawn to the case of Swaziland, where the cost of food aid is 19 million dollars annually, yet it was recently reported that the government had opted to spend 45 million dollars on the purchase of a jet for the king. I do not know whether that is true, but it sounds a terribly familiar sort of story.
Then we come to the disastrous land reform policies in Zimbabwe. Perhaps the original intention was good and even just, but the handling has been deeply unjust and has contributed to intense food shortage, leading to reduced food yield from less efficient smallholdings. There were no plantings in the autumn, so the worst may be yet to come, compounded by the spread of AIDS from the displacement of farm workers, and compounded again by the politicisation of food distribution by the ZANU/PF thugs who give food only to those who say they support them politically.
That is a very grim and very urgent scene. Clearly, we have to ask why it is that we reach these humanitarian crises with dreary regularity and how we can change the more fundamental situation to make them less likely to occur. The obvious answers are the ones that noble Lords mentioned time and again: access to decent health facilities and access to at least primary education. I declare an interest. I am involved with the Langalanga Scholarship Fund and the Harambe School Fund, in East Africa, which are trying to bring primary and indeed secondary education to ever more children. I am sure that there are many other small voluntary funded efforts in that direction. However, that is not enough.
The truth is that the development and aid relationship on which we have all relied for decades, and the easy equation of "more aid will need more
I hope that this new thinking can help in a way that traditional aid policy has clearly and obviously failed to do in Africa. I hope that it will be reflected in NePAD. I hope that it will be reflected in the opening of markets. The CAP in Europe is a protectionist disgrace, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Lea, rightly mentioned. If we can mobilise this new thinking which triggers the nature of developmentwhich comes from the bottom up and is not solved solely by outside aid, although that has its targeted tasks to fulfiland triggers the wealth-creation process that comes through individual incentives, markets and the growth of business and investment, then it just may be possible that we will cease having to meet these unending humanitarian crises, such as the one that now confronts southern Africa. Meanwhile, people are dying in very large numbers, and emergency action is once again required on a colossal scale.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, for introducing what has been a characteristically well-informed and constructive debate. His commitment to these issues is well known in this House.
I shall start, if I may, by saying that I do not entirely agree with noble Lords who have said that the interest in Africa is declining and that the issue is falling off our agenda. We have been working hard to ensure that issues of concern to Africa remain at the top of the G8 agenda, as they will be at the June summit in Evian. We continue to work to bring about peace and security. We saw major improvements in Angola last year. We saw an agreement signed with respect to the DRC in December 2002. That conflict drew in seven other countries in the region. We are now working to put in place a transitional government in the DRC. That will have enormous implications for development on the continent. We are seeing some movement in the peace process in Sudan. On education, we have seen the World Bank put in place a fast-tracking facility to help
In September 2000, the United Nations Millennium Assembly agreed a set of targets to improve the condition in which the vast majority of the people of this planet live. While in Europe and North America we can spend an average of 75 dollars per day on food and shelter, 1.6 billion people in other parts of the world survive on the equivalent of less than one dollar a day. Life expectancy in 13 countries has fallen below 45 years while it continues to increase above 70 years in developed countries. Some 60 per cent of African children do not have access to even basic education. The AIDS pandemic, which many noble Lords mentioned, is posing a widespread and fundamental threat to human development.
The millennium development goals build on work done over the past 10 years to analyse the priority issues that the world needs to tackle to reduce poverty in the world. They are quantified targets covering education, health, income, water and sanitation and the environment. The deadlines are realisticalthough we need the political will to achieve themand reflect the extensive knowledge that we now have about what works and what does not work in development. The Government's 1997 White Paper, with its focus on the elimination of world poverty, set out our policy absolutely clearly. We talked in that document about the need to achieve what were then called the international development targets. Therefore, the Government have been committed to these issues since we first came into power.
I should like to put the debate in context. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Howell, that southern Africa is a diverse region. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke of the dire situation in Africa. Although two of the countries, Malawi and Mozambique, mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, are among the 12 poorest countries in the world, another three, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, are among the most prosperous countries in sub-Saharan Africa. As the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, noted, South Africa itself has a GDP three times as big as its 13 neighbours in the Southern African Development Community put together. A few countries have had long periods of political stability, but most have suffered from conflict ranging from civil war to repression and difficult transitions to democracy. Some are shining examples of the progress that can be made; others have not yet completed that journey.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, spoke of the importance of food security, and the noble Lord, Lord Howell, of the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa. More than 14 million people have needed help from the international community. In Zimbabwe, more than half the population is receiving food aid. The UK alone is providing food for almost 1.5 million children there every day. The international response to the crisis has prevented famine and kept thousands alive through the present hungry season in the region. I tell
The combination of poor governance, high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates and less predictable weather patterns could send the region into a downward spiral from which it would be hard to recover. That would obviously damage all our efforts, particularly those of the people in the countries concerned, to improve their lives and to achieve the goals we have for their development.
