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Lord Mitchell: My Lords, there are few in your Lordships' Chamber whose experience in the diplomatic affairs of this country can compare with that of the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. I am currently chairing a Select Committee investigation for your Lordships' House and I have been privileged that the noble Lord has sat in on the committee; his advice and guidance have been invaluable.
I wish to speak about the subject of global threats. I shall address two global threats and, I hope, draw a conclusion.
The first global threat is and has been that of Iraq. I have supported the war in Iraq for one overriding reason. It is true that Saddam Hussein was a barbarous dictatora mini-Hitler terrorising his people and attacking his neighbours. It is true that I and others fully believed that Iraq had been developing weapons of mass destruction. And it is also true that Saddam Hussein had been constantly flouting a mandatory United Nations resolution. However, my support was based on none of those issues; my personal reason was more basic than that.
Nations go to war to protect their economic interests. Our national interest is the stability of the Persian Gulf. Well over half of the world's proven reserves of oil are located in or around that strip of waterway. Oil is our lifeblood. The prospect of any rogue nation or any terrorist group being able to hold a knife to our jugular is to me simply unacceptable. That is the reason that I supported the war.
War is a gruesome and bloody business. Our magnificent troops risk their lives every day. This is not the time to go wobbly. I, for one, support the Prime Minister in his determination to bring law and order and democracy to that much blighted nation.
There is another global threat which even a recent report commissioned by the Pentagon has described as greater than that of international terrorism, and that is global warming. In January this year, with two other noble Lords, I was fortunate enough to visit the British Antarctic Survey Base at Rothera. We flew even further south, to 72 degrees latitude, where we saw a beautiful but frightening sighta waterfall cascading down the rocks to form a stream, which from the air we clearly saw had become a rudimentary river. We were
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witnessing in those southern climes the firsthand effects of global warming. The Antarctic is melting, the Arctic is melting, and it is a massive threat to us all.
The Pentagon report entitled Imagining the Unthinkable paints a gloomy assessment of the greenhouse effect and what it calls "abrupt climate change". Melting ice produces fresh cold water, which is less dense than salt water and is flooding the northern Atlantic. By 2010 it could slow down or shut off the Gulf Stream. The climates of eastern North America and western Europe could turn sharply colder. The interiors of our continents could soon have a climate similar to that in Siberia. Then it will not be oil that will be the scarce resource; it will be water and food. And if we know anything about human nature, when given a choice between starving and raiding, humans raid.
The Kyoto Protocol was watered down to meet the requirements of the United States, but the Bush Administration is now refusing to ratify it. Indeed, the Administration is even refusing to accept that global warming exists, let alone that it is almost certainly caused by the emission of carbon dioxide gases.
The twin global threats of the war in Iraq and climate change have one common threadoil. We go to war to protect our oil supplies; we then burn the oil and this then causes our planet to warm. A warmer planet threatens all our futures.
There is a fight to be fought and no one is better placed to fight it than our Prime Minister. The United States needs our support in Iraq and, quite rightly, we are giving it in the most demonstrable way. But there must be a quid pro quo. We need to persuade the US Government of just how important global warming is to mankind's future. The American nation emits 25 per cent of all carbon dioxide yet has only 6 per cent of the world's population. The time has surely come for the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to offer the world the leadership it so desperately needs.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Wright, for initiating the debate and for giving us the opportunity to discuss many issues of profound significance. I will focus on the catastrophe in Darfur as it must surely feature as one of Her Majesty's Government's priorities today.
The International Crisis Group's report just three days ago entitled Sudan: Now or Never claims:
"There is just enough time to save hundreds of thousands of lives directly threatened by [the Sudanese] government-supported militias and looming starvation, but only if the world acts very urgently".
Therefore, although the Darfur crisis was raised in your Lordships' House last Thursday, it merits further consideration and will, I hope, elicit a more substantive response from the Minister today.
"immediate, focused action, especially from the UN Security Council, to stop the killing and widespread atrocities, prevent mass starvation, reverse ethnic cleansing".
But this is only one in a growing number of reports documenting the scale of this tragedy. The May 2004 Human Rights Watch report entitled Darfur Destroyed: Ethnic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan claims:
"The Government and its Janjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawaoften in cold blood, raped women and destroyed villages, foodstocks and other supplies essential to the civilian population. They have driven more than 1 million civilians, mostly farmers, into camps and settlements in Darfur where they live on the very edge of survival, hostage to Janjaweed abuses which may turn them into extermination camps. More than 110,000 have fled to neighbouring Chad".
Human Rights Watch condemns as "too little, too late" and "shameful" the response of the international community. It regrets that, although there have been strong statements from the European Union, there has been little public condemnation from key individual governments, such as the United Kingdom.
No one can claim ignorance of the horrors of Darfur. Last Friday's edition of the Scotsman described in chilling detail the situation justifying the allegation of genocide. The front page headline reads:
"Mass murder, rape and a million refugees on the move, but the international community turns a blind eye to a people's suffering".
Mukesh Kapila, the outgoing UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Sudan, describes Darfur as,
"This is more than just a conflict. It is an organised attempt [by Khartoum] to do away with a group of people".
Kofi Annan, addressing the UNHCR on the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, made specific mention of Darfur, arguing that the international community cannot stand idle, while John Prendergast of the ICG refers to Sudan and Darfur as "Rwanda in slow motion".
Those who are primarily guilty of such slaughter and suffering are the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum and the Janjaweed militias on horseback it supports. United Nations teams which visited Darfur discovered,
many of which may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, perpetrated by the Sudanese government and their proxy militia.
The regime in Khartoum puts the blame on so-called rebels, but this is ultimate hypocrisy. No one except the Government has the capacity for aerial attacks, and numerous reports testify to attacks on innocent civilians by helicopter gunships and bombardment with 500 kilogramme bombs dropped from government Antonovs.
Last Thursday, the Minister answering, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, spoke with passion and indignation, but the content of her message was woefully inadequate. Surely Her Majesty's Government can no longer talk with credibility about lobbying and remonstrating with the National Islamic Front regime. How long can Her Majesty's Government talk peace when there is no peace, ignoring the fact that the Government of Sudan continue to kill while they talk peace? And the Government of Sudan's sincerity of
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commitment to the peace talks is further disproved by recent military offensives against civilians in Upper Nile, with 75,000 people now driven from their homes in that part of Sudan.
Immediate steps must be taken. Will the Minister give an assurance that Her Majesty's Government will promote effective measures to require the Government of Sudan to open all Sudan to independent international humanitarian aid and human rights personnel, and to ensure that refugees are allowed to return to their homes with adequate security guarantees, thus reversing the ethnic cleansing? We also need to promote a UN Security Council resolution condemning the violations of international humanitarian law in Sudan, especially the indiscriminate killing of civilians and the obstruction of humanitarian aid. We need to impose an arms embargo with enforcement mechanisms, and bring to justice those responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In conclusion, this debate gives the Minister the opportunity to put the record straight before we in the United Kingdom become even more culpable of standing by and allowing genocide in Sudan to proceed unchecked. If we do not respond effectively now, we shall condone another Rwanda and stand condemned by history as guilty of failing to prevent the suffering and deaths of even more thousands of innocent people doomed to die in the next few months. It must be the hope of those people whose lives we could save that the Minister will not disappoint them today.
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