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10 Dec 2003 : Column WA63

Written Answers

Wednesday, 10th December 2003.

Ulster-Scots Agency

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord President on 19 November (WA 325) and 11 June (WA 44) on the Ulster-Scots Agency budget, whether the agency's business plan had been discussed and agreed when the budget was first communicated to the agency.[HL97]

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): I refer the noble Lord to the Answers given on 12 November 2003 (WA 197) and 11 June 2003 (WA 44).

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Privy Seal on 12 November (WA 197) concerning the budget for the Ulster-Scots Agency for 2003, on what date the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure was supplied with the business plan for 2003 by the agency. [HL102]

Baroness Amos: The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure received the first draft of the Ulster-Scots Agency business plan for 2003 on 13 November 2002.

Northern Ireland: Nomenclature

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 18 November (WA 271), who took the decision to use the word "North" on the occasion referred to; and whether an instruction was issued to all departments, including to the Secretariat, to use the title Northern Ireland when referring to the country.[HL173]

Baroness Amos: The decision to use the word "North" was taken by the North/South Ministerial Council Joint Secretariat. No instructions have been issued on this matter.

Ulster-Scots Community: Parity of Esteem

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord President on 20 November (WA 356), when the section of the Joint Declaration of 11 May 2003 concerning the diversity of traditions and respect for civil, political, social and cultural rights will be applied to those of an Ulster Scots background; and whether it has been so applied to date. [HL191]

Baroness Amos: Further to my answer of 20 November (WA 356), which dealt with rights and equality, in the Joint Declaration, the Government

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undertook to take steps to encourage support to be made available for an Ulser Scots academy. A business case examining the options for giving effect to this commitment is under way.

Bosnia: Rape Victims

Baroness Uddin asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Bosnian Government for victims of rape during the civil war to be afforded "civilian war victim status", which is currently reserved for those with physical disabilities, so as to secure limited financial support for such victims and their children.[HL1]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government deplore the war crimes committed during the Balkans conflict in the early 1990s, including the rape of women and girls in Bosnia.

We are sympathetic to any proposal to improve the situation of the victims of these crimes, but it is not clear that awarding civilian war victim status would be the most effective means of ensuring support for these women. What is required is recognition of their suffering as victims of rape, conviction of the perpetrators and provision of appropriate support for these women and their children.

Through the work of the Department for International Development, and support for UNICEF and local NGOs, the Government support projects to raise awareness of rape as a war crime. We strongly support the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia, which is tasked with bringing to trial those suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity during the Balkans conflict, including rape. It has convicted a number of individuals of this crime. With our partners in the EU, we apply concerted pressure to all governments in the region for greater co-operation with ICTY, particularly in the handover and prosecution of indictees.

The best way to secure financial support for these women and their children is through successful convictions in the Bosnian courts, which can award compensation to the victims of rape. Together with our EU partners, we are working hard to strengthen the capacity of the Bosnian judicial system, so that it can prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes more effectively and efficiently, and provide sustainable support to the victims.

Ukraine: Commemoration of Famine

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In view of the 70th anniversary of the famine of 1932–33 in the Ukraine, whether they will consult the Ukrainian community in the United Kingdom about an appropriate form of commemoration.[HL24]

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: This is a matter for the Embassy of Ukraine, which arranged for the famine to be commemorated appropriately in London.

South Caucasus: Democracy and Civil Society

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What initiatives they have supported to build democracy and civil society in the southern Caucasus.[HL25]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK has done much to support the development of democracy and civil society in the south Caucasus. We have funded a number of initiatives both on a regional level and on a national level with each of the three countries. On a regional level:

We have provided funding for the South Caucasus Parliamentary Initiative (SCPI), through the UK Global Conflict Prevention Pool. The SCPI is a framework for dialogue, contacts, exchange of views and joint analysis between parliamentarians from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. The next meeting of the SCPI will take place in December in Scotland.

We will be funding a £2 million three-year project aiming to improve the prospects for a permanent settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The purpose of the project will be to improve understanding of the conflict among all stakeholders, to improve the conflict sensitivity of national and international actors in the region and to implement a number of activities which will contribute to the development of constituencies for peace in the region. A significant part of this project will focus on the development of civil society.

We have provided the OSCE with 10 per cent of the election observers in all rounds of the recent elections in each of the three countries. On a national level:

We have supported a number of projects. In Azerbaijan:

We sponsored the training of election officials in conjunction with the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). We also sponsored the publication of an IFES guide to help observers to monitor the elections.

We co-funded an OSCE long-term observer to monitor the implementation of the unified election code in advance of the recent presidential elections.

Together with the Dutch Government, we funded the provision of transparent mobile ballot boxes.

We have sponsored a number of NGO resource centres aimed at strengthening civil society, particularly in the regions. The centres provide a focal point for NGOs and individuals to meet and discuss common problems and as a form of citizens' advice bureau for poorer citizens.

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In Georgia:

Our approach to civic society building in Georgia has largely been concentrated on encouraging dialogue across the various conflict divides (e.g. study visits by Georgian/Abkhaz officials and politicians to Northern Ireland) and on developing the capacity of NGOs, journalists and other key groups to better address conflict-related issues so as to take responsibility for resolving them.

We also funded a Georgian NGO (The International Society for Fair Elections) to conduct a media campaign raising awareness of the democratic process. In Armenia:

We contributed to a project to update the voters lists in key population areas for both the presidential and the parliamentary elections.

We contributed to the provision of transparent ballot boxes for the parliamentary elections.

We supported the opening and running of an NGO training centre to promote human rights protection and the development of civil society in a region of Armenia where the NGO sector is poorly developed and which was a key problem area during the elections.

We are supporting the promotion of grass roots democracy at community level through a local NGO.

Finally we are promoting good environmental practice and supporting anti-corruption research and public awareness through television adverts with the local branch of Transparency International.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many troops the United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has on the ground in Ituri, Democratic Republic of Congo; whether the local commanders consider that they have sufficient forces to complete the processes of disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration or resettlement of foreign armed forces; and whether they will seek a resolution in the Security Council extending the mandate of MONUC so that the same processes can be implemented for the domestic militias.[HL89]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: There are 6,948 MONUC personnel in north and south Kivu and Ituri. These numbers are considered adequate by the local commanders for the tasks authorised in Security Council Resolution in 1493, which include the processes of disarmament, demobilisation, repatriation and reintegration of foreign armed forces. UNSCR 1493 also authorised MONUC to assist the Government of National Unity and Transition in disarming and demobilising those Congolese combatants who may

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voluntarily decide to enter the DDR process within the framework of the Multi-Country Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme, pending the establishment of a national DDR programme in co-ordination with the United Nations Development Programme and other agencies concerned.

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