The noble Lord, Lord Howell, mentioned Malawi and the sale of the grain reserve. It is not true that the IMF told the government to sell their grain reserves. The suggested level of reserves for Malawi is 60,000 tonnes and the reserves had reached 250,000 tonnes, so donors and the government agreed that some of those reserves could be sold. In the process of sale, all the reserves were sold and the anti-corruption bureau has investigated those sales and a further independent audit is under way. The situation went wrong between the agreement made between donors and the government and the sale itself. We have been supporting major input programmes, for example, seeds. That has successfully led to a second winter maize crop.
In addition to the humanitarian crisis, the region faces some specific development challenges. About 36 million people, one-third of the total regional population, live on less than a dollar a day for all their needs. Growth rates are not yet high enough to lift enough people out of poverty and to meet the goal of halving the proportion of people living in abject poverty by 2015.
There is better progress in ensuring universal basic education, but some countries, such as Mozambique, are slipping back. Healthcare services are skeletal and worsening in too many cases and it will be difficult to meet the targets for reducing child mortality and improving maternal health in many of the countries of the region. That point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Chan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover.
As many noble Lords have commented, the agenda is made immeasurably more difficult by HIV/AIDS. Infection rates in southern Africa are the highest in the world: at or above 20 per cent in seven of the countries, and as high as 36 per cent in Botswana. That compares with an average infection rate of less than 9 per cent for all of sub-Saharan Africa, and just over 1 per cent for the world as a whole.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, spoke of the cost of HIV/AIDS for the region. The impact will be immense. Life expectancy is falling rapidly. In Botswana, life expectancy would have been 71 but is now just over 40. If infection rates continue as they are, by 2010 it is likely to be just 29. Unlike most other epidemics, those affected are not the weakest and most infirm but the strongest and those most needed for the economic development of the countries in southern Africa. There will be significant falls in GDP because of the loss of contributions from those who are incapacitated or who have died from HIV/AIDS, and
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is right to say that the number of AIDS orphans is rising. UK Government assistance on HIV/AIDS is taking place in a number of areas. Noble Lords will know that we have worked tirelessly in a number of areas. We have contributed over 200 million dollars over five years to the global health fund. Part of our bilateral agreements with countries like Uganda, South Africa and Mozambique includes raising awareness and working with the leadership on HIV/AIDS issues. In Uganda prevalence rates have been brought down from 14 per cent to 8 per cent. We are working hard to improve the health sector and to build capacity which is absolutely critical if drugs like anti-retrovirals, for example, are to work. We are contributing to work to find a vaccine through the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development chaired a working party that looked at access to medicines last year. We are now seeking support from our G8 and other colleagues to take recommendations forward on that work. We are also working in the area of reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases. Until we move from a humanitarian to a bilateral programme in Angola we shall not be conducting specific work on HIV/AIDS although we contribute through international mechanisms. The noble Lord, Lord Chan, is absolutely right about the link between education and health. Uganda has nearly trebled the number of children in primary schools and it is one of the countries that has managed to bring down the infection rate of HIV/AIDS.
Enrolment in Malawi has increased by 70 per cent and DfID has doubled its spending on basic education, health and water in Africa since 1997. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chan, about the importance of partnership and of sharing a model of good practice.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked about our policies. The FCO, DfID and the British Council have a joint management policy to assist locally engaged members of staff affected by HIV/AIDS. I shall happily write to the noble Lord with more details of that policy. However, it does not extend to our partner organisations.
This year, we shall be developing an Africa-wide strategy on HIV/AIDS: focusing on the prevention of new infections with emphasis on young people, high risk groups and mother-to-child transmission; mitigating impact, treatment and care, especially for orphans and vulnerable children; and promoting political advocacy and strategies for poor governance in countries in conflict.
The scale of such challenges could lead to despair, but we can reverse the downward trend: we can cut poverty; we can increase life expectancy; and we can rebuild communities. To do that we must be strategic in our approach. We must back the efforts of the countries themselves in terms of sustainable development, we must learn from past experience, and we must be prepared for long-term engagement. Our starting point is the universal commitment to the MDGs, but we also recognise the crucial role of the state and the private sector in promoting social and economic development, as well as the importance of good political and economic governance.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford spoke about aid effectiveness. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development has worked tirelessly to improve the effectiveness of our aid and has worked with others on a clear reform agenda in regard to aid effectiveness. More effective use of aid means moving away from funding a proliferation of projects to backing poverty reduction strategies drawn up by developing countries themselves.
