Afghanistan

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 26th February 2003.

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Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase Labour/Co-operative, Wolverhampton North East 11:30 am, 26th February 2003

What progress her Department is making towards rebuilding Afghanistan.

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

Rebuilding Afghanistan will require strong Afghan leadership, large amounts of aid and policy support for the long term. Much has been achieved: the election of the Transitional Administration; the establishment of revenue and budget systems; the introduction of a new currency; 2 million refugees have returned; 3 million children are now in school, a third of whom are girls; and millions of children have been vaccinated against polio and measles.

There is much more to be done, however, and achieving security outside Kabul is key to speeding up progress.

Photo of Ken Purchase Ken Purchase Labour/Co-operative, Wolverhampton North East

I thank the Secretary of State for that encouraging answer and the description of all the work currently being done. Does she agree that education must be at the heart of that work? Opportunities for education—especially tertiary education through the universities—are the greatest encouragement that we can give to young people in Afghanistan to remain to help rebuild that country. Will she do all that she can to encourage European and British universities to link with those in Afghanistan, and particularly those in Kabul, to bring those opportunities to thousands of young people in Afghanistan and help them to rebuild?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Expansion of rights to education is a human right, but getting girls to school is also profoundly developmental for any country. Girls who have been to school change their country as they grow up. Our focus is therefore on securing universal primary education, and on ensuring that girls are included. A tradition exists of high-quality higher education in Afghanistan, which is being redeveloped. I take my hon. Friend's point, however, and I will look into the question of links with our universities, which I have not yet examined.

Photo of Dr Jenny Tonge Dr Jenny Tonge Liberal Democrat, Richmond Park

Despite what the Secretary of State says, she must know that only half the money decided necessary by the World Bank has been pledged to Afghanistan so far. Despite the Prime Minister's promises not to abandon the people of that country, that is precisely what is happening. The USA and her Government have moved on and plan even worse destruction for Iraq. Because she knows that that is true, will she seriously consider joining many of her colleagues and the Liberal Democrats in the Lobby tonight to avert a new disaster?

Photo of Russell Brown Russell Brown Labour, Dumfries

I very much appreciate the work of my right hon. Friend and her Department, but how much collaborative and co-operative working is being undertaken by her Department with any US Government Departments?

Photo of Clare Short Clare Short Secretary of State, Department for International Development

In general, in international development, as in many other things, the US tends to take quite a unilateralist approach. It has a big commitment in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it tends to operate on its own. The UK leads increasingly on rebuilding the institutions of the country, and on building its management of the economy and its capacity to provide services to its people. We collaborate, but we operate in different ways generally across the world, and we try to make sure that that is complementary.