Reform agendas drawn up locally are more successful than those imposed from outside. We need to work with those governments committed to reform and committed to putting money into social sectors like health and education. We look more at building the capacity of local institutions to deliver services and to respond to the needs of the poor. That means putting finances directly into government budgets so helping to fund rapid improvements in health, education, water and other services that contribute to poverty reduction. We are working on developing long-term development partnerships in a number of countries in Africa and working to develop multi-donor facilities in others.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke of the need to encourage growth. I agree with him about the need for macro-economic stability, retention of savings in country and other issues, including clearer definitions of property rights and enforcement of contracts, all of which are about creating the right kind of enabling environment to attract investment.
My noble friend Lord Desai compared development in Asia, where MDGs are likely to be met, with Africa where in many areas development is going backwards. My noble friend touched on issues of corruption and conflict in an area where 20 per cent of sub-Saharan Africa's population live in countries where there is conflict or where conflict is ending. He also mentioned the importance of rural development and made a powerful argument for reform of the EU common agricultural policy. Noble Lords will be aware that the UK has been at the forefront of calls for the reform of the common agricultural policy.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and my noble friend Lady Whitaker all mentioned the importance of trade which is an essential building block for development. It must be a key engine of growth for developing countries,
Conditionality was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and my noble friend Lord Lea. Conditionality in the form of "one-size-fits-all" prescriptions imposed on developing countries is gone from our agenda. Our focus is on developing relationships between donors and African countries based on mutual accountability. But conditions agreed between us that reflect the international consensus on what works in development are still crucial. They allow donors to account for their contributions; they allow people in developing countries to hold their own governments to account in tackling poverty; and they hold developing country governments accountable for their own commitment to reform. At the core of NePADthe New Partnership for Africa's Developmentis the concept of peer review. I accept that NePAD requires greater participation. That is something I am sure will grow as the NePAD concept becomes known across the continent. I shall write to my noble friend Lady Whitaker on the Cotonou Agreement as time is short.
Another part of our strategy concerns the G8 Africa Action Plan. The G8 plan sets out specific G8 actions in a number of areas which will help Africa's development. At the next G8 summit in FranceI assure my noble friend Lord Lea that President Chirac has made Africa a prioritywe shall be considering water, transparency and access to medicines as well as monitoring implementation of the action plan. Noble Lords will wish to know that the UK is the only G8 country to have published a national action plan setting out the steps we intend to take to meet our commitments in the Africa action plan.
A number of noble Lords mentioned the recent proposal by the Chancellor and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development for an international finance facility. The aim of the proposal is to provide additional financing to help to meet the millennium development goals. It would seek to raise the amount of development assistance from just over 50 billion dollars a year today to 100 billion dollars a year in the years to 2015 by establishing a bond facility financed by long-term commitments of aid. The Government are discussing that proposal with other donors because we need to bring others on board.
The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and my noble friend Lord Sawyer mentioned South Africa. The stark inequality that is apartheid's legacy has left us with two South Africas. One has levels of poverty on a par with the poorest African countries; the other has levels of prosperity the envy of developed countries. Skills and sophisticated organisational management will be central to South Africa's efforts to bridge that divide. Continued economic competitiveness is vital as South African businesses bring in previously excluded
Before I conclude I say a few brief words on the heavily indebted poor countries initiative. I agree that donors and the international financial institutions need to look further at debt sustainability. It is clear that some beneficiary countries of HIPC have already been hit by falling commodity prices pushing them back into unsustainable levels of debt. I also agree that we must maintain the link between debt relief and the millennium development goals. The UK Government will again take a leading role in pressing for an outcome that delivers benefits for poor countries. At last year's G8 meeting, an additional 1 billion dollars was agreed to help those countries reaching HIPC completion point with unsustainable levels of debt.
In conclusion, the millennium development goals agreed by the entire international community two years ago give us a positive agenda which all governments are accountable for. Southern Africa faces huge challenges in meeting these goals, not least because of the levels of HIV/AIDS in the region. But it also has huge resources and, in many of the countries, strong leadership. The Government, along with other donors, have developed a strategic, long-term approach to support this and other regions. With that support, I believe that southern Africa could make real progress in cutting poverty, increasing growth and turning around the prospects for poor communities in their countries. Progress in southern Africa would boost prospects for all of Africa and help to push Africa back on track towards meeting the millennium development goalssomething that we should all like to see made a reality.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on achieving the target of a 20-minute speech as we have covered an enormous range of issues in the debate. I apologise for raising such a wide question, but it at least elicited distinguished contributions from all noble Lords who spoke. I sincerely thank everyone who took part in the debate.
It has not been an entirely serious debate. I saw the spectre of the late Lord Bauer sitting somewhere near the noble Lord, Lord Desai. I thought that he might have said, "I told you so", and made the debate even more lively than it was. It had nice moments. For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Lea, in the context of the recent EU summit, gave us a new vision of the Anglo-French partnership which we all look forward to seeing back on track.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, always brings us down to earth and reminds us that there are real people involved and seriously large numbers of deaths due to
Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